Dartmouth Engineering Alumni Race in 24 Hours of “LeMONS”
By Anna Fiorentino
August 2013 • CoolStuff
In June, Fully Torqued Racing, a team of mostly Dartmouth engineering alumni, arrived at the noisy two-mile track in West Virginia for their first-ever 24 Hours of LeMONS race. Described as “endurance racing for $500 cars,” the event is a parody of the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race. One clunker appeared to be a life-sized LEGO mobile, another team raced with a shark fin on its roof, and Zach Currier Th’12 sat deadpan in a 1996 Volvo 850GLT wrapped in faux wood grain contact paper to complete his IKEA theme, to credit his sponsor.
The slightly serious, always zany series of endurance races, taking place across the US since 2006, has amateur crews racing lemons purchased and souped-up for no more than $500, not counting safety equipment, brakes and wheels. The ten-member Fully Torqued crew, which includes seven other Thayer School graduates—Erik Bell ’08 Th’10, Tom Carney ’07 Th’10, Aleks Israels Th’07, Josiah Gruber Th’10, Yoon-ki Park ’09 Th’10, Peter Williams Th’12 and Calvin Krishen Th’08—averaged 60 mph to finish 48 out of 101 at Summit Point Motorsports Park.
“When you think of a $500 vehicle, you think of buckets of rust, but a lot of work goes into these cars,” says Currier, who first formed the crew with his co-workers at Logos Technologies and other Thayer alums at Alarm.com, both in Virginia. “None of us had done a lot of wheel to wheel driving—it was much more of a race event than we thought it was going to be.”
In spite of the absurd vehicle makeovers and time-wasting punishments for bad drivers—including dressing up like a mime and acting out the penalty—this race isn't all laughs. Many teams struggle just to get past stringent safety and technical inspections, but not Fully Torqued, or the “Torquedos” as they sometimes call themselves.
“It helped that we all brought our experience from Formula Hybrid and Formula SAE,” says Currier, who came in fifth place with the Dartmouth Formula Racing team in Thayer School’s Formula Hybrid Competition in 2012. “We knew there was no way we’d get through the weekend without failures, so we’d already thought about everything that could go wrong.”
Beyond tune-ups and oil changes, there were plenty of firsts for the team, which worked most weekends in the months leading up to the race to transform the 15-year-old luxury vehicle they purchased from a coworker.
“We’d never replaced a clutch, so we had to go online and research how it’s done,” says Currier. “We asked questions to anyone who might know about cars, including coworkers and family members.” It came in handy that Currier’s dad, Thayer School Research Engineer John Currier ’79 Th’81, is also involved with Formula Hybrid.
Now, if all goes as planned, by the time Fully Torqued hits the 24 Hours of LeMons race track at the Carolina Motorsports Park in September and then the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in October, their suspension will be tuned, their pit stops will be lightning speed and if they’re lucky, their family sedan might even average 70 mph.
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