Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Loudon Annoying: The Rusty Hub's Preview

The 24 Hours of LeMons visits Loudon, New Hampshire, this weekend for the first of two races this year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

While we may never have been there, but we absolutely love the layout of this circuit, being one of those great "roval" courses that takes the racing outside of the typical NASCAR oval outline into an almost-pastoral trip before returning to the infield and then cutting back to the oval's front straight (It's a variant of this track map).

You can get a full entry list here, but we'll give you the rundown on what we'd expect from the 88 teams registered for the race.




OVERALL/CLASS A

The very deep field at this race sees two previous winners and at least five teams who have come within a hair's breadth of a win, as well some familiar longshots. Rain is forecast for at least Saturday, which may shake things up a bit.

(Murilee Martin photo)

The race's obvious favorite has won the last two races in the Northeast and has also finished in the Top 10 four times in a row. We're talking, of course, about Rust in the Wind. Ever since executing their incomprehensible turbo-Saab swap into theirNissan 300ZX, they've been fairly bulletproof . This is a team that can sure put together a race.

The only other previous LeMons winner in the field is the Bill Danger Honda Accord, which won last year's Loudon Annoying, despite having the 20th-best fastest lap. Slow and steady isn't the whole truth; they're plenty fast to compete and the car's modest fuel consumption should let Bill Danger hand near the sharp end of the field.

Three-time runners up Team Pro Crash Duh Nation have come ever so close to winning in their Alfa Romeo Milano. This could be their lucky weekend. If nothing else, the wail of the Alfa's V6 at full tilt provides a unique soundtrack as it whizzes by the lesser beings.

Another perennial near-misser to watch will be Near-Orbital Space Monkeys, whose Ford Mustang fairly lives near the top of the standings but hasn't been to the top of the heaps yet. Like Bill Danger, the Space Monkeys are typically not going to win on pace, but with a lucky break or two, they could make it work.

(Murilee Martin photo)
We're still rooting for a four-cylinder Volvo to take an overall win and we still think the Keystone Kops' brown Volvo 244 will be the first to do it. The Kops have suffered from black flag binges in the past, but if their Volvo points in the right direction all weekend, they could be the winners. If nothing else, they'll be doing good by hosting a barbecue Friday night along with Overengineer'd Racing, Fiasco Rallysport and eEuroparts to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand.

Up-and-Comers The Silver Errors - Ziegel's Scheisshaus have been very fast and reliable of late and should be a team to watch. Their Mercedes 190E set the fasest lap at Carolina Motorsports Park in the 2013 season opener and finished just two laps behind that race's winner, Moldecarlo.

Walk of Shame have likewise been extremely fast in their BMW E36. Like ridiculously fast. Like, four-fastest-race-laps-in-2012 fast. If they drive cleanly and keep their heap bolted together, it's unlikely any of the above competitors can hang with them in dry conditions.

(Murilee Martin photo)

We'd throw the Death Race BMW E28 in as a contender, but we've seen from their Facebook page that they're essentially running a recently installed and untested engine swap that they'll uncork on Friday's test day. Of course, this could be like a horse trainer saying his thoroughbred "doesn't have it today" to a key bookie moments before sticking him with some kind 107-octane amphetamine (Pardon our mixed metaphor). Who knows? We'll call them a wild card.


(Murilee Martin photo)

The Toyota Camry Solara of FRS's Ugly Uncle has shown itself to be shockingly competitive, frequently running with the leaders before some unforeseen malady knocks them out of the running. At Monticello, they managed a ninth-place finish. There's typically something of a gap between ninth place and winning; we'll see if the Ugly Uncle can bridge it. As a heavy front-wheel drive car, the Solara could benefit from poor weather conditions.

There are a few interesting long shots at this race:

(1) Sorry for Party Racing will make a bid to be the first GM F-Body to win a race. They became the second consecutive F-Body to finish third at Monticello (the IROC Maiden managed a third at the Even More Sears Pointless race). Maybe they'll be the first or maybe they used up all their good grace in New York.

(Murilee Martin photo)
 (2) Rally Baby have been relegated to just one entry--their veteran Audi 4000--at NHMS after a seven-car blitz at Monticello. Rally Baby's Monticello results were less-than-spectacular, but maybe their concentration on just one car will pay off and they'll become--wait for it--the first team to win outright with an Audi. With rain in the forecast, the Audi's Quattro system could be a difference-maker.

(3) Keystone Kops' second entry--a V8-swapped Volvo 242--has yet to bfactor in the hunt for an overall win, but it has been terrifically fast. I don't know if it has a chance at a win, but it will certainly compete with Walk of Shame and The Silver Errors for fastest lap.

Other longshots: Howard Fine and the EMTs (BMW E30), Team Apres Ski Racing (Acura Integra), Overengineer'd Racing (BMW E30), Swedish Mafia Racing (Volvo 240, see below) and ModSquad Racing (2 entries, both Toyota MR2s).


CLASS B

This is the part where I say Class B is hard to predict and a lot of teams "graduate" to Class A, etc. Basically, any prediction of Class B comes with the caveat that seriously competitive Class B teams are usually borderline Class A teams and could be bumped into the faster class.

Swedish Mafia Racing and their Volvo 240 wagon have nabbed two Class B wins and appear to have the class figured out. That said, they ran in Class A at their last race (Monticello, where they finished seventh overall) and probably will end up there permanently. If they somehow end up in Class B, it'd be hard to bet against them, even with a pile of handicap laps. In Class A, the Swedish Mafia squad still possesses an outside chance at being the first stock-engined Volvo to nab an overall win.


(Murilee Martin photo)

The Volvo 740 wagon of Fast Al's Race Team has been placed in Class B for the last several races. At Carolina Motorsports Park in 2012, they finished fifth overall but lost the class by a single lap. They've hung around the Top 10 a couple times but have somehow missed out on a class win. Volvo wagons have some kind of magic in the Northeast, so we'll call this 740 the Class B favorite.

Team Farfrumwinnin bring a fresh motor for their Volkswagen Fox to Loudon. Farfrumwinnin are the epitome of slow and steady, typically having a mid-field fastest lap but being capable of a Top 10 finish. A class win has also eluded them, but don't count them out.

(Murilee Martin photo)


Yet another regular visitor to the Top 10 may end up in Class B: the Volvo 262 Bertone Coupe of Vermont Bert-One (formerly Vermont Maple Runners). This car finished a solid sixth place from Class C in its 2012 debut at New Jersey Motorsports Park and has two more Top 10 finishes. After a rough outing at Monticello, you can add them to the list of teams returning to the track with fresh rebuilds. Don't be surprised if New England's Volvo magic trickles down to Italian-clad coupes.

The Maine Dental Association will be bringing back a pair of Chevy Cavaliers again. Their #555 car has run a few more races than the #666 car and is a bit better developed, though both cars might be a bit close to the A-B classing line. If they end up in B, one (or both) of them could surprise.

Also on that Class A/Class B fence will be the Massholes Ford Escort ZX2 and Team Placebo's Subaru Impreza wagon.

Class B Longshots: Teamremmers (Saab 900), Raw Deal Racing (Volkswagen Cabriolet) and Cougar Hunters (Mercury Cougar, Mondeo platform).



CLASS C

The Northeast may be second only to the West Coast races in terms of Class C depth. We anticipate a great--if slow--battle in the insanity class. We'd call it a war of attrition, but most of these teams know how to keep their crapcan together better than the Class A teams. Indeed, several have already nabbed wins in C.



(Murilee Martin photo)

When it comes to cars that people consider "lemons," many will default to the Chevy Chevette. However, that moniker need not apply to Chev-itte Where the Sun Don't Shine, who clearly have the strategy for Class C figured out: Keep it on the track and good things will happen. Their '80s econobox has done exactly that and their heap has never finished below 30th place, which is remarkable for a car whose lap times are usually in the bottom quarter of the field.

If you want a little international flavor to Class C, Scuderia Regurgito's Fiat 131 can give you that. They've struggled in their last two races, but the Fiat has finished as high as 10th and has a Class C win. We expect them to bounce back and give a strong showing.


(Murilee Martin photo)

Internet Crapcan Grandmasters Nonpareil 3 Pedal Mafia will run two Class C entrants: The world-renowned Boat (built on a Chevy S10 chassis) and their Triumph TR7. The Boat competed for a Class C win at Monticello, but it was ultimately outpaced by the fast-but-frequently-broken Punisher GP Peugeot 405. And the Chevette also beat the Boat on pace; it turns out that a boat dropped onto a truck frame is pretty slow. The 3 Pedal Mafia TR7 led Class C at Monticello when the checkered flag flew Saturday, but it blew up early Sunday, as British machines are wont to do. That said, the ICGNs at 3PM could GTW at NHMS.

(Murilee Martin photo)

If the phrase "heap" doesn't conjure up images of a Chevette, it probably encourages your mind to picture a Pontiac Fiero, like that of Rusty Tear Racing. Like the three teams listed above, Rusty Tear has Class C locked in, having nabbed a class win at NHMS last fall and come close at the New Hampshire race before that. We like the odds on the Fiero in C.


Rusty Dragon Racing's '87 Volkswagen Golf debuted at NHMS last October and was given the Vee-Dub disgrace of being thrown into Class C. As it turns out, the judges nailed that classing decision: The terrible Golf only turned 77 laps, good for 110th place out of 117 entries (still two spots ahead of blow-uppyScuderia Regurgito). We don't know if Rusty Dragon will be a Class C car again, but we'll call them a longshot for C if they're in.



(Murilee Martin photo)

The Index of Effluence-winning Saab 96 of Full Nelson is probably too slow to win Class C. Yeah, really. That can happen. They're another longshot for Class C and will probably only win if every other Class C breaks down, which--if we're honest--is not entirely out of the question. Whatever else may happen, we expect the 96 to trundle along, looking good and beating more than its fair share of BMWs and Integras.

We saved the best for last in Class C. It's one of Those Cars that Everyone on the Internet knows should dominate low-buck endurance racing.

No, it's not a Merkur (though Fiasco Rallysport's XR4Ti will be at Loudon and will probably still also be terrible), but it is another hot mess of '80s turbocharging: Team Waahmbulance's Dodge Daytona. During past races, the Daytona has proved to its peon attendants that it's quite comfortable on jackstands, thank you, and it'll just puke its guts whether they like it or not. Or, if you'd prefer: This car has Class A speed potential and sub-Class C reliability. If they can rectify their reliability issues and convince their heap that jackstands aren't really as much fun as a good flogging, they should be able to run away with the class. We can't help but cheer for this car, even if they are probably a longer longshot than the 38-horsepower, two-stroke Saab.

(Murilee Martin photo)

Prove us wrong, Waahmbulance.

And if your team isn't listed and you resent it, prove us wronger! We love teams that rise from obscurity to blow everyone away.

3 comments:

  1. Class C for the Merkurian Falcon? Tell that to Phil! ;)

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    Replies
    1. Ha! I didn't mean to imply you were Class C material. The Tools probably ruined Merkurs in Class C for everyone when they actually kept theirs together well enough to finish third from Class C at Gingerman in 2010.

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  2. Someday we will build a Class C car, but we're happy playing with the unimportant folk in A.

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