Great article. You guys rock!
I don't know a thing about the 24 HRS of Lemons but I can't imagine what teams do actually win given your creativity and not wining.
I've actually given much thought to this as well.
Two ways to "win" something in
A) Win on laps - most laps after the end of the weekend wins
B) Win on uniqueness and or on the Index of Effluency (aka the crappiest car that does the best overal).
For a straight up Win on A (overall or in your class - we are B aka mid-tier):
1) With a 4 person team, you average about 3 hours of wheel to wheel track time per person for the entire weekend. This is more experience than most other motorsports experiences will ever give you (esp per $) but we don't enter enough races for our drivers to be more than average in terms of skills.
2) Car that can pass >50% of the field (we got this now) or can stay out there for >4 hours per stint (maximize laps). Even if we went to a fuel cell, our V8 couldn't do this. Also, our drivers start making mistakes after 1.5 hours. See experience re'q above)
3) Reliable car that can run for 16-18 hours on a weekend flat out. We are working on this as well and with the recent radiator & oil system upgrades, we might be able to pull this off with a V8 car. We were OK at 140HP but that was just so boring/scary to drive. Emphasis on Might.
4) Team & infrastructure (parts/etc) that can rebuild the car in case of an accident/parts failure at the race.
- We couldn't do this the first race (didn't need to b/c we were lucky) but we can pretty much rebuild almost everything and have spares for everything now: spare engine+trans, full suspension spares inc struts/shocks, springs, spindles, UCAs, and LCAs, brakes, pads, etc. It helps to have parted out 4 cars and just consistently bought parts on Rockauto.
- We are definitely in the minority as one of the few teams I've ever met without one member who is a professional mechanic. After 5 years, we've touched/rebuilt most systems in the car now except: steering (never swapped a rack) & ABS. I think we are OK here now (it also helps also to have two professional mechanics - Madmikey and Dan -- on speeddial if needed
To win The Second Way - Uniqueness
1) You need a car that is more unique that our tbird. Sure we have a chicken cam and a shopping cart but we haven't grafted on a plane, swapped in a radial engine (not a rotary), or built an homage to The Homer. Those are Legendary builds.
The "Spirit Of Lemons" Plane Car Raced And Didn't Fall Apart
How to: Stuff a Radial Aircraft Engine in a Toyota MR2 ? Feature ? Car and Driver | Car and Driver Blog
The Homer - a 24 Hours of LeMons race car
2) To win IoE, you need something old, weird or both. A LADA (or anything eastern european), a Bricklin, early 70s discontinued GM car (Plymouth Arrow), or a Yugo with a mid-engine swap will do it. Our tbird is simply too common to really stand out even with an epic theme. Maybe if this chassis ever dies we will consider swapping out the drivetrain into something more spectacular. Like maybe a Brat with the 302 mounted in the bed underneath a doghouse might stand a chance.
Bottom Line: while a trophy is always nice, you race for the fun of it and the challenge of the build -- not the glory. Or the money. After all, the overall win pays $4-600... in nickels. an IoE pays $601. still in nickels.