Tuesday, July 21, 2015

24 Hours of LeMons: Doin' Time in Joliet bonus preview!

By now, you're almost certainly read the preview over at Hooniverse in all its entymological glory from guest previewer Blake Field. If not, set aside a healthy block of time and go read that. I've tried to refrain too much from getting too serious in my recent LeMons previews, but this weekend's forthcoming race is interesting to the endurance-racing geek in my brain so there are some interesting things at play in the race for the overall win.

The key point to remember is that to win this race, a team is basically going to have to run without mechanical fault to have a chance. At most, probably a half dozen teams will end up in that boat. Beyond that, the ability to go even 10 minutes longer on a tank of fuel than whoever you're racing becomes paramount. A fuel stop and driver change will take at least four minutes (or two laps) and that's time you can't get back. So a team that can go 2-1/2 hours instead of two hours should buy themselves—all other things equal, which is almost never the case—four laps simply by making two fewer scheduled stops.

Of course, black flags and unplanned stops have a lot to do with that so it should be interesting to see play out while I'm liveblogging the race for Hooniverse.com on Saturday and Sunday.

That said, I wanted to give an actual to the cars I'd expect to compete for the race win. This is a deep field with at least 15 very well-prepared teams and cars capable of winning with the right mix of preparation and luck.

#63 Hong Norrth (Toyota Supra) - They've won six LeMons races with a Mazda MX-3 and know all the subtleties and small things needed to win a race. Experience counts at least double in endurance racing and while their Supra hasn't won (in fact, no Supra has won in seven years), it should come off the trailer as a favorite for the team from Atlanta.

#36 Save the Ta-Tas (Chevy Camaro) - This is the Ta-Tas' home track and the place where they won their first of two victories. Nobody will come close to the third-generation Camaro on pace, but they may struggle to make up the ground lost with shorter fuel stints than anyone else in the field.

#44 Landshark (Honda Civic) - This team replaced their used up Integra—which finished second in the closest LeMons race in history—with a Civic, transplanting all the Integra goodies into the Civic. It's a quick, well-sorted, and reliable car that gets excellent fuel mileage at race pace, of which it lacks nothing. They've not yet won, but I think this could be their race.

#53 LemonAid Racing (Geo Metro, BMW M52 swap) - The BMW-swapped Metro is properly fast and could even, in theory, run long fuel stints. However, it might be a tall order to keep this feat of garage engineering running without issue for a full day.

#45 United Ducktape Racing (Porsche 944) - Like Landshark, this Porsche had been close to winning a few times. However, they broke through at Gingerman last fall to score their first win. This car historically has been plagued with niggling little mechanical issues, which are the kind that you can ill afford in a 24-hour race.

#56 Skid Marks Racing (Dodge Neon) - This is a particularly interesting entry as Skid Marks haven't raced LeMons in a couple years. The team moved on to club racing in 2013, where they have proven that crapcan drivers know how to wheel a car, actually. Now, they return with the car that has won twice at Autobahn. Don't be surprised if they're in contention Sunday morning.

#112 The Blue Shells (Dodge Neon) - Like Hong Norrth and Skid Marks, the Shells have endurance racing nailed. Their old Accord was a Class B tour de force and they have the organization and intelligent driving to finally get the overall win that has eluded them thus far.

#750 Flying Pigs Racing (Ford Mustang) - Like the Ta-Tas' Camaro, the heavy Pony-Pig car has a weight disadvantage over the rest of the frontrunners, which could wear out tires and brakes over 24 hours. Nevertheless, they won at Gingerman in April and have been as consistent in the Midwest as anyone over the last couple year.

#181 Team Sheen (Acura Integra) - The proverbially well-prepared Integra in any given LeMons field. This is a solid car that has almost always just had one little problem (OK, occasionally one or three big problems) keeping them from taking home the first-place trophy. They almost always lead in a race, sometimes for three laps, sometimes for several hours and they'll hope for better luck this time around.

#606 Shitbox Racing (BMW E30) - Curiously, this is the best E30 in the field and I don't think they've ever done better than third place. Still, they've raced around with ChumpCar and World Racing League over the last couple years and have a better-than-decent chance at competing for the win.

#87 and #285 Dai Mondai (Toyota Corolla FX16 and Toyota MR2) - It's a big ask for this team to compete since they have virtually proven the fragility of the 4AGE engine in LeMons, but the team's MR2 won a LeMons race in 2011 and the team have their shit sufficiently together to win a race. It's just a matter of keeping the cars up to snuff with the rest of their crew.

#186 Little Lebowski Urban Achievers (Volvo 245) - Along with Skid Marks, these guys are a hand full of aces if the weather turns sour. They've had reliability issues for a couple years, but the naturally aspirate Volvo brick before then had been tough as nuts. They're long overdue for a win and if the car holds together, it could be their weekend.

#72 and #99 Strange Crew (Mazda RX-7 and Nissan 240SX) - This two-car team will probably prompt questions of "Who?" from the regional regulars, but the beige RX-7 and bright-red 240SX have been pretty solid cars done in by driver mistakes in the past. They've still managed a couple of Top 10 finishes so if the drivers can make as few missteps as the car, then they might have a chance.

#481 Free Candy Racing (Honda Civic) - Like Skid Marks, these guys have been away from LeMons for some time, but they quietly and cleanly drove their way to more than one Top 5 finish. It's not the fastest car in the field, but I like this car as a darkhorse.

Other cars - Look, over 24 hours, just about anything can happen. Most of the dozen or so BMWs in the field have a better-than-average chance at winning and even the Ford Lima-powered Opel GT that finished second overall at Gingerman this spring has to be considered a reasonable threat at winning overall. Should the weather go crazy (as it's expected to do), then all bets are off and it's mostly a matter of hanging on for the drivers on Autobahn's slick surface.

Check out Hooniverse Saturday and Sunday for more coverage on this beastly race!


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