24 Hours of Lemons race growing in popularity

24 Hours of Lemons race growing in popularity

You've probably heard of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the 24 Hour of Lemons, well, that's a whole different story.

It's not as fast, glamorous or big budget as the French race, but it's growing in popularity and it's coming to New Zealand.

You've heard of grassroots motorsport, and here it is in action -- New Zealand's biggest car race.

"You can't stop laughing the whole time," says time attack racer Kat Benson. "All your senses go out the window because you just want to go fast. But you can't!"

For Benson and drifter Jodie Verhulst, the chance to drive in September's 24 hours of lemons was too good to turn down.

"It's the low budget, doing it with a team," says Verhulst. "It just encourages a whole lot of fun for next to nothing."

Lemons racing started in the United States and has spread around the world as a glamour- and ego-free antidote to top-level motorsport.

"I love people getting out of their cars with eyes wide open and adrenaline pumping after they've been driving round the track in an absolute heap of a car," says Jacob Simonsen.

The heap thing isn't really an option. The number-one rule of lemons is that the race car must cost less than $1000. But that doesn't include safety, with strict rules in place.

With drifter Fanga Dan and land speed record holder Ray Williams signed up already, there's plenty of fizz -- a lemonade budget instead of the champagne at the real Le Mans.

"When I started in the '70s we just drove our cars to the track, pumped up the tyres and went racing, and it was huge amounts of fun," says Williams. "I think things have been wrapped up in cotton wool since then."

Hampton Downs will host New Zealand's first-ever 24 Hours of Lemons, with more than 50 cars expected to start, and a lot less are expected to finish.

"It's like that great weekend in Vegas it just continues to give," says Simonsen.

That pretty much is the whole 'a-peel' of this race -- it's about squeezing as much as possible out of your lemon.