Southern Discomfort 2015: Race Report

Photo courtesy of Huneycutt Photography
Photo courtesy of Huneycutt Photography

As consistent Barn Finds readers know, I am the team owner of a 24 Hours of LeMons race car that races one of the most unlikely vehicles to ever enter a race track: an Austin Marina (Morris Marina to the rest of the world). You may or may not have heard of LeMons; and it’s changed a lot in recent years, so previous impressions are probably out of date. LeMons is endurance racing for $500 cars. No, we don’t run 24 hours frequently, although there are one or two of those a year. Generally we are racing on road courses typically used for SCCA, NASA or other club-type events for most of the day Saturday (in this case 10 am – 6:30 pm) and sometimes on Sunday (6 hours this time). This race was at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina, a beautiful track in a beautiful setting! LeMons no longer crushes or destroys cars, and has generally become more like regular racing, although themes and unusual cars are still encouraged and rewarded.  The racing is broken down into three classes, with Class A being for cars that might actually belong on a race track (Mustangs, Miatas, old BMW’s, etc.), Class B being for regular cars, and Class C for those vehicles that would normally never end up on a race track (the Marina is a Class C car).  Other class C cars at this race that might interest you are a 1970 Valiant, 1964 Fairlane, an early 80’s diesel Mercedes and a Pinto (the eventual Class C winner). Many cars are pulled from junkyards; you don’t have to worry about anything really nice being destroyed at the race by an errant pass.

LeMons Race Report 2015
Closely following a Camaro. Not really, as they soon proved when we got to a straight…

Think of LeMons as something you could do with that barn find that you really should have left in the barn! Or the parts car after you’re done restoring “the good one.”

Our race this time was a mixed bag. We were off the track several times; once when our transponder failed (how the laps are counted), that cost us 37 minutes off track and any chance we had at a better placement. We also had one black flag (you are flagged off the track for any contact or if you “leave the racing surface,” this time it was for the latter) and a few minor mechanical difficulties like wearing out a set of racing brake pads by the end of day one. Driver change outs in our case are about every two hours, and since we are teamed with three 1994 Mustangs, we try to plan our pit stops around theirs. Everyone helps each other with fueling duties.

In case you are wondering about that $500 figure, that’s before the addition of safety gear, brakes, wheels and tires. Our car, like all LeMons cars, has a full roll cage worthy of a NASCAR car, and we all use a HANS or other neck protection device, as well as up-to-date helmets and carefully checked fireproof race suits. Although we had the sixth slowest fastest lap out of 77 cars, we actually ended up finishing third in Class C (behind the Pinto and the Fairlane) and 30th overall. If you are interested in LeMons, you can check out their website here or our team’s Facebook page here.

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Comments

  1. Doug M. (West) Member

    Jamie,

    Thanks for the rundown! What a terrifically fun way to spend a weekend! I am sure you get the same thrill in class c as the guys in A and B do, but you probably have a lot more fun getting there!

  2. Jose

    Sounds like a world of tongue-in-cheek fun. Where/when is this thing held?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      @Doug M. — We do have a lot of fun…when you can actually call a Marina relatively reliable compared to some other cars, it says a lot! I’m really racing with a terrific group of folks, and although I’ve certainly gone faster on a track, I’ve never had more fun!

      @ Jose — LeMons is hosting 19 races all around the country this year, but there are several series similar to LeMons, such as ChumpCar, World Racing League, American Endurance Racing and a new one that just started called Lucky Dog Racing League. You can google any of those names to get schedules. I’ve raced a lot with ChumpCar as well; the cool thing about that series is that you get to race on major tracks — I’ve been able to race at Sebring, Atlanta, Daytona and Charlotte, and they also run at Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta, and other courses. If any Barn Finders are interested in knowing more, feel free to email me at tr6driver at yahoo dot com.

  3. KL Harper

    OK here is our picture. I am the smiling guy leaning on the car. If you look over the hood you can see the Marina in the background. Our car is a Mazda MX6, also known as a ford probe. It runs a small V6. We have run this car for about 6 races now and are starting to get it competitive. For this race we were classed B.
    Saturday we ran well and got the car up to 3rd in class and 6th overall, which was pretty good as we really did not have anything for the cars in front of us. Sunday we had several snafu’s some were the car’s fault but most were the teams, we even managed to lose the hood going down the back straight. In the end we ended up 6th in class and 15th overall.
    I really enjoy this type of racing and while lemon’s, chump and the others are not perfect, it is the most fun that I have had in racing in a long time, and I wish it had started a long time ago. LeMons has evolved and now it is not so much a circus as a semi-serious race. To give you an idea we are going through the kink at 122MPH, which quite frankly is moving. The lemons folks et al have a tough time creating parity and it is not always perfect, but for he most part it is pretty close. You will learn to drive in traffic, high speed car control, auto mechanics and problem solving under pressure. But most of all you get to drive, and racing with other cars is like nothing else. Track days teach you that perfect apex and braking point, but that all goes out the door when you dive for that first corner with two cars beside you another nipping at your heels and you are trying to figure out how and the hell you are going to pass that guy in front of you.
    Everyone is competitive but friendly in this type of racing, and while the true 500 dollar cars don’t really exist, our car with safety equipment and everything probably has less than 3500 bucks in it, and the majority of that is safety and brakes. A weekend of racing is costing us about 1 grand, and that is for fuel, tires, brake pads and clutch and when you split that between 4 drivers it becomes very cost effective.
    I encourage everyone to give it a try,

    KL Harper

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      @ KL — REALLY enjoyed meeting you and driving with (getting passed by!) your team!

      Jamie

  4. jim s

    are the chump and lemons race events open to spectators?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Jim, spectators are welcome, there’s usually a charge though for insurance purposes. There’s a Fiat 124 spider with a TDI swap (!) that is really fast!

      • jim s

        thanks. the 124 should be able to go a long time between fuel stops.

  5. jim s

    sound like you both had a lot of fun. the miata looks interesting also. i wonder how a VW tdi would do. thanks for sharing.

  6. gunningbar

    Great article! Thanks.

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