By on April 16, 2011


The temperature dropped to freezing, the wind hit 50 MPH, and the rain turned to snow at the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis 24 Hours of LeMons. Cars spun out in record numbers, and broken cars had to be repaired in frostbitten conditions that would have appalled the harshest Gulag commandant. The battle for the overall lead stayed close all day, with the lead changing hands at least a dozen times.

Just in the first few hours of the day, the race leaders were: Volvo 245, Fiat X1/9, Lexus LS400, Buick LeSabre, Volkswagen Quantum, Dodge Neon, Honda Prelude, Volkswagen Golf. Later on, the wind-whipped snow got bad enough to become a visibility hazard, so LeMons HQ put the kibosh on the session an hour early.

The 1942 Kinner aircraft radial-powered Toyota MR2 made it onto the track soon after the green flag waved, and everyone hoped it would run all weekend. Sadly, its chain drive system failed after one lap.

Either the chain broke and wrapped around the transmission input shaft, breaking off the sprocket, or the shaft failed and took the chain with it. Either way, the whole mess flew apart as the car limped past the Penalty Box, with a noise Judge Sam described as akin to “a clothes washer full of hammers.” Marc, the car’s madman genius builder, says he’ll sort out the problems and bring it back to a future race, and we expect the new, improved Radial MR2 drivetrain to be much more durable.

The leader, by a single lap, at the end of Saturday’s session was the Skid Marks Racing Neon. This car took the overall win at the Rod Blagojevich Never-Say-Die 500 last year, and their black-flag-free performance continues here in South Haven. A lot can happen Sunday, and with the top ten cars are all bunched within a 12-lap spread we expect a lot of pressure on the Skid Marks’ drivers.

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9 Comments on “Detroit LeMons Day One Over: Snow, Madness, Neon Leading...”


  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    The sheer ingenuity of the combination crank trigger/cam trigger/alternator drive chain mechanism had me hoping it would last at least long enough to tell if the cooling fan was up to the task of keeping cylinder temps reasonable. When I saw the 5-way throttle mechanism in action on the build thread, I replayed the video clip for a half hour, enthralled at the incredible fab work exhibited. Considering the engine wasn’t even running 3 weeks ago, I’m certain of a bright future for the radial MR2.

  • avatar

    It really speaks for the quality of Lemons racing (and I am the only person in history who will say that without sarcasm) that you could race on a wet, snowy track full of utterly awful and insane cars and not suffer any fatalities. 

    Shit, LeMans couldn’t even do that, and they have both money and sanity.

    Although, this looks like a good race for a Subaru. Maybe I should abandon the hopeless Chevy Sprint turbo I’ve been trying to coax to life and just enter my old Impreza.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Wow so the first radial is already out of the running.  If conditions stay nasty I predict a winner that’s FWD and has the best set of tires. 

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Notice how the back window is shattered from the flying chain. A metal screen was installed on the cage to prevent part migration and was nearly put to the test. I think a hydrostatic drive between the big radial and the transmission would work best here. That engine appears to have the capability to shake apart any mechanical coupling.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    The best part about this post has to be the picture with the Geo Metro chasing the Neon…

  • avatar
    obbop

    Real men would have, by now, placed upon the track a Briggs & Stratton-powered car; one 5hp engine per wheel.

  • avatar

    One nit to pick, Gingerman may be in Michigan, but it’s closer to Chicago than Detroit.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    What awful cars doing injustice to such a gem of a race track… I love it. I spent the afternoon watching these wretched cars and I have to admit, how cool! I was a disappointed not to see the radial engine car but I did see it sitting forlornly on its trailer…
    The Fiat X1/9 was something else though, making a mockery of big V8′s even on the straights. It is a 1.4 litre engine?


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