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Last weekend I did LeMons at Thunderhill, both new and old sides of the track (five-mile lap), with Brian Shorey and his 3.0 Milano Verde. Third driver David ____ (I forget), I’ve run with him at AROSC events in the past. Brian has been running this car many years, this was like its 27th LeMons event. I last ran with him at the 24-hour race at Buttonwillow in 2012.

242 cars were signed up, 220 or so made the start, proprietor Jay Lamm got Guinness World Records to come certify it as the most cars ever at once in a road race. Award pending.

95* at least at the track, I started first stint Saturday AM. We ran the car 2.5 to 3 hours til it’s out of gas, then change drivers. Track was unbelievably crowded and it was l largely a series of local and full-course yellow flags for the first hour or two due to wrecks, spins, breakdowns, other craziness; not a lot of free running. I tried to stay out of the nasty dices, avoid trouble, give the dive-bombers room for their silly maneuvers. I came close to T-boning a 2002 that spun in front of a group of us, missed him and went off track in doing so, came in for my post-dirt inspection, got busted for speeding in the paddock, but we didn’t get a penalty for it. Brian has many brownie points, and maybe I do too, being an old friend of most of the organizers.

We go til the tank runs dry, then gas up and change drivers, so two stops each day. 2.5 hours was over before you knew it, brought car in, other two drivers did their similar stints, we were lying pretty well, like 18th, by the end of the first day. Checked the car over, washed windshield, changed brake pads, two new tires, added oil, that’s it. Off to the Willows Steak House.

My wife drove up in our 1971 VW Westfalia to camp overnight. We found a spot away from the revelers (the Saturday night party gets crazy, lots of folks cruising the paddock, giving away alcohol, maybe to ruin competing drivers the next day) and snooze in the Westy. Up with the sun the next AM, had the coffee and scones going etc.

Sunday Brian took the first stint at 9, then me second. Car was running hot, we added a fair amount of water twice, had to back off some to keep to a happy temperature. I was running maybe 5/6 pace. We got as high as 14th, then as I was planning to come in to change to the last driver, no gas pedal. Engine was running, but no response when you pushed on the gas. Dang, broken throttle cable. Pulled off safely, didn’t start a grass fires, waited for the tow truck. Towed in the wrong way, around the paddock, Brian fixed the cable in 20 minutes, added a couple quarts of water (head gasket may be on the way out), then ace driver David went out of the last session. He kept the speed up better than I did, but got hit in a corner, spun into the dirt, so had to come in for an inspection. Another lap lost. That’s racing.

Went back out, flew for the remaining hour, crossed the finish line in 25th place, running basically as well as at the start, with a remodeled LR door and fender. We did approx 160 laps I believe. New west section of Thunderhill has a different character from the east track, and I wondered if the transition would be awkward, but it was fine, and quite fun. The Milano is a strong, stable platform, handling solid and predictable, mountain of torque in the engine, you can drive in any gear and get good results.

I don’t do a lot of LeMons races, but I like being a fill-in driver for Brian when he needs me. His approach agrees wtih my own, and the Milano is more similar to my Giulia Super vintage car on track than you’d think. Its power is intoxicating.

Two other Italian cars: Wes Conklin’s four-cam GTV6 (twice busted the decibel barrier, had to come in for fixes and penalties) and a Fiat X1/9 with Mazda rotary engine and Volvo suspension. Crowd faves included a 1959ish Rambler four door and a totally stock Peugeot 404 with Eiffel Tower on the roof, tricolor flag flying, and French accordion music piped out for all to enjoy. He stayed to the right, kept out of the way, the essence of LeMons fun.

Here's a Car and Driver blog on the whole thing: LeMons Northern California Day One: 216 Cars Start, 200 Blow Up, Billy Beer Fairmont Leading Class C | Car and Driver Blog



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