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24 hours of LeMons New Zealand

Approaching our third 24 Hour LeMons event we thought we had it nailed. Our car, a pristine (cough) ’91 Toyota Celica with awesome pop-up headlights, had been given a bit of a once-over by our genius mechanic (he actually really is) and was even treated to a brand spanking new clutch – only the best for our lemon. Our team had spent hours agonising over the ideal theme before opting for (not so) SuperMario Bros and whisking it off to the design studio (my 7-year-old son with a big crayon) for rendering. Fine fabrics were sourced and costumes produced via the $2 store and additional car parts were obtained from that well-known automotive store Mitre 10.

Actually, all jokes aside, with the car ‘sorted’ we did spend a rather large amount of time getting into the LeMon spirit with booster jets out the back (complete with flames) and hand cut chequers.

Getting the car to the track was a drama all by itself (I won’t go into that now, but the high-tech Futura Trailer and a virgin operator took a while to gel) but once there we breezed through the main scrutineering  yet struggled with the Bull*** one – think ‘breezing through airport security only to be strip searched by a man with gloves intent on finding you guilty of something, regardless of innocence, and your complaints albeit VERY valid, only makes things worse’. Thanks, Nick Brown, you (and your white coat and clipboard) were a standout for the weekend.

24 Hours of LeMons NZ

On to the track for (Fri) testing and the mighty Celica was on top form – zero complaints from our track test dummies.

Race day, and like I said before – the (Not so) SuperMario Bros were ready – or so we thought.

End of stint one (an hour and a half in), and we found ourselves in third position. Our ‘Jets’ had slipped down to a more ‘streamlined position’ but so far so good – we opted to remove them as we refueled and changed drivers. Back out to the track – ding, ding, round 2.

24 Hours of LeMons NZ

It was when we found ourselves at the joint second position; that things started to go awry. The unsettled steering along the home straight was uncomfortable but manageable; however, it was the lack of brakes at turn two that made the driver pee a little – time to pit. After much debate, our ‘experienced’ pit crew informing the driver to harden up and get back out there and said driver pointing out that it wouldn’t be advisable without further examination (aka ‘no ‘kin way I’m getting out there without some bastard having a look), we found that the CV joint had decided to part company with itself – something not seen before by many of the actual mechanics there!

After a couple of hours in heavy traffic (a trip to Repco) and the assistance of another team’s mechanic – we were back on the track and back in the hunt. Ding, ding, round three.

Aside from the rain (and I can’t see a bloody thing due to a fogged up windscreen) complaint – to which the general ‘harden up and get back out there’ response was returned, then an electrical lead fault and then an accelerator cable issue (nothing duct tape and cable ties couldn’t fix), this session was trouble free.

24 hours of LeMons NZ

Driver change. Ding, ding, round four. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too long before we saw our Mario Kart back in the pits again, this time the passenger side front wheel broke from the tradition of simply going round and round, choosing a more ‘stylish’ weave and flop. Think; pizza dough spinning uncontrollably having been thrown in the air. In doing so, it broke the OTHER CV joint (I thought this never happened), cooked the bearings and the brakes too – game over for the day.

Day 2 saw two team members at a pick-a-part, one other at Repco and the other one having a well-deserved (yeah right) lay in.

Now, the joy of having an old Lemon is that (due to the scrapyard source) the parts are cheap. The downside, however; is that you have to get them off yourself, and having two people that previously (only have pens for tools – or when it comes to anything mechanical, are tools) removing parts that have been on a car for a quarter of a century is fraught with danger.

Armed with a socket set and a can of CRC the dismantling process began. Some bolts were relatively easy, some not so. Some required coxing with a hammer and the last one (of course) almost had the SuperMario’s throw in the towel! Anyway, with pleading, cursing, beating, CRC drowning and near hernia provoking stress, the final bolt came loose. With (new/old) parts reconnected, our kart went back out on the Hampton Downs track. Only 300 laps behind – game back on.

The elation was short-lived, as the car handled like a dog. A whiz up to the tyre shop to get the wheels aligned and the red beast was sorted. All four drivers got half an hour seat time and the smiles on our faces when the car passed the chequered flag made the entire roller-coaster ride worth it.

Our total parts bill was $140, plus wheel alignment and the unbelievable amount of help from other team members. However, it was the camaraderie from within our team and from virtually all the 24hour LeMons staff and participants that really shone through. We went from the high of being on the track and racing; to the lows of that stubborn last ‘kin bolt. I guess that’s motorsport, but with a twist, for aside from the fact that we were all there ‘competing’, all the teams wanted to see everyone (ahem) finish. And after all, it was for a good cause – Prostate Cancer.

At prize giving we received a trophy for best theme (told you we were well prepared) and we now have a car ready for the next event – for which we are even MORE ready!

Thanks heaps for a great event 24 Hours of Lemons NZ!!!!

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