Bringing Back Stupid

A brief history of my racing teams

When I first heard about the 24 Hours of Lemons, I had an expectation that everyone showed up with $500 cars wearing silly themes. I mean, that’s what you’re supposed to do, and a lot of the pictures I saw were janky cars or hilarious costumes.

Our team therefore prepared a 1986 Toyota MR2 and wrapped a boat around it. The original boat theme was a Noah’s Ark, but this later morphed into a fishing boat, which earned it a Judge’s Choice at Sonoma.

Trying to see over the prow of the ship made the car a little dangerous to drive, and our next theme was a mash-up of a Ferrari F40 and Lamborghini Countach. We even had a cool logo.

The MR2 broke our hearts and bank accounts and we ended up giving to a team of competent mechanics who actually know how to maintain MR2s. I haven’t seen it on track since though, so I’m not sure what they’re doing with it. We hoped to race it again one day as guests, but honestly, I’m not itching to make that happen.

Our new car was a 1996 Miata. This raced under a variety of themes such as Can’t AM (a CanAM knockoff) and XX Racing (an all female team), but my favorite was Royal Mail where we delivered a letter to the Guiness Book of World’s Records for the largest closed circuit race in history.

The most fun we ever had on track was with the theme D-SPEC FTW. At the time, we had started to get complacent with theme and were racing a bit more seriously. We were doing Lucky Dog and ChumpCar as much as Lemons, and those cultures don’t really expect or reward silly themes. To make our Miata Lemony, we outfitted it with Douglas Xtra Trac II tires. These are only available at Walmart, and were $40 in 185/60/14. It was a hard sell for most of the drivers who would rather have driven on sticky 200 TW tires than 400 TW. But at the end of the event, every single driver said “that’s how we’re going to show up to every Lemons race from now on”. It turns out that driving on super slippery tires is a lot more fun than sticky tires.

Myself, I was getting more serious about racing in general, and wanted a street-legal racecar that could do everything from hill climbs to stage rally. This was partly motivated by playing a lot of DiRT Rally. So I got a Yaris and made it into a street-legal B-Spec car with a rally cage. One of my targets was the SCCA Runoffs at Sonoma. Unforunately, I ran into some health problems (years of abuse had turned my back into a pain factory). I also realized that I didn’t really like SCCA sprint racing. So I started taking my Yaris to endurance races. The picture below comes from a 24 hour Lucky Dog race at Buttonwillow where we placed 3rd overall with the slowest car in the event.

Given that the Yaris had proved to be such a great (meaning low maintenance) endurance racecar, the Miata ended up not getting any attention or maintenance. My teammates had all moved away by that time and I was all alone. One person taking car of 2 cars was too much for me, and as a result, the Miata sat in my driveway with a new engine half installed for over a year. We eventually gave the Miata to Deaf Power Racing as their starter car.

Recently, I got this idea that I want to try winning every class in Lemons with the same car. I think that’s easiest by starting with a C Class car and improving it after every win. The Yaris is definitely slow enough for C Class but its reliability makes it more B Class. In an attempt to sway the judges, I need to make the Yaris truly Lemony.

Bringing back stupid

So, what’s the formula for getting a Yaris into C Class? Silly theme? Shitty tires? Costumes? I’m not really sure, so how about all of the above?

Tires are the simplest way to make your car go faster, or slower. So I’m going to race on really shitty tires. I had a couple of unmounted 17″ rims in the garage, so I went looking for the cheapest, obscurest tires I could fine. I went to the Walmart website and sorted the 215/40R17 tires by price. The cheapest tire, at $53, was the IRIS SEFAR. IRIS tires? From Algeria? I had assumed most tires were manufactured in China or Korea. African tires is definitely a win. The SEFAR is their executive tire which is labeled as 300TW. Based on the testing day we just had (see previous post), the tires will slow the car by about 2 seconds per mile. Will they last the whole event? Unlikely, but stay tuned for the race report.

So what about theme? I’m calling the car the “Toyota Virus”. Virus sounds a bit like Yaris. It’s going to be decorated with “spike proteins” and have a giant syringe sticking out of it. The drivers will be outfitted in personal protective gear. I’ll post some pictures once I get it dressed up.

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