New Jersey Miatas and Modern Fiat 124 Spider End of Season Meet

First, forgive me for being a selfish prick and not sharing the news of the event sooner. I forgot to remember until… and of course the actual date (today) got rained out! So see you all next week…

The peeps behind this event seem to focus on two major events per year… the season opening meet and end of season meet like this one. Not sure if anything happens during the summer but I’m really glad they organize these ones. Often with prizes given away from vendors that support Miata events around the country like Moss Miata and Flyin’ Miata. (possibly others)

Anyway, I’m especially happy to see Modern Fiata’s invited to attend, and really hope to see one at the next one.

For me it’s going to be a crazy day next Sunday. I was scheduled to pick up a rental car at LaGuardia Airport in NYC and drive down to Florida for the Historics (HSR) races at Daytona International. But I don’t want to miss out on this little gathering. So I’ve re-booked my rental car for 8pm… which should give me enough time to chill down the shore, go home to park my Miata. Take public transport to the city, a shuttle bus to Hertz, and bring the rental home before leaving for the thousand mile journey first thing Monday morning.

Should be fun!

Come join us…

Cars & Coffee at Ray Catena Dealerships in Edison, NJ October 2017

A gorgeous day for a car show!

Today’s venue was advertised by Cars & Caffe of Bergen County at the invitation of Ray Catena dealerships in Edison, Central Jersey. RSVP’s very encouraged because of limited space but the event seemed quite small which allowed for decent pictures without too many people walking into a shot… yay!

Hey that’s a pretty bike with both HRC from Superbikes and a MotoAmerica sticker on it.

I love the look of that shift knob… the “Ferrari” look that I got going in my in Miata right now with an eBay black ball shift know I bought.

Demon’s are all the rage these days! And Hellcat’s too…

Glad I finally caught this Ford GT without anyone around to get a decent shot. Also happy that it brought some color to an otherwise very-suburbia event where everyone drives dull color cars, lots of silvers and grays, whites… etc.

Two of these beautiful Ferrari’s made it out today… Cool!

It’s incredible how these Gallardo’s already seem like such classics. They were the newest mass production Lambo just a few years ago.

Pretty incredible how bright a simple “white” color car can be!

Do these stickers really work?

Three of the new Civic Type R pulled in together… overheard people talking paying $50-$60k for these… really? Really? For a Civic?

The gold wheels really suit this car. I don’t know about getting/or painting my wheels similar color though. Nice to see though!

Nice side-by-side of a Range Rover vs. a Jaguar SUV. Silly me always thinking Jag made the cars while Land Rover focused on off-roaders, but things are sure changing.

I know McLaren has a rich history of Can Am racing, didn’t realize they had special edition cars commemorating that fact.

California 8 hour at Laguna Seca Debut of Intercontinental GT Challenge in America

Welcome to the California 8h the debrief.

Man was I looking forward to this event… not so much because I thought it was going to be a thriller (it was good, but in a genetic GT racing kind of way, fairly predictable) but because I wasn’t sure it was actually going to happen… even a week before race day!

Why do I say that? Because this is SRO’s second attempt at bringing the Intercontinental GT Challenge to America… I specifically signed up to volunteer the PWC season opener at COTA last year just for the Circuit of the America’s 6 hour race… that never happened.

I am glad however that this event took place, and most importantly that it was a success! We only had 19 cars on grid, which is a low number. But the racing was good. One brand dominated… Nobody could keep up with the pace of the Audi’s… not McLaren. Not Acura. And definitely not Porsche whose very reliable 911 GT3 RSR’s started falling lap down first… at one point there was only four cars on the lead lap, which is silly.

Luckily the battles for first were good. Team Land Audi lead for most of the event. Belgian Team WRT took over briefly and then spun out into the kitty litter, going down a few laps by the time it was recovered. And Magnus racing saved the best for last and won. McLaren ran Okay… went down a few times but finished on the lead lap. And Acura didn’t fare so well either. One of the cars DNF’ed… the other finished in fourth or so. I think all of the Porsche 911’s finished a lap down. In GT4 field the Ginetta, Aston Martin and Porsche Cayman had a great battle. And the Invitational Mazda3 V8’s finished a strong 9th and 10th. Which is pretty cool! Those cars were very neat… one was left hand drive, one right hand drive. And featured two shades of the Mazda famous red paint. (while being powered by a Ford Coyote 5.0 liter V8)

So what’s the verdict for this event?

If it happens again, I think it would be tremendously better if more cars show up. That of course could be said about any other event, but in this case it would have made a huge difference.

Anything else they could change?

YES! I hope and pray that SRO or USAC/PWC/SFR SCCA spring up a few bucks to buy some “SC” – Safety Car boards. It was absolutely absurd waving double yellows every time there was full course caution. Who made that decision? It’s Stupid! Any kind of waving yellow flag for no good reason (absent an SC board) waters down/diluted the importance of the safety aspect of waving yellow flags. How much could the boards possibly cost? Can’t SRO just bring their own… I mean they already bring containers full of equipment. Bring the pink Code 60 flag along too! If I could change one thing I would have changed that first…

Grand Prix of Monterey PWC at Laguna Seca the debrief

Grand Prix of Monterey, not to be confused with the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, was a PWC season finale last weekend a few weeks after a similarly named IMSA race took place (just ahead of it’s season finale at Petit Le Mans in Georgia (Road Atlanta)).

This was a weird event because the big boys, the GT-class including amateur version GTA and GTC as well as the standalone GTS series had already run their season finale a few weeks prior at Sonoma. This meant we wouldn’t see Cadillac ATS’s race around this weekend, or the Nissan NISMO GT-R’s, or the Bentley Continental GT’s or the volume of cars we had last year at this very event. Some (very few) GT’s showed up for the California 8 hour, but I’ll write about that event separately.

So Touring Cars were having their Grand Prix. There were so many cars in the top TC class they ran separately from the smaller and less powerful cars TCA’s and TCB’s. The TC field had a very strong presence of the new BMW M235i’s which had 11 vehicles on the grid. There was a nice sprinkle of European TCR cars in the form of Audi S3 LMS widebodies, which did remarkably well. And then there were my favorite’s… The NC-gen Mazda MX-5’s with a 2.5 liter engine and a big wang in the back to distinguish them from the Miata’s in the lower TCA class which are more stockish. There were three MX-5’s in TC class this weekend. The #54 car which did remarkably well and finished second in their first race. And John Weisberg’s #5 car which ran mid-back for both of the races. There was also a late commer #17 car which came out for the first race, was smoking a lot and didn’t return for the second race.

A very familiar car from BERG Racing from Upstate New York.

This car ran super strong, finishing second in the first race. Amazing feat considering all the competitors it raced against that seemed much stronger.

The TCR cars were very well represented! And one of the Compas 360 cars won both of the races and subsequently the championship.

As usual the BMW field was best represented in TC class.

There were also several Honda Accords running their front wheel driver machines which seemed to really struggle around Laguna Seca circuit. Both suffered wheel failures at some point during the race weekend.

In the TCA/TCB races the Toyobaru BRZ/GT86 thing couldn’t be touched, it smoked everyone else… and then it came out the car was disqualified and a Miata which followed this car some distance to second actually took over the first place. Hmm!

The funny looking hard-top Miata’s did remarkably well in their races. Running very strong. The finish had a great mix of cars in it: Toyota followed by a Mazda, followed by a Honda… so no one brand dominated. Of course the Toyota ended up getting disqualified and it’s teammate retired before the end of the race.

This fella ran out of brakes in the first race, but had a much stronger finish in the second .

And finally the TCB field is being retired next year, so no more Mazda 2’s on this level of racing… I’m sure they’ll still have a long life of racing on the club level though.

I had an awesome time working this event. Though I wish that the Touring Cars ran alongside their Grand Touring cars on the same championship weekend. Having TC cars run their own “Grand Prix” dilutes the idea of a GP of Monterey weekend. They were after all a support series.

Global MX-5 Cup Car Rollover Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Video

I don’t usually post about incidents… for one because we’re not allowed to. Especially not to take any pictures. OR share stories on social media about how something happened. But I think this is an important post about what happened because the video is available online and anyone watching it can clearly see exactly what happened so I’d like to share a few comments and concerns that I have as a private citizen, taking my flag marshal hat off.

First I have to give praise to Long Road Racing for building a car that was able to handle such an incident and allowing the driver to walk away unscathed. The roll cage did it’s job and that’s what matters.

Second, I have to say that accidents like this will continue to happen. There’s no way to prevent rollovers or crashes for that matter in general. As long as there is racing, accidents and incidents will happen. What’s concerning though is that this rollover was the second one to happen under the IndyCar series as a sanctioning body of the series, the other video can be seen here:

…and it doesn’t seem that a solution has been created to allow the drivers to get out of the car unassisted.

I thought it was a requirement of most closed wheel (and probably open wheel) racing that a driver must be able to exit their vehicle unassisted in a certain period of time. (fast!) I understand that there are driver’s racing in various series, including in Miatas that may have physical limits (disabilities) but they too must be able to escape the vehicle if a need arises quickly.

That’s not what happened here, for the second time now in IndyCar Global MX-5 Cup series a driver was trapped. And I’m worried about that because that really shouldn’t happen.

I don’t have a solution for this problem.

But I hope and wish one becomes a reality in the near future.

The scariest part about this incident wasn’t so much the rollover. This was my second rollover of the season that came directly at me. The other wasn’t at Barber, even though I worked that race… I was too far to even see it from another station. But I had a twofer in Canada where a similar small car, the Nissan Micra Cup had two cars tumble towards me, spraying the three of us working the station with debris and dirt, and broken glass. One car hung up on the edge of the tire wall to the point that I had to balance it until a flat bed tow truck showed up and propped it up so the driver could get out with the help of medics. Long story short, the rollovers didn’t scare me at all. But I was ridiculously concerned for the driver. I could see the guy moving in the car… but I couldn’t see him getting out on his own. That’s really scary!

 

PS. here’s Micra Cup video from Mosport, Canada earlier this year:

Global MX-5 Cup Post-Season Global Challenge @ MRLS the debrief

Welcome to the Playoffs! Who says Motorsports doesn’t have a post-season? Well, the Global MX-5 Cup had finished it’s American racing season in September joining IMSA on track at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to determine the championship winner. But Mazda Global MX-5 Cup is literally a Global Series now… There’s a British MX-5 Cup Championship, another elsewhere in Europe, there’s a Japanese MX-5 Cup… and several people from each one of those joined a bunch of Americans at Laguna Seca during the PWC event for another race… the Global Challenge @ MRLS to crown a world winner if you will in the MX-5 world. (he happens to be an American… and he won a bag full of cash for his efforts to win).

The Japanese contingent raced in Winding Road Racing machinery… I wish I could have taken a nice pic of the other car you can barely see in their tent but it was always closely guarded inside… and I missed my chance. The second car actually had some Japanese advertising on it’s sides and front which was very distinctive.

Speaking of Winding Road Racing and several other established American teams, the cars seemed to have changed hands for this event… Slick Sideways racing raced the car above… all the Winding Road stickers got peeled off before it hit the track… along with the PWC TCA stickers it was wearing in the photo above taken on Wednesday during set up.

The fella behind the wheel of this car won the IndyLights championship… and as a Mazda Road to Indy participant found his way into a seat of a Miata… but winning a championship in open wheelers didn’t exactly give him advantage in an MX-5… he seemed to struggle during this event.

The driver o this car nearly ended up in my flat point at Turn 11… I’ll write a separate post about his roll over as there’s a nice video of it happening. He walked away OK but that was a bonehead move that landed him there.

I loved the sticker on the back of this TCB Mazda2 race car… the whole PWC B-spec series are going away, so I’m hoping this fella will find himself behind a wheel of a Miata at a future event next season.

What a fantastic experience this event was!

Another Post Card from the Grand Prix of Monterey and the California 8 hour at Laguna Seca

I wanted to share a few pix from the actual flag points during the PWC and SRO weekend at Laguna Seca… so here it goes.

My goal was to work in pit lane for this event. I was introduced to someone who chiefs that specialty and that person never replied. So to not miss the event, I decided to volunteer as a flagger and instead of requesting a specific post to work (like I did in previous years, like Turn 8 Corkscrew or Turn 2 last year for this very event) I just asked to be put wherever they needed me. And lucky for me they needed me in some very cool place. I got to work for two days in the beginning at Turn 3 which was amazing… and for the last two days of racing at Turn 11 which took the cake!

1957 was an amazing year it turns out… Lime Rock was built in 1957 and are celebrating their 60th this year. So is Laguna Seca apparently, and even VIRginia International Raceway was built in ’57 except that track went on hiatus for a bunch of years recently.

View from Turn 3 towards Turn 2 above and Turn 4 below.

A super convenient station which allowed me to sneak out to do another paddock walk to take some pictures during lunch time on Thursday. My awesome coworker helped me out by grabbing lunch for me at the Social tent which was delicious… I wolfed it down before the practice resumed in the afternoon.

The only European team in attendance. Belgian WRT Audi which “almost” won this event if it didn’t take aggressive actions against another fast Audi that lead most of the race and spun out into the gravel going down several laps before it was pulled out.

Pretty car though…

The Audi R8 that lead most of the race… they also had their Daytona 24 hour IMSA car on display in the paddock. Lead most of the race but were overtaken by Magnus Racing Audi towards the end.

Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Mazda of course had a prominent display in the paddock including their Miata “halfie” street/race car. And the new RF fastback.

I did some shopping before coming to the track so I had plenty of snacks to much on during the weekend…

Oh look “CARS” stamped fishies…

It was cooler in the mornings but the temps went up during the day, and the sun was pretty brutal especially at Turn 11 where I was without any cover during race days.

San Francisco Region SCCA did a fantastic job as usual feeding us.

Though I didn’t win this t-shirt that I really wanted, my buddy Ron who did win for some crazy reason offered to me. I’m super grateful!

On Friday evening SRO had rolled out all it’s cars for a group photo…

A very small group of only 19 cars to race for the 8 hour endurance, most of which typically only race sprint 2 to 3 hour races with PWC. team WRT of course and MARC Cars Australia have more endurance racing experience with Spa 24 and Bathurst 12 hours under their respective belts (along with many others I’m sure).

Thank goodness I had a bunch of bandanas to cover up so I didn’t fry my face… on Sunday it turns out Fort Ord conducted a controlled burn which scared the crap out of a lot of fellow marshals. Especially people working pit lane when ash started raining down (near fuel rigs). Oops!

My buddy Adam who hosted me for the weekend and who also works for SCRAMP came to visit me at Turn 3 and Turn 11.

Monday morning it was a wrap… a wrap of my two week California getaway. Speaking of wraps, I love the cover Adam is using on his Miata, and should probably invest in one for my car. Fits like a glove.

We grabbed one final lunch at my favorite diner in Salinas that severs the freshest salad I’ve ever had: Elli’s (get it, like Ellis Island)

And I headed back to return my 2017 Hyunday Accent at Hertz Seaside before heading back to Monterey.

I’m used to seeing Canadian flags here in New York at most places, but in California obviously the Mexican flag is more prevalent.

Then caught a $2.50 bus ride to the MRY – Monterey Regional Airport just a few miles away from town… where Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was prominently on display encouraging people to visit.

It was such a fantastic trip. I would love to go back…

Post Card from the PWC, SRO, Global MX-5 Cup & Porsche GT3 Trophy Paddock at Laguna Seca

If the title suggests this was a busy event… you best believe it was! Four days of non stop action… which was a complete and total difference compared to last year where PWC ran it’s season finale alone without any support groups.

What was particularly different this year was the debut of the SRO created Intercontinental GT Challenge stop on American soil. An endurance race that joins the calendar this year along the crown jewel of SRO events: Spa 24 hours. As well as the other two races Stefan Ratel hitched his wagon to: Bathurst 12 hour in Australia  and Sepang 12 hour in Malaysia. The California 8 hour is an event they came up from scratch while the other Intercontinental GT Challenge stops have been established forever… some even before SRO got invovled with them.

To me California 8 hour was the main attraction to come out west and volunteer… But there were other surprises. While the Pirelli World Challenge top group: GT/GTA/GTC and GTS classes already ran their season finale the previous month in Sonoma. The lower classes: TC and TCA/TCB were going to have their finale here at Laguna Seca… and for all those pint size racing cars World Challenge came up with a spiffy title: Grand Prix of Monterey! Wow…

But wait there’s more! Global MX-5 Cup had run their season finale a few weeks ago while playing a support role for the IMSA event at Laguna Seca. But they decided to hold a truly Global MX-5 Cup race inviting some European and Japanese drivers to participate alongside their American counterparts. While the purse for winning the event was big, not that many cars signed up to race. But even with the lack of participation their field was larger than that of the main event, California 8 hour.

The best represented group of the weekend was the Porsche GT3 Cup Trophy Series. I completely confused myself thinking these were the West Coast version of our IMSA GT3 Cup… but I was wrong. While some teams/cars participate in both series, the GT3 Cup Trophy isn’t run by IMSA and is a far different series using a whole variety of cars. There were brand new GT3 911’s… some older versions of the car. And a bunch of GT4 spec Caymans too. Cars were distinguished by their windshield banners and the color of their headlights.

So now that I got all that out of the way, here’s a ton of pix I took while roaming around the paddock on Wednesday, the day before the event started:

Laguna Seca is going Hollywood! Last year they added the Hollywood-style “CORKSCREW” sign on the hill overlooking the track. This year the new addition is a Mazda 787B Le Mans winning car cutout at the entry to the track from Route 68/A Road. Which is also joined by a Yamaha Superbike…  it’s cool!

First thing you see arriving at the paddock is the Long Road Racing setup with their Global MX-5 Cup cars… and Enzo!

Lots of MX-5 Cup cars at the event… some raced in the Global MX-5 Cup while others represented the TCA field in Pirelli World Challenge. Easy to tell them apart… the convertible tops were MX-5 Cup series while the hard tops were PWC.

One team brought a souvenir from the season finale that ran with IMSA at Laguna Seca in September

Car looks pretty rough!

Much like the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car series, PWC TC class still run NC Miata’s… though they are modified with a 2.5L engine and a big wang in the back.

One of two Japanese-driven cars in the event…

The TCB Mazda2’s used to be competitive, but it seems to me the BoP has balanced all the performance out of them. This #08 was the first car to be lapped. (multiple times, too)

The rest of the Mazda2’s ran slightly better, but not much. Certainly no match for the Honda Fit’s in TCB.

The new TOYOBARU Scion FRS GT86 smoked the competition. Won both races… and then got disqualified for some reason. Miata which came in second both times assumed the victories afterwards.

Porsche’s were second best represented cars for the weekend, after the Miata of course. While in TC class I counted 11 BMW M235i’s

The California 8 hour field was ultra thin… 19 cars total!

The Coyote 5.0L V8 powered Mazda3’s by MARC Cars Australia had two 3’s on the road… two different shades of red. One left hand drive and one right hand drive. Because of attrition both cars finished the race in top 10… ahead of all GT4 cars.

The only European SRO team to show up… Team WRT from Belgium.

The Acura team looked fast and very promising but after a few hours nobody could keep the pace of the Audi R8 LMS.

The TCR cars did especially well in the TC race

I was easily distracted walking around the paddock… this Audi especially caught my eye:

I suspect I’ll get an opportunity to watch it race on track this year…

It looks like the IMSA series, but the Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy is an independent west coast version racing similar cars.

When I finished taking pictures of cars, climbed up the hill to take some selfies with the Corkscrew.

I had some Mexican food on the way over to the track… and after spending a productive day there, I craved Mexican again… so I gave another restaurant a try in Seaside after the first place in Salinas. And then watched the sun set over the Pacific.

It was a great day!

 

Visit to Canepa Classic Cars & Motorsport Museum in Scotts Valley, California

What to do in Northern California between two fantastic events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca? Visit the Bruce Canepa Classic Cars & Motorsports Museum in Scotts Valley near Santa Cruz of course…

Who’s Bruce Canepa?

I did not know before this trip, even though I’ve been to this part of California many times… but when it comes to Motorsport legends I’m still an obvious newb… Apparently Bruce was a car designer and a professional race car driver. But to me he’s a hero because of an amazing place he’s got in Scotts Valley that I was able to visit and enjoy for over an hour… roaming around gawking, and taking lots of pictures to share here.

The dealership downstairs has some gems. The free museum upstairs is fantastic and I had the whole place to myself when I visited on a weekday in late morning. And the garage area had some unique cars being worked on as well, which you can watch from a bird’s eye view without interfering with the mechanics.

What a place! Go visit now… if you can. I wish I knew about it sooner.

(I learned about it during the Miata’s dinner when people mentioned Canepa hosts regular Cars & Coffee events in this region of Cali)

Level 1: The Classic Car Dealership

Wanna buy a Porsche Carrera GT Prototype? apparently you can…

Level 2: Canepa Motorsports Museum

And my favorite Racing Porsche’s: the 962

And the other Porsche… the baby blue Gulf-Porsche

A Porsche powered Pikes Peak racer

Shop View

And even on my way out of the museum I couldn’t help but enjoy the scenery and take some more pix:

What an amazing place!

Seriously, if you live in California or are visiting the area near Monterey or San Francisco, do stop by and visit Canepa!

Great place to visit is nearby Santa Cruz too…

This is the fifth or sixth Holden badged Commodore I’ve been seeing on the roads in the US.

Oh and while I’m on the subject of visiting California be sure to hang out at In n Out… get an animal style fry with your double-double, and I’m a big fan of the shakes too, especially when you mix flavors.

Day 3: Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – Driving the Circuit

The final day of Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was perhaps my best day in California yet because I got a chance (second year in a row) to drive a NC Miata around the circuit! WOO HOO! My buddy Peter with a beautiful NC2 Silver Soft Top allowed me the opportunity to drive his car after we lined everyone else up for the lunch time parade laps. We were the last car on track in the tail as the head of the parade lead by Moss Miata people caught up behind us. Apparently it takes 350 cars going somewhat swiftly to safely populate Laguna Seca two-wide.

I love this track… I really do love Laguna Seca, what a fantastic place!

I stand corrected on my previous claim of where Miata owners came from… turns out there were MX-5’s from as far as ALASKA!

this is another gorgeous NC in dark green… emerald?

Oh look… my Miata!

Great view of the gorgeous AMG GT’s from the track experience…

My beautiful ride for the drive around the Circuit… this NC2 Sport

Shortly before our parade laps… all lined up!

Let’s go… oh wait more cars on the way!

A Playboy MX-5 Cup car, much like this inspired me to buy mine…

Fewer cars for the parade laps on Sunday compared to Saturday, which was great for going around the track a little quicker…

A gorgeous day for a drive around Laguna Seca!

Fin! The end to a wonderful experience…

Some more photos from the day in the paddock

Sad to see this beautiful NC from north of the border crash on Saturday… apparently the owner would have some explaining to do at immigration before crossing back into Canada

We adjusted the office set up to deal with the strong sun…

Maybe one of these days in the future I’ll get a ride around the track at speed in this official Pace Car (that was actually used next weekend for the Pirelli World Challenge/California 8 hour race)

More shots of the crashie:

Ouch!

…even the glass cracked 🙁

Safety first!

And that’s a wrap. What a fantastic event. So proud to be a part of it. Thanks again to Rick Weldon and the whole crew for welcoming into the volunteer fold. I am super thankful! I highly recommend this event to everyone that would listen. And would love an opportunity to come back and participate again in the future… if I can.