Wednesday, July 17, 2013

LeMons Pacific Northworst: The Rusty Hub's Preview

(Murilee Martin)

We've written about the uniqueness of the Pacific Northwest in crapcan racing before with 24 Hours of LeMons races producing inexplicable results and with ChumpCar World Series producing a nail-biting battle at the end of a 36-hour race.

That said, the entry list for this weekend's Pacific Northworst LeMons race at The Ridge Motorsports Park has simultaneously floored and stumped us here at The Rusty Hub HQ. Why? In short:

- It has more variety than we've ever seen before. The entry list has 52 teams, but there are no more than two of any type. The doubles include expected types like Integras, Mustangs, Camaros, Escorts, RX-7s, Supras, Jettas and Saturns. But it also includes pairs of BMW 2002s, Austin Minis and--somehow--BMC ADO17s (both Austin-badged).

- Only one previous winner is registered and there are no clear-cut contenders after that. Basically, half of the field is in play.

- Even the team we might predict as a Class B favorite has had a problematic racing season.

Early-week weather forecasts call for mild temperatures and a dry track, meaning that weather shouldn't be a factor, so we'll be interested to see how the race shakes out over the weekend. As always, you can make your own predictions based on the unofficial entry list, which you can find here.

[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.]


The Ridge Motorsports Park features a very-long front straight and major elevation changes, which should help higher-horsepower cars, although there's no telling if that will really matter. The only previous LeMons race winner may be slightly handicapped, so this could be anybody's race.

The obvious favorite remains the Model T GT, which has won its last two races at Eagles Canyon Raceway and at Buttonwillow Raceway Park. The jalopy's V8 should rocket the T GT down the front straight as well as any, but the real test will be how the crew handles the car: Several arrive-and-drives will get their first taste of the hacked-up Ford. How those new drivers handle the car will likely determine the car's final position in the standings.

(Murilee Martin)

The only other team with a podium is powered by something of a unicorn in LeMons: a turbocharged Ford Pinto four cylinder that didn't blow up during one weekend. We're talking about AutoSport LabRats' Merkur XR4Ti (above). We know it's folly to predict anything to come of Ford's failed brand, but if anyone can prove those Internet Car Guys right about flamethrowing XR4Ti, it'll be the AutoSport Labs folks (who will also be running live telemetry in this car).

The Ridge's layout favors pony cars if they can hold together for a whole race. Returning teams Canadian Breakin' (Chevy Camaro) and No Bronies Unicorn Ponies (Ford Mustang) both proved very quick at the track last year, but neither was able to hold together well enough to finish in the Top Ten. IWannaRoc will haul their veteran Camaro to Washington and newcomers Team Fox Shoppe appear to have made the mistake of identifying themselves as a tuning shop for their make of car. That said, we think these ponies should make a strong run toward the podium.

[Edit: It appears that Team Fox Shoppe may be last year's Gangrene Racing Mustang, which set the fastest lap last year and should be considered a prime competitor.]

Horsepower can come from fewer cylinders than eight; Supra-Markets' Mk.3 Toyota Supra was another fast car last year that just missed the Top 10. It's been a few years since a Supra has even come close to winning, so perhaps this could be the chance for a Toyota to nab a long-overdue win.

No LeMons field can truly be considered complete without an Alfa Romeo and Scuderia Limoni will drag their Milano to The Ridge to give it a shot.

BMW remains curiously underrepresented (or adequately so, depending on your view of the Bavarian maker). Clowntown Roadshow bring the only E30 and should probably be considered a longshot, but the other BMW 3-Series on the entry list is intriguing. Close Enough Engineering will bring an E36, but they've registered it as a 318tds. Bimmer-philes will know this as a diesel-powered BMW coupe; they'll also know this car was never sold in North America. This begs a number of questions: Is the whole car imported? Is the engine imported or possibly some kind of swap? Where do you class a diesel E36? Question, questions, questions, all to be answered in time.

(Murilee Martin)

Hurlingmoss (above) are regular Top 10 finishers in their BMW 2002 and will likely be the highest-finishing Bimmer with a chance at being the oldest BMW to win a crapcan race.

Here's an SAT analogy (completed for your convenience):

Model T GT:Mustang::Idiotarod:Miata

Idiotarod Racing--also known as Balto--is probably the lightest (running) Mazda Miata on the planet. Its builders, Evil Genius Racing, tossed out the reliable (and heavy) B-Series engine and transplanted a snowmobile powerplant with a continuously variable transmission. The result is a lightning-quick, superlight race car that set the fastest lap time at LeMons Arse-Freeze-A-Palooza 2012. We don't know if that will translate to The Ridge, but if the car runs consistently, it could be the next insane-mobile to win a West Coast race.

No car in this field has seen more races than Snowspeeder Pilots Association's Toyota MR2. For all the Mr. Two's weaknesses, these pilots have managed to land their 'yota in or near the Top 10 many, many times. Only one MR2 has ever won before (and it was the last Toyota to win in 2011), so perhaps this team's experience will pay off.

Few would consider the Volkswagen Fox a serious competitor for the win (or even know that Volkswagen built such a car), but The Flying Lumberjacks are another team that has landed in the Top 10 several times. They finished ChumpCar's The 36 at Spokane County Raceway just two weeks ago, so they may be either polished and ready or suffering from the stress of the mega-endurance race.

(Murilee Martin)

As usual, we have a handpicked longshot, but this one is sort-of cheating. The team is quietly a regular Top 10 visitor, but the remarkable part is the car's lineage: It's a later derivative of the Chrysler K Platform. If the K-car was playing Strat-O-Matic in its parents' basement in the 1980s, the Dodge Shadow was its younger cousin playing baseball for the local community college. Sure, it wasn't the big leagues, but it was seldom wanting for a good time. We're talking about the Dust N Debris Shadow (above), a car that has finished at the sharp end of some very large California fields. With a thinner field, we think this could the first non-Neon Chrysler to take the checkered flag.

More longshots: Sponge Bob's Crackin' Crabs (Acura Integra), Speedchimp Racing (Mazda RX-7), TASS-GO RACING (Ford Probe), Yellow Jackets (Ford Focus), Rodeo Clowns A (Nissan Maxima),


Of the three races within the race, Class B is far and away the hardest to predict this weekend. Many teams sit right on the line between Class A and Class B; at least as many sit on the B and C line with few clear-cut Class B cars. To further clutter the picture, most of the Class B-caliber cars are first-time entrants.

(Murilee Martin)

Historically, we'd likely pick Team Petty Cash (above) as the Class B favorites with their Jeep Cherokee, particularly after their Class B domination that turned abruptly into a (literal) mess late in the race at The Ridge last year. However, the Petty Cashers have upped the Jeep's displacement with a V8 swap and have yet to find the motor's sweet spot where it, you know, actually runs. If their swap runs all weekend, its horsepower gain could be a boon on The Ridge's long straight.

Base-model, water-cooled Volkswagens are also usually Class B fodder, although suspension modifications may bump the Vee-Dubs up to Class A. Team Fahrfrumwinnin (No relation to the VW Fox squad on the opposite coast) are the only returning Volkswagen squad and their Jetta could be solid competition in B.

Saturns have done pretty well in Class B historically and a pair of the plastic-shod GM econoboxes might make a run at the class win: Average Joe's will bring a coupe (SC2) and Road Dent Racing will haul a sedan (SL2) to the track.

Several more cars sit closer to the Class B/Class C line, and we wonder if the bar-raising (lowering?) Class C crop (more on this below) might bump up some of these borderline entrants.

FFLAT's Peugeot 505S should be quick enough for Class B, but notorious French unreliability has its way of pulling the Pugs back to fast Class C entries when they're not tossing connecting rods through Toyota windshields.

The veteran Easy 908/14 Porsche 914 will be handicapped by The Ridge's power-rewarding nature. Should it hold together, it may be a very, very longshot for Class B or a solid Class C competitor.

(Murilee Martin)

Dirty Little Freaks (above) remain one of the few teams to enter a diesel crapcan and return with it. Their Mercedes 300SD has landed in Class B a couple times without much to show for it, but if they've finally sorted the diesel Benz, it could blow impressive clouds of black smoke the competition away.

Finally, we must mention former stalwarts of Pacific Northworsts past, Henry V8th. The team have ditched their oversized Cadillac landyacht for a mid-1970s Chevy Nova. We honestly have no idea where such a beast belongs in the classing, so we'll lump it in with the Class B hacks.

Class B Longshots: Darkside Racing (Honda Accord); Manke Racing (Ford Escort ZX2); Team Totally Competent (Honda Civic); 4G Racing (Honda CRX); Team Possessed (Volkswagen Scirocco); Shothole Racing (Ford Contour); Thunder N Lightning (Geo Storm).


We've seen some impressive Class C fields at recent races, but there's quite an assortment of crazy in the Slow Class.

Judge Phil's Class C measuring stick for 2013 remains the NSF/K-It-FWD Plymouth Reliant wagon as it's passed from team to team like some dilapidated torch. Chris Overzet's Pit Crew Revenge squad will campaign it alongside the Subaru Legacy formerly known as the Pikachubaru. With the K-car's new V6 powerplant, it should be one of the fastest Class C entries, but reliability has been its main problem of late.

Mike "Spank" Spangler makes the trip up the Left Coast with his usual two-car British Leyland rust-sault, which makes up half of the four Austins in the field with a Mini and an America. If you're following on live timing, the Mini is Der Weinerschteppers LeMini Autosarcophagy and the America is simply Austin's America.

(Murilee Martin)

Silversleeves Racing complete the other half of the Austin equation with an almost-identical lineup: a Mini (Silversleeves Racing A, pictured above) and the America's closely related cousin, an Austin 1800 (Silversleeves Racing B). The Mini returns for another taste of The Ridge after its 2012 debut there, while the 1800 is a new entry.

With an equal number of Austins and BMWs, we'd suggest a Battle of Britain recreation between the plucky British Leyland heaps and the refined Bavarian sporting machines, but that would probably be like a Messerschmidt ME-109 dueling a Sopwith Camel. Still, the Battle of Britain heavily favored Ze Germans and anything can happen in endurance racing. The Brits' pluckiness defeated Teutonic hubris 70 years ago and history repeats itself, so we'll predict a British victory.

Getting somewhat back on topic, Team -Ing With Bad Ideas may be a late scratch on the entry list with the well-traveled Scrubbing Bubbles Volkswagen Beetle. If they show, they might have as good a chance as any of the other Class C super-studs.

(Murilee Martin)

Last year's Index of Effluency-winning Saab 96 from Freewheeling Pikers (above) make another go at Class C. The Swedish two-stroke machine may struggle to get up The Ridge's steep hills, but if a diesel Chevette can take Class C, then the Pikers Saab 96 surely has half a chance.

This paragraph is what newswriting teachers call "burying the lead," but we'll instead call it "rewarding the patient reader." We have no idea if it has a chance at a Class C win, but we do know that Chase Race: The Best Damn Garage in LeMons are the Index of Effluency frontrunners long before BS Inspections even begin. Why? Two words: Hudson Hornet. While the restoration-inclined collectively gasp in horror at a collectible car being raced, we'd like to take a moment to remind them that the Hornet is famous as one of the most popular and successful early NASCAR entries.

Will it last in an endurance race? Who cares; just look at it. Then listen to it. Then listen to it again. Color us amazed, which is not actually a color.

Did our preview miss something? 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!!!

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