The following is part one of three guest posts by John Watts about his team’s Lemons racing experience, and the genre of “crapcan” racing. In John’s words…
Even at the grass roots level, motorsports has high barriers to entry. I have always had a passion for it, but never had the money, connections or opportunities to get involved other than crewing for a friend once in a while.
When I moved to D.C., I took the opportunity of a new start and reduced obligations to actively seek out ways to get more involved. I attended D.C.’s F1 Meet-up group and starting attending Volta GP kart races.
After an informal karting get together with the F1 Meet-up, we considered getting a group together to do an endurance arrive-and-drive kart event. This quickly grew into the idea of entering in a 24 Hours of Lemons race.
Before we knew it, someone had volunteered a car from a previous Lemons attempt and we had 10-20 guys wanting to be involved.
We drafted a team charter and opened a team bank account. Since the car we had wasn’t running and didn’t have the necessary safety gear, we decided to buy a previously raced car as an easy way to get involved.
As it turns out, Lemons legend Speedy Cop lived nearby and was selling one of his old cars – a Suzuki X-90 with a 1.8 Mazda Miata engine. Speedy Cop has raced all sorts of weird and wonderful cars, including a “donk”, a pop-up camper, the Spirit of Lemons plane car (a Cessna fuselage on a minivan chassis), the Upside Down Camaro and most recently a twin engine Continental.
Speedy Cop, real name Jeff Bloch, was really supportive in helping us. Not only did he sell us the car, he’s also provided ongoing support and advice. We now run as an affiliated team, and our guys often race in his main cars. This open and supportive approach has been indicative of the culture of 24 Hours of Lemons, which is welcoming to new comers and offers a new avenue to get involved in grassroots motorsports.
The 24 Hours of Lemons is one of a number of grass-roots endurance road racing series that focus on low-budget cars and enjoy racing puns. The cars are supposed to only be worth $500, but at this point everyone cheats somewhat, and it’s just a matter of how much cheating you can get away with.
They run different classes so that the super cheaty cars (salvaged WRXs, MR2s and lots and lots of E30s/E36s) and the freakish, bizarre and slow can race their own kind. Safety related gear and upgrades do not count towards the $500, and even a basic car will still cost a couple of thousand dollars after installation of a roll cage, race seat and harness.
Between 4-6 people (the number of drivers per team at any race), this comes out to a couple of hundred dollars each. The races take place over two days, with about 6-7 hours of racing each day. If you run reliably at a decent pace, you will easily do 600 miles per event.
Make no mistake, it’s still not cheap. Even the minimum safety equipment will set you back $500, and each race weekend will cost between $300 – $500 [In racing, that’s cheap! – David], including race entry, fuel, accommodation, food etc. In our team, we each paid an upfront team entry fee (to buy the car and as a show of commitment), and pay $50 a month to the team account to cover other team expenses.
But when you compare it to most other race options, it’s a bargain – and competitive with some kart series and track days. It’s great bang-for-your-buck. But the real value comes from more than the racing, as you’ll see…
Read more about John and his team in Part 2: Our Road to Lemons.
All photos courtesy of John Watts & team