Legend Race Cars May Look Goofy But Are Serious Fun

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From the October 2022 concern of Automotive and Driver.

Ignore the goofy physique. The Legend automobile appears to be like the way in which it does—like a nitromethane Shriner fever dream—as a result of that is the essential form of a human sitting upright behind a bike engine. Thus the bodywork takes the type of a Nineteen Thirties Ford or Chevy coupe, 5/8 scale, recalling the prewar bootlegger hotrods that spawned NASCAR. What else might it actually appear like? No person desires to race a Converse All-Star.

However that composite physique, cheery and cartoonish, is draped over a real-deal race automobile. A 12,000-rpm Yamaha FZ09—three cylinders, 847-cc, fuel-injected and water-cooled—drives the rear wheels by a six-speed sequential transmission mated to a locked rear finish. The Yamaha makes 125 horsepower in a automobile that weighs about 1100 kilos (guidelines stipulate that automobiles should weigh not less than 1230 kilos with the motive force after a race). That is a stout power-to-weight ratio to squeeze right into a 74-inch wheelbase. Fashions constructed earlier than 2018 used bigger air-cooled four-cylinder engines with carburetors, 1200 cc or 1250 cc, and people nonetheless race alongside the FZ09 automobiles. The massive engines put down much more torque, 100 pound-feet on the wheels versus the FZ09’s 75 pound-feet, however that does not actually confer a bonus if you’re operating 13-inch-diameter bias-ply tires. Traction, not energy, is all the time the limiting issue.

legends racer
legends racer

If all that sounds to you want a recipe for good occasions, I might agree. So, I ventured to Charlotte Motor Speedway to attempt a Legend automobile on the 13-turn infield kart observe, which was designed to FIA specs to host world championship occasions and isn’t to be confused with the setup at Jimbo’s Go-Karts and Putt-Putt Emporium down on the seedy finish of your native seashore. At Charlotte, I met Graham Smith, managing director of US Legend Automobiles Worldwide; G.E. Chapman, normal supervisor of the corporate; and Darren Amidon of Darren Amidon Racing. All three go deep with their data of, and enthusiasm for, these little race automobiles.

“Legends race in 39 states and 28 nations,” Smith tells me as we method the check automobile, which wears an unadorned plain white physique, Ricky Bobby with no sponsors. “They’re large in Finland. And there are collection for grime, asphalt oval, and highway course. You may set them up for something.” I counsel ice racing, and it seems that is been carried out—simply attempt to hold Swedes from throwing studded tires on a rear-drive automobile.

legends racer

Ezra Dyer|Automotive and Driver

legends racer

Ezra Dyer|Automotive and Driver

legends racer

Ezra Dyer|Automotive and Driver

Amidon and Anderson assist get me belted into the automobile, which requires some adjustment as a result of the earlier driver was a child. This is among the few race machines that accommodate a 12-year-old (Younger Lions division, ages 12-15) after which an grownup racing on the identical evening. The Masters division, the place I might land, is for ages 40-plus and infrequently sees probably the most ferocious competitors. A tachometer is the one instrument, and the quick-release steering wheel is flanked by a skinny shift lever to the correct. The clutch pedal is much to the left and its pad appears in regards to the dimension of 1 / 4, retaining itself out of the way in which since you solely want it to get transferring. The brake pedal is formed like a large U with the steering column protruding by the center so that you could brake with both your left or proper foot. And that is about it. Smith cautions that the bias-ply Hoosiers will take a couple of laps to warmth up, and I am despatched off to determine the remainder out for myself.

About 10 minutes later, I’ve primarily discovered that I want a Legend automobile in my life. My older son is 12, and driver ed simply is not going to show him what he must learn about 10,000-rpm upshifts out of Flip 7. And for me, spending time teasing out the boundaries of 4 contact patches is kind of like incomes a unbroken training credit score, proper? Or perhaps you do not really want any justification, past the search for a race automobile expertise that does not require a Components One price range or a level in engine constructing from Fenway Roush College.

legends racer

Ezra Dyer|Automotive and Driver

And a Legend automobile actually delivers full sensory immersion, engine screaming by its stubby exhaust as you wrestle it by corners, lurid slides costing time however paying off in foolish enjoyable. On the brakes, you get indignant pops from the exhaust accompanied by light deceleration—the entrance rotors are 10-inch Wilwoods, however the rear finish makes use of Toyota drums. Path braking looks like the transfer, inducing that locked rear finish to relinquish its grip on the pavement just a bit bit and get down with the enterprise of turning. As soon as it takes a set, the Legend feels prefer it has loads of grip, however any transfer to upset it, whether or not by way of throttle or brake or a breath of steering lock, can summon a slide. Smoothness is rewarded, clumsiness punished. Which is true of any automobile, actually, however the suggestions right here is information you should use in real-time, rapid and visceral. Get barely grasping with the throttle in a sluggish nook and you will not simply really feel the understeer—you possibly can see it, entrance tires proper on the market previous your ankles, scribing the message that typically you must go sluggish to go quick.

All of which is fantastic. However the actual attraction right here is that the Legend system removes bottomless cash and mechanical aptitude as obligatory precursors to participation. Automobiles price $17,500 new, and you’ll’t spend your strategy to competitiveness. Engines are sealed, specs are tight, and elements are low cost. The most important distinction between any two automobiles is who’s within the driver’s seat. You will discover used ones with the older air-cooled engines able to race for about $5000.

legends racer

Ezra Dyer|Automotive and Driver

legends racer

Ezra Dyer|Automotive and Driver

Amidon gestures to one of many entrance Bilstein dampers and says, “These shocks have been $100 when these automobiles first got here out in 1992. They’re nonetheless $100.” And that is not only one unusually low cost half—a fender, as an illustration, is $85. “Say you’d put it into the wall and tore the entrance nook off,” Chapman says. “Fixing it will price, oh, a couple of hundred {dollars}.” Engines can final a number of seasons, and once they want a rebuild, it is $2400. Distinction that with karts, the place in some lessons aggressive engine life is measured in races, not seasons, and a brand new engine can run $10,000 by itself. Even the tires final eternally, in race-car phrases. “The tires on this automobile in all probability have 600 laps on them, and so they’d be authorized for a race proper now,” Smith says. “A brand new set of tires would possibly offer you a bonus for one warmth, however after that, it evens out.”

Legend alums embody many large NASCAR names, reminiscent of Bubba Wallace and Joey Logano. The collection generally is a steppingstone towards grander racing ambitions. Or you possibly can simply have a blast, racing on weekends for bragging rights and adrenaline, going nowhere quick.

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