Roll cage – check, flame retardant overalls – check, motor sport licence – check, Multi-coloured sparkling wigs – wait; what? A few months ago saw the inaugural 24 hours of LeMons motorsport event take place at Hampton Downs and it was a cracker! 30 teams rocked up in their ‘themed’ sub $1000 cars (yeah right) and took part in an event like no other witnessed in NZ.
Now (just like ours) the teams may have been amateurs – actually around 50% of the drivers had NEVER been on a racetrack before – and the cars may have been lemons but the racing was real, the risks were real and therefore the safety was very real too.
We were lucky enough to have some connections in the automotive industry, so getting our Lemon up to scratch was possibly easier than some (although it certainly didn’t feel that way). A Roll cage (must be homologated through Motorsport NZ), Proper one piece Driver’s seat, Racing harness (4 point), Fire extinguisher, Fuel system, Kill-switch and Race number. The Drivers needed to have/sit C a grade licence – 60 questions and an oral exam about the flags and safety car. Gear needed to be certified, Helmet, flame retardant suit, cotton – lots of cotton.
With the formalities all taken care of, the fun and essence of the LeMons could start. For themes, teams ranged from 5 willies (with blue surgical gloves) to Vikings in a Volvo, A camouflaged BMW with ducks and shotguns attached to a cop car (2 in fact). There were wigs and fancy dresses, duck calls and sirens – the atmosphere was pumping. Like I said before, the racing was real though too and some teams were certainly there to compete.
The racing began on Saturday morning and it didn’t take long for the penalties to start flooding in too – we were called in first. Our little hairdresser MR2 had (let’s say) grip issues and any track spinning resulted in walks of shame. Drivers (and their team) had to don a horse or pig mask and walk up and down the pits with a loud hailer chanting songs of disgrace (we ended up doing this four times). Other penalties included golf and dart forfeits, trolley racing and bin riding – all set to cause embarrassment and lose lap time.
The weather over the weekend ran from atrocious downpours (which are terrifying to race in) to amazing sunshine. Our ‘bulletproof’ Racing complacency was abruptly halted when one of the teams hit the tyre wall at an estimated 140kmh. The crash was gut wrenching but as a testament to the safety measures, the driver was fine (the car was not).
Two days of endurance racing is exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. The emotions and competitiveness runs high and sometimes it was hard to remember that this was a fun event with Charity proceeds (Prostate cancer). For despite the 24 hours of LeMons being a way for amateurs and novices to get behind the wheel, being in the pits all your senses are ALIVE, and you begin to gain a taste of F1 glory (ok so that’s a bit of an exaggeration but I’m sure you get the point).
We ended up coming 9th and I have to say that we were as excited getting a top 10 place as the winner was – and EVERYONE/car that survived the endurance weekend had smile on their faces.
Prizegiving was a full on affair with trophies given out to the winner (of course) but this was the lesser trophy. More attention was given to the likes of best theme, biggest idiots (nincompoops) which WE won, biggest crash (no prizes for guessing the winner there) and most persistent – with the overall winner being the team that truly embraced the spirit of LeMons!
I have to say that I am still buzzing from the weekend and hats off to the organisers for putting together an event that I will savour for years to come (as I’m sure many of the other competitors will too). It was well thought out, well managed and from my point of view virtually seamless.
We turned up in a lemon and they gave us lemonade - 24 Hours of LeMons have committed for the next 5 years and I for one will be there next year
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Thanks for the awesome pics as always Chris Dillon Photography