One of the cars that caught my eye early on upon arriving at Palmer Motorsports Park was a brand spanking new Mazda MX-5 Cup Car from Long Road Racing (the place I got to visit in North Carolina on my road trip back home from Florida in March).
While I knew the cars were sold as a package to anyone willing to shell out $55k (+/-). I didn’t quite comprehend the possibility of someone getting one to flog it in SCCA Club Racing… in a field of mostly NA and NB gen Miatas… Who’d do that?
Gregory Pecora apparently would. I didn’t get a chance to meet him until the end of the race day while walking back to race control from Turn 1 where I was stationed, and he was conveniently set up in the paddock directly in front of my point so I can see the car all day. But why let facts get in a way of a good story, the whole weekend I was speculating what was going on with that vehicle… you see most of the day Friday, during practice and the first race or two, Gregory was pretty consistent slotting himself between two NA Miatas somewhere in the middle of the pack. I was confused. Shouldn’t the ND be faster than the NA’s? Is he running some sort of a restrictor or a handicap to balance the performance of the vehicle?
On race day Saturday the speculation got worse! Gregory came out on the formation lap while the track was mostly wet. Made it as far as Jessie’s station at Turn 5 pulled over and let the field by him starting the race if not dead last pretty close to it. Then he spun it at Turn 4 on the first green flag lap where I had perfect vision of the incident watching from Turn 1. He pitted and retired from the race. For the second race he circulated around for formation, started the race and retired after first lap again… What the hell was going on?
Things improved quite a lot later in the day when the rain stopped. Gregory started form the back of the field and relatively quickly moved up a number of positions. It was exciting to watch! The leader of the race in car #37 / Flatout Motorsports NB MX-5 Miata, had been dominating all weekend as the driver “double-dipped” and raced in almost every race group (except for open wheeler’s and SRF’s), finished first at least four or five times during the day, in the race with the ND, the #37 car managed to lap him before taking a checkered flag, but then I look across in the paddock and the folks in Gregory’s entourage are happily displaying the little checkered flag winners get for taking the top step on the podium in their class. Had he won that race? Apparently so… I was confused!
I will be first to admit I have no idea how the SCCA Club Racing classes work, even in a group of identical Miatas most cars have several classes stickered on them typically with lines through the ones they don’t want to represent in a particular race. But I thought both #121 ND and the #37 NB that lapped it for an overall win were both in STU… maybe there were sub classes in the same group? Not sure… but it was nice to see the ND win.
I went over to the paddock to ask Gregory for permission to take some shots of his car and he explained to me the reason for early retirements in the morning were because he did not have rain tires for the car…. D’oh!!! Of course that’d make perfect sense… and it would explain why he suddenly picked up speed on slicks in the dry! He also said he set the lap record first time out in his class, that’s pretty impressive also! I congratulated him and snapped a few shots:
Gregory reminded me to give a shout out to Long Road Racing when sharing these pix. He was very appreciative of the outfit saying that he had spoken with them earlier in the day as they were providing technical advice to him for the race. How cool?! So for all you up and coming racers, the choice to get started… go out and buy yourself a jalopy that you can painstakingly convert from street car into a race car or go to LRR and for a fixed amount get a brand spanking new MX-5 Cup Car that comes with all the racing and safety equipment standard, along with tech advice on race day via your phone or internet connection.
In my naive view, it was the best looking car of all the Miatas on track this weekend. Very happy to see one racing on the Club level.