Tag Archives: Thunderhill

LeMons and the Guinness Book

13 Nov


The 24 Hours of LeMons—the racing series for $500 cars—recently observed its 10th anniversary, the weekend of October 22-23 at GingerMan Raceway in western Michigan.

It was not a weekend that provoked many hosannahs on the part of Team Hell Kitty, ex-officio Car and Driver. Our ancient Honda Prelude Si (vintage 1988), though willing, emerged from the anniversary race much the worse for wear.

On the other hand, given the Prelude’s maladies during the race—persistent overheating, epic oil consumption, a fried wheel bearing, plus a significant rearrangement of the right front bumper—we regarded merely finishing as an achievement, and finishing 41st of 107 starters to be worthy of a modest celebration.

One of our drivers ensured the modesty of the celebration by obtaining the cheapest champagne he could find. Hey, was 10 a.m. a good year?

But in the meantime, while we applaud the 10-year series persistence, there is one achievement that merits its own separate mention, to wit: the 24 Hours of LeMons has a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, for most starters in a 24-hour race.

Does 107 starters on a 2.14-mile track sound like a challenge? That would be the number of cars that started at GingerMan, and it was indeed busy. But the LeMons record involves a bigger number. Much bigger.

The record was set at Thunderhill Raceway Park, in northern California, near the town of Willows. It’s a lovely circuit, with lots of elevation changes. And it’s also considerably longer than GingerMan, 4.8 miles with all sections of the track in play.

The Guinness Book—which is now owned by a Russian group, and has nothing to do with the Irish brewery—has some odd rules concerning who is and isn’t a starter in a round-the-clock race. To be counted as a starter, a car has to run for at least 10 minutes after the green flag flies, and in a LeMons race attrition starts early.

LeMons puts on one actual 24-hour race each year, and this record-setter ran in 2014. A total of 242 teams registered and paid entry fees for the race; 238 showed up for tech; and 214 ran long enough to be counted as starters.

That makes for a very busy track, folks, even though Thunderhill’s max length makes it the longest road course in North America. And with the zany vehicles that show up for LeMons, it’s not only busy, it’s bizarre. Not to mention fun.

We hope to run the Hell Kitty Prelude at Thunderhill in May. The biggest starting field I’ve ever seen there was 155 cars. But more is merrier. Right? Right. Stay tuned.


Zany car prep rules at LeMons, and this Cadillac Eldorado was the zaniest at GingerMan, with two big ol’ V8 engines–one at each end. It ran briefly until the front engine expired. The crew spent the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday moving the rear engine to the front.

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