Lemons thoughts

Some random thoughts about the last Lemons race.

Corner workers make mistakes

Going into the race, we knew that we had to minimize black flags. Everyone needs to, of course, but our car was much slower than anything else in B class and any black flag was going to put us out of contention. Sadly, we got two in the first stint. Neither one was earned. In Lemons rules, you’re allowed to pass after a yellow flag station if the mess is cleaned up. We did that and got flagged. That’s a judgement call on both sides, and given that, we should have been more careful. The second black flag was either for contact or for going 4 off. Neither of which happened, but the corner worker at T5 couldn’t see that easily.


A couple weeks ago, the car worked great with 225 width RS4s on the front and 205 width RT615K+ on the back. I sort of destroyed one of the tires by overheating it and couldn’t run that set in the race. So I got some stickier front rubber in the form of 225 width 595 RS-RRs. I didn’t test that combination and it turned out that the team didn’t like it. Well, actually, they hated it. The team is used to an understeering car. When you get into trouble, you lift, and the front grips again. In an oversteering car, lifting only makes matters worse. As the car owner, it’s my job to provide a car that everyone can drive. Not only would the team be faster on average, they would also be safer and have more fun driving. We did eventually change the rears to get more grip and then later switched out the fronts for even less grip. Everyone but me liked it better.


Check the last post to see a video of me working through the field on a wet Sunday. I passed a hell of a lot of cars and in return was not passed. Here’s another video from our team a little later. It takes our driver a couple laps to acclimate to the wet conditions and then he proceeds to destroy most of the field.


The Yaris was one of the slowest and least sporty cars in the event. Why were we so much faster in the rain? Is it because we have extensive experience in the rain? I can’t speak for Danny, but I certainly don’t. I’ve only driven in the rain a handful of times. Maybe 3 hours total, and in other cars, not this one. So what’s the secret?

On my skills page, I used to have an ABC ranking system that asks the following simple question. When the car begins to slip, what do you do?

  • C drivers slow down
  • B drivers maintain speed
  • A drivers speed up

I think rain robs people of confidence. Lack of confidence can turn an A driver into a B driver or a B driver into a C driver. How does one gain confidence? Training. Like I said, I haven’t done much rain driving. So where do I get my training and the confidence that comes with it? Simulation, of course.

Lemons is changing

The C class has dwindled to just a few teams. And there used to be lots of teams sporting ridiculous themes. Our old MR2 was one of those silly cars and was just featured in the 24 Hours of Lemons Hella Sweet Car of the Week. Back then, our MR2 was put in B class with a couple penalty laps. Today, it would go into C class. I think Lemons has become a victim of its own success. Originally, Lemons was a parade/party poking fun at high performance cars. But over the years, racers have changed its culture. Part of that comes from competing series like Lucky Dog, ChampCar, AER, and WRL, where cars don’t have to be cheap and aren’t expected to have silly themes. The teams that do endurance racing tend to race all series. Now when you look over the Lemons grid you see sleek cars with $800 airfoils instead of cars shaped like boats with stuffed animals hanging out of them. While it’s true that I didn’t dress up my car or body with humorous artwork, I did bring a Toyota Yaris. But next time we’re going all in and “bringing back stupid”.

17 thoughts on “Lemons thoughts

  1. I agree that Lemons has changed. You guys got in a race car. A real race car. Admittedly it was a Yaris, but still; straight up race car, no theme. No judgement but that never would have happened 5yrs ago. No Theme, no entry is how i used to think about it. Why else would we have spent the time on one. There was the risk we wouldn’t get in. The winner appeared to have exactly no theme. With Lucky Dog and Chump/Champ the market has gotten much bigger (and I’d argue at or near saturation) and therefore the fight for participants is harder causing the rules to wash out. If you can’t get enough of the competitors you want you’ll start to take participants you’ll accept….

    Remember when they used to crush cars. Can you imagine that now? Or buying cars? Jay should have bought the winning car. They were very fast drivers but clearly a car that was not in the same class as everyone else. Though that would have put a chill on his race series and especially here in the Bay Area which is likely where he makes most of his money. Given they only had ~100 some cars for a T-hill 5 miler? This was the most open race i’ve ever been at in Lemons. I can see that if you want to go for a win in Lemons C-class is the sweet spot.

    All in though, it was still a great weekend, the rain definitely made it a much better time. And though things are changing, endurance racing still is still the most fun for me.


    1. Yeah, 5 years ago I would have trouble getting the Yaris into a Lemons race without theme. The market must be at saturation because the races are rarely sold out and yet there are still new teams showing up every race.


    2. Why do you think the winning car was in a different class from everyone else? In terms of acceleration, it looks to me like Highway Robbery, Eyesore, Neon Pope, and several others have just as much.


    1. Not sure why the image link isn’t working below, but it’s an FB message between me and John Pagel, head of Lemons safety. The rule is 4 off, not 2.



      1. Interesting. Did that change recently? I could swear we’ve been flagged for two off in the past.


      2. As far as I can remember (6 years) the rule has always been 4 off. The corner workers make the call. If they don’t get the correct instructions, maybe they call in at 2. I’m okay with corner workers making the occasional mistake. I certainly don’t want their job.


      3. We’ve been flagged for dropping a single tire off, also for phantom contact.

        Maybe they’ve gotten a little more lenient.


  2. Tell me about it.. Over here with a ROCKET shaped anchor strapped to the top of our car. We love the themes though and spend much more engineering power on how to make the theme work then our xterra engine and trans forced into the Z. Keep up the good work on the posts.


    1. I agree, the ROCKET was glorious!!! More power to you! I was on the team where the car owner decided on Tuesday it really wanted to look like a Camaro so he took 8” out of the center of the hood and grafted the hood, and front quarters on a MX3. Actually looked pretty good. Burned a head gasket, but still… ;)


  3. I think the fact that the Yaris is FWD accounts for a lot more of the wet delta than you realize. I’m surprised you don’t mention this in your post; it is significantly easier to drive in wet conditions than the majority of the RWD field.


    1. RWD cars have a more balanced weight distribution and therefore more grip in general. They brake shorter and corner faster. Only 30% of the weight is on the rear tires of the Yaris. Since it’s FWD, there is no chance for spinning if you mash the throttle, but try entering corners on the limit. With no traction out back, you’re more likely to spin on corner entries than RWD. I’ve driven a Miata at Watkins Glen in the rain. It wasn’t any harder to drive that than the Yaris. So I’m going to disagree.


      1. This is a fairly well established: There are two key advantages of racing an FWD car in the wet:
        1) There is more weight over the front wheels, while the friction coefficient is lower, more normal force still helps.
        2) Traction loss results in push rather than oversteer. It’s far easier to drive consistently near the limit. Modulo effects from (1), that limit may not be a-priori faster, but it is far easier to maintain.

        Rain grip has asymmetric effect, turning is affected much more than braking. This is both that in braking you have 4 meaningful contact patches versus 2 and that lateral grip changes significantly in the wet (tread engagement).

        Relative to what you said specifically this translates to:
        Braking is not what gets harder in the wet. Yes, you have to brake earlier, but there is not a meaningful difference between stopping distance between FWD and RWD. Contrary to your claim. Neither car really has an advantage or disadvantage here. If you want to claim RWD has some tiny one, sure, but it’s not meaningful.

        The problem is throttle on corner exit, which is what actually matters for lap-time; there’s far more time in perfect corner exit than there is perfect corner entry. This is one of the biggest mantras Ross Bentley preaches.

        The problem is, it’s far harder to put this down in an RWD than FWD, since you can lift for a push, but require a far more subtle interaction in the RWD when the back releases on exit.

        You don’t have to believe me, there are plenty of sources on this. This article details EXACTLY the same delta you saw in an amateur race, where an FWD team got much faster than RWD competitors:

        Relative to your anecdata, my own is much closer to the above. I’ve driven an SM at a competitive time on the track in question (e.g. 2:05 east side); both in the wet and dry, as well as FWD. The FWD car at a competitive time is FAR easier in the wet.


  4. Qualifying the asymmetry versus your follow-up posts:
    Yes, you were wrong about how much straight line braking distance was affected, but you were not wrong about the fact that there’s asymmetry between them.

    The key here is the 2 points of contact plus the increased delta between the ~static and ~dynamic friction coefficients being affected. Overaccellerating on exit in FWD results in a push, which you can correct by getting off the throttle, this will transfer weight to the front increasing grip while scrub brings you back towards your static point. Yes, it’s a little slide, but it requires very little driver action.

    Whereas, in a RWD car, when get the above wrong and the rear begins to rotate, you actually have to make new demands of the front steering to correct. The above, plus the fact that it’s exacerbated by the fact that the dynamic changes in grip required for correction also have higher impulse, make it much more difficult to actually drive at the limit.

    I’d posit that your cited experience in the comparison falls subject to the same fallacy that your original claim of straight line braking difference: You were not driving the RWD Miata as quickly as it could have been driven; even though you felt like you were driving it hard. The comparable effort to be at the same distance from optimum that you were in the Yaris, would have felt much harder.


  5. One other thing that may be missing. If you’re having problems with oversteer on corner entry, you’re probably not driving the rain line properly. A much later turn in, at lower speed with more threshold braking and less trail braking is required to minimize the effect of the lost lateral grip. This is the continuation of above, we lose more lateral than longitudinal, as a result, a later apex with more braking is beneficial.

    This article covers the above in more depth:

    It also exactly echoes the points above, “Front wheel drive cars inherently have an advantage for car control in the wet as throttle can help in an oversteer moment, so the drivers driving them have an extra tool that those in rear wheel drive cars don’t have.”


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