When you have a LeMons race with more British Leyland cars than BMWs and strangely good performance from teams that normally spend most races wearing out their wrenches, you know the glorious spectacle will continue all the way up the moment the checkered flag comes out. That’s how it went at the fourth annual Pacific Northworst 24 Hours of LeMons, held at beautiful The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington.
With only 50 entries in this event (typical California LeMons races get 150 to 180 entries), and none of the other half-dozen teams that dominate West Coast LeMons races, the Model T GT (which is a much-modified Model A frame with Model T body plus Fox Mustang suspension and drivetrain, now painted in the colors of Ak Miller’s famous “Caballo de Hierro” Carrera Panamerica car) and its all-veteran driver roster was something like a shark released into a frog pond full of carp. The T GT is now 3-for-3 in the 2013 LeMons season, with wins at the North Dallas Hooptie, Button Turrible, and now the Pacific Northworst race. The car was fast and well-suited to the elevation changes and long straights at The Ridge, the drivers were clean (other than a black-flag spree late on Sunday, which resulted in the application of a time-consuming Honkout penalty for the team), the car didn’t break, and the end result was an overall win by a margin of six laps.
Without the Model T GT’s usual nemeses— the If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk BMW 525i and the Cerveza Racing BMW 533i— on hand, an unexpected rival stepped in to sweat the T GT guys: the Snowspeeder Pilots Association Toyota MR2. The Snowspeeders stayed with the T GT for much of the weekend, closing to within a lap or two several times, and kept things interesting.
The Snowspeeders have been around since the very beginning of LeMons, making their debut at the notorious “Demolition Derby LeMons” at Altamont in 2007; here we see them pitted next to your LeMons correspondent’s team at the nearly-as-crashy 2008 Altamont race. Since that time, the Snowspeeder Pilots Association MR2 has competed in at least a dozen LeMons events, getting knocked out of contention by mechanical problems in every one. At the ’13 Pacific Northworst, however, this team battled with the race leader for hour after hour, finally getting edged out due to a couple of nickel/dime breakdowns that knocked them back a few laps. In the end, the Snowspeeders finished in P3, their best LeMons performance in six years of competition. We felt compelled to give them the I Got Screwed trophy this time, since they got so tantalizingly close to an overall win.
Another team that had their best race ever, by far, was Speedchimp Racing and their Mazda RX-7-based “Reis-Brenner Wagen RBW7″ crypto-M1. This gorgeous car spent race after race being slower than most Geo Metros and less reliable than even the breakdown-a-minute Subaru SVX, but not this time! The Speedchimps finished in ninth overall, beating all the other Mazdas.
Almost as startling as the Snowspeeders’ and Speedchimps’ amazing performances was the P2 finish and Class B win for the Dust n Debris Dodge Shadow/Plymouth Duster mashup. This team has managed to do very well with a type of car that has a near-perfect record of LeMons failure, and we applaud them for not giving in to the temptation to take more advantage of their considerable driving skills by switching to a more dependable race car.
In Class C (which was very tough this time, with 12 entries), the much-traveled ADO16 Austin America of LeMons Legend Spank won by a mighty 15 laps and finished 13th overall. Put another way, this profoundly terrible British Leyland product beat all the Toyota Supras, all the Volkswagens, all the Hondas, and all but one of the BMWs.
It goes without saying that the America beat all the other Austins at the track; here’s a portrait of the Austin race cars plus a racer’s Austin daily driver and an Austin Judgemobile. From left to right: Austin Mini, Austin 1800 “Landcrab”, Austin Maestro, Austin Mini, Austin America, Austin Mini Moke.
Yes, our first ADO17 Landcrab, a car that sold in vast quantities in Europe but was virtually unknown in North America. The Silversleeves Racing Landcrab suffered from numerous failures of its Hydrolastic suspension during the course of the weekend (not all of the lean you see in this photo is the result of cornering), but it was just so stupendous that we gave the team the prestigious Organizer’s Choice trophy.
When the members of your race team have no experience doing any serious car repairs and your Accord blows up its engine early in the race weekend, what do you do? Many teams pack up and go home, but not Darkside Racing! Instead, they rounded up another bad Honda engine, took both engines apart, and— through sheer force of will (plus a lot of trial and error)— managed to put together a quasi-functional engine and returned to the track on Sunday. For this, the Heroic Fix award.
The Barely Legal Super LeMons and their disastrously bad 1980 Toyota Corolla earned our created-for-the-occasion Failure To Fail trophy. This bunch didn’t do a very good job of reading the LeMons rules before preparing their car, and they promptly failed everything during the tech inspection. Roll cage, kill switch, fuel tank— you name it, it wouldn’t pass. So, we told them to fix all that stuff…
…and they did! It took the Barely Legal guys from Friday morning through Saturday afternoon to get their car ready, but their all-out thrash got the car through the inspection and onto the race track. Sure, it was the second-slowest car in the race (the 40-horsepower Saab 96 of the Freewheelin’ Pikers was slowest), it overheated frequently, and the team racked up an impressive black-flag-per-hour ratio, but still: Failure To Fail!
For Judges’ Choice, we were so impressed by the propaganda-broadcasting abilities of the team captain of Tass-Go Racing, after he attempted to explain away all the obvious Cheatonium on his team’s Ford Probe, that we dubbed him the Iraqi Minister of Information. It got the point where the LeMons Supreme Court was eager to see this team get a black flag, just so we could think up some entertaining penalty that would take advantage of his skills. Here we see the Right-Wing Protest Puppet Penalty in action, with a puppet representing a powerful oligarchic patriarchic hierarchic capitalist advocating for more oil drilling and fewer endangered species.
And, of course, we gave the top prize to the 1952 Hudson Hornet of Chase Race: The Best Damn Garage in Town. Index of Effluency slam-dunk! Sure, it probably cost a bit over $500 to build (though not as much as you might think, basket-case Hudsons being worth barely over scrap value these days), but cars like this receive the benefits of the Cars We Always Wanted To See In a LeMons Race Budgetary Loophole and don’t get penalty laps.
This car has had enough Bondo applied that we’re pretty sure it would float if placed in water, the suspension is frighteningly tippy, the ancient flathead six wheezed out just enough power to make it the third-slowest vehicle on the track (behind only the Saab 96 and the ’80 Corolla), and it suffered from endless ignition-system woes, but it still managed to beat nine teams. That’s good enough for the big prize.
Be sure to check the home of Car and Driver 24 Hours of LeMons coverage for all your LeMons news. For more photos from the 2013 Pacific Northworst, go to your LeMons correspondent’s Über Gallery.
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