I've had a few weeks now to assess my experience at the 24 hours of LeMons, and I wanted to share a few thoughts to get some validation that I'm not some freak.
Let me preface by saying that I've never autocrossed or driven on a closed course at speed, so naturally I decided to go wheel-to-wheel with 94 other cars
for my first racing experience. I only got 40 minutes behind the wheel before mechanical failures and team politics ended my race. I'm a huge fan of endurance racing. The ALMS is my favorite sport to follow.
I have to say that I really didn't enjoy it like I hoped I would. I left the weekend thinking that if I never went wheel-to-wheel again I'd be just fine. I feel this way for a number of different reasons:
1. Even though it's a $500 piece of ****, I'd worked far too hard on the car to risk damaging it in a racing accident. I don't have the confidence in my skills or emotional detachment from my equipment to risk it in that fashion. I imagine when the locost is done I'll feel a million times more strongly in this regard.
2. I just like driving fast. I could care less how I finish against other (much more talented) drivers in superior machinery. I had the most fun when I just said "to hell with racing" and treated it like an HPDE. I'd see some guy come smoking up my tail and I'd just wave him by. That made several other drivers happy and my teammates a little steamed. Still, I knew the best way to wad up the car and end two teams' weekend was to try and race a superior car/driver into a corner on will power alone.
3. I felt trapped in the car. My fault for not taking a spin around the block with a helmet on. When strapped into a car with (already) poor rearward visibility, 5 point belts, a full-face helmet and a neck brace I felt like I was driving blind. Not a fun way to spend time behind the wheel. It took me most of my 40 minutes to learn how to use my mirrors to avoid turning into another car dive-bombing the corner on my inside.
4. I understand the whole "slow car fast" mentality, but driving that Merkur really sucked. Call me spoiled for driving a Miata every day.
5. I felt there was little to no opportunity to actually drive a "correct" line. In LeMons, the correct line is whichever one doesn't get you hit when 4 cars try and occupy the same space at the same time. There was no consistency in my lap times mostly because I was working overtime to try and avoid other drivers who cared less about penalties and crumpled sheet metal.
I'm sure all of my issues would be solved by more seat time, but at this point I'm not interested in spending the money to find out. After this experience I can definitely tell autocrossing is much more my speed, and that at most I'd just like the opportunity to drive the locost at 8.5/10ths on a road course. All in all a very valuable lesson as I kick off the design stage of my build.
Moving forward I feel good designing the car as a 98% road car. I'm also planning on hitting a couple of SCCA autocross events in my Miata before I sell her at the end of the year.
I just wanted some feedback to make sure I'm not weird. All in all I had a good time at LeMons, and I think the organizers run a spectacular event. I feel though, that I'm not cut from the right cloth to enjoy it like others do.