Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Classic Mini

Surrounded by tires and a light smell of fuel with a Gatorade in one hand... discussing the recent radiator leak we found, a flag station crew casually walked over to our pits and half jokingly asked "a couple teams complained about an aggressive mini... is it you guys? first time I heard somebody complain about a mini on track"...

I smiled, we looked at each other, we knew who it was... but we kept it quiet, and laughed it off.
It was a 60's Austin mini... a right hand drive, a first for me... on my local track, the famous ridge motorsports park. A dream come true...

I would be racing with the famous Mr.Spank who brought a two British car team for the Pacific Northwest Lemons race. While the team won #1st in class C with an Austin America, the mini came in class 3rd, due to some radiator problems. More coverage here on Car and Driver lemons blog.

More of mini racing action later in the video.. which probably will give some hints on how my 2 hour stint really was, but racing with Spank was a unique experience in its own that deserves some attention.

Lemons is widely known as a place where old and shitty cars retire in the hands of teams, drivers who have poor judgment... that's for sure, I would know as I'm one of them.... Costumes, great bbq's, odd penalties...and personalities, cars and creations that make no sense what so ever are raced for hours at a time... worked on days if not weeks prior...

Why do we spend this much energy, $$$ and time in crap can racing... I will never know, I'm only here for the race.. for the drive, that's what I'm good at. But there are quite a few personalities, talented individuals.. who otherwise could have spent their talent inventing, curing diseases or even improving other peoples lives...

Spank is one of them, a talented.. an interesting, a deep, humble fellow... who is well known in the mini cult, but more known in the lemons quarters, for his crazy creations... During Saturday, a Top Gear spin off conducted some interviews by the pits, and I captured some of that with my go-pro... lets hear it from Spank himself on his latest creations... then we'll top it off with me "spanking" some faster cars in a classic mini, enjoy :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The "36"

It was 2:30am, when somebody knocked on my window...
That was a first, being woken up in a parking lot, wearing a full racing suit, in a rental car.
For a moment I had no idea where I was... then quickly realized, it was finally my turn...turn to race.

I would be racing with Team Paul Newman's Revenge at the infamous "36 hours of Spokane" Chump Car race :) This was a well run machine and quite the contrary to a junk had great attention to detail all around.

The madness would start in the dark, Friday at 10pm... span across 2 nights... and end Sunday 10am under a bright sun. But I arrived Friday early and met Jonathan and Joe, an analytical and in tune father son duo. They had a great operation, years of experience and great amount of know how.

I also wasn't the only new driver, met some really cool and passionate people on our team and also got to see Beach Dudes Racing captain who I had raced with last year!

But walking to the pits, putting on my helmet, none of this was on my mind... I only had one thought .... "its dark". I would be driving a Nissan 240SX for the first time on a track that I never raced before and at night, yet again another first... and I was more worried about night than the car or track. All cars had huge spotlights... but trying to learn a track blinded by 50 other cars was one experience that I will never forget.

I had a scary but clean stint that night... really scared the shit out of me. But the next day, under the bright sun, really felt the car and experienced a 90 minute long blitz.. this car can out-brake and corner consistently like nothing else... Was a pleasure to drive.

Our car flipped, we blew the transmission, I believe twice... ripped 2 tires on track, a few contacts. Not to mention all the mayhem and wrecked cars from the 50 that started... I think a bit less than half were running at the end... an amazing race, thank you Jonathan and Joe for the seat!

Btw, its a shame, half asleep I forgot my GoPro, and have absolutely no footage...what so ever. As my wife likes to say ... Idiot!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

One Year

What can I say, has been quite a busy start to summer. Only a few days ago, I  realized .. one year. One year since we moved to Seattle.  I came to this year "fully committed"...but yet uncertain.  Now only a reflection of it in my mirror I'm already too busy aiming for the next one. Like I said its been quite busy.. can't complain :)

It all started with a race I couldn't make, the great  24 Hours of Lemons - New Hampshire , later to learn our car was kaput anyway, well until the last hour of the race. Which got Tom the well deserved and prestigious "heroic fix" award. 

Tom believes this track has cursed us all along. 3 races and 3 mechanical failures, how can he forget that? But I still remember the first one, the one we witnessed the arrival of Andre Gomes, at his first wheel-to-wheel race, destroying our lap times for his first ever outing and as-well as the engine later on that day :)

Now Andre, as I had covered earlier has already started winning races in his first Skip Barber championship. He is either or 2nd or 1st in the points and IMHO will win this! I'll continue to cover his journey here.

Recently, one of my childhood friends Tamer and I decided to dive right into 4-stroke karting. The cheapest form of karting (besides rental leagues ). We both got used karts, engine packages and finally put together our karts and started getting our hands dirty with a few local races, test/tune days and playing with setup.  First race came 3rd, but have to be honest...still a lot more work to do on setup and tuning. I have a feeling this will be a great way for me to learn this part of racing...which I have no knowledge today.

Here is a fast lap from a recent test day:

Tamer also recently got a yellow Lotus Elise.. so I have a feeling both our hands will be busy this summer with karting and track days! :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

24 Hours of Lemons - Sears Pointless Race Report 2013

Its quite ironic that my last post was at a airport getting ready for the first race of 2013 and now i'm yet again listening to crying babies at another airport blabbing about that very same race... the circle of life they say, perhaps... :)

But, what a race that was...! I was very happy to see Jerry and Colin, the mighty RX7, Ozer and his family as-well!  Here is a pic from Sat pre-race meeting with the one and only Mr Lemons Jay, figure out who is who  :)

As I had mentioned in my earlier post this would be Ozer's first race... and i have a feeling it will not be his last! :) He did a great job by staying out of major trouble... had a few moments but we all did when we started racing, those were baked and expected in the plan. I look forward to him joining us for more races in the future in different tracks, in different cars...

Also last December the RX7 had losts its racing virginity with some glitches but Jerry really pulled everything together this time and the car ran very strong the whole weekend. Out of 175 cars maybe 20-25 cars had an edge, rest was fair game! :)

We did have some minor brake issues on Sunday which we sorted out afterwards.... losing brake pressure was an interesting experience, it had warnings.. i had to pump the brakes a few laps, then a few more pumps... but I kept on going, was having so much fun...why stop?! :)

As always, here is some racing footage, first 5 minutes of Sunday morning race start, unplugged. The RX7 was a blast to drive, very rewarding closer to the limit... a true mid-engine experience...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Some Unfinished Business :)

Yet again, here I am, at a another airport waiting for my next adventure. This time I will be heading to 24 Hours of Lemons – Sears Pointless.

This will be my 2nd race on that track, same team, but different car…we will be driving the mighty RX7 with Team Wankle Grumpy Nerds!.  The team made their debut race at Lemons Chuckwalla last December, and let’s just say we ran into some technical glitches and couldn’t complete much laps, but we had a great time at the track and I sampled some racing with the mighty spitfire which was the teams 2nd car that weekend.

But this weekend will be special, we have some unfinished business! Also it will be special because my childhood friend Ozer, which I had mentioned in my earlier post will be joining us for his first ever lemons race! A quick flashback to my first race almost 3 years ago, I remember the butterflies in my stomach, and I almost couldn’t get out of the pits…as the race cars were not slowing down for me! J I’m really happy for him to taste this.. I’m sure he will be hooked! And I hope he doesn’t blame for me it in the future!

 On other news, as I have been gone for quite a while, a great update! one of my fellow racer friends, who raced with us at lemons races back in the east coast, Andre Gomes has made huge news by winning the 2012 Skip Barber INDYCAR Academy Shootout! You can find more information here :

 I’m really happy for him, as I always knew that one day, he will get the opportunity to show his true, raw talent. I suspect this will be the beginning of his new career, and I also suspect he will be very successful, I have no doubt that we are witnessing the birth of a new star!

 This wasn’t easy for Andre however, he almost made it to the VW TDI Cup Iracing had sponsored (which kick-started Wyatt Gooden’s career), but got a DQ for a qualifying incident at the last race. He later on made it from millions of users to the top tier in GT Academy shootout, went to Silverstone, kicked everybody else’s asses (including the instructors) but got eliminated because he was seen as a devil in disguise J But like they say… 3rd is the charm, and he nailed this one! I am happy to be see him get the opputunity he deserves, and hoping one day when he gets to big leagues sends me a paddock pass ;)

 Anyways, that’s it for now.. I have some more interesting bits of news, but that shall come next round!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Childhood Memories and a License

 When I finally made the move to Seattle from Boston, almost ~5 months ago, I wasn’t entirely coming to a new town without knowing anybody. As they say, the world is really small sometimes. My childhood friends Ozer and his brother Tamer apparently had been living in this rainy town for quite some time, and that was something to look forward to.

Although I haven’t seen them since I was 14-ish, a re-introduction was not necessary. We were in some sense the same people but a bit larger, a bit fatter perhaps but also wiser, and we had larger and faster toys now J It was also great to see them as huge petrol heads and track bugs… carrying the Corvette flag. Bikes, cars… and now also a cute little baby girl J

Since all of us had smelled racing fuel one way or the other, it was time to get the racing license out of the way. Although I had been racing wheel-2-wheel for quite some time, that crap can racing did not require SCCA licenses. I definitely plan to race something more in the future,, not sure what,, but I know the license was the natural next step for me.

All three of us signed up to ProFormance racing school, operating from a local “old time” track, Pacific Raceways. The school owner Don Kitch was great, he covered all fundamentals and on/off track exercises with his team in the condensed 2 day school, compared to other school’s which require 3 + 2 days + $$$ to qualify for SCCA licenses.

While walking in the pits, I also met his cute dog ‘GT’.  A great name, for a racing family dog… but as I looked at him closely, I noticed quickly that he was the dog, whose picture is on the best seller book “The Art ofRacing in the Rain”. A bit of digging and talking to Don reviled that the book author Garth had used Don’s racing school content “Art of racing in the rain” as inspiration for his nove and the picture of his dog on the book. This is an amazing and emotional book(especially if you are into pets) and highly recommended…  trust me you will not be disappointed.

Anyways, sitting in the class room, and petting GT, and feeding him my sandwich… I was thinking of the mock-race we had planned for the end of the school. I had already qualified with a ~2.5 second margin on pole… and my heart beat was elevated,, GT definitely was keeping me calm.  Hey this was a proper race with equal cars,, and I would be racing with my 2 childhood friends,,, it doesn’t get any better than that…  ‘nough said, here is that video, enjoy J



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Racing a 1971 Datsun with Beach Dudes Racing

It was still dark when we arrived at Ridge Motorsports Park… foggy.. and a bit cold. Driving around the pits looking for my team I wanted to be as quite as possible and  not wake anybody up in their tents….hey it was only 5:30am, only 3 hours to green flag. I was already ready to race…! How could people still sleep…? Still baffles me…

 Anyways, I would be racing a 1971 Datsun station wagon with team Beach Dudes Racing. The car deserved that name with a surf board on top, although none of the drivers were surfers. Perhaps a contradiction… but so was the car. Under the hood it had a Nissan Pathfinder V6 engine delivering a healthy 210 HP to the rear wheels. Weighing only ~2500 pounds I knew this was a going to be a great combo… but little did I know about the track, the Ridge.

 Over the years racing with different teams, different cars on tracks I had never been on.. I came to expect challenges. But Ridge was different, it was a maze of technical high speed, low speed and off camber turns with massive elevation changes. Youtube videos do not do justice for elevation changes(nor iracing).For example the most dramatic is the last turn in Road Atlanta of course.. a true roller coaster ride, but on the videos it always looks like a small hill top.

 I would be starting the race, a 2 hour stint to be exact. I literally had to learn the track the first few warm up laps before green flag dropped… and to be honest it took me at least 20 minutes to figure the damn track out. I took it nice and easy at first as I discovered the car had massive but predictable over steer. I think it was ~30 minute mark when I radioed-in that I would be opening her up… and off she went.

 I don’t remember much after that to be honest… I remember being radioed in to pit in which felt like 20 minutes but was actually 2 hours, getting out of the car and asking where the mechanic of the team was,, and I remember congratulating him for that engine. The brakes and handling struggled but the engine made it up for anything…I mean anything on the track. I don’t think I got passed the last 90 mins of the stint, and surely could have gone even faster if I had bigger balls. Regardless I set the fastest time for the car with a ~5 second margin.

 Thanks to Beach Dudes Racing for giving me the opportunity to race with them and I hope I get to join them for future races… They really have  a great operation, a first in junk car racing, a fully dedicated pit crew, mechanics and the best food on the track!

 Oh.. and of course Coco… the team mascot J