For about as long as I’ve been having my bikes worked on over at Tyler Carson’s Hayasa Motorbikes, I’ve been hearing about LeMons racing (say Lemons, the capital “M” is just there for effect), or more properly, the 24 Hours of LeMons. Tyler, Anton, and a bunch of the other regulars at the shop have been into the LeMons thing at one point or another. In fact, Anton, has been very involved with the sport, and races for a number of teams.
So what in the Wide, Wide World of Sports is the 24 Hours of LeMons? (Hint: Click on the link and go to the website, slacker. Do I have to do it all for you?)
LeMons racing has been described as Halloween meets Gasoline, but coming from Planet Nerd, I like to think to think of LeMons racing as the Comicon of auto racing, where the cars do most (although not all) of the Cosplay.
The idea is this: You, buy a heap of a car, and get it ready to race without spending more than $500 , and create some kind of theme for the car … Like a Molvo (Half Miata, half Volvo wagon), an “Angry Birds” car or, this fine specimen, a car modeled after the Pokemon character, Pikachu.
That’s about it … Well, except for the part about finding a handful of your soon-to-be-very-best-friends for your driving team, and having a couple of mechanics, welders, and electronics tech folks comes in really handy. Then you go race, well, until you breakdown, and then you fix your heap, er, car, and go racing again.
This past weekend, after many years and a few false starts, I finally got my first whiff of LeMons racing at an event called “The Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500″, held at Sears Point/Infineon Raceway.
It…was…a…BLAST! (And not just in the oops, look, that car’s engine just exploded sense, although there was some of that going on as well.)
There are lots of interesting folks running around the race including cosplayers, whacky race judges who dole out bad driving punishments designed to educate, inform, and enlighten…like taping you to the hood of your car, placing your team in a chain gang (with real plastic chains) and parading them around the pit area while playing “Jailhouse Rock” on a car radio, doing repetitious writing assignments on the hood of your car, and other fun (to watch) stuff. There’s a whole show going on off of the track.
It’s pretty serious business that it is all geared towards the fun side, and the organizers (and many of the team members that I spoke with) prefer keeping the emphasis on the crazy circus sideshow, and less on the competitive racing aspects. There is also very strong sense of community evident here…Everyone knows everyone else, and folks seem willing to lend each other a helping-hand or some friendly advice when needed.
Oh, and don’t worry too much about the judges…They can be bribed, and bribery of judges is an encouraged form of informal business arrangement at LeMons races. It’s all part of the carnival fun, and I understand most of the food an other goodies collected by the judges as their “bribes” get kicked back to the folks out working the track all day.
Drivers can also buy their way out of penalties by writing a check to whatever the 501(c)3 charity that the organizers have selected for the event.
If only government worked this way …
Then there are the prizes…The winning team gets $1,500, usually in nickels. There are also a number of category awards, and special themed participation prizes at these regional events. For the Infineon race, there was a Bay Area, Jerry Garcia-themed award, the full title of which I can’t remember but it evokes the memory of an unfortunate incident in the late rock star’s past involving a cop, some smoking paraphernalia, and a BMW.
Anyway, I think I’m going to be writing, photographing, and doing videos (there’s one currently in the works) about this sport in the future … And who knows, maybe even driving on one of the teams.
Yeah, I think I’ve got bit by the bug pretty hard on this one.
Special Thanks to Nick Pon from 24 Hours of LeMons for allowing me to photo and video my way through the weekend, Anton Lovett for being the facilitator of my bad (and usually fun) moto-related habits, and “Judge Phil” Greden for … Well, it’s a long story, let’s just say I didn’t get taped to the hood of a car or anything.
Enjoy the photos.