We loved the idea of an LS400 in a LeMons race; after all, a big, complicated Japanese luxury sedan with a 32-valve 250-horse V8- particularly a total beater purchased for under $500- should do really well on the race track! What could possibly go wrong?
And the Highbrow Ghetto LS400 acquitted itself quite respectably… right up until it blew both head gaskets and seized the engine, that is. Judge Loverman and I hung around with the Highbrow team for a while on Saturday night, as we made the rounds of the pits, and we started talking about what use we might, as judges, make of the now-dead Lexus. With some creative inspiration from our friend Jack (Daniel's), the Highbrow guys remarked upon the legendary inaccessibility of the Toyota IUZ-FE's starter motor. "Really?" we asked, "Just how hard is it to get to that starter?" Well, it turns out that Toyota's engineers figured that inside the engine block, beneath layer upon layer of intake, coolant pipes, etc., would be the best possible place for the starter.
Thus was the Lexus Starter Challenge conceived. We decided we'd hold in in reserve for a team whose multiple busts for lousy driving had them on the brink of being put on the trailer for the rest of the race… and then the perfect team showed up in the penalty box for the fourth time in as many hours.
That's right- the Team Unintended Acceleration Audi 90 Quattro, which was nearly as difficult to control on the track as was the spinout-champeen Merkur XR4Ti. Hey, isn't the Quattro system supposed to make cars safer? They were on thin ice late in the day on Sunday, getting close to being 86'd completely from the track, so when they showed up again we figured we'd give them a penalty guaranteed to keep them out of trouble for a while. We offered the team a choice: a pint of metal shavings in the crankcase, or the Lexus Starter Challenge. Hey, how hard could it be to pull a starter?
"The book" says LS400 starter replacement is something like a 7.5-hour job, so we were counting on at least a few hours of Audi-free serenity on the track while the team performed the extraction. Meanwhile, the Highbrow Ghetto guys were having a tough time controlling their outbursts of hysterical laughter.
What we didn't bank on, however, was the mechanical skills of the Unintended Acceleration crew, multiplied by all the extra hands they had wielding wrenches. After spending a few extremely comical minutes crawling around the engine compartment in a doomed-to-failure search and uttering such plaintive queries as "Does this thing even have a starter?" they traced some heavy-gauge wiring to its likely location and started in on the intake manifold.
Just over an hour after they started, here's the elusive starter! Good job, guys! These guys were able to sample nearly all of our finest punishments, including the Obama Change We Can Believe In… and more!
Team Unintended Acceleration also got the Ozzy Osbourne Inertial Penalty Horn treatment, and I set up the switch to trigger the twin Jaguar horns any time the Audi accelerated, intentionally or not. In the video above, you can watch the poor Audi driver being so apprehensive about the OOIPH in the car that he can't find the entrance to the track; if you just want to hear what the horns sound like in operation, fast-forward to about 3:00 into the video.