Crapcan Racing Tips
Drivers’ schools are incredibly fun and the best way to improve your driving prowess. Track days can be incredibly useful for honing your skill once you have been on track enough to catch your own mistakes. While incredibly useful tools for learning to drive fast, neither can touch the 24 Hours of LeMons for having fun with motorsports. I have previously written about the basics of getting to a LeMons race, and what happened at our first race. The team just finished another race, the 2010 Arse-Freeze-Apalooza at Buttonwillow this past weekend, where we finished 68th of 173. Better than half made us happy, because the head gasket blew with an hour and a half left in the race.
Track driving is certainly a specialized skill and racing is a step beyond that–in addition to driving a car at the limit, you have to deal with numerous other cars on track who may decide to pass you at any time. In crapcan racing things are even crazier because most folks don’t care much if the car gets hit and many of them have little to no experience driving on a racetrack, much less in anger.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to get some track experience before heading out on track in your first LeMons race. Street driving, or even autocross shares very little with driving on a racetrack, and there is no adequate preparation aside from sufficient time on a track. Even if you have done a lemons race, going to a much less crowded HPDE or other track even twill be very information–rare are the times you get to take an unmolested line, much less lap, at a race.
The first time you go to a 24 Hours of LeMons event, you’ll find at least three different types of race teams: those who built something that doesn’t belong on a racetrack; the teams there to win; and the teams that are just there to have fun in any way possible. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is there to have fun, but the former two have very specific goals in mind. The folks who bring a Fiat 600 or a limousine aren’t interested in winning the race outright–they’re looking for the Index of Effluency, or simply testing their own mechanical mettle.
By the same token, some teams come with the intent to win the speed race–they have a reliable, quick car, know how to do fast pit stops, and don’t intend to spend time in the penalty box. If it’s not obvious who these teams are, check the time sheets after a couple hours of racing; they are the ones on the lead lap or just behind. Figure out which cars belong in this group, do your best to stay out of their way, and certainly don’t hit them.
If you’ve done other racing or track days, one of the first things you’ll notice about crapcan racing is the number of yellow flags thrown. When you have hundreds of $500 cars on a racetrack with inexperienced drivers, problems happen often. At the Arse-Freeze-Apalooza, Jay said that the recovery crew did 75 tows on Saturday alone. Oftentimes, cautions will be thrown well ahead of what you can see if you’re closely following a pack of cars. For this reason, you’ll see folks who have been racing a while throw up their hand by the rear-view mirror and wave when they see a yellow flag. This way, everyone behind knows that they are going to slow for caution, and you should too.
Photos by Marshall Pierce.