A car is born

Originally written by Benson Young, December 7, 2010

So, after Darren Darby completed his first Lemons at Circuit Grand Bayou, and Benson Young completed his 7th Lemons race, they decided to form their own Lemons Team. 

Darren wass an avid autocrosser with one of the best prepared CSP Miatas in the country, and was been totally bitten by road racing, or at least Lemons racing. Driving with TWSS Racing, he finished 3rd on laps at 2010 Laissez les Crapheaps Roulez. The 24 Hours of Lemons is actually 14-16 hours of racing in the daylight only, but this was a true 24 hour event from 3pm Saturday to 3pm Sunday on Circuit Grand Bayou’s 1.8 road course. The only other night Lemons was at Nelson Ledges, The Lamest Day, but that was a lit track. The addition of vehicle lighting and some rather poor judgment paved the way for a full 24 hour race at an unlit track. Darren’s first and only stint was in the dark, and it got him hooked enough to do something stupid, like build an endurance racer.

Laissez les Crapheaps 2010 was Benson’s seventh Lemons race, all with the very well prepared Race Hard Race Ugly Team. They’ve fielded two BMW E30s since mid 2009, and have been pretty successful. The #97 car has had two overall wins on laps along with a second place finish, while the #94 car (which I’ve been driving) has taken 2nd, 5th, 6th and at Laissez, we managed to get the overall win. The RHRU Team is absolutely amazing in organization, execution, and driving talent, and Benson was more than lucky to share a seat on that team.

So for 2011, Darren they will attempt to build and compete in a car of their own.  There were a few initial goals set, in order of importance:

1. Have fun: this is the most important part of the build, and probably the one we will forget the most. Throughout the experience, we will need to remind each other why we sunk so much time/money/work into such a stupid project.

2. Learn how to build a road racer. Even though Lemons and Chump Car are low budget builds, we will still need to do a lot of safety items. There’s a million details in prepping a race car and we want to learn more about it. We’d also learn a few fabrication skills along the way, and polish up a few driving skills while we are at it. And, we’d get to use power tools.

3. Finish respectably. Everyone wants to win, but few will. We’d love to take home some trophies, but our goal is to just finish respectably in anything we enter. Finishing in the upper quarter of the field will be considered respectable and successful.

4. Compete in multiple disciplines. Lemons and Chump Car are our primary goals for low-budget endurance road racing, but we won’t be limited to that. We’ll also do the occasional Solo, Drift, and run it on track days. Other low buck events like the Grassroots Motorsport Challenge might also get on the dance card, though we’d probably be pretty outclassed there. It might see a few races in the Gulf Coast Race Series at Circuit Grand Bayou as well. If we can, we might also try to get into SCCA Club Racing, NASA events (maybe even enduros). I also think it’d be a hoot to show up to something ridiculous like the GRM Open Track Challenge and not DFL against considerably more expensive machinery.

5. Demonstrate that racing can be affordable given an strictly average amount of mechanical skill and driving talent. Good planning, research, and wise time management can make the task much easier, and we’ll document the entire experience here on Autoxforum as a way for others to get into motorsports (not just Lemons). The documenting could serve to inspire someone else to pick up a wrench and get racing. Or more likely, it will be a cautionary tale of people who used to be friends and had money before it all started.

The primary focus with team prep is to make the driver and car as reliable as possible within the budget, then worry about speed later. Road racing enduros are usually won by clean drivers who don’t break down, as opposed to the fastest cars. We can keep the driver comfortable without going into the budget (Lemons classes a lot of that as safety), and set up the car to be easy to drive quickly. Reliability is a major challenge on this budget, but it’s possible to get some reliability with good prep work (which is free).

In choosing a team name, we wanted to keep the whole thing light-hearted but still serious enough to avoid looking silly on roster at Thunderhill (unlikely we’d ever get to that level, but we’re just thinking ahead). After kicking around a few ideas based on the theme, we took inspiration from a well-known YouTube video of a track day. The in-car camera records a Porsche driver chasing down a Mustang around a road course, and the driver gets a bit carried away. It’s a classic example of the taking something too seriously (yelling) in a silly way (deep dramatic voice) while racing someone (quite serious) and still have fun, while sharing it virally along the way. In other words, it’s exactly what we are. So, that’s the inspiration of Team Nemesis.

<link to Youtube video>

We also knew that we’d eventually get bored with this race car and move on, so we didn’t want to tied the team name to anything make/model specific, nor lock down the team roster. Team Nemesis was sufficiently vague but still silly at the same time.

While Lemons is the primary outlet for the car, we’d keep an eye on the rule for Chump Car, Gulf Coast Racing Series, and the GRM Challenge. If possible, we’d keep the car legal for multiple rule sets.

 

The car we’re starting with came Darren’s way by Chris Carver of Chris Carver Motorsport. It’s a 1993 Nissan 240SX that competed previously at Can’t Git Bayou 2010.

The car had a pretty lame excuse for a theme (colored tape), and didn’t do particularly well. It lost a tire which tore up a fender, and eventually retired from overheating. The overheating was so bad that the head warped to the point that valve cover wouldn’t go back on. The below pics were found on a Lemons photo site.

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Carver acquired the car from the owner when the costs to redo the cage and repair the head/motor exceeded what the team wanted to invest. Darren picked up the car for $350 sight unseen, plus the cost of a new custom cage from CCM. The new cage would keep us safe and be able to pass tech at SCCA, NASA, etc. Many of the safety items weren’t included in the sale, because we were planning on replacing them anyway. They included the seat, harness, window net, and wheels/tires.

We bought a used long block off craiglist to replace the overheated motor. It smokes a bit, but at $200 the price was right. That pushes the Lemons Budget to $550, but we have a car that has a lot of sellable items on it.

The car was at Laissez les Crapheaps 2010, but the cage didn’t pass tech (despite doing so earlier in the year). Darren and I both had rides on other teams, and Carver was trying to rent it out before it flunked. The car did come in handy for parts on Team TWSS’ 240SX, which ate a wheel bearing.

We will apply for a residual value with Lemons, so we know how much we can spend outside of the safety items and theme. Neither Darren nor I know a whole lot about the 240SX, but it’s a common vehicle at the autocross/drift events we host at Delta Region SCCA. Hopefully, we’d be learning a thing or two about these popular cars.

 

Originally, Darren and I talked about an E30 build, based on a theme of the classic E30 M3 DTM cars. The works teams had an amazing white with cyan/red/purple stripes paint job that became a classic symbol of BMW livery. We both love classic liveries, so we casually looked for an E30 on craiglist. We knew we couldn’t get an M3 for that price, but any 325e or 325is would be suitable.

While Lemons judges like themes, we thought we could push a few buttons with their well-known weakness for vintage racing livery. The idea was to get through BS Tech with minimal penalty but still have a car that wouldn’t look embarrassing on the grid at SCCA or NASA. Team LRE was a bit of an inspiration here: their classic BRE-spoof livery on their 240Z hasn’t drawn the wrath of Judges nor competitors, despite being pretty reliable and hands down fast. They are a great team and their car is just beautiful. Hopefully, we can hit the judges in the same soft spot without resorting to covering the car in fur or mannequins. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but we’d like to be able to pass NASA’s 60/60 rule without modification (car must look decent at 60 feet away at 60mph).

After much delibaration and discussion, we settled on the other classic Datsun livery, from Bob Sharp Racing.

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These cars are very dear to me, because I had several toys carrying Bob Sharp’s colors when I was a kid. One that really stood out was a Tyco slot car that I played with for countless hours. It was the first sports racing car I got attached too, and the classic Bob Sharp livery just works for me. While Bob Sharp wasn’t as well known as the Pete Brock’s cars, they were still very successful in IMSA and SCCA racing. Legendary actor Paul Newman drove for Bob Sharp on many occasions.

The current plan is to paint the car white with rattle cans, then apply the blue and red with vinyl. We debating whether or not to make the old sponsor decals into spoofs, but finally decided to keep them authentic. Generally, good paint and vinyl can attract attention at BS Tech, but we were just hobbyists using spray cans and left over vinyl from another project. I own a vinyl cutter and do a little freelance work on the side, and I already have enough red and blue to get the job done. The blue isn’t an ideal shade, but it was close enough for our car, and it was already paid for. Even though decorations are not part of the $500 Lemons budget limit, saving a few dollars always helps.

Wheels and tires aren’t part of $500 cap, and we wanted to get some of that classic vintage look, so the current plan is to use something like the Rota RB in a low offset, with gold centers like Bob Sharp used.