When we saw the collection of cars that would be competing in the fifth annual 24 Hours of LeMons South Fall race, we knew we’d be seeing some real racing on Saturday, and reality did not disappoint.
Because the uninitiated LeMons fans like to know about the quickest cars, we’ll get that out of the way first. The race leader at the end of Saturday’s session is, not unexpectedly, the Hong Norrth Mazda MX-3. The #38 Hong Norrth car won an astounding five consecutive LeMons races in 2011, a record that we feel sure will never be matched. This time, the Hongers didn’t pay enough attention to the rules covering the need to get a residual value between races, and the LeMons Supreme Court hit them with a five-lap handicap. It took the team all day, but they climbed out of that five-lap hole and now lead the field of 103 entries.
Right behind Hong Norrth is… Hong Norrth! Most folks forget that Hong Norrth Racing is actually a two-car team, with two identical Mazdas. The #38 car, which has the “A” drivers and mechanics, wins lots of races. The #39 car, which has the “B” drivers and mechanics, blows up, spins out, and usually finishes down in the mud with the rod-throwers and black-flag magnets. Not this time! After a couple of years of being “the forgotten Hong Norrth guys,” the #39 crew has stepped up in a big way and starts the Sunday session in a how-did-we-get-here second place.
In P3, we have another bunch of ex-wallflowers who have jumped into the spotlight with an incredible performance: Grim Reaper Racing and their V6-powered 1990s Ford Mustang. We saw the Reapers for the first time a few years back, and (to put it mildly) they did not impress. But they kept coming back, the drivers kept getting better and better as they got more seat time, and the team grew increasingly skilled with the wrenches. This weekend, it’s all coming together, with the Grim Reapers running fairly quick and very clean laps all day Saturday. They’re in a position to win the whole thing, which nobody ever would have seen coming as recently as a year ago.
All right, that’s enough about the boring chase for the overall win; now we’re going to discuss the serious action. In other words, the chase for the Class C and Index of Effluency wins. We won’t discuss who’s actually got the most laps in Class C today, because that’s not really a meaningful number (i.e., your faithful LeMons correspondent was too busy busting bad drivers in his role as Chief Justice of the LeMons Supreme Court to print out the full day’s race results), but the question on everyone’s mind today should be How is the 1950 Mercedes-Benz 170S doing?
NSF Racing got off to a slow start, mostly because their characteristic approach to fabrication techniques (e.g., a fuel cell held in place with plumber’s tape and bicycle-inner-tube rubber) didn’t go over so well the LeMons tech inspectors on Friday. They spent most of Saturday morning fabricating a proper fuel-cell bracket and hit the track a few hours after everybody else. Everyone expected the ancient Benz, with its BMC B engine swap, to crap out right away, but instead it began a series of stately laps that lasted for most of Saturday.
The favorite for the Class C win was the Tunachuckers’ 1975 Ford LTD Landau, but the Ford’s 460-cubic-inch V8 blew both head gaskets and bent some pushrods for good measure. The team spent most of the afternoon fixing the engine and looked to have the thing buttoned up before sunset.
The Ford Pinto of Team Beaver Hunt jumped out to a big Class C lead early on, but then an unfortunate series of bad-driving incidents, compounded by engine problems, set them back quite a bit. They’ll be back in the chase tomorrow morning.
The fastest Class C car, at least on paper, was the semi-ex-NSF Racing Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo. I say “semi-ex-NSF” because NSF Racing sold the car (for free, which may have been overpriced) to a bunch of Mitsubishi enthusiasts, but the NSF-ers still seem to be helping work on the car. The Cordia has suffered from a cascade of predictable Mitsubishis-in-LeMons problems, including suspension problems, electrical-system failures, and engine oil leaks.
How serious is this team about their Mitsubishi? Here’s the Santa Cruz License Plate tattoo on the team captain; we’re not sure what kind of Mitsu she drives on the street, but we’re guessing it’s not a ’91 Precis. That’s dedication!
The first-ever-in-LeMons Cadillac Catera has exceeded all expectations, sort of. The car ran well for the first hour or two, except for chronic overheating and brake-fade problems, but then crashed into the rear bumper of a Fox Mustang and needed hours of repairs to get back into quasi-raceworthy condition. It’s within the realm of possibility for the Catera to grab the Class C win, but it won’t be easy.
With the Tunachuckers’ LTD losing so many laps, this may be the chance for the BMW 325i with Chrysler Slant-Six power to put a chokehold on the Class C trophy. The Slant Six E30, as it’s called in LeMons circles, is tolerably quick and (for Class C) quite reliable. We’ll be watching the Class C race with great interest on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the two ghettocharged (the LeMons term for cars turbocharged with cheap junkyard components) entries are faring about as well as most such cars do in this race. The Türbo Schnitzel Merkur XR4Ti, which features a turbo-equipped Ford 351W V8 and homebrewed fuel-injection system, should be dominating the race with power levels that any Internet Car Guy worth his CAPS LOCK key will tell you ought to be greater than 750 horses. In fact, this car blew its “fuse” (what the team calls the half-shafts on the car’s swapped-in Toyota Supra rear end) early on, and its 1.5 pounds of boost probably has the engine making four-cylinder Camry levels of horsepower. Tomorrow, the team plans to turn up the boost to 15 pounds, which should solve all the car’s reliability problems.
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Team S.O.B. (Screaming On Boost) showed up with a truly frightening assemblage of junkyard turbocharger gear, which promptly sent the car onto the jackstands in the paddock. The S.O.B. Golf, which was once one of the top contenders in the LeMons South Region, ended the day getting stomped by a Kia Sephia in the standings. Totally worth it, say we!