The master server itself isn't down, but the mod hosting system is definitely borked a bit. Mods that are uploaded/updated today can't be driven because of the "Your vehicle is not known to this host" message. It may be a global thing, but I've only tested it on "Just A Ride" so far
Every so often when I try to launch LFS I get a black screen for about 40-50 seconds before it throws the "> LOCAL : TIMER BOUNDED" error and finally shows the main menu. It usually goes away after a PC reboot. Could it be a problem with the hardware I have or does the fault lie somewhere else?
I've followed the steps outlined in the OP and the smoke does indeed show up along with a second of garbled audio before the game slows to a crawl. With the sound clipping prevention feature ENABLED the glitched state may be a bit hit-or-miss to reproduce, though. (On the first attempt at reproduction it didn't go wrong, so in order to glitch the game out I opened the engine sounds menu on the second attempt with SHIFT+A as it overrides the sound clipping option and disables it.)
As a non-racer I never gave much thought to the lap count aspect of it, but I'm certain it was very useful for some people. I mostly used it to see who was on a given server.
As far as the aspect of 'listing mods in use' is concerned, I think a good idea would be to put a placeholder MOD shorthand name along with a notice to the user that they should join the server if they want to see the exact mods that the people in it are using.
Pressed "login with your lfs account" on the wiki. Got redirected to a page explaining that LFS Manual is requesting permission for certain things. After clicking the blue button I got redirected to the LFS Manual logged in with my LFS username.