The 24 Hours of LeMons crew has survived another weekend of torture testing tired vehicles on the track at Gingerman Raceway, although some cars’ engines left the circuit with lower percentages of intact internals than others. Nevertheless, most of the intrepid Midwest regulars and a few new faces managed to avoid showering the Michigan track’s racing surface with used-to-be-engine-innards. Let’s see who the weekend’s winners and losers were.
Winning overall in any endurance race is difficult, but the Flying Pigs Racing made it look easy despite hauling 100 pounds of lumber for their massive, drag-inducing pigs’ wings. The 5.0-liter, Fox-Body Ford Mustang hardly stuttered en route to a five-lap victoy over the Landshark Honda Civic. After a huge string of Top 10 finishes but no P1s, the Pigs earned their first stack of LeMons nickels.
As if that wasn’t enough, one of the Flying Pigs drivers lent the LeMons Supreme Court this janky amalgamation of a hot rod with massive NHRA drag slicks and a Chrysler 440 from a motorhome. Floorboards, fenders, and firewalls? They exist solely for The Man to keep you down. This is a fine motoring vehicle with proper LeMons Supreme Court gravitas.
Class B saw an absolute runaway for the Arrested Adolescents Racing Program in the Opel GT “Breadvan.” The Ford Lima-powered Opel won Class B at Autobahn under different ownership and ran a squeaky clean race this time around to wind up an impressive third place overall. Each of their Class B competitors ran afoul of enough issues that their closest class competitor was 20 laps behind at the checkered flag.
Mons has, over the years, seen its fair share of British Leyland products and their Sterling reliability recordtypically earns them a spot in Class C. This weekend, it was the Dover Bros. Racing MGB-GT that took home top spot in the slowest class in what turned out to be the closest race of the weekend.
On the short end of the Class C stick was the MGB-GT’s polar opposite, the squishy personal-luxury-coupe 1981 Dodge Mirada from Team Sheen. The 318-powered Mirada came up just a lap short in class. Intermittent electrical problems in the steering column occasionally made the engine shut off mid-race. However, the team managed to “fix” this by wiggling the column shifter around a bit, sometimes making the reverse lights come on, much to the alarm of corner workers and other racers. Little do they know, these are just the kinds of things that allow a Mirada to race in style. We expect the Mirada will be back to contest Class C another day.
The I Got Screwed Trophy gets handed out for a variety of reasons, but an increasingly common reason for receiving the trophy is simply a team listening to Judge Phil’s gravely voice in their collective heads when they select a racecar. For the Anonymous crew, that meant leaving their well-sorted Honda Civic at home and bringing instead a Subaru XT Turbo, a 1980s car that may as well be made entirely out of Unobtainium in the upper Midwest.
The team found that poor axle fitment had ruined one of their halfshafts. Knowing the possibility of finding XT parts was completely nil, they managed to make a parts-store Impreza axle work and then found shortly they had a bad brake master cylinder. No bother, they insisted. They had found a Ford Explorer master cylinder with the same exterior dimensions; all they needed to do was weld on a right-diameter bolt to the plunger to make it a half-inch longer. How hard could it be? Results were less-than-ideal and while they avoided Dead Flippin’ Last by eight laps, the amount of time spent trying unsuccessfully to play junkyard Legos means they were just the latest team screwed by Judge Phil’s Recommendations.
More than any other weekend in recent LeMons history, this one was filled with epic engine failures. The SHO-Girls Taurus spit three connecting rods out of its Yamaha V6, but the real show-stopper came when the Ancient and Mystical Society of The No Daniels Dodge Stratus absolutely grenaded its 2.4-liter engine on the front straight, leaving a Fire-In-The-Mists-of-Avalon smokescreen lingering over the south end of the paddock for a few minutes.
Many teams would have rolled their sorry heap on the trailer after that, but these plucky Canadians had a spare at the ready by the time the wrecker dropped the Stratus off in their paddock space. Just two hours after the engine went kaboom, the red-and-white Stratus rolled back on the track and ran like clockwork for the race’s remaining 90 minutes. Heroically done!
Team Priority Fail have run their VR6-powered Volkswagen GTI for a couple of years in LeMons and while they’ve never been extremely competitive, they’ve had a quick and mostly reliable car. Rather than work out the few remaining bugs to make it really hum, the team instead opted to spend the entire winter taking the whole VR6 drivetrain from under the hood and putting it behind the driver. Mid-engined domination!
In reality, the car was only just finished two days before the race with a week of all-night thrashes. Its testing—like the ill-fated Subaru XT—consisted of driving it onto the trailer and then making a lap or two of the paddock after unloading trackside. Unlike the XT, the GTI ran reasonably well with some expected idiosyncrasies, but the car was slower than it had been. Because of their dedication to sapping the performance of their well-sorted car, the LeMons Supreme Court awarded them the special-for-the-event Most Work to Go Backwards award.
Judges Choice at this race went to the Wonderment Consortium and their Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Wagon. This is a car that first debuted at Gingerman in 2010, winning the Index of Effluency with the stock 10-valve engine. Not content with a simple replacement after nuking an engine, the Wonderment Consortium’s braintrust swapped in the beastly turbocharged mill from a totaled Audi S6. The car is spectacular—as Judge Steve and Judge Keith found out during guest stints—but the team typically spend any given LeMons weekend screwing up and then acting as jesters for the LeMons Supreme Court.
This weekend, when miscreants returned to the Penalty Box multiple times, the Supreme Court sent them to the famed nearby South Haven lighthouse to take a selfie in full race gear. This generally went well until the Wonderment Consortium were tasked to do so. The result: A picture inexplicably taken with the city’s water tower instead.
The 24 Hours of LeMons organizers love new teams and particularly enjoy the look on new teams’ faces when they suddenly see how deep the crapcan rabbit hole goes. The aptly named Seriouz crew brought perhaps the ugliest first-generation Toyota MR2 in LeMons history and proceeded to tick off the box of rookie mistakes. Excessive speeding in the paddock including laying rubber directly across the road from the Penalty Box? Check. Confounded by the intricacies of fueling a racecar and not having your extinguisher person potentially catch on fire? Driving over their heads on the track and spinning out? Check.
They looked for the race’s opening hours to be entirely clueless. After each egregious offense, the team
received long, stern lectures from Chief Justice Steve McDaniel and, like most new teams, they stared blankly in response to each lesson. However, unlike any other new team this LeMons correspondent has ever seen, they quietly and without drama soaked up every single word like sponges. Immediately thereafter, the entire team made massive improvements. This is something that simply doesn’t happen. By the race’s end, they were holding their own on track and finished an astonishing 24th place overall.
This brings us to the highest honor in LeMons, the Index of Effluency. There wasn’t much discussion to be had in this one: Bad Decisions Racing and their Dustbuster-themed Pontiac Trans Sport totally knocked the race out of the park. Not only did they beat 22 teams with by far the slowest vehicle in the field, they also recorded onboard footage with an old VHS camcorder so they could watch the replay of it on an old Zenith TV and VCR in their paddock space over post-race dinner.
The van was slow and its drivers genuinely feared it rolling over, but it kept running nearly the whole weekend for a well-deserved IOE.
Photographs by Eric Rood, Keith Kemp, Nick Pon, and Derek Steinkamp.