Motorsport: Successful debut for 24 Hours of LeMons

By Matt Greenop

Photo / Matt Smith Photography
Photo / Matt Smith Photography

No matter what the weather gods are doing, Kiwi motorsport fanatics seem to love it lemony fresh.

The inaugural 24 Hours of LeMons endurance race kicked off on Saturday under a miserable grey Waikato sky at Hampton Downs. But by close of play on Sunday the weather had cleared and you couldn't wipe the big grins off the faces of organisers, competitors and spectators alike.

This race format has taken off worldwide, and with a massive field of teams, all campaigning cars bought for under $1000, showed that motorsport in New Zealand has got plenty of room in the jam-packed calendar for budget events like LeMons.

Series director Jacob Simonsen says that the format's obvious core audience is those who love motorsport and have always given it a go - but have been scared off by the need for huge budgets to remain competitive.

"We've all heard the motorracing horror stories," Simonsen told Driven following the popular event, "and there's always someone keen to pipe up and say that a season in 'Class X' won't leave you with any change from a couple of hundred grand. Not surprisingly, this can see wives disappearing over the horizon clutching the credit cards.

"But the feedback we've had over the weekend has shown that not only was this the most fun some of the guys and girls have ever had around cars, but that it wasn't a bank-breaking exercise.

"It's led many to re-evaluate ambitions in other types of racing, but most have said they'll be there with bells on next time.

"We're already looking at expanding the LeMons calendar in New Zealand - and there wasn't one single competitor that indicated that they wouldn't be back. I've been involved in events for many years, and must say that the crowd - punters, racers, spectators and hangers-on included - was happier, more polite and more enthusiastic that I've ever seen.

Simonsen commented that despite the fact that the weekend's weather was of "even lower quality than some of the awful cars" on track, there were a good number of spectators.

He said those who had tackled the elements to come to Hampton Downs to have a look at the event with an eye on getting involved next time were all excited about the prospect of competing next time.

"It really did surpass all expectations," said Simonsen, "it proved to us that not only is there room in the New Zealand motorsport scene for something like LeMons, but that something as irreverent and informal as this is providing a perfect stepping stone for those who want to take the next step into things like Uncles Club, 2K Cup or Targa."

Simonsen assures the LeMonheads that there'll be news of more events very soon - including three next year.

- NZ Herald

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