Sunday, March 22, 2015

24 Hours of LeMons: 'Sears Pointless' Saturday analysis

Murilee Martin photo

It wouldn't be a 24 Hours of LeMons weekend without your loyal LeMons correspondent offering a modicum of in-race analysis of race strategies. This weekend finds the series at Sonoma Raceway for its fifth annual "Sears Pointless" race. The Sonoma races are usually crowded affairs where attrition tosses away huge swaths of the field. Get caught up on the field with my preview on Hooniverse and with Murilee Martin's race inspection coverage on Car and Driver.

Then make the jump for a bit of number-crunching for the endurance-racing geeks.

Saturday's race session was 7-1/2 hours and the huge field of experienced teams means that a single mistake is usually sufficient to throw away a victory. Of course, the ultimate prize is $400 and a welded steel trophy, so it's not like a win is worth anything more than its intrinsic value to the team and respect from fellow racers.

Nevertheless, Sunday's final session of the race will be seven hours, meaning that most teams should be able to duplicate a similar strategy or, in some cases, eliminate a driver change altogether. Since a typical driver-change costs two or three laps, that's a huge difference maker. Here's a chart tracking the top Class A cars' lap count to start the day, the number of stops they made Saturday, their longest stint in laps, and how many stop I'd expect from each on Sunday, barring any mistakes.

POSCarLapsSaturday StopsLongest StingExpected Sunday Stops
1#259 Flying Scotsmen
(BMW E30) Volvo 740
2#158 Flying Scotsmen
(BMW E30)
1792881 to 2
3#12 Rotary Rooter
(Mazda RX-7)
4#666 IWannaRoc
(Chevy Camaro)
5#2 Cerveza Racing
(BMW E28)
6#5 Hella Shitty
(BMW E30)
1762791 to 2
7#30 Expendable
(BMW E30)
1753463 to 4
8#428 Totally Mediocre Ninja Turtles
(Infiniti G20)
9#942 Depend
(Porsche 944)
10#110 Big Test Icicle
(Acura Integra)
12#147 Yet Another Shitty E30
(BMW E30)
13#121 Fraidy Cat Racing
(Audi A4)
14#270 Team Mayhem
(Mazda RX-7)
15#134 Alfa Romeo Syndicate
(Alfa Romeo GTV6)
1734462 to 3

The big story here is the Flying Scotsmen's pair of E30s at the front of the field. Interestingly, the #158 Scotsmen only needed a splash of fuel in the last 20 minutes of Saturday's session; since Sunday's race is 30 minutes shorter, it's likely they can do the day on a single stop. The #259 Scotsmen seemed to make up the difference on pace. Should they manage to finish 1-2 as they currently sit, it will be only the second time a pair of team cars have done so (Hong Norrth did it at Carolina Motorsports Park in September 2012).

[Edit: The #259 car is apparently the old Too Stupid to Know Better Volvo 740 that won at Miller Motorsports Park. The car was in the registration system as an E30 still.]

Those BMWs are just two of five in the Top 10; this could be the first E30 win in LeMons since November 2013. Cerveza Racing have seven wins and can't ever be counted out; they seem to have consistently blistering pace at will. Expendable likely doesn't have the fuel range to challenge for an overall win, but I think they could make a strong showing on their speed. Hella Shitty Racing ran two short stints and one very, very long one. They could very well try to squeeze every drop of fuel from their car to make a pair of 3-1/2 hour stints Sunday.

Outside of the BMWs, the Rotary Rooter team should be in play if they can keep from making mistakes. They led quite a few laps early in the race. IWannaRoc has had enough pace, as well, to make a go of it. The Totally Mediocre Ninja Turtles Infiniti has been in the Top 10 a few times, but has tended to fall apart late in the race.

The team to watch will be, as always, the Depend Porche. The team—formerly known as Porch Racing—have, in their last four races at Sonoma won three in the row before finishing P2 last time out. They will almost certainly execute on a single stop and they're frequently able to do so at a competitive pace. Don't be surprised if they make a strong charge up the standings.

Everybody behind Depend are probably longshots, but at least a couple of those should end up in the Top 10 as attrition and/or black flags call out some of the Top 10, as they inevitably do. At the start of Sunday,

POSCLASS BLapsSaturday StopsLongest StintsExpected Sunday Stops
1#40 Neon Pope
(Dodge Neon)
2#91 Fiero Libre
(Pontiac Fiero)
3#27 Model T Pinto
(Ford Pinto)
4#55 Two Many Wheels
(Mazda Miata)
5#108 Avis Rent-A-Car
(Chevy Aveo)
6#596 Black Bird
(Chevy Camaro)
1705334 to 5
7#58 Panting Polar Bear
(Ford Crown Victoria)
Class B here is an excellent demonstration of what can fall into Class B. Neon Pope's single-cam Neon was hung around P10 overall all day and has a solid Class B lead. Three laps of Sonoma comes out to around seven minutes, so a poorly timed black flag or a small fix can erase that.

Behind them, three cars start on the same lap. Fiero Libre have been about as good as any Fiero can be and they'll be racing the Model T GT's Ford Pinto in a race of villified American iron. The Two Many Wheels crew should get a jump by stretching fuel and making one fewer stop.

Just a lap down from there is another weird three-car scattering: a rental grade Chevy Aveo from Avis Rent-A-Car (not actually sponsored by Avis), Team Black Bird's sweet second-generation Camero, and Panting Polar Bear's former Class B-winning Crown Victoria. There's not much between them on the track and Black Bird, despite their short fuel range, have been incredibly competitive in their last few races.

POSCLASS CLaps  Saturday StopsLongest StintsExpected Sunday Stops
1#390 Rep-Eat-Offenders
(Volvo 240)
2#122 Rancho de Llama
(Volvo Amazon)
1533472 to 3
3#421 Team Westafari
(Volkswagen Vanagon)
In Class C, the Rep-Eat-Offenders and Rancho de Llama make a strong case for another Volvo class win. The Rep-Eat Offenders should make an extra stop or two than the Amazon.

The early frontrunner for Index of Effluency has to be Team Westafari, whose Vanagon has held together nicely with its Wasserboxer engine and Rastafarian theme. 

You can stream today's race on RacerConnect (I didn't get a chance to watch it at all yesterday) and follow timing on Specialty Timing's site or on RaceMonitor


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