After a month of building...
After a month of building our Honda race car in preparation for the 24 Hours of LeMons the Poor Man's Derrike Cope is finally ready to hit the track.
Second In A Two-Part Series
In the last issue of Circle Track, we announced our plans to compete in the 24 Hours of LeMons race event at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC, and outlined the process of building our race car. This month we get to the fun part-racing.
If you remember, the 24 Hours of LeMons series of racing events is designed to minimize the cost of racing while maximizing the fun. Just about any car or light pickup is eligible to race, as long as it's valued as $500 or less. After finding a suitable clunker, you can upgrade it however you like with what's left of your $500 budget. Safety components-such as a rollcage, five point harness, fuel cell, and even wheels and brakes-aren't included in the $500 limit.
Our team is made up mostly of a longtime Dirt Late Model racer and his volunteer crew. Racer Chris Hargett declined to drive, instead opting to lead the way with the build and offer seat time to some of the guys who volunteer on his DLM team as a way of saying thanks. Hargett also found our car, a '91 Honda Accord that was in an impound yard and on its way to the crusher. The transformation from four-door grocery getter to race car took approximately four weeks and is detailed in the article "Can You Really Make a Race Car Out of a Honda?" in the previous issue of the magazine.
Despite only a short trip...
Despite only a short trip down a country road, we unloaded the '91 Honda Accord at Carolina Motorsports Park without even a shakedown test. Thankfully, CMP had an open test day on Friday when we had to go through tech. Although there were a small number of pits under roof, CMP has a very large grassy area close to the track where we preferred to pit. This is definitely a top-notch facility.
Most LeMons events follow a similar format and take place over the course of a weekend. Inspections must be completed on a Friday afternoon, followed by several hours of racing on Saturday and Sunday. Since it's an endurance event, each team is required to have at least four drivers. Still, even sharing driving duties, this is one of the cheapest ways to get a serious amount of seat time.
The thrash to complete our Honda lasted right up until 2 a.m. on Friday morning before we needed to load up and head to the track. We never had an opportunity to shake down the car, but thankfully, Carolina Motorsports Park offered an open track day that Friday, of which we decided to take advantage. We wanted some laps to not only make sure there were no surprises with the car, but also because we were all circle track racers-and none of us had any experience on a road course.
At the track, our Honda-named "Poor Man's Derrike Cope" in honor of our circle track heritage-performed well during the shakedown laps before we stopped to roll through the tech line at noon. The 24 Hours of LeMons actually has two tech inspections. The first, and most serious, is safety tech. Inspectors checked every car from front to back and top to bottom to make sure no team would be putting its drivers-and other competitors-unnecessarily at risk. Most rules are pretty standard with what you are used to seeing at your local racetrack, but you can get the complete rulebook at the series' website.
The 24 Hours of LeMons has...
The 24 Hours of LeMons has two tech stations. The first is a safety tech that makes sure the standard safety equipment-a five-point harness, rollcage, racing seat, and so on-is all in place and properly installed.
The second tech station is like nothing else you'll see anywhere besides the 24 Hours of LeMons. This is the land of the B.S. Factor (figure the first two letters out yourself). Judges complete with black robes and white wigs go over your race car to determine if you actually did stay below the $500 limit. Bribes are gladly accepted, but the fiver we offered up didn't make much difference when the judges raised the hood to find a VTEC engine equipped with a cold-air intake and stainless headers. Honda's high-revving VTEC was never a factory option on the Accord, but that's what we found when we saved this car from the crusher. We suspect the car was a street racer (which is why it was impounded) but the powerful four-banger bumped us well outside of LeMon's junker range, and the B.S. judges docked us a painful 75 laps.
We weren't the only team to start the race on Saturday with a penalty, but only three cars out of the starting field of 94 entries began the race more laps in the hole. One car, a spec-Miata racer, actually got hit with a 200-lap penalty, but the sting of the punishment was replaced by grins once the green flag flew.