24-hour race will span car generations


Some owners of 20-year-old cars hope they run well enough to make a problem-free trip to and from the grocery store.

But John Legg of Woodstock in Baltimore County hopes his 1972 Datsun 240ZX will run worry-free for 24 consecutive hours in the "13th Annual 24 Hours of Nelson Ledges Production Car Race" in Warren, Ohio, this weekend.

At Nelson Ledges, Legg and other racers test their cars against new factory showroom models, such as the 1993 Mazda RX-7 Twin Turbo, which will soon be on display in dealerships. This year's race starts Saturday at 3 p.m.

Legg and his team, Spirit of D.C. Legion Racing, won the race last year, setting a track record in its class by completing 930 laps around the two-mile, 10-turn road course in a day's time.

For the first-place finish, the team was awarded $250, after using 200 gallons of gasoline, adding 1,866 miles to the car and going through 20 brand new tires.

"The prizes are minimal," Legg said. "But I love to beat the factory teams. Where else can you organize 22 people and get results like this in a 24-hour period? I get to see my friends enjoy themselves and feel happy about winning."

Legg, Doug Christensen (Ormond Beach, Fla.), Jeff Lucas (Shippensburg, Pa.) and Kipp Gaynor (Rockville) will take turns driving the car for two-hour intervals. The Spirit of D.C. Legion Racing team consists of 22 members who are employed full time in other jobs.

Legg has raced the same 1972 Datsun for the past three years. "Every year we tear the car completely down to the chassis, repaint it and rebuild it," he said.

"Once you get used to the cars, you pretty much know the car inside and out."

During one pit stop, the crew changed a rear suspension in 27 minutes in the pit. "If you took it to a shop, it would take about four hours," Legg said.

But that type of efficient teamwork goes beyond the wrenches and screwdrivers in the pit and stretches over to the grills and makeshift kitchens in the trailers.

Lynne Mann of Fells Point describes her role of maintaining the campsite and feeding the racing team and crew as "peripheral."

After making "lots and lots of coffee" and preparing nutritious meals to help keep the drivers alert, Mann piles the food in a little red wagon, which belongs to one of the driver's sons, and tows the food down to the pit.

Mann also times the laps of the D.C. team and its competitors. By doing this, she can calculate fuel use and average speed.

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