First of all, I must make it perfectly clear that all serious 24 Hours Of LeMons aficionados consider the Index Of Effluency trophy, which goes to the team that accomplished the most with the crappiest car, to be the real winner of the race. However, winning that prize requires a combination of guts and madness that no amount of advice could ever give you, so we're just going to give you the inside scoop on grabbing the checkered flag for your team at the race by finishing the most laps. This is the real 200-proof stuff here, folks, straight from Rob Krider of Krider Racing, Jeremy Gunter of Team SCHWING, and David Swig of Motoring J Style. Between the three of them, they've got two wins and at least four Top Five finishes, so pay attention!
First up is Rob Krider, whose Krider Racing team won the LeMons SF 2008 race in an Acura Integra and grabbed fifth place at the LeMons Arse-Freeze-Apalooza 2007 race in a Nissan Sentra SE-R. When I was behind the wheel at Altamont, I latched onto the Krider Acura's back bumper and did everything it did; this was possible for a slo-mo race driver like me because the name of their game is staying alive, just keep racking up the laps and don't put the hammer down until the track clears later on. Rob was kind enough to put his advice in a question-and-answer format, and he even saved me the work of writing the questions!
Jalopnik (J): First I would like to say congratulations you were able to stay ahead of the Jalopnik V8olvo and win the race. Rob Krider (R): Thank you. Yes, I took a good look at the Jalopnik entry and I thought it was a serious contender. Lots of tire under that car. Congratulations to you guys for finishing so well in your first event. My guess is, the next time you guys run LeMons you will be a very, very serious team to have to deal with. J: That's the plan. What was the Krider Racing game plan going into this race? R: Survival. We learned at Thunderhill that you can have the fastest drivers, but if your car can't handle the pace, it is all for nothing. At Altamont I think every single one of the 90 competitors can pat themselves on the back and say that somewhere during the weekend they passed the winning car. We even got passed by the ladies in the PMS Team pink Mustang at least once. J: I'll concur to that. I know we passed you guys. R: Everyone did. There is a great video on CarJunkie TV where they have 8 cameras on their Mopar. You see them catch us toward the end of the video, then pass us. I was on the spotter radio yelling, "Let 'em go! Let 'em go!" Then two turns later there is a huge pile up going into the Esses. We avoided a lot of that carnage by just cruising around the track and staying out of it. J: What was your pit stop strategy? R: What pit stops? J: I guess that's what I'm asking. How many did you make? R: Two all weekend, both under yellows, and both under four minutes, ten gallons of gas, driver swap, oil, water, then back on track. No black flags, no penalties. J: Impressive. So how did you guys finish the race on a Honda motor without blowing a head gasket like so many other Honda LeMon's racers? R: We didn't. We filled the motor with Alum-a-seal and Bars Leaks on our pit stop. The engine was overheated and steam was coming over the hood on the victory lap. Had the race been five minutes longer, we would have lunched the engine just like Eyesore Pimpin' did to their CRX. I felt terrible for those guys. We were at the same hotel as they were. Sunday morning during breakfast they were sitting in first place. In their minds they had already won the thing. But there was a lot of racing still to do. J: So with the #11 car out of the way you still had to deal with the first place team of the #7 Spirit of San Diego team. R: Yes, that was tough. I drove the last stint and we were 8 laps down from the #7 car. But at this point in the race we were done cruising around and being the good guys. It was time to get some laps back. I could catch and pass the #7 car every twenty minutes but time was running out. And with every yellow flag my chances were getting dimmer and dimmer. Then I think we all found out that 8 cylinders uses up a lot more gas than 4 cylinders does and they ran out of fuel. Racing luck. Bad for them, good for us. J: And so you guys won it on gas mileage. R: Yup. Gas mileage, a lot of planning, preparation, luck, luck and more luck. Plus we had some great help from Kuhtz Diehl Insurance and Financial Services, HP 234 oil additive, ST Suspensions, Bay Ex courier services, Figstone Graphics, Factory Tire and Circuit Sports. J: What was your favorite entry? R: I loved the Jalopnik car of course, the engine swap was cool, the skulls on the roof were great. I loved the Mexican wrestlers outfits, Eyesore Pimpin' was fantastic, Team Scallawag had the best backseat driver in LeMons history. J: Who did you think had the best chances of winning on Saturday? R: Axles of Evil entry with their all wheel drive Audi were ripping the course up. The Luftwaffe early BMW was seriously fast as well. But my gut told me they would each find themselves either in the penalty box getting spanked, literally, or trying to peal a fender out of a tire. You just can't go that hard for 24 hours. J: What's next for Krider Racing? R: Soap Box Derby for the kids, believe it or not. All of our kids do the downhill race. It's time for us Dad's to stop celebrating and drinking beer out of our trophy and help our kids win their races. Gotta start 'em young. Krider Racing 4 Life!
Next up is David Swig, whose Motoring J Style team has piloted its still-street-legal Toyota MR2 into the LeMons Top Five on multiple occasions (and made a good showing with an Isuzu I-Mark… until it blew up). If you added up all the LeMons laps he's driven, it would probably stretch from California to New York, so let's hear his take on doing well at the race:
As far as winning LeMons goes, I’ve run five 24 Hours of Lemons now, so I have a fairly good idea of what it takes to win. First and foremost, the race is won in the pits (or rather, by not being in the pits). I’m constantly beating into my guys the mantra of “keep circling, no matter how fast or slow you are going”. Any time lost in the pits for driver changes, fueling, contact-related damage, etc...just kills your results. You also have to have drivers who can get through the pack without running into things. I’ve canned several drivers because they just didn’t know how to keep their nose clean, or didn’t care. The bottom line is that most of the guys in LeMons are amateurs, and they approach their driving stint like they’re going into a 20 minute sprint race. That’s not what LeMons is about. You MUST preserve the car. I always tell my guys, if you’re going into a corner and debating whether or not to make a pass....think not about where you’ll be at the next corner, but where we’ll be in eight more hours. You have to be in the long-term endurance racing mindset, and be able to avoid contact, to finish in the top 5. Of course a big part of success has to do with having a well prepared car and team. We’ve chosen the easiest route with the car: drive a Toyota, and you don’t have much to worry about. Where we screwed up in July ‘07 was not organizing our pits enough, and not having specified jobs for our “crew” when pit stops did happen. If you’ll remember, the Lemon Lappers Neon who won last July had incredible coordination in the pits – they looked like they had seriously studied F1 pit stops. We’re not there yet, but we at least know where we put the torque wrench, and try to make sure the right socket is on it, so we’re not running around our pit like a Chinese fire drill. It’s the little things like that which can make a big difference in the end. It should be pretty obvious that you can’t afford to get any black flags or penalties. There’s really no reason to, unless you’re driving like an idiot. In five 24 Hours of Lemons my team has never gotten a black flag. Also, as Krider alluded to, fewer drivers is definitely the way to go.
That brings us to the winner's of last weekend's race: Team SCHWING. These guys did just about everything right (though I did hit them with the dreaded Chemical Ali punishment on Saturday), and team captain Jeremy Gunter has agreed to make life harder for his team by blabbing the SCHWING Secret Sauce to the competition:
The Car Get a car that is easy on consumables. Find something that was production performance, and I don't mean a 5.0 mustang or corvette. Research your car and get to know it's problems, its tendencies, its weaknesses, and its strengths. Spend your money wisely (the judges are not fools, they know a POS when they see it!) The Prep This is the most important part of the entire event. The more time you spend here, the less time you will spend fixing the car later. Plan to repair the car on Saturday night. Re-prep the car for another long race. You have all night, don't party too hard if you wanna win. If you have never road raced a car before, get some instruction, understanding what will and won't make you a good roadracer is very important. Books are one way, but the best way is experience. Test the car, run it, heat it up, cool it down, over and over. If you have access to another track or track day, use it to test the vehicle, work out the kinks before the race. The Race Stay out on track, don't go in unless you have to. Stay clean, hard to do, but well worth the effort. Practice your pit stops, gas, communication, cameras, driver change, tire pressure, lug nuts, etc. Save the car, don't drive over your head, and keep the communication lines open. Be the most consistent drivers, not the fastest. Out of the fastest cars of the weekend, we were 20th In the Pits Be cautious and courteous, these guys can vote you out of the race, run you off track, or pee in your fuel tank while you sleep. Have fun, everyone is there to enjoy themselves, join in and get involved, be creative, and know that even if you finish the race last, you finished a difficult race. Make some friends early, help other teams out, you never know when you might need something from someone else. Don't argue with the governing bodies, it just makes them give you more time in the penalty box. These guys are like cops, they have heard it all so don't even try... General Rules of Endurance racing. The race is not won in one lap, but could be lost in one corner. Preparing for 15 hours on track is not easy. It takes time, discussion, research, and preparation. Taking the time to do this will increase your odds. Be mentally and physically ready to race. Know what to expect, know what to do, and execute. Eat an hour before you go out, and drink a couple gallons of water. If you pee 3 times in the 15min before you go out, and are holding it when you get strapped in, you are ready to race. Have a blast, these guys run a great show, you will not be disappointed. Arrive with the drive to win, but the goal to have fun and meet some great people.
Got it? I'll keep pestering other contenders to share their hard-earned secrets with us, so that we can keep raising the level of competition for future races. Be sure to check out the all-important LeMons Cheaters' Guide before you bring it before the judges!