I’ve been very interested in the 24 Hours of Lemons since I first heard about it last year and when I found out that the first race of the year was this past weekend I just had to go check it out. The Altamont Motorsports Park in Tracy, CA is the home of the race and features two ovals which are interconnected to create a road-course for the Lemons race. The cars all had to be bought and race prepped for under $500 (excluding safety gear) with a team of 4-6 drivers. Despite the name the actual racing would only go on for about 14 hours with a 10 hour break at night to let people recuperate as well as repair their cars.
I got there just as the drivers meeting got underway and found that it was pretty well organized. The organizers were very strict about a no bumping/no blocking rule and had come up with a set of humourous punishments for the drivers that broke the rules. The competitors would spin the “Wheel of Misfortune” and have to serve whatever penalty that came up. Some of the penalties included:
- The Al Gore Carbon Replacement penalty: The competitor would have to wear a tie-die shirt and then plant a rather large sapling in the ground before they could continue.
- The Colonel Sanders where the participant would be doused in soapy water and then feathered using large pillows.
- The Legion of Odour involved hanging a half pound of smelly blue cheese around the drivers neck as well as placing another pound of it on the hot intake manifold – should make for a truly odourous experience.
- The Egg Man winner (or loser) would have an open bucket of eggs welded to the hood of their cars – the idea being that as they drove the eggs would fall out of the bucket and smear the car.
- My favourite was the Highway 17 penalty where the driver would have to follow a VW microbus around the track for 10 laps.
- Anyone who bumped other cars on the track would initially have a set of training wheels welded to the sides of their cars
- Repeat “bumpers” would get the Sword of Damocles penalty where a plate with sharpened spikes would be welded to their radiator with the spikes pointing inwards. At this point they were let out on track knowing that their next bump would be their last.
The organizers required that the drivers have some sort of competition license and the racetrack was more than happy to sell you a NASCAR license at the gate for just $75 dollars. The fact that people could buy licenses at the door was the main factor that dissuaded me from running the Lemons race last year – after all who want to be side by side with a novice driver in a $500 car. However it looked like the penalties did a good job of keeping the track action pretty clean – the serious racer didn’t want to lose the time while the joyriders didn’t want the embarrassment. The speeds are low as well which keeps the event pretty safe. One of the teams was racing an 80′s Golf which went into the tirewall and flipped onto its roof. The track was immediately red flagged and the safety vehicles were at the car in under 5 minutes. The driver was completely unhurt and with the help of the marshal he roled the car back onto its wheels before continuing with the race :-).
All in all it was a great event and I am seriously trying to get an official SFF1 entry together for the October race (UPDATE: We just got accepted into the October event) – wish me luck. In the meantime you can look at a video I shot as well as some photos of my favourite cars. I have posted the full collection of photos on Flickr though you will probably be better off looking at the excellent photoset that Nithya just posted.