This weekend, the 24 Hours of LeMons makes the (relatively) short trek to the middle of the California desert for "Button Terrible" at Buttonwillow Raceway Park.
With early-week forecasts calling for triple-digit highs all weekend, Button Terrible will be a grueling affair for both car and team. Like the typical California LeMons race, this one will feature the requisite 150 entries, of which probably about 100 will be running by the weekend's end while the rest sit in varying states of disrepair. Which isn't to suggest that cars on the track won't also be in varying states of disrepair.
As usual, all three classes should see repeat offenders and terrific depth, making it hard to pick a winner, but we're going to highlight some of the teams we think have a shot. If you want the full scoop, check out the unofficial entry list and let us know where we've erred.
[Editor's Note: As always, please note that classing notes are our interpretation of the car types, based on what we know about the series and based on recent classing decisions. Actual classing decisions are ultimately made by the BS judges during BS Inspections at the racetrack.]
California races always bring back winners, many of whose cars are shockingly reliable after tens of thousands of race miles. Nowhere else will you find such depth of competition in crapcan racing; just taking a cursory glance at our notes, we indicated more than 30 teams we feel could, theoretically, nab a win. We don't have the time to discuss all of those in depth, but we'll give you the basic runaround.
Over the last season of racing, no team has been harder to beat than Cerveza Racing (above), who won three consecutive races in 2012 and took another victory this year. In the team's other two races during that span, they took their BMW E28 to second place both times. There's a word for that: Domination. Cerveza Racing is the favorite in this race, but this is endurance racing and this field's depth means that a single error can be the difference between winning and losing.
Cerveza are not the fastest team in California; the Model T GT might be. Their stripped-down T-bucket hauls the mail with the best of the West Coasters and has the pace to make up the track that Cerveza gains on better fuel mileage. Success for this team frequently hangs on the delicate T GT's T5 transmission. Pro Tip: Say Tee Gee-Tee Tee-Five five times fast. Then say Tee Gee-Tee Tee-Five Five Times Fast five times fast. Cleanse the palate with Petty Punch and repeat.
BMWs rule the day in most of the country's crapcan regions, but only in California does the 5-Series seem to outperform its smaller 3-Series siblings. If It's Not Punk It's Junk are always in the mix with their E34-generation 5-Series. They just squeaked by Cerveza Racing at Sears Point earlier this year by two laps to take their first win since 2011, but they went on to dominate the ChumpCar World Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca the next weekend. They're on a roll, so look for a strong race from the Punkers.
What can we say about the legendary Eyesore Racing? Their ghettocharged Mazda Miata remains one of the most iconic crapcans since LeMons' inception. While they've not gotten terrific results in the last year since winning the Sears Pointless race in March 2012, they remain a capable crew with another of the fastest-lap contenders in the field. You can never count out Eyesore.
Speaking of classic crapcan teams, POS Racing return to LeMons with their veteran BMW E30. They've not raced as much in recent years as they did in their heyday, but like Eyesore, they're going to be in the discussion.
And yet another team of early-year LeMoneers returns at Buttonwillow: Krider Racing are dragging their Integra out of mothballs to take another crack at an overall win. The Krider squad have come painfully close many times, including...well...we won't even mention their most-notorious near-miss.
One old swine gets a new name for Button Terrible: Lipstick on a Pig's 17-race veteran Nissan Sentra SE-R will show up under the new Roadrace Jones moniker, looking to top its second-place finish at the 2012 Thunderhill race in September.
A pair of Top-Ten-regular Mazda RX-7s grace the field. The Mazdarachis' first-gen RX-7 (above) has had some ups and downs, but could be considered a contender. Hit and Run Racing's V8-swapped RX-7 has proven massively capable of turning speed into a good finish, so look for them to haunt the Top Ten and be within arm's reach of the podium.
While POS Racing is probably the best of the E30 crowd, we see our more of the Bavarian bunch having an outside chance. Raized Crazy comes off a LeMons win at the beginning of the month at Colorado's High Plains Raceway and will hope to nab two wins in a month. Barbarian Motorworks and Mutter Fokker are a veteran squads who are no strangers to the Top 10.
The real E30 to watch is the Porcubimmer/Prickstine whip. It may or may not finish well (it's been in the hunt before), but we've seen from the entry list that it will have a new theme, one that we've wanted for a long time. We won't spoil the surprise.
[Update: Porcubimmer have unveiled their surprise. If you're reading this, you probably already know they built an incredible replica of The Homer.]
Brace yourselves for this: We think not one but two Porsches have a chance. OLD Fast Auto and Sons (above) and Eco-Challenged are both regular visitors to the Top 10. OLD Fast even managed a podium at the 2013 Sears Pointless. Will their 924S be the first 924 or 944 to take a long-overdue win for Porsche? Can Eco-Challenged's 944 beat them to it? Are we asking the impossible?
If Porsches are an underachieving European mark, then we feel compelled to mention the continent's most overachieving manufacturer: Alfa Romeo. Team California Mille won at The Ridge last year despite their Alfetta running only 21st-fastest in that race. It would be a stretch for them to run mid-pack lap times and nab a win in the hotly contested California races, but stranger things have happened. Scuderia Limoni's Milano puts another well-orchestrated bullet in the Italian maker's gun.
Our handpicked longshot is perhaps a bit boring this time around: The Ace Pump BMW E36 has steadily improved since its debut, quietly finishing with consecutive Top 10s in its last two outings. Do they have something for the region's big guns? We think they do and we're eager to see them prove it.
More Longshots: Team Steam (Chevy Camaro), B-Team Kill Phil (BMW E30), Fat and the Furious (Mazda Miata), Cannonball Bandits (V8-swapped Toyota Supra), Goleta Lemon Festival Special (BMW E34), The Faustest Team (BMW E30), Bozos Sucko A and C (BMW E30), New York Rock Exchange A (Ford Focus).
The middle class in the Western region is at least as tough as the fastest class, not least of all because the stalwarts of Class B have well-sorted cars and tons of experience at campaigning their rides. The top competitors are all borderline Class A cars, so there may be some handicap laps handed out to the top picks in the class. Regardless, the best Class B teams always find a way to overcome their green-flag deficit to compete.
Some may cry foul at Uber Vogel: Hans Am (above) ending up in Class B with their Mercedes 190E, but they've run in that class for several races and narrowly missed a class win on a couple of occasions. This team has campaigned the 190E since one of the early Altamont races and we see them as a top Class B competitor. Even if they get tossed into Class A, expect them to rank in the Top 10.
It's no secret that we're partial to the Ford Escort and Flailing Lizards (formerly Team Filthy) are one of the best Escort teams around, along with Byte Marks Racing in the Midwest, Questie's Racing Team in the South and the Massholes in the Northeast. Flailing Lizards' ZX2 encroaches on Class A territory, but they could be a sharp Class B contender, even if they get some penalty laps.
Dirty Duck's Volkswagen Golf captured a narrow Class B win in the one-day Even More Sears Pointless race this March. It was a long overdue victory for the Volkswagen squad, but we think their VW can repeat the performance at a two-day event.
When we dug through the archives of recent California races a month or two ago, we were blown away by the Top 10 finish from the Hot Dogs Chrysler Conquest TSi (above). This is, of course, a cousin to the Mitsubishi Starion, which some LeMons correspondents have panned as the worst choice for a LeMons car in the world. Perhaps even more frightening: The finished second in Class B behind another badge-engineered Mitsubishi, this Eagle Talon of Chump Ganassee Targee Racing. Maybe that one race was everything the Hot Dogs had, but maybe it's the start of something beautiful.
As long as we're doing stupid things like praising Mitsubishi products, we'll say the BLowe's Racing Mitsubishi Eclipse has shown remarkably well recently and could be another borderline A/B car with a chance at B. No, really!
Panting Polar Bear Racing's Ford Crown Victoria sadly represents the sole Panther platform in the field. We're not sure where all the Crown Vics have gone, but the Polar Bears stand alone to represent the Modular 4.6L V8's burble for all the Panther fans in crapcandom.
Crown Victorias are common Class B fodder, as are Volvo wagons. The veteran Bernal Dad's Volvo 245 wagon is a common sight at California races and they'll be joined by the Swedish Monarch Racing Volvo 745 to race for Sweden. Wagons ahoy!
Particularly bad GM F-Bodies tend to find their way into Class B as well. IWannaRoc spend at least as much of a race weekend piecing together decrepit Small-Block Chevy parts to make one good--well, functioning...well, smoke-spewing--engine. Learning2Turn's Firebird (above) has improved markedly over its past couple races and could somehow hang together long enough to manage a class win. Maybe one or both can make a strong showing after a Camaro recently captured the F-Body's first overall win.
[Correction: IWannaRoc are not the engine-swapping demons we'd originally thought; that car is the Class A Team Steam "IROC Maiden." The clever plays on the IROC are just too much for our feeble brains, but thanks to IWannaRoc for pointing out that they're generally terrible in ways other than procuring and piecing together junkyard motors.]
OMG Racing campaign a massive Mercedes S500 that pretty closely resembles a German Tiger tank.That's neat.
It's not a West Coast race without Team Petty Cash, who are debuting a new Jeep Cherokee XJ at this event. As it's this Jeep's first time, we don't expect a class win, but the guys running it know a thing or two about preparing the type and may surprise.
In Class B, we like a couple of longshots who have graduated from Class C and regularly finish in the top fourth of the field. The slammin' Chevy S10 minitruck from Licensed to Ill is a crowd pleaser that rides pickup truck durability to the pointy end of the field. As Seen on TV Racing's Kia Rio doesn't even remotely belong on a racetrack, but it's been shockingly good and reliable. Neither has the outright speed to blow away the rest of the Class B competitors, but clean, consistent driving goes a long way in both Class B and Class C.
More Longshots: New York Rock Exchange B (Volkswagen Rabbit), Salton Sea Speed Shop (Ford Falcon), Das Idiots B (Volkswagen Jetta).
Just as in the faster classes, Class C sees some very stiff competition from several former class winners and a number of teams that have just missed the top slot in C. We'll cover a few borderline-Class B teams first, just as a matter of course before we get into the meat of the True LeMons class.
The Black Flags (above) show up for their 17th LeMons race in their battle-scarred, post-Apocalyptic 1983 Toyota Celica Supra. The car has always been a borderline Class B car, but it's never finished higher than 31st place. If it's in Class C, maybe--just maybe--The Black Flags could put together a solid race and manage a class win.
Fiero Libre are another borderline Class B car with their mid-engine Pontiac. They've scored a Class C win in the past and would be a team to watch in C, even with some handicap laps.
We've talked about the glacially slow Toyota Paseo run by The Hasselhoffs before. It's run well enough to be considered Class B territory, but its pace is much closer to Class C lap times. If they end up in C, expect another tortoise-like performance.
Team Tinyvette's Compuware-liveried Opel GT is a masterpiece of LeMons, run by a team with attention to fine details and complete dedication to the series. They've taken two Class C victories and will be coming off a fresh engine rebuild looking for a third.
Few teams represent the automotive Malaise Era better than the aptly named Billy Beer Malaise Forever Ford Futura. With a much-maligned 200-cubic-inch straight six and freshly swapped manual transmission, they're hoping to capture a so-far-elusive Class C win.
It would hardly be Class C without some corroded British tin. Previous Class C winners Flaming A-Holes and Killer ZomBees return in their Jaguar XJ12 and MG MGB, respectively. Both are much-storied competitors and generally great racers. On the Triumph side, the Sex Pistons (above) bring back the only crapcan Spitfire in history. Its performance has been less-than-stellar in the past, but anything can happen in Class C.
Crash Test Mummies bring a two-car Class C(-ish) assault. Their 1978 Ford Fiesta is in the neighborhood of Class B, but the team's rubber-bumper MGB is definitely the provenance of C.
Not many Volvo 240s make it into Class C, but More Rubber Chickens' 1979 example has historically found itself in the lowest class. If it stays in Class C, the Swedish brick could be a car to watch.
As we've pointed out before, piockup trucks seem to be a shortcut to Class C success. This race sees three crapcan craphaulers, including a two-truck team. Too Fast for Lüv bring a two Chevy LUV-attack to bear at Buttonwillow, while A-Lone Ranger throw their Ford offering into the mix.
Like the aforementioned pickup trucks, Volkswagen Beetles seem like a shortcut to victory in Class C, except that for every victory, the typical Beetle blows up three or six times. And sometimes they blow up three to six times in one weekend, as Team -Ing With Bad Ideas did at Sears Point. Still, the Team -Ing Beetle has run flawlessly before, racking up a class win at Eagles Canyon in 2012. The Bozos Sucko Beetle (above) has yet to win, but the duel-control, Subaru-powered Vee-Dub led Class C for much of the 2013 Sears Point race and has the potential to churn out a class win.
California LeMons races feature the mighty Class C veteran Spank, who will allegedly campaign the venerable, two-time Index of Effluency-winning LeMini Autosarcophagy alongside the Olds diesel-V8-powered Chevy CorVegge. The Mini is likely to show up mostly ready, but the CorVegge is a constant work in progress and--in true Spank fashion--may show up partially complete.
The K-It-FWD Plymouth Reliant makes it to the Left Coast for Button Terrible under the guiding hands of The Syndicate, who also ran the K at the B.F.E. GP. Now packing a six-cylinder motor that held together in its debut while everything else broke, the Reliant could have the pace to compete if the Detroit-o-pean import can keep the rest of its parts in one piece.
Planned Obsolescence's Buick Skyhawk is a beautiful thing. The Monza platform has shown itself to be relatively quick (in a straight line) and somewhat reliable (the differential's mercy-killing howl lasts a while but it won't die until the last lap).
What do you get when you drop a turbocharged Saab motor into the middle of a Honda 600? Mostly a lot of strange looks and a few headaches. Yet Team Apathy forge ahead with their box-fendered Saanda. The judges classified it in Class B at Sears Point, but some liberal judicial lenience may land it in Class C.
Dudes Ex Machina's Plymouth Valiant (above), resplendent in its Malaise-caliber green paint and Slant Six powerplant has, well, underperformed in its first two outings with 152nd and 158th place finishes. Call them the longshot of longshots in Class C, but maybe that Slant Six can help the Valiant conquer Class C at a crawl.
Did we snub you? We love underdogs, so prove us wrong with an ALL CAPS comment below, a Facebook rant or a tweet. Or better yet, go out and win the damn race and SHOW THEM ALL!!!