24th September, 2019
What you need to know to go the distance in the 24 hour non-stop event. Drawing from the experiences of 4 x time participants (and 2 x time winners)
Want budget racing at its best? Look no further
At Autohouse, we go far beyond just a regular Brisbane Car Storage facility. We like to get involved in the motoring world first-hand, and theres no better ‘vehicle’ for that than through the means of motorsport competition. One event we have been actively involved in over the last few years is the famous or maybe infamous ’24 Hours of Lemons’. Deriving its name from the famous sports car endurance race, the 24 hours of Le Mans, the ‘Lemons’ version offers a slight more budget-orientated experience from its French counterpart.
Celebrating the win at Morgan Park in 2019
Now endurance racing is tough – If regular motorsport has highs and lows, endurance motorsport has summits and crevasses. It is the ultimate test of man and machine, pushing both beyond physical limits either knew they had. So then, buy a car for $1,000 or less, put some safety gear into it and then attempt to pull it through 24 hours of non-stop mechanical tortue? How hard can it be?
What is the 24 Hours of Lemons?
On the grid prior to the start of the 2018 Non-stop race
Ok first things first. The 24 Hours of Lemons is an American-born concept that made its way to Australian shores in 2016. Its designed purely as a budget-motorsport endurance style event. 24 hours being the race duration, the ‘lemons’ representing the lemon of a car you’ve undoubtably procured to do the job. The concept is pretty simple:
1. Rally together a crew of Drivers (4 or more)
2. Purchase a car up for the job for circa $1,000 or less
3. Install the safety necessities
4. Drive it until you finish the race or it breaks (and if breaks then fix it and keep going)
Its obviously a little more complex than that, let us explain…
1. Rally together a bunch of motorsport-orientated colleagues. Its imperative to have Drivers who understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and will drive accordingly. At least one of you must be mechanically-orientated, and be able to quickly diagnose and solve issues with your car. I’m talking the ability to dictate a middle-of-the-night, trackside engine change (seriously, we had to do that in the 2017 event).
For us, Lemon’s was a great opportunity to get a few mates involved who have a keen interest in motorsport, but just didn’t have the budget or know-how required to get into it.
The OG crew from 2017. A new engine was required after 2 hours of running (see bottom right for offending engine)
2. Purchase a car for $1,000(ish). Treat this as a loose guideline. The $1,000 car rule is really just in place to deter anyone from bringing an actual a race car along. More than 6 cylinders? Forced induction? We advise against them both, as with your increase in speed will come an increase in refuelling stops and a decrease in reliability. Our mighty Nossan cost us $2,200 off eBay, and we bought it as a high mileage, completely stock car, which actually broke down on the test drive. We knew then it was mean’t to be.
An important thing to note is that money spent ‘making your car safe’ is not counted in the $1,000 rule. This includes your roll cage, seat, harness, fire extinguisher, battery isolator, brakes and suspension components. Be sure to have properly read the rules and regulations before building your car! The scrutineers pay special attention to the quality of the roll cage, racing seat & harness and electrical kill switch.
3. The safety stuff – Lemons Organisers are big on this, in fact we’d argue that they are more vigerious with safety than real motor racing sanctioning bodies such as CAMS or AASA. This is likely because we are competing in cars likely never mean’t for competition. Putting a roll cage and racing seat into a ordinary road car will make it safer, but not exactly ‘safe’. It’s important to read the rules and regs very carefully, and after that, read them again. Ensure your cage is good quality, ensure your battery isolator does what its supposed to (completely kills the engine whilst revving at 3,000 rpm) and ensure your racing seat and harness and safely installed and secure.
All the gear, no idea…
You will need to invest (or borrow) in personal racing gear. At a minimum you will require:
A proper two or three layer fire-proof racing suit
Helmet with min AS1698 standard and HANS compatibility
We strongly recommend a fire-proof balaclava as well as proper racing boots. If you are a first-timer, and have absolutely no gear, satisfying the above may be an expensive exercise. Luckily, racegear outlets such as Revolution Racegear and Raceline are aware of this, and offer bespoke ‘Lemons packages’ to cover all the bases at the most effective price. You can be even more budget conscious and borrow gear from friends and family, and don’t forget you can share race gear between team mates (if you don’t mind putting on a sweaty suit or helmet that is).
Do the events actually go for 24 Hours?
Yes..and no. Lemons hold two different types:
The 3 day event – these are the more common events, and run in similar fashion to a conventional race weekend:
Saturday: Racing 8am-5pm (approx)
Sunday: Racing 8am-5pm (approx)
These events are for the less extreme teams out there. The entry fees and running costs are less, and the day-time only structure means a good nights sleep is had by all. It also means you have time off the clock to repair and refresh the car on the Saturday night. Not exactly the ’24 hours of Lemons’, more like the ’18 hours of Lemons’.
The proper 24 hour non-stopper – this one separates the men from the boys. This is a bonafide 24 hour race that runs through the dead of night. A much greater challenge of both man and machine, however a challenge we truly relish. After doing two 3 day events, we had a crack at the non-stop event, in which we came out victorious. After experiencing the tranquility of racing through the night, it was difficult to even consider doing another 3 day event.