The 24 Hours of LeMons has survived another year upon completion of the race at Sonoma Raceway earlier this month. That makes nine complete years since Jay Lamm’s terrible, terrible idea of $500 endurance-racing cars became a lasting legacy of horrible cars and questionable decision-making. We’ll have plenty of future time to evaluate Jay’s poor judgment more broadly, but for now let’s take a look at the highlights and lowlights from a fittingly chilly and damp Arse-Freeze-A-Palooza 2015 at Sonoma Raceway.
We’ll start with a few (dis)honorable mentions before talking about the trophy-toting teams, as this race featured a huge swath of high-caliber LeMons entries. Among our favorite cars is Two Many Wheels’ Mazda Miata. The “Molvo” began its racing life with Bernal Dads Racing as a stock NA-generation Miata stuffed inside a Volvo 245 wagon body. Two Many Wheels, a group of motorcycle racers, bought it and added an oversized box of Franzia before then forming the car’s currently ridiculous Hardcastle and McCormick Coyote fiberglass bodykit.
New for this race, though, was the Molvo’s 3.5-liter V6 from a Honda Odyssey, adapted for rear-wheel-drive use.
With more than 200 horsepower on tap, the manic little Miata led Class B early in the race before an exhaust leak knocked them out of contention. How does a 200-horsepower Miata end up in Class B, you ask? Because there’s a loophole for making a ridiculous fiberglass bodykit out of it, of course. Exploit it!
When the GMObiles team rolled into Arse-Freeze inspections with a 2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP, the LeMons Supreme Court was immediately suspicious. Their assertions of cheating were not in any way assuaged by the team’s complete lack of documentation.
Yes, the sports car had some body damage, but the team said they’d found it on Copart for $1,700. The original intention had been to drop the turbocharged, 260-horsepowerengine into a Datsun Z-car, but the team opted to run the Solstice anyway and just take their lumps.
For bringing a complete lack of documentation, the Supreme Court’s gavel thundered: LeMons judges assessed one penalty lap for every dollar General Motors’ bailout cost taxpayers. That meant that the Solstice started the weekend with -11,200,000,000 laps. They ended the weekend a couple thousand light-centuries behind the race winners.
The Loch Ness Monster-themed XJ sports an original Jag V12 while Pit Crew Revenge opted instead for a Small-Block Chevy under the hood. While both were slightly outpaced by the Missfits’ X-Type, neither of the big Jags was outclassed by the Contour-based Jag.
After more than five years’ absence, the “Gimp Pimp” Cadillac STS returned for another go in LeMons. Sporting hand controls for a wheelchair-piloting team member, the Gimp Pimp actually squeezed some solid lap times out of the Northstar V8 before it nuked crucial driveline components. We’re hoping they’ll be back sooner this time because LeMons isn’t just for idiots, it’s for all idiots.
Of course, no LeMons race is complete without a commemorative “Bribed” stencil to let the judges recall who paid a modicum of tribute to the series’ enablers and encouragers. To commemorate the ‘61 Ranchero on the entry list, Judge Phil (aka Murilee Martin) sketched out a fitting Bribechero stencil, shown here on the Lou Glutz Motorsports Ford Escort GT.
Judge Steve McDaniels made a second stencil, capturing New Hampshire presidential candidate Vermin Supreme and his campaign promise of a pony for every American once he resides on Pennsylvania Avenue.
As mentioned many times before, bribing the judges during BS Inspection doesn’t get one out of penalty laps and, for the sake of leveling the playing field for a change, most of the field’s former winners started with five penalty laps to create a handicap. Several of those teams still managed to drive deep into the Top 10, but it was instead The Faustest Team’s sufficiently evil BMW E30 that for once avoided crashing out of the lead. They took home their first-ever overall victory by a razor-thin margin.
The New York Rock Exchange is a team name synonymous with LeMons misadventure so it was surprising to see one of their many cars finish second place overall. As it turns out, the E30 crew used to run as the “Botch” team and joined with NYRE for a few races to score points toward the teams championship. This time around, the Botch E30 ringers managed to avoid the usual Rock Exchange pitfalls and came up just 21 seconds short of an overall win.
In Class B, Petty Cash Racing’s chopped-back Volkswagen Jetta led much of the race, but the Volkswagen’s late electrical failure let the Point Breakers’ Nissan Sentra sneak by for the win. Point Breakers are relative newcomers, this being only their third race with the first coming behind the wheel boxy Chevy Caprice. With a bit of refining, this team should be a formidable Class A team at future races.
The Sheepshaggers undertook one of the strangest engine swaps of all time, dropping a Saturn twin-cam engine into a tired old Porsche 914 chassis. Saturn engines aren’t known particularly for their reliability in LeMons, although anyone Midwest resident can attest to their cockroach-like durability on the street: Saturn engines run poorly for longer than most engines run at all.
The LeMons Supreme Court knew that the Saturn engine would make the featherweight 914 go pretty well with 120 horsepower on tap. With the engine, which already has oiling problems in its natural environment, turned longitudinally, the judges counted on its inherently blow-uppy nature and the car was put in Class C with the least capable and reliable cars. Somehow, the Sheepshaggers kept the engine ticking and of the 178 cars that turned race at Sonoma, they managed to finish a remarkable 25th overall to win Class C by 17 laps.
When Roadkill showed up to run LeMons at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in June, LeMons created Class F just for Freiburger and Finnegan as a means of keeping Roadkill’s extra-cheaty car from competing with the legitimate $500 cars (which scarcely turned out to be a problem). At this race, Top Gear US showed up to film an episode with a Ford Crown Victoria carrying a lemonade stand as their chariot.
They, however, weren’t the only journalists in the field with Tim Odell (far left) of Hooniverse running a 1961 Ford Ranchero powered by an extremely tired straight-six engine. Both teams were put into Class F in a battle of automotive journalist titans.
Top Gear got out to a huge lead on Saturday while the Ranchero struggled with fuel leaks and fuel delivery problems. However, a terminal failure early on Sunday left Top Gear at 79 laps completed. Hooniverse suddenly had a chance to win Class F.
For the rest of Sunday, the Hooniverse Ranchero played the tortoise to Top Gear’s skewered hare, finally eclipsing the Top Gear lap total with less than two hours remaining and then clocking 29 more laps to twist the rusty knife. Never mind that the Ranchero finished 153rd place overall to Top Gear’s 161st; this was Class F domination!
Of course, The Stig had a turn in the Crown Vic and to make it go quicker, the Top Gear car ran Sunday without the heavy and draggy lemonade stand. As it turns out, The Stig only got a handful of laps and was at the wheel when the car gave up the ghost. The Stig wasn’t able to clock the car’s fastest lap, although Tanner Foust (above) threw down the big Ford’s best time of 2:19.2.
As it so happens, professional road racer and Roadkill guest Randy Pobst was headed through Sonoma on his way to the airport from (relatively) nearby 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Naturally, Randy has his driver’s gear on hand, so the chaps from Panting Polar Bear Racing offered him some time in their own Crown Vic to smash Foust’s best time.
Sure, the Panting Polar Bear car has run something like 20 races and is set up a little better than Top Gear’s first-time car, but Randy Pobst still logged a lap of 2:04.3 seconds in a Crown Vic, nearly 15 seconds quicker than Foust. For having their laptime(s) smashed, for having The Stig break their car, and for getting roundly defeated by a half-century-old car-truck with about 70 horsepower, LeMons organizers decided that the Top Gear crew deserved the I Got Screwed trophy. Of course, they opted to give it to Randy Pobst just to drive the screw home twice as hard to the Top Gear crew.
You’ve likely already seen video from the race of Hella Shitty Racing’s turbodiesel-swapped Porsche 911 rear-ending the disabled El Trump Hunting El Chapo Miata, which then got collected by Eyesore Racing’s 30-race-veteran Miata. All three drivers were wearing head-and-neck restraint systems and were fine, albeit with some sore prts. Both Miatas were toast (though Eyesore is possibly going to graft a new front end on their Mazda), but Hella Shitty thought they could resurrect the 911 TDI.
After some evaluation, some reciprocating-saw time, a few hammer blows, and just 2-½ hours, Ferkel the Nein-11 indeed clattered back onto the racetrack to run the rest of the race weekend with a a simple little shiner on the front-left “eye.” For their resurrecting ability, Hella Shitty took home the Heroic Fix award.
Most race teams that turn up to a given LeMons race have some notion of competitiveness in mind, but Gasholes and Elbows impressed race organizers with their extra-hooptie Geo Metro. Sporting a miniscule 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that swayed concerningly and boiled the water in the cooling system as it idled, the Metro’s keepers had few illusions of winning a race.
Rather, they showed up with generic-brand 500-treadwear tires that were take-offs from a team member’s girlfriends’ Metro. The little Metro looked about to keel over all weekend, but it just made laps without complaint. The team’s pluckiness and general eschewing of “Real Racing” earned them the Judges Choice award.
The Organizer’s Choice at this race went to Thunderchicken Extra Crispy Racing, a long-suffering team who have run in LeMons for what must seem like eons in their supercharged Ford Thunderbird.
It’s entirely possible that their five-speed, supercharged V6 Thunderbird Super Coupe is the only of its kind left and surely the only one road racing. It’s reasonably quick and all, but the best thing about the Thunderchicken team is that they’re always having fun. The second-best thing? Look at that gorgeous intake tubing.
Anyway, some teams get shouty and abrasive when a wheel bounds off the car and rolls several miles into the dusty Central Valley or when they collect a spun Corvette in a chicane. These guys instead relish every second of the LeMons experience and just chalk those occurrences up as part of the silly game they’ve undertaken.
Kudos to you, Thunderchicken Extra Crispy Racing.
This brings us at last to the Index of Effluency, which is LeMons’ top prize for performing well with the most abjectly horrible car. In this case, The Supranos ditched their extremely over-budget Toyota Supra Turbo and instead showed up with a completely stock 1969 Toyota Corona.
Judge Phil’s first car was a terrible Corona of the same vintage, although the Supranos’ version featured the two-speed automatic rather than Phil’s car’s manual gearbox. For almost the entire weekend, the Corona was by far the slowest car on track, but a mid-pack finish made them an easy IOE winner. Check out Phil’s post here for more on this wonderfully effluent car.
As Arse-Freeze was the final LeMons race of 2015, we should have some season-ending stories for you soon. In the meantime, take a peek at the 2016 LeMons calendar and get your junk ready to race.