Motor Sports

NEW ECONOMICAL RACE CAR CLASS

by Larry Roberts

February 16, 1997

There's no arguing the fact that auto racing is expensive - so much so that it's passed from the realm of a pure sport into the category of entertainment. That concept stretches from the astronomical heights of international Grand Prix and Indy-type cars down to the quarter-mile oval semi-stockers that race almost every weekend on tracks all over America. Track operators and sanctioning bodies are very much into putting on "The Big Show" to attract lots of spectators, which will bring in plenty of advertising dollars and possibly television rights. The "little guy" racer has been lost in the shuffle and is relegated to history and "the good old days."

And that may be why a relatively new type of grass-roots racing is catching on all over the country and is spreading to Australia and England. Legends Car racers are fairly inexpensive to buy and maintain, provide lots of racing excitement for the driver, put on a good show for spectators and give a feeling of nostalgia to old-timers.

Technically, Legends Cars are front-engined, rear-drive single seaters that are built to a very strict formula. The wheelbase is 73 inches and the width is just 13 inches less. The powerplant is a 1200 cc Yamaha motorcycle engine that produces an average of 120 horsepower. They use a one-design chassis that incorporates a space frame with a built-in tubular roll cage that is full triangulated. The power goes through a recycled Toyota rear end and the suspension carries disc brakes at all four corners, 13x7-inch steel wheels, coil-over shocks and rack-and-pinion steering. The entire rolling machine weighs in at an average of 1200 pounds, which figures out to a very respectable 10 pounds for each pony. The recommended fuel is pump gasoline of 86 octane which keeps out "exotic" fuels and helps reduce the cost of racing.

Very few modifications can be made to these "spec" cars and that keeps the races from becoming a Battle of Bucks.

The nostalgia part comes in with the bodies that cover these diminutive flyers. The are designed to look like the American coupes and sedans of the '30s and early '40s that were the backbone of short track racing just after World War II. They're detailed enough to be recognized as miniatures of the originals, with oversized fenders and in most cases, tiny bumpers. The entire body is made of reinforced fiberglass.

But before you get out your helicopter welder and call the steel mill, understand that this is not a vehicle class that allows home-mades. The cars are made by 600 Racing of Harrisburg, North Carolina, and track-ready examples start at round $12,000. Needless to say, these tiny machines aren't streetable (you won't be driving one to and from the track) so an investment must be made in a suitable trailer and tow vehicle.

According to a recent article in AutoWeek, there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 Legend Cars in the U.S. with a number of them finding their way to Australia and England. In Australia, they are beginning to find favor with Formula 500 teams who acknowledge that its becoming prohibitively expensive to stay up with the latest technology. The same is true of England, where the racing of specially-built quasi-sedans on oval dirt tracks has been a grass-roots mainstay for many years.

The types of events held for Legends Cars runs the gamut of competitions. They race at big tracks like the 2.5 mile, 12 turn road course at Sears Point in Northern California, to the indoor event at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada. There are classes for beginners, advanced drivers and there's also a Pro class.

If you want to get in on the fun, you can contact the IBEX Corporation (the sanctioning body) at 704-455-3896 in Harrisburg and they'll fill you in on the details. But a word of caution: leave your fat checkbook at home. It's low-budget racing for the enthusiast.

Roger Penske and other CART teams need not apply.

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