It’s been over a year since our team competed in the 24 hours of lemons at Buttonwillow raceway, but rarely a day goes by that we don’t mention it at work or are driving somewhere, spot a beater and yell “lemons car?!”. It is probably one of the greatest events I’ve ever taken part in and I still can’t believe we have not done another one yet – to be remedied this year. There have now been a great number of articles done on the event and a quick Google will tell all. However, the brief details are thus: find a team of idiots, find a “race car” for under $500, make it a bit safer, pass an inspection where bribes are openly encouraged, race the pants off it and hope it lasts for 24 hours. In the course of all that there will be beer, boxes of beer, kegs of beer shots of tequila, blood, bribery for parts, all nighters and wives wondering where you are, but best of all there will be epic, hairy chested MAN TIME. We built a racecar, WE ARE MEN!
Our chariot stands before you in all its glory, a 1990 Mazda Miata won on eBay for $361. Having rested in a junkyard for 14 years, it had housed many animals over its time, but thanks to the climate of Apple Valley, Ca, was remarkably unmolested by rust. Within a few months we had is spitting our rat fur and burning up some old oil.
Actually, we were very almost complete failures as men. On the day we left for the race, the car wouldn’t start. We thought if it didn’t work then, we were done, there would definitely be no point in taking it 5 hours up to Buttonwillow. Luckily, Hutch did something he claims was genius and I am convinced was a complete mistake - the car started to run fine. On arriving at Button the evening before the race, we realized our camp spot neighbors literally did not even have an engine in their car. Over the course of the weekend, they would change their engine twice more. To think we were going quit the event because ours didn’t start…. That was the beginning of the learning! We really had it pretty easy in terms of things going wrong – the worst being that one of the guys left a ball joint loose, resulting in a dangly wheel and basically putting any of us at risk of death.
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The race was incredible. It’s the closest we can ever dream of getting the feeling of multi-million dollar backing. Doing a track day in your own “pride and joy” car is not nearly the same. They will always be driven with some level of trepidation, after all, it’s your car and has important and expensive things like paint and bodywork and good looks – our Miata has none of these features and it makes it incredibly easy to simply accelerate and find out if that gap between 2 cars really is wide enough or not.
We did ok – simply finishing was the greatest feeling ever, but we realized that our 34th out of 110 could have been a LOT better without 8 visits to the penalty box….we still have some learning to do.
24 Hours Of Lemons. I heart you.