24 Hours of LeMons
The 24 Hours of LeMons is a series of endurance races held on paved road race courses across the United States.
The title is a parody of the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans series. Teams compete in race-prepared cars that cost no more than US$500 (i.e., lemons) for up to 24 hours; like in folkracing, there is a price limit. These races set themselves apart from the typical road race by the unusual penalties and punishments meted out by judges.
The event is billed as a 24-hour endurance race. In actuality, the event covers a weekend, and participants endure a number of qualifiers along with the main endurance race of varying total hours, depending on the venue. The organizers state that they will run at least one true 24-hour race every year.
Yeah, it's real racing. That said, between the thick scrum of crapcans in front of you and our aversion to long, flat-out straightaways, you're not going to set any speed records. It's kinda like a loud, hot, noisy version of driving to work. For a really, really long time. Without actually getting anywhere. And it's a lot harder to drink coffee through the helmet. Oh, and, you know, it's more dangerous.
The 24 Hours of LeMons, founded by author/editor Jay Lamm, began in 2006 as a progression of an earlier San Francisco, California event, the Double 500, which was a 500-kilometer road rally for US$500 vehicles. After several yearly Double 500s, the organizers deemed the event too easy, so the 24 Hours of LeMons endurance race was born.
The earliest LeMons races were held at Altamont Motorsports Park and other tracks in California. The series expanded in 2008 to include events in the eastern United States, with races held in Connecticut, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas in addition to the races in California and Nevada.
In May 2008, a LeMons race held at Altamont Motorsports Park was struck by tragedy when the driver of one of the cars died during the race. Court Summerfield, 47, suffered a heart attack or stroke during the race and crashed into a wall. Investigations revealed that there were no malfunctions with the car and that the driver was already dead upon impact.
Preparation and rules
The US$500 requirement alludes to the name of the race as such a vehicle might be considered a "lemon". The event organizers set complete set of safety rules that typically are on par with other road racing sanctioning bodies, including the Sports Car Club of America and National Auto Sport Association. Additions to the rules (both serious and humorous plus rules to discourage cheating) include:
- US$500 limit to prep car. This includes the purchase price of the car, any modifications made to it, and other assorted expenses (such as labor and sponsorships) are figured into the cost. Approved safety equipment (see below) plus brakes, wheels, and tires are not included in the US$500 figure.
- Items sold off a car can be deducted from the total spent, so it is possible to buy a more expensive car and sell off parts, or sell parts and buy better equipment. (i.e. selling off parts from a BMW or other similar luxury car to circumvent/comply with the $500 rule.)
- If the event organizers feel the car has exceeded its $500 limit, they assign what is called a BSF (Bullshit Factor), where every $10 the car exceeds over the $500 is docked one lap.
- Car must have four wheels and have been legal for highway use at its time of manufacture.
- Event organizers have full rights to buy the car for $500 at the end of the race.
Required safety equipment includes:
- A six point roll cage
- Full-face Snell SA2005 helmet or better
- Fire extinguisher
- Five or six point racing harness
- SFI 3.2A/1 Nomex-style fire suit, fire resistant/retardant gloves, shoes and with fire retardant underwear.
- Drivers seat must reach the middle of the helmet or higher. SFI or FIA approved seat recommended.
Most events are 14.5 hours long, with sessions on Saturday and Sunday running from six to ten hours long. There is usually one full 24 hour endurance race each year.
Each race begins with all cars being released onto the track under a full course yellow flag for lap-timing transponder checks. No passing is permitted under yellow, so all cars operational before the start (over 150 have been known to start) will circulate around the track in single file for up to 20 minutes until the officials are satisfied that the timing and scoring system is working properly. The race officially begins with the green flag being waved at a randomly chosen car.
Standard racing flags are used by corner workers stationed around the track to communicate with drivers. The black flag is used liberally throughout the race to mandate an immediate pit stop for concerns with the driving or with the car. Driving infractions range from any contact with another vehicle or fixed barrier and overly aggressive driving to spinning or driving two wheels off of the track. Car problems that typically result in black flags are, most frequently, obvious safety problems such as any fluid leak, parts hanging off the car, or inoperative lights. Drivers must report to the penalty box immediately after being shown a black flag.
Races that are split into two days will have a checkered flag at the end of the first day, signifying the end of the racing session. The race is restarted on the next day, normally with the top ten cars being permitted to line up in order with the first-place car getting the green flag.
LeMons officials have an inventive penalty and punishment system where penalties for some infractions are meted out by a device called The Wheel of Misfortune. Various devices may be put onto the car in order to affect car performance; one device used is metal silhouettes of various farm animals welded to the roof by the "Arc Angel" to reduce aerodynamic efficiency. Also, any car that flips in the process of the race is slapped with the "Why Am I Upside-Down?" penalty: not only is that team disqualified for the current race, but the driver who flipped the car is barred from all other races for the rest of the season. Likewise, Drivers and Teams might also be forced to undertake physical acts in order to satisfy punishment conditions, such as the Marcel Marceau Memorial "Mime Your Crime" penalty, where a driver must put on white face paint and a beret and mime what they did wrong. In addition, penalties are often tailored to address current events or figures where the race is run. Examples of this include the "Max Mosley S&M Penalty", the "Sheriff Joe Arpaio Penalty" in Arizona (where drivers must don pink underwear, sit in a hot tent and eat stale bologna sandwiches, all punishments the Maricopa County Sheriff has given at his prisons), and the "Mark Sanford 'Cry For Me, Argentina' Memorial Penalty" at a race in South Carolina, in which a driver must write a lengthy love letter to his Argentine mistress on his car, à la the former governor of that state. All penalties are designed to waste the time of a lousy driver, while less aggressive and better drivers continue to race.
The midway award is aptly named People's Curse. One car is voted People's Curse, for being driven by the biggest jerks of the day as judged by the crowd. The offending car is crushed and destroyed typically by heavy equipment, but when none can be found, an angry mob with wire cutters and wrenches has been used. If there are not enough votes to destroy a car, it may instead receive a nasty but non-fatal injury, or it may be sent to the Penalty Box with a black flag. For 2013 the Curse was removed from the series.
The counterpoint to the People's Curse, Organizers Choice (originally People's Choice) is awarded to the team that best represents the friendly spirit of the race. A trophy and $500 prize is given.
The car that completes the most laps net of pre-race "BS" penalties is awarded the Win on Laps, and the team receives a trophy. Through 2011, the winner on laps also received a $1500 cash prize, typically in the form of nickels.
The grand prize (and considered by some to be the "true" winner) is the Index of Effluency award, presented to a car considered unlikely to finish the race at all, let alone finish with a respectable number of laps completed. The team that wins the Index of Effluency is given a larger trophy and a cash prize. The prize was $1501 through 2011, and was reduced to $501 beginning in 2012; in each case, the prize is $1 more than the team could win by winning the race or their class.
Prior to the race, every entry is assigned into a class, A, B, C, or X. The car in each class that completes the most laps net of pre-race "BS" penalties (with the exception of the winner on laps, which was previously recognized) is awarded the class win, and the team receives a trophy. Beginning in 2012, the winners of classes A, B, and C each also receive a $500 cash prize, typically in nickels.
Several other trophies are given, typically: Most Heroic Fix, I Got Screwed, Grassroots Motorsports Magazine's Most from the Least, Least (or Most) Horrible Yank Tank, and trophies to the fastest cars of the three classes.
Occasionally, Judges' Choice or Dangerous Homemade Technology awards are given.
At the end of each season, the organizers also recognize a group of Legends of LeMons for especially noteworthy themes, fabrication work, or other contributions to the series. Forty-one teams earned such recognition in 2009, the first year teams were so honored. In 2010, the number of teams earning "Legend" status increased to 58, but this time, four were singled out for the exceptional honor of a Unununium Medal, the next twenty were awarded a Ununquadium Medal, while the remaining 34 received a Ununhexium Medal. In 2011, the list of awards was pared down from previous seasons, as nine racers and teams were awarded a Gluon Medal for their feats.
2009 LeMons Events
- HOUSTON GATOR-O-RAMA (2009) Date: February 28-March 1, 2009 Track: MSR Houston, Angleton TX
- LeMONS SOUTH SPRING (2009) Date: April 4-5, 2009 Track: Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC
- GOIN' FOR BROKEN (2009) Date: May 23-24, 2009 Track: Reno-Fernley Raceway, Fernley NV
- LAISSEZ LES CRAPHEAPS ROULEZ NEW ORLEANS (2009) Date: June 6–7, 2009 Track: No Problem Raceway, Belle Rose LA
- LeMONS NEW ENGLAND (2009) Date: July 11–12, 2009 Track: Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs CT
- THE BUTTONWILLOW HISTRIONICS (2009) Date: August 15–16, 2009 Track: Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Buttonwillow CA
- LeMONS SOUTH FALL (2009) Date: September 12–13, 2009 Track: Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC
- THE LAMEST DAY (2009) Date: October 3–4, 2009 (full 24-hour endurance race) Track: Nelson Ledges Road Course, Nelson Ledges OH
- YEE-HAW IT'S LeMONS TEXAS (2009) Date: October 24–25, 2009 Track: MSR Houston, Angleton TX
- LeMONS ARSE-FREEZE-APALOOZA (2009) Date: November 21–22, 2009 Track: Thunderhill Raceway Park, Willows CA
2010 LeMons Events
- Auction-Weekend Gavel-Trap GP (2010) Date: January 23-24, 2010 Track: Firebird International Raceway, Chandler AZ
- Southern Discomfort (2010) Date: February 6-7, 2010 Track: Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC
- Gator-O-Rama (2010) Date: February 20-21, 2010 Tack: MSR Houston, Angleton TX
- Sears Pointless (2010) Date: March 6-7, 2010 Track: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma CA
- Concours d'LeMons Crapfest & Track Tour (2010) Date: March 7, 2010 track: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma CA
- American Irony (2010) Date: April 17-18, 2010 Track: Gingerman Raceway, South Haven MI
- Cain't Git Bayou (2010) Date: May 1-2, 2010 Track: The Circuit at Grand Bayou, Belle Rose LA
- Goin' For Broken 24-Hour (2010) Date: May 8-9, 2010 Tack: Reno-Fernley Raceway, Fernley NV (moved to Thunderhill Raceway Park, Willows CA, after closure of Reno-Fernley Raceway)
- LeMons South Spring (2010) Date: May 29-30, 2010 Track: Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC
- North Dallas Hooptie (2010) Date: June 5-6, 2010 Tack: Eagle's Canyon Raceway, Decatur TX
- Capitol Offense (2010) Date: June 19-20, 2010 Tack: Summit Point Motorsports Park, Summit Point WV
- The B.F.E. GP (2010) Date: July 10-11, 2010 Track: High Plains Raceway, Deer Trail CO
- LeMons New England (2010) Date: July 24-25, 2010 Track: Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs CT
- LeMons Arse-Sweat-Apalooza (2010) Date: August 7-8, 2010 Tack: Thunderhill Raceway Park, Willows CA
- Concours d'LeMons (2010) Date: August 14, 2010 Track: Toro Park, Monterey CA
- Mutually Assured Destruction of Omaha (2010) Date: August 28-29, 2010 Track: Mid-America Motorplex, Pacific Junction IA
- Yee-Haw, It's LeMons Texas (2010) Date: September 11-12, 2010 Tack: MSR Houston, Angleton TX
- LeMons South Fall (2010) Date: September 25-26, 2010 Track: Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC
- Detroit Bull Oil Grand Prix (2010) Date: October 9-10, 2010 Track: Gingerman Raceway, South Haven MI
- Rod Blagojevich Never-Say-Die 500 (2010) Date: October 23-24, 2010 Track: Autobahn Country Club, Joliet IL
- Laissez les Crapheaps Roulez (2010) Date: November 20-21, 2010 Track: The Circuit at Grand Bayou, Belle Rose LA
- LeMons Arse-Freeze-Apalooza (2010) Date: December 4-5, 2010 Track: Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Buttonwillow CA
- The Painfully Bland Bowl Of Thin Lukewarm Oatmeal That Can Not Possibly Offend Anyone, No Matter How Much They Enjoy Being Offended, 24-Hour Season Ender (2010) Date: December 30-31, 2010 Track: Palm Beach International Raceway, Jupiter FL (name changed from 24 Horas de Cuba del Norte after protests led by Cuban-American groups and Glenn Beck)
2011 LeMons Events
- Southern Discomfort Date: February 19-20; Track: Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC
- Gator-O-Rama Date: February 26-27; Track: MSR Houston, Angleton TX
- Sears Pointless Date: March 26-27; Track: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma CA
- The Real Hoopties of New Jersey Date: April 9-10; Track: New Jersey Motorsports Park, Millville NJ
- Campaign to Prevent Gingervitis Date: April 16-17; Track: GingerMan Raceway, South Haven MI
- North Dallas Hooptie Date: April 23-24; Track: Eagles Canyon Raceway, Dallas TX
- Loudon Annoying Date: May 7-8; Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon NH
- Goin' For Broken Date: May 14-15; Track: Reno-Fernley Raceway, Fernley NV (scheduled as a true 24 hour race)
- LeMons South Spring Date: May 21-22; Track: Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC
- Garrapatas Peligrosas GP Date: June 4-5; Track: MSR Houston, Angleton TX
- Capitol Offense Date: June 18-19; Track: Summit Point Raceway, Summit Point WV
- Pacific NorthWorst Grand Prix Date: June 25-26; Track: Oregon Raceway Park, Grass Valley OR
- The B.F.E. GP Date: July 9-10; Track: High Plains Raceway, Deer Trail CO
- American Irony Date: July 16-17; Track: GingerMan Raceway, South Haven MI
- Boston Tow Party & Overhead-Cam Bake Date: July 23-24; Track: Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford CT
- LeMons Arse-Sweat-Apalooza Date: August 6-7; Track: Thunderhill Raceway, Willows CA
- Cain't Get Bayou Date: August 13-14; Track: Circuit Grand Bayou, Belle Rose LA (scheduled as a night race)
- LeMons Prairie Chicken Fricassee Date: August 27-28; Track: Mid-America Motorplex, Pacific Junction IA
- Where the Elite Meet to Cheat Date: September 24-25; Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord NC
- Yee-Haw It's LeMons Texas! Date: October 1-2; Track: MSR Houston, Angleton TX
- Showroom-Schlock Shootout Date: October 8-9; Track: Autobahn Country Club, Joliet IL
- The Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500, Sponsored by Cruskin-Skankaway Inc., The Official Fungicidal Toe Creme of LeMons Date: October 22-23, Track: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma CA
- LeMons Arse-Freeze-Apalooza Date: December 3-4; Track: Buttonwillow Raceway, Buttonwillow CA
- Heaps in the Heart of Texas Date: December 17-28; Track: Eagles Canyon Raceway, Decatur TX
2012 LeMons Events
- Yee-Haw, It's LeMons Texas Date: February 11-12; Track: Texas World Speedway, College Station TX 
- All Weathers/No Whiners GP Date: February 18-19; Track: Portland International Raceway, Portland OR 
- Southern Discomfort Date: March 3-4; Track: Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC 
- Sears Pointless Date: March 24-25; Track: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma CA 
- The Real Hoopties of New Jersey Date: April 14-15; Track: New Jersey Motorsports Park, Millville NJ 
- Campaign to Prevent Gingervitis Date: April 21-22; Track: Gingerman Raceway, South Haven, MI 
- Loudon Annoying Date: May 5-6; Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon NH 
- North Dallas Hooptie Date: May 26-27; Track: Eagles Canyon Raceway, Decatur TX 
- The B.F.E. GP Date: June 2-3; Track: High Plains Raceway, Deer Trail CO 
- Showroom-Schlock Shootout Date: June 9-10; Track: Autobahn Country Club, Joliet IL 
- Capitol Offense Date: June 16-17; Track: Summit Point Motorsports Park, Summit Point WV 
- Arse-Sweat-Apalooza Date: June 30-July 1; Track: Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Buttonwillow CA 
- Pacific Northworst GP Date: July 21-22; Track: The Ridge Motorsports Park, Shelton WA 
- LeMons Prairie Chicken Fricasee Date: August 11-12; Track: Mid-America Motorplex, Pacific Junction IA 
- The Chubba Cheddar Enduro Date: August 20-21; Track: Road America, Elkhart Lake WI 
- Vodden The Hell Are We Doing? Date: September 15-16; Track: Thunderhill Raceway Park, Willows CA 
- LeMons South Fall Date: September 22-23; Track: Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC 
- Gator-O-Rama Date: September 29-30; Track: MSR Houston, Angleton TX 
- American Irony Date: October 13-14; Track: Autobahn Country Club, Joliet IL 
- Halloween Hooptiefest Date: October 27-28; Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon NH 
- Arse-Freeze-Apalooza Date: December 8-9; Track: Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, Desert Center CA 
Additionally, a summer race and season-ending race are planned, but the location and/or date have not been set.
- The 24 Hours of LeMons: FAQ & How-To accessed November 16, 2011
- 24 Hours of LeMons FAQ - AREN'T YOU THOSE DOUBLE 500 GUYS?
- Series Events & Results
- The 24 Hours of LeMons: Rules accessed March 30, 2007 Archived March 21, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- TONY QUIROGA (February 2007). "Beaters Rule! The 24 Hours of LeMons". Car and Driver. Archived from the original on 18 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
- Rahul Nair (April 2009). "Lemons Penalties 101". Racing Geek. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
- Murilee Martin. "History of the Heroic Fix". Retrieved 2011-02-11.
- Murilee Martin. "I Got Screwed". Retrieved 2011-02-11.
- Murilee Martin. "LeMons Legends: Some of Our Favorite 24 Hours of LeMons Cars From 2009". Retrieved 2011-11-17.
- Murilee Martin. "The 2010 Legends of LeMons: Unununium Medal Winners!". Retrieved 2011-11-17.
- Murilee Martin. "The 2010 Legends of LeMons: Ununquadium Medal Winners!". Retrieved 2011-11-17.
- Murilee Martin. "The 2010 Legends of LeMons: Ununhexium Medal Winners!". Retrieved 2011-11-17.
- Murilee Martin. "Legends of LeMons! Last Season's Most Epic Teams and Racers". Retrieved 2012-06-22.
- 24 Hours of LeMons - official site
- culture|garage's 2009 Race Coverage
- Jalopnik's coverage of all LeMons events
- Autofiends' ongoing LeMons coverage
- Audio on the 24 Hours of LeMons 24 Hours of LeMons Southern
- Murilee Martin's 24 Hours of LeMons photo galleries
- Judge Phil's ongoing LeMons coverage
- 24 Hours of LeMons coverage on TheTruthAboutCars.com
- The 2010 Legends of LeMons Medal winners
- 24 Hours of LeMons coverage on Car and Driver