The 24 Hours of LeMons has gone to Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, since April 2010 and weather has always been part of the story of those races. Unpredictable spring weather can bring anything from 75 degrees and sunny to an early checkered flag for white-out snow. The forecast predicted gloom and rain for this past weekend’s “Cure for Gingervitis,” but the weather cooperated with a pleasantness also characteristic of typical Midwestern LeMons racers. Here’s what happened at Gingerman.
We’ll start with a few non-trophy honorable mentions since it’s impossible to award every great thing that we see in a given weekend. The Buttlords had an hour-long tow from Gingerman and rather than tinker with a two-wheel dolly or a tow rig for their Honda Civic, they simply flat-towed behind their Pontiac G8. The car had less success than the four-door tow vehicle, but it’s always good to see innovative towing methods.
The 24 Hours of LeMons always appreciate a good theme and The Warriors have done a credible theme to match the movie of the same name. However, Judge Phil egged them on to do a more-specific Warriors theme, so they became the Baseball Furies with an appropriately mulleted Dodge Neon and facepaint on the car that matched the team members’. Except the one guy who thought they were supposed to be The Furries. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.
The Spy Vs. Spy team brought a pair of Ford Focus SVTs to this race because the Focus ZX3 they’d run before was too slow or something. We’re not really sure why they ditched a running race car. Anyway, they upped the ante on the Black Spy car by throwing a Jackson Racing supercharger at it, which got them 25 penalty laps (far fewer than they probably deserved) to start the race. Naturally, the engine exploded on the test day and it then took them something like 36 hours to put in a replacement. Surely, they’d run that swapped engine without the supercharger, right? Wrong. Care to guess how that turned out?
Indeed, they blew up a second engine for good measure, but not before they managed to turn just enough laps to crawl out of the negative and finish with eight laps on the board.
As for the White Spy Focus, which didn’t have a supercharger, it suffered through some brake problems before contact with a Toyota Supra sent the car spinning off the track on its 41st lap, then rolling over and crashing into a corner station. The driver and corner workers were fine, though the car was very dented. They still reckon it might be fixable.
Meanwhile, Bearings Deep Racing in their stock Focus ZX3 had at least 40 fewer horsepower than the other two Focuses, but they finished almost five times as many laps as the “better” SVT cars. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.
One more Honorable Mention: Bad Decisions Racing have taken home a lot of hardware not only for racing an ugly Pontiac Trans Sport “DustBuster” van, but also for giving it themes that it totally doesn’t need since a racing minivan is its own theme. This time around, Bad Decisions recreated the police vehicle from the extended and pointless chase scene in the 1997 (very) straight-to-video movie BombShell. Watch the trailer at your own peril.
Last April at Gingerman, Wisconsin Crap Racing made LeMons history be becoming the first-ever BMW E36 winners in the series. That seems incredible, given how many E36s have run, but they just don’t seem to be as reliable as the previous-generation cars. Nevertheless, the family team of Cheeseheads pulled it off again. They inherited the lead late on Saturday and held onto it for the rest of Sunday to take their second overall win.
The Control (Arm) Freaks nearly won Class B at an earlier race with their Volkswagen Golf before a bent control arm in the last hour cost them the win. This time, the “Enzo’s Dream” Golf managed an impressive sixth-place overall with their 2.0-liter Golf to take home the win in the middle class.
LeMons’ slowest class, Class C, was won by the Mity Metro, a three-cylinder Geo Metro Convertible. Like Wisconsin Crap Racing, this is a small team that is just three or four family members. Their little Metro putted around flawlessly all weekend, staying out of trouble while finishing 21st overall despite running the 71st-quickest lap of 77 cars in the field. Normally, that would also net them an Index of Effluency, but they won that trophy a year ago at Gingerman. You can tell that because they bolted the trophy directly to the car’s hood.
The I Got Screwed award at this race went to Dixie Normus, who tried all of last year to make their horrendous, decrepit first-generation Honda CRX run to no avail. Over the winter, they gave up on the Honda and bought a V6 Ford Mustang that had raced for years in LeMons without major mechanical failures. They gave it a fresh coat of “Eleanor” paint and, for good measure, affixed a pair of genuine 1966 Mustang fenders they’d found on CraigsList for $30.
Everything was great for about an hour until the supremely reliable 3.8-liter Essex V6 went kaput. While some team members fetched a junkyard spare to put in, other Dixie Normus drivers the heads off the engine to find the culprit: a nut that had fallen into cylinder from the intake. Ostensibly, it was there from the previous owners, who had probably run with that nut perched precariously in the intake runner for a dozen races. For Dixie Normus, they got one hour until it the piston gobbled it up. Screwed!
First-time racers Initial DNF purported to know nothing about rotary engines when they turned up with their second-generation Mazda RX-7 at this race. That was entirely believable, given that they didn’t know how to drive and seemed generally perplexed by the car’s very existence. As the weekend progressed, the Wankel engine in it began smoking. At first, a mere puff emitted here or there, followed by a light mist. By Sunday afternoon, every attempt to start the car began an arena rock-caliber smoke show over the entire paddock.
In the history of LeMons, this kind of smoking rotary has always meant the engine is slowly—then rapidly—turning itself into a tiny, useless barrel o’Doritos. When told this, Initial DNF insisted it was fine and while we’re not sure what they fixed, the RX-7 somehow snuck onto the track in the final minutes unnoticed. They showed up in the post-race procession off the track without a whiff of smoke. We’re still not sure what kind of witchcraft they managed to restore the Wankel’s apex seals, but their magic was impressive enough to take home the Heroic Mystery Fix.
Aficionados of LeMons likely already know that the series holds the Guinness Record for largest motor race, but one LeMons team at this race attempted to set another record. The Shift Heads had shown up for a previous race in LeMons where they’d had to fix a bunch of failed items from their tech inspection and only gotten a few minutes of racing in. When that happens, the LeMons Supreme Court tends not to get enough time to appreciate a car’s full majesty.
After looking over the general jankiness of their circa-2000 Pontiac Grand Prix at this race, however, this LeMons judges noticed the off-brand “ProMeter” tires and upon further inspection, discovered the tires carried an amazing 940 treadwear rating. Given that they cost the team $43 each, we suspect they’re not made of diamonds, but they can’t be far behind on the Mohs Scale. By the weekend’s end, they’d flattened two tires and melted their brakes, but their dedication to cheapness earned them a trophy for the World Record for Hardest Racing Tires.
The Judges Choice at this race went to Circle of Jerks, a group of middle-age miscreants with a BMW E30 turned into a pretty good Animal House Deathmobile. The foolish members of the group racked up black flags repeatedly for general stupidity and responded in kind by doing their best to entertain the judges. The list of shenanigans was too long to list, but their best prank involved donning suits on Sunday afternoon and pretending to be county commissioners shutting down the race in the least-convincing manner possible. For taking their bad driving in stride and making the LeMons Supreme Court laugh unceasingly, the Circle of Jerks were this race’s Judges Choice.
British cars are frightening to people who have worked on them their entire lives, but at least Anglophile car owners know what they’re getting into. DumpsterFire Racing seemed new to cars in general and wanted to start in LeMons with a Class C entry. Bizarrely, they picked a 1978 Triumph Spitfire for a starting point and soon found themselves in a nightmarish feud with the little British sports car.
The only thing they appear to have gotten right by the time they’d shown up was riveting the top section of a Triumph GT6 onto the Spitfire bodywork to make a do-it-yourself GT car. Beyond that, they had problems with the electrical system (surprising, of course), getting the carburetors to work right (double surprising), and having sharp edges on every part of the GT6 they’d cut up (triple surprising).
Still, they kept after it and after some tinkering and a fixed fuel leak, they had a decent-running Triumph by mid-day Sunday. It remained the slowest car in the field (save the pickup truck that died on the race’s second lap), but they drove it onto the trailer after the checkered flag. That’s a major victory for any rookie team. For their painful and foolhardy leap into LeMons’ deep end, DumpsterFire Racing earned the Organizer’s Choice.
That brings us to LeMons’ top prize, the Index of Effluency, which is given out to the car that outperforms its exceedingly low expectations. Ultra Depends Racing are run by a group of grizzled dirt-track racers who made the jump to LeMons with their Chevy 305-powered G-Body Chevy Monte Carlo. Naturally, they chopped the top off to save weight and then put crutches and adult diapers all over everything to remind everyone that they’re some old dudes.
Conventional LeMons wisdom is that old dudes all know how to cheat like no other, but we’re not sure these dirt-trackers could cheat their way out of second-period study hall. Even with “weight savings” and a bitchin’ American V8, their fastest lap time was slower than the three-cylinder Metro’s. They looked a bit lost on right-hand turns, but they kept on going around to finish right in the middle of the pack in 38th place. Well done, Ultra Depends Racing!
The 24 Hours of LeMons is back in action this weekend at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina. Check out the LeMons Facebook page here for updates from CMP and we’ll have a recap for Roadkill right here next week. Also be sure to subscribe to the LeMons YouTube Channel for recaps and #LemonsWorld videos.