Track days, open lapping days, or HPDEs (high performance driving education/events) are one of the quickest ways to get on a racetrack. At most events, you drive your own street car, and safety requirements are minimal. But is a track day the best way to experience the track? Here are six reasons why Lemons is better.
Most track days have structured run groups that go out for relatively short timed sessions. And that’s track “day,” singular. Even the non-24-hour Lemons races typically have completely unbroken 7-hour sessions spread across a full weekend. (And those full 24s are like 1400 non-stop autocrosses.) If you have a small Lemons driver roster—two drivers are all that’s required—and if the car stays together (admittedly a big if), you’re looking at a huge amount of seat time.
While the chances of winding up like this, this, this, this, or this may be rare (or, maybe not?), don’t forget all of that other wear and tear that comes with a track day. There’s rock chips, tires, brakes, and explaining to your spouse why the garage smells like burning. All of which aren’t a concern for a Lemons machine (well, maybe that last one still is).
Everyone who has done a track day has a story about how they were being held up by some dingus who trailered a brand-new 911 to the track and tiptoed around like they were trying to avoid rock chips (funny how no one’s stories involve BEING the 911 dingus). Thanks to the specific passing rules that often apply (in fairness, probably so that you don’t wreck your street car), many a driver has spent entire sessions staring at the back of a GT3 wing still in its plastic wrap. Lemons has no such limitations—if you’re faster than a dude, then by all means, pass that fool.
Track day organizers often make an effort to separate run groups based on car speed and driver experience, but that system can show its flaws if the 911 dingus successfully petitions into a faster group, or if a guy who just moved from the B to the A group starts strutting around like he’s Mario Andretti. Lemons instructs its drivers to be courteous to all levels of speed and skill—and the races are long enough that “run groups” are self-selecting. It’s not uncommon at a Lemons race for a Camaro team to realize that they’re chasing a minivan for position, or for an E30 team to discover that their rabbit is literally a Rabbit. There’s always someone to compete with, in all parts of the overall standings.
If you mowed through a set of Michelins or chewed up a transmission during a track day, that’s likely to be 100% on you, but the costs of a Lemons race are shared with however many friends you want to add to the team. There’s no maximum number of drivers or crew, so if you want to split the build ten ways, you can.
Look, don’t get us wrong. Track days can be a blast. But when you’re telling your co-workers stories about your experience on the racetrack, a Geo Metro dressed up to look like a Pikes Peak hillclimber is a better conversation-starter than some guy’s supercar.