Your crappy 1977 Ford Pinto with the serious-looking six-point roll cage wants to race in the 24 Hours of LeMons and ChumpCar. Jalopnik is here to help you pass tech in each series.
With the 2010 crap car racing season almost upon us, racers have more choices than ever when deciding what do to with their $500 beaters. The 24 Hours of LeMons added a bunch of races to next year's roster, Chump Car World Series has an enormous schedule as well, and Crap Can Am is threatening to go to Mexico and Canada, eh.
What does this all mean for the ole Pinto? Well, you've got work to do. As much as LeMons and ChumpCar are similar, they each have their own tech inspection idiosyncrasies that, if not taken care of properly, will have you watching the race from the pits as opposed to through your windshield.
Here is a basic breakdown of the major differences between the two series, some updated rules for 2010, and how you can set your hooptie up to satisfy both houses.
ChumpCar requires a driver's window net, while LeMons allows- but does not require- nets. These nets are not expensive, but they are a major pain in the ass to install correctly (so that they will get out of the way quickly while you're on fire and trying to exit via the window). FYI, the nets don't work very well at the McDonald's drive-thru.
Car numbers are required by both sanctioning bodies to be black on white or white on black. LeMons says they need to be on both sides of the car (anywhere) and the roof or hood, ChumpCar says both "doors" and roof. So to keep your life simple, put the numbers on the doors and roof and you're good to go for both. If you need some numbers quick and cheap Figstone Graphics is doing a deal, two door panels and a roof panel with your team name or website on the sticker for $60. Not too shabby. No, the Shelby is not worth only $500.
ChumpCar requires that any crankcase breathers have a catch tank (keeps oil off the track). You can score one for about $35 from Circuit Sports (doesn't count toward the $500 value of the Pinto). LeMons doesn't care if you oil down the track.
Both series require cut-off switches with appropriate labels (ride the lightning). Where you put these things to keep everybody happy is up for much debate. Hey, SCCA, NASA and NHRA can't agree where these thing go, why should ChumpCar and LeMons?
And both series require fire extinguishers with metal brackets, but only ChumpCar requires a sticker marking where the extinguisher is placed.
ChumpCar mandates that wheels and brakes are held to the "2X" rule meaning any aftermarket parts can only be worth two times the O.E.M. part. I don't see this being that big of an issue, especially after you go to a dealership and see how much those crooks want for O.E.M. wheels or brake components. Aftermarket rotors are oftentimes cheaper anyway. This also means you can still use your trusty Carbotech road racing brake pads which don't weld themselves to your calipers and let you go deep into the corners. At LeMons you can legally swap the carbon ceramic brakes from the Porsche GT2 and put them on your VW Beetle (rumor has it, they bolt right on).
Both series require the driver's wear some sort of neck restraint. You don't think this is important? Ask Dale Earnhardt how important a Hans device is. Oh, that's right, you can't… because he's dead. One thing to watch for with the Hans is that the 3-inch shoulder belts from your 5-point harness tend to slide off. A Hans specific 2-inch shoulder belt is a great fix for this, however each driver is required to use Hans with this belt set up. Which means you can't have one guy with a foam neck collar and one guy with a Hans and use the Hans belts for both. Confused? Don't be, call Ken at I/O Port Racing Supplies and he'll set you straight and keep you safe.
For the pits ChumpCar has added a few more rules to keep everyone safe (or satisfy the lawyers, I'm not sure which).
All compressed gas cylinders must have a safety cage over the regulator (I can't tell you how many times I've been yelled at by the SCCA for this). I broke this rule for about a decade because I couldn't find a company who actually made this mythical device. I finally located the place, Capital City Motorsports, who makes equipment for the ALMS (That's Le Mans not LeMons, folks).
Fueling at ChumpCar is much more restrictive than at LeMons. ChumpCar has adopted the fueling rules from the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) which means Nomex for everyone and approved fuel jugs only. Where the fueling at ChumpCar is more restrictive for 2010, LeMons added a 24 gallon maximum capacity fuel tank rule. There are no fuel tank size restrictions at ChumpCar, which means you can race a fuel tanker truck if you want.
LeMons wants marked tow straps/tow points in 2010, which is a good idea because it keeps the tow drivers from throwing a J-hook around your lower radiator hose or just the bumper "cover" (not the actual bumper) to drag you in after you lunch your motor or end up shiny side down. Again I/O Port Racing Supplies is the place to go for the straps and cool stickers.
At LeMons, Jay Lamm may claim your car for $500 (which he did at Thunderhill), at ChumpCar your car may go up for auction paying you $1,500 for the ride. You too can bid to get your crappy ass car back, but do really want it? Your wife and neighbors will be thrilled that it's no longer in your driveway.