When my friend John Maxwell mentioned to me that he was racing in the 24 Hours of LeMons this year. “Lemons?” I inquired. “Yeah” he said, “Picture a mash up of an endurance race and a parade”. What, you ask? Yep you heard me, backyard racing at it’s best! Start with a $500 beater, put in a bunch of safety stuff, some “go fast” bits, and come up with a “theme” for your team. After doing a little research at http://www.24hoursoflemons.com, I started to get a feel of what to expect once we got out to High Plains Raceway east of Byers, Colorado.
Directions are a little vague, turn left at Byers, and go up Highway 36 until you think you have gone too far; then viola, you go over a rise, and the track appears on the left. Since this was my first time out to High Plains, I was impressed by this new track out in the “middle of nowhere”. Couple long straightaways, plenty of corner variations, and a wonderful use of the terrain. Looks like it would be as much fun to race as it will be to shoot.
As we approached the track, I was struck by the creativity of the teams entered and wondered about the alleged $500 dollar rule. I could already see that there are some fast teams on the track. All entries must be purchased and prepped for $500 or less. Safety stuff is exempt from the $500 rule. And from what I understand from talking with a few competitors, the organizers take tech inspection, as seriously as the inspectors at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb or any other race.
Although this is supposed to be a “fun” race, it IS a race with trophies, prize money and everything, so rule infractions are treated in various ways. The first black flag nets the driver a “stern” warning from a “race official” and sent back out. The second black flag gets the entire team involved. The most common penalty is for 4 team members to dress up as “Telletubbies” and be required to prance and dance behind the offending car as it makes it’s way SLOWLY up pit lane. Third infraction, get parked for “awhile”. A fourth black flag? Put it on the trailer buddy, they don’t want you around.
This is designed to be “gentleman” racing. No rubbing, no bumping, putting tires off, NO SPINS. I mean, these teams put a lot of thought and effort into their theme, and who wants it trashed in the first hour! From a Wizard of Oz Honda (complete with house and Ruby slippers), to an old AMC something or other done up as a Texan! And just about everything in between. But, as always, racers will be racers, and we saw a lot of really good racing! Whether it was the fast groups or slow, there were always groups of guys, and gals, fighting for position. Others just putting in laps and praying their car will hold together until the end. One plucky little rabbit, Team Randy Hare, no clutch, transmission stuck in third, was still right in there turning respectable lap times.
In the true essence of My Life at Speed, all these racers were here for one thing only. The love of going fast in what ever will carry them across the finish line. Cheers!
Photos by Charles Beets