If anyone here remembers the Brooklyn Bomb Squad’s not-so-triumphant LeMons race at New Jersey Motorsports park in the spring, it’s time to grab a hankie and wipe away those tears.  For we have returned from the Halloween Hooptiefest in New Hampshire with glory and dignity!  No, we didn’t win (HAAAAA! HAA!!  No.)  Nor were we battling for position in even, well, the top one hundred.  But we did hustle our graffiti-bombed and boosted crapcan Audi out into LeMons traffic and we learned something: it’s fast.  Positively, grin-inducingly fast. Our infamous transplanted turbo motor that singlehandedly torpedoed every one of our races this year finally showed that it’s got serious chops under boost.

Until it broke, which it did again of course.  And again, and again.  All weekend long.

But unlike our previous gut-wrenching failures, we felt we maybe were witnessing the birth of a formidable LeMons competitor, coughing and sputtering its way into life.  Here’s how it went down.

lemons-brooklyn-bomb-NH-2014-PUPPYKNUCKLES-9775The Brooklyn Bomb Squad’s team captain Jay, looking as happy as man could be expected to while drinking McDonalds coffee, not knowing what the fuck is wrong with the engine, and wondering when I’m going to give him money.  After blowing up twice this year already the engine had to be completely rebuilt and by some miracle this actually got done in time for the fall race.  But as it sat behind Eugene’s garage in Connecticut, it ran like crap.

lemons-brooklyn-bomb-NH-2014-PUPPYKNUCKLES-9772Even though fellow Bombers Eugene and Ethan are both mechanics by trade, no one was having any luck diagnosing the problem.  The engine sounded rough and would stumble and break up at higher RPMs.  It sounded like a cylinder perhaps wasn’t firing at all.  Injectors were cleaned and recleaned, spark plugs swapped, each cylinder’s compression tested, and retested.  But something was still not right.

As the weekend approached it started to become clear that we would probably have to take it onto the track with the miss and see if it could be better diagnosed during the race.  Sounds like the makings of a classic Bomb Squad catastrophe.

The guys all headed to New Hampshire Motor Speedway that Friday, but I had an important job on Saturday in New York so I had to miss the first day of racing.  This sucked, particularly because I missed the reportedly somewhat epic hang Saturday night as well.  But the upside was that as I settled in for the drive to Louden, New Hampshire late Saturday night, I already knew that our Audi had survived a whole day.  Which meant that I would be the first guy behind the wheel Sunday morning.  This fact became rather more alarming to me the closer I got to the hotel that night.

Full disclosure:  I’ve done some track days and hauled a butt or two around some road courses before, but I’d never been in an actual competitive environment on any race track before.  Not to mention a race track that would be filled with a hundred and fifty extremely inexpensive, sometimes offensively homemade race cars that are mostly covered with decorative projectiles.

I genuinely appreciate that Jay gave up his hotel bed and took the floor that night so I could grab some sleep, but I don’t think I got a wink.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-9915Brooklyn Bomber Joe K, Sunday morning at Louden.  The weather was cold and threatening.  The team started to make preparations to get the car out on track; I set off to find where to get my driver wristband and get my helmet through tech.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-9917The subdued morning bustle was unapologetically ripped to shreds by the sound of drivers firing their cars up in the enclosed garages.  I’ve photographed a few of these races.  Many of these cars are very familiar to me by now.  As I walked through the garage area it occurred to me that having one of the savage Sorry For Party Racing F-bodies filling my rearview mirror instead of my viewfinder is, well… pretty fucking exciting.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-9898Ever since I had first heard of the 24 Hours of LeMons, I have wanted to do this.  Now it’s happening.  Not pictured here is me wearing Jay’s race suit, which despite us being relatively the same height, still fit me like I was a child.  Joe K said I looked like David Byrne.  Anyway, I got into the car and the guys helped me get the belts really tight.  Then, I backed out of the garage, and headed for pit lane.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-5308The exit off of pit lane curves around and runs alongside the left/right section of turn one and two, then dumps you in with the pack on the run down to the hairpin. I was immediately mired in a wad of loud, weaving traffic.  Somehow I resisted the urge to fill Jay’s race suit with a fearful, explosive poop; in fact, the opposite happened and suddenly I felt amazingly calm.  Focused.  Strangely good.  Later I figured that my mind simply couldn’t process what was happening at that moment and simultaneously entertain any of the useless, petty, and unimportant thoughts I fill it with on a daily basis.

Those went right out the window.  I think I will need this feeling a lot.

I got around the hairpin without crashing, and headed up the hill.  The turbo has a huge lag but when it comes on it is a sweet thing.  I promptly started passing people.  My number one goal was to not crash the car, with not getting black flagged a close second, and going fast a distant third.  Still, I recorded a lap time within two seconds of our Audi’s fastest time from Saturday within just a few laps.  I was thrilled.

I drove about ten more frantic, stupid fun laps and was just starting to think about how I might just be driving this thing for another hour when the turbo was suddenly and simply gone.  Then the engine started to miss pretty bad.  Nothing to do except bring it back to the garage.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-994224-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-9935This would be the pattern that we would follow the rest of the day.  Race car for 10-20 minutes, engine shits bed, chase down whatever ignition/timing/spark problem for an hour, change drivers, repeat.  I got to do one more too-brief stint, then the turbo inlet hose ruptured and the car died completely.  Brought out the yellow and I got pushed back in by a tow truck.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-5520Hangovers were a factor for everyone, but Jay slept on the floor the night before so I didn’t blame him for working on his tan a little bit.  Meanwhile some guy who is a bona fide Audi engine guru graciously dropped by and passed some crucial knowledge to Ethan and Eugene.  All of a sudden the Audi fired back up and was sounding a lot better than it had all day.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-5343Jay got suited up and strapped in.  His would prove to be the longest and fastest run of the day.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-9954We watched as Jay laid waste to the our best times, shaving a second off each lap for four or five consecutive laps.  He proved that the Brooklyn Bomb Squad Audi, when it’s running, is a bad ass motherfucker.  We now have hope for the future.  And I think everyone was pretty happy with how this weekend turned out, too. We all got to drive the car and feel what it can do.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-5506Elsewhere on the track, there were some pretty fierce battles going on, and some equally fierce vehicles.  This zombie apocalypse VW Golf looked like an awesome build.

puppyknuckles-5330Speaking of Volkswagens, I first noticed this van in my mirrors while I was on track.  It wasn’t until later that I noticed it was a car in van’s clothing.  I think I heard someone say there’s an MR2 under there.  Crazy.  This build won the Organizer’s Choice award at the end of the day.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-5304I didn’t really get much of a chance to shoot a billion photos like I have in years past.  Had to stay focused on our car.  But here are a few that show some of the atmosphere.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-5433Right next to the LeMons racing there was a little drift event going on.  This 300ZX looks the part and made some smoke.

24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-530124-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-5314 24-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-987124-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-986424-hours-lemons-new-hampshire-2014-brooklyn-bomb-squad-puppyknuckles-8995These LeMons trophies are pretty rad, I must admit.  I want one.  Congratulations to the winners:

  • Winner on Laps #106 BAR(F) Honda (1994 Honda Accord, Boston)
  • Winner on Index of Effluency #92 Futility Motorsport (1989 Dodge Daytona, Nashua Nh)
  • Winner, Class A (The Good) #242 Keystone Kops (1979 Volvo 242 Coupe, Berwyn PA)
  • Winner, Class B (The Bad) #60 The Magic School Bus Racing Team (1999 Subaru Forester, Syracuse NY)
  • Winner, Class C (The Ugly) #42 3 Pedal Mafia (1971 Sea Sprite 16′, Birdsboro PA)
  • Organizer’s Choice #78 Mod Squad Racing (2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder, Harrisburg PA)
  • Most Heroic Fix #999 Team Sputnik (2000 Nissan Quest, Rockville MD)
  • Judges’ Choice #11 Lemontarians (1982 chevy X-11, New Britain CT)
  • I Got Screwed #52 Cougar Hunters (1999 Mercury Cougar, Charlotte Vermont)
  • Most Work to Make an Unrecognizable Movie Car #123 ERM Racing (1991 Fordatsun Datstang, Unity NH)
  • Co-Winner on Laps #242 Keystone Kops (1979 Volvo 242 Coupe, Berwyn PA)
  • Co-Winner, Class A #242 Keystone Kops (1979 Volvo 242 Coupe, Berwyn PA)

puppyknuckles-8985puppyknuckles-9004Here’s what Eugene thinks of your fuckin’ rainbow!  The Brooklyn Bomb Squad is making plans to run next year in LeMons, and after a promising weekend it looks like our whole crew is on board.  That’s great news.  I want to race as much as possible.

This coming Friday, November 21, Lime Rock Park invited me to come photograph the American Endurance Racing that will be happening there.  AER is another low-buck way to get on the track and there’s likely a lot of LeMons cross-pollination.   I’ll post some shots and impressions from that for sure.  I’m excited to check it out and see if the Audi might be a good fit in that series as well.  Like I said before, I think I need this in my life.  No turning back now!