Racing teams change names, racing circuits change names, hell, even drivers have been known to change their names, so in a year when Bathurst has changed its naming rights, NZ’s biggest Endurance racing series ‘24 Hours of LeMons’ has joined the trend and changed its moniker to NaZCAR 24 – it’s the same great taste (or lack thereof), same fruity antics, in fact the same everything, just with a NEW NAME!
Chief lemon squeezer, sorry make that now the ‘undisputed endurance race king of NZ’ Jacob Simonsen says about NaZCAR, “Pound for pound, we’re still the cheapest motorsport on the planet. NaZCAR is the only 12 and 24 hour endurance race series in New Zealand and typically, you get more ‘seat time’ in one event than in a whole season of sprint racing. Plus you get to share the experience with your team-mates!”
So why the name change I hear you ask. Well according to Simonsen it’s because they’re ‘now 100% Kiwi owned’ but there’s more to it than that. As it turns out LeMons is no stranger to change, for the 24 Hours of LeMons, (originally founded by the sick and twisted mind of author/editor Jay Lamm back in 2006), was actually a named-changed progression of an earlier San Francisco, California event, the Double 500 – a 500km road rally for US$500 vehicles – confused yet?
Simonsen explains the rest, “Being 100% Kiwi owned now means we can now develop the series and ‘tune’ it specifically for Kiwis. We’ve still got a great relationship with Jay Lamm (Lemons USA) and we continue to support each other – we share the same passion for grass-roots motorsport and thumbing our noses at the elites.”
Anyway, for those history buffs among you, after kicking it off in Aussie, Jacob brought Lemons to NZ in 2016 where (or is that when) a field of around twenty-five, barely breathing vehicles made up the inaugural starting grid at Hampton Downs – I know, I was there. Records were broken (mainly of the endurance kind) along with hearts and vehicles and yet these knackered and clunky fun-themed teams remained safe and secure, and better still ready to return, again and again.
“Kiwis are such a creative and innovative bunch – incredible car builds, whacky themes and camaraderie – my stomach hurts after each event from laughing so much!” Says Simonsen.
The initial wacky endurance race then became a series as over the next few years, the one, ‘two-day’ Hampton event expanded to two (one of which being the 24hour non-stop over nighter) and then headed down country to Taupo – increasing teams and indeed their creativity.
“I thought I’d seen it all; but watching 5 Muppets (yes, in full muppet costumes) perform an engine-swap at 3am, and all the other insanely creative “fixes” and antics during races, gave me a whole new level of respect for competitors – that level of enthusiasm drives me to design better events and create a playground for motorsport enthusiasts, whether total newbies or seasoned pro’s…”
This year, (and with Covid-19 still sniffing around) the ever-increasingly popular endurance series held its last ‘LeMon’ named 24 hour non-stop race, (again at Hamptons) where around seventy-five teams, yes seventy-five, took to the grid and essentially rewrote NZ Endurance race records for the fourth consecutive year – hard to top one would assume, however, knowing Simonsen, probably not.
“I love pushing existing boundaries and breaking records – with the incredible support of our competitors, we’ve set new time, distance and participation records in New Zealand Motorsport. During our continuous 24 hour event at Hampton Downs a few weeks ago, 75 teams with over 400 drivers raced a total of 117,000 kms – that’s about 3 times around the World, and the largest grid/line-up in NZ history! Not bad for a bunch of knuckle-heads…”
LeMons or NaZCAR 24 as it is now is the true definition of ‘grass-roots Motorsport’ as it has managed to turn spectators into racing driver heros, however, despite the side-splitting fun, there is a ton of work that goes on behind the scenes.
“Many think endurance racing is easy, and lasts only a fistful of hours. Our events really challenge teams and their crappy cars with 12 and 24 hour formats. Making ANY car (and team members) endure 24 hours takes strategy, planning and tenacity – and a good sense of humour. Luckily NaZCAR is full of folk who’ve embraced this ethos.”
New website, new name and 100% Kiwi, NaZCAR 24 has already posted up dates for the 2021 year, so go find a $1,000 crapper, theme it, safety it, register and be part of the ongoing NZ Endurance race folklore that is NaZCAR.
Click here for more information