LeMons New England Day One: Accord Leads, Mustang and Saab-Powered 300ZX Close Behind
It was a long Saturday race session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with many lead changes, a few car-crippling crashes, and the usual assortment of engine parts on the tarmac. When the checkered flag waved, several familiar teams stood at the top of the standings.
Remember what we wrote about the reliability record of the Ford Probe in LeMons racing? One of the connecting rods of the Hammerheads Racing 1997 Probe GT almost escaped the engine late Saturday afternoon. The Hammerheads are going to “repair” the engine by removing all the broken metal they can find and then JB-Welding the hole in the oil pan.
Meanwhile, the Honda Accord of Bill Danger and the Road Hazzards (winner on laps the last time LeMons came to NHMS) ended Saturday at the very top of the standings. Zero black flags, zero mechanical problems, and lots of quick laps.
The Fox Mustang of the Near-Orbital Space Monkeys is right on the Bill Danger Accord’s tail, making this the sixth or seventh race in which the Space Monkeys have spent much of a race contending for the lead. This team started out with a BMW E28 5-Series, inched up the ladder to become one of the top teams of the Northeast Region… then sold that car and started the entire process over with a Mustang full of homemade suspension upgrades. They’re way overdue to get an overall LeMons win and there’s no doubt they have the driving skill to do so, but they’ll need to keep at bay the nickel/dime mechanical problems that have knocked them out of contention in the recent past.
Swapping a Saab 9000 Turbo engine into a Nissan 300ZX shouldn’t work, but the members of Rust In The Wind have (after many, many character-building races) turned their Scandinavio-Datsun into one of the better LeMons machines in the region. They ended Saturday in P3, but everyone remembers the impossible late-in-the-race run they made last time we were here, climbing from something like tenth to second during the course of a few hours. Starting from third, they have a real shot at eating up the Honda and the Ford on Sunday.
Those cars are all Class A types, which means that serious LeMons fans find their battle a lot less interesting than what’s going on in Class B and Class C. The current Class B leader, Swedish Mafia Racing and their Volvo 245 wagon, is a good example of why it’s so hard to assign the Volvo 240 to the appropriate LeMons class. It seems wrong to put a heavy station wagon with bouncy stock suspension and eight-valve four-banger engine into Class A, but these cars turn out to be way quicker on a road course than most of their lighter, more powerful competition. In Northeast Region LeMons races, the squishily-suspended, naturally-aspirated 240s get into Class B and the ones with semi-racy chassis hardware and/or turbochargers get into Class A… where they beat the crap out of just about all the BMW 325s and Acura Integras.
The Class C leader has us convinced that we’re all hallucinating a world in which The Most Terrible Fiero In LeMons History hasn’t broken a single part nor spun out even once. Yes, the infamous “Five Lap Fiero,” originally built and campaigned by C/D scribe Mike Austin way back in 2008 and then unloaded by sharpster Mike on a hapless bunch of New Englanders a couple of years later, sits on top of the Class C pile as of Saturday night. This car, now raced by Rusty Tear Racing, will need to keep such Class C threats as the Three Pedal Mafia Sea Sprite and the Scuderia Regurgito Fiat 131 at bay in order to claim the prize, and there’s plenty of racing left in Sunday’s session. Check in Sunday night to see who wins what!
Photographs by Nick Pon and Phil Greden