Monday, April 6, 2009

Hammer's Heroes Fight The Battles, Survive The War!

Man VS Man, Man VS Machine, Man VS Himself. The weekend featured all the classic conflicts...

Ahhh, who are we kidding...they raced a junker car, fixed the junker car, then raced the junker car some more.

Dateline, Kershaw, SC

Hammer's Heroes is a team of drivers from the Carolinas determined to take on the 24 Hours Of Lemons, the endurance race for $500 cars.

The guys bought & prepared a 1983 BMW 320is, a sporty little sedan in it's day...but in need of some real love after 26 years. Thanks to sponsors like Wickens Automotive in Concord, NC, and Dr Bob at, the team was able to turn this once comfortable autobahn cruiser into a scrappy little racecar!

The first hurdle; get through tech. Now, understand that the schtick of this race is that everything is tongue in cheek. They hand out penalties for silly things like not bribing the judges enough, or for having too clean a car. The Heroes? Docked ONE HUNDRED laps because they read this blog & figured it was a cheater car. It wasn't, but rule #1 at Lemons; No Whining.

Once on track though, it was obvious the guys had built a decent little hot rod. "It drove WAY better than it should have" says John Hammer, team principal and the first driver on course. "Honestly, we had less than 10 miles on the car before we had to race it, it was a total crapshoot!" Driver Ed Calcote fessed up "I was REALLY nervous" since it had been many years since he'd raced in competition. Same for Jim Ballard who hadn't been on track since a very serious accident sidelined him at Road Altanta last Fall. Geoff Moller brought an international flair; the South African native has raced at circuts around the world, including the Formula 1 course at Kyalami.

Hammer's Heroes; John Hammer (with Alex), Jim Ballard, Ed Calcote, Geoff Moller

However, as each driver rotated though, making pitstops for fuel & driver changes, they each came back with the same impression; the car was light, tossable & had great road manners. Until...

The brake fluid boiled. The engine was stumbling. Geoff rear-ended a Saab and smashed the front end of the car disabling the hood latch (which we "fixed" with 200 MPH tape). Then there was the oil leak. The worn tires. You get the picture. Saturday night The Heroes worked on the car until 12:30 AM (Sunday!).

The rest of the race was the same; overcoming minor issues with the car, finding enough time to pee, hoping none of the idiots on track ran into the BMW.

And it was good.

In the end, the team passed half the field! Starting 92nd of 94 teams, Hammer's Heroes drove the BMW presented by Wickens Automotive & to 49th place!

The big thanks; Go see Steven; he has the parts you need. Also, Dr Bob Calcote is Ed's brother and an orthodontist in Charleston. His sponsorship helped with our at track expenses. Wickens Automotive in Concord, NC did the suspension alignment which made the car a joy to toss through the corners. Roger Sigears of the Richard Petty Driving Experience did the safety cage & fabrication; what should have been a couple evenings turned into nearly 2 weeks of his work. Finally, to the families who had to put up with the team (and who now have to spend a few days while they come off their adrenaline rush.

And to all supporters of Hammer's Heroes, thank you for making this the most fun weekend any of us had ever had on the track!

So, the question is "What will the team do with the car now?" Easy answer; they'll freshen up a few things then race it again in September!

For more information on how you can be part of Hammer's Heroes, drop a line & be ready to laugh!