Low-Buck Tech: Beat the System, Lose the Race?

Photography Credit: Nick Pon

Racing is filled with people trying to Beat the System. Whether it’s Smokey Yunick or the guy from your local autocross who spends more time reading the rulebook than working on his driving, there’s always someone trying to find the secret advantage that’ll help them win.

Most sanctioning bodies respond by adding page after loophole-closing page until their rulebooks crash internet servers. Meanwhile, it’s not unusual for Lemons to publicly announce loopholes or arbitrarily grant budget exemptions to individual builds. If that sounds grossly unfair, it is–but perhaps no more so than the 10,000-page rule sets common in other series. 

Plus, Lemons loopholes don’t play favorites with certain teams, and they often don’t increase the chances of winning. Instead, they’re designed to call the bluffs of the countless internet experts who complain about overspending in Lemons and/or to encourage ridiculous builds. Offended that a car worth more than the advertised $500 cap is allowed to race? Want to build something crazy but know that it’ll go over budget? Lemons officials will be happy to give you the guidelines of a completely budget-exempt build.

That’s how Lemons team The Supranos raced this box-flared, 1JZ-GTE-powered Corona with zero penalties. The Supranos were seasoned Lemons competitors who were tired of getting penalized for their 1JZ-swapped Mk3 Supra. The Toyota 1JZ, for those in the JDM know, is a 2.5-liter, twin-turbo straight-six rated at 276 horsepower. The engine alone was pushing Lemons budget credulity, and installing it in a capable Supra chassis essentially doomed the team to chronic penalties. (Over-budget cars are assigned negative laps by Lemons timing officials.)

Lemons judges were happy to provide the team with a loophole: They could keep the 1JZ and race with zero penalties as long as they installed the drivetrain into an early Toyota Corona. The team jumped at the challenge, quickly procuring an automatic 1969 Corona. They decided to race the car in stock form before starting the engine swap and met with surprising success: A mid-pack finish at Sonoma Raceway was enough to win the top Lemons prize, the Index of Effluency. 

They then embarked on the lengthy process of installing the 1JZ and Supra subframes into the Corona shell, finally debuting the new creation at the Ridge Motorsports Park in Washington state. As with many other complex Lemons builds, there were various teething issues, and the 1JZ-powered Corona completed far fewer laps than it did when it was stock. So, for The Supranos, Beating the System is currently on hold. 

For other teams looking for a secret advantage, Lemons judges have announced that any BMW V8 installed in any full-size American car from the 1970s is also budget exempt. AMC Ambassador + BMW M5 drivetrain = Beating the System! 

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View comments on the GRM forums
Vajingo Reader
12/2/20 11:54 a.m.

I would much rather have a sanctioning body that embraces fun over dollars or rules. Remember the bossy neighbor girl that tried to dictate everything on the playground? Well she's still as un-fun as back then. And us? We still cool. 

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