Twenty hours of door-to-door racing in some of the cheapest cars on the market – what could possibly go wrong?
While this certainly wasn’t my first foray into endurance motorsport, I’d never spent an entire weekend with the budget racers from Motor Events Racing. It was high time to find out if there was more to this series than crumpled, mismatched panels and the not-so-subtle innuendoes hidden within parody racing liveries. The inaugural Motor Events Grand Prix at Sydney Motorsport Park would provide the opportunity.
In this series, each car has its own unique character, and every dent has a story to tell, usually followed up with hearty chuckle by one or more of the team. They’re like a metal personality extender of the four or five friends behind each entry.
Yep, this is about as grassroots as it gets, but there had to be more these racers. I mean, 20 hours of circuit racing is a hell of a long stint for well-prepared, purpose-built race cars, so how many of these budget-spec road cars could even go the full distance?
I made three wrong assumptions. The first was subconsciously associating a lack of budget with a lack of preparedness.
I’m not sure if the funny stickers or relaxed nature of most characters in pit lane disarmed me, but just as silly as some of these witty decals were, these teams came equally well prepared. Some teams even arrived with trailers full of spare parts – gearboxes, engines, you name it.
More importantly, every team member was ready to turn a spanner at the drop of a hat, even in their competition’s pit garage if required.
Despite being parked up under a roof next to the tarmac, pit lane had a real ‘rally’ vibe to it. If you’ve been to a few different events you’ll know what I mean, and if you don’t, take this as your cue to explore some other forms of motorsport.
The second mistake I made was assuming most of these punters were here purely for a laugh or a weekend away with mates, spinning tools and sinking tins afterwards. Sure, that a fair description for some of the teams, but the overwhelming majority came with the same determination to finish the weekend, just as any professional race team does.
While this won’t apply to every Speedhunter reading this, for the vast majority of us, any form of real competitive motorsport beyond a track day with mates ends the second we wake up and open our eyes.
Cars, spares, crews, tyres, safety equipment – it’s a huge undertaking, and that’s before factoring in for what happens when racing goes wrong. Which it does.
Sadly, most of us view racing as an unrealistic goal. I sure did, but after this particular weekend at SMSP, I’m now not so sure.
We may need to adjust our aspirations slightly, but if trading down from a McLaren Senna to a Mazda 6 opened the door to motorsport, would you walk through it? My wife doesn’t know it yet, but I’ve already been crunching the numbers.
Through events like these we really can all be heroes. Albeit, heroes with less special effects, fewer gadgets and much, much cheaper costumes.
The final mistake made was underestimating how much enjoyment watching 20 hours of these mighty little sh*tboxes fighting lap after lap could offer.
Obviously I enjoy rare and exotic metal, but not to dissimilar to these raw rides, I too was stripped back to basics. An eye, some lens glass, a few cars and mother nature.
From a photographer’s point of view, I really didn’t expect to have so much fun across the weekend. With zero glitz and glamour on display, there was no resting on the inherent interest of the subject.Living The Dream
The last time I stood trackside at SMSP, teams were battling for one superior single lap at the 2022 World Time Attack Challenge – the polar opposite of what Motor Events Racing‘s competitors were facing at this event. Twelve gruelling hours on day one, beginning mid-morning and finishing well into the cold, dark night.
Racing resumed the following morning for an additional eight hours, the checkered flag scheduled to coincide with a brilliant sunset.
Drivers contended with wet conditions for most of the morning, which meant teams had to modify strategies to accommodate for the frequent patches of heavy rain and standing water across some parts of the track.
Tyre choice was a hot topic in most pit lanes at least until early afternoon.
Some of the newer teams to Motor Racing Events competition quickly learnt that this endurance race wasn’t about maximum attack. Rather, they’d need to search for a balance between speed and mechanical sympathy. Fortunately, they’d have an entire weekend to catch on and try to catch up.
Strategy and smooth driving were the cornerstones of success. Quick pitstops, minimising damage, and of course a fortuitously-timed red flag around fuel stops and driver swaps would make or break a team’s chance for victory more than any horsepower advantage could provide.
As it turned out, some fast online classifieds search skills would prove to be the most important of all for at least one team.
Team manager Simon Walker was probably wishing he’d chosen a different team name when their Civic Unrest Honda stuck it to the man and flatly said ‘no’ to racing; spitting a rod through both sides of the bottom of the block. But the team weren’t about to submit to their wily little race car. Instead of calling it quits, they shifted their focus to some digital digit racing, trawling the classified for the parts needed to continue. A replacement engine was found just 10km from the track through Facebook Marketplace.
It may have taken most of the day to complete the engine swap and have the car up and running again, but the Civic rejoined the racers out on track for a few laps late into the evening. Unfortunately not for long though; a CV joint decided it was all too hard. This time the boys hit up Australia’s equivalent of Craigslist – Gumtree – and got back to work in the garage.
At this point of the race the Civic was a stack of laps behind, but the guys were chuffed passing that checkered flag and emerging victorious after fighting demons across the weekend.
While not as glamorous as the Bathurst 12 Hour, as fast as WTAC or prestigious as Formula 1, and even with the odds stacked heavily against them, these blokes lived the dream.
I came away from the weekend feeling good. Not just because we had a pretty rad weekend, but because I’d had a shift of perspective. Now, motorsport doesn’t seem completely unachievable or unreachable.
So what are your thoughts? Could you trade down your ‘what if” and ‘one day‘ for right now and a cheap Hyundai?
Now this just shows that I really really need to get into budget racing
Where do I sign up?
Looks like the Aussie version of 24 hours of LeMons but with nicer and cleaner cars
Many of the cars were originally built for the short lived LeMons series in Australia. It's a lot more fun for those who prefer 80% less wacky cars than LeMons offers with more focus on the teamwork and engineering challenges of keeping the car on track. Not knocking LeMons of course, both have a well deserved place I think.
I also race in this series and it's an absolute blast, best bang for buck wheel to wheel racing you can do.
This article deserved more love than it got. Budget racing is a blast! Sure, having a top notch car with a fully backed team would be nice, and that's nothing more than a pipe dream for most people. Get out there and get some seat time under your belt.
What's the story behind the copycat liveries?
I would love to participate to a budget race, lemon race, or whatever it's called in the region it's taking place even as a crew member if driver option is not available. The problem the longest track at my region is a go-cart track little bit shy of 1km; the only aspect of racing i could participate is hillclimb but working aboard in remote areas is not helping neither in scheule nor the behind the wheel time. i'll just keep enjoying the backroads for the time being.