Tag Archives: cali

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 ūüôĀ

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.

Day 1: Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – The BBQ

Last year I weaseled my way into the Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event by offering to “volunteer” with the organizers. I really wanted to be a part of this event at the home of Mazda on the west coast of the US. They said “YES” and I had a blast… luckily for me they invited me back and I could hardly wait to participate. The Friday night BBQ leading up to the event has become quite an experience in it’s own right and in my opinion has grown bigger this year compared to last. I made sure to show up early and lend a hand with shopping for supplies and setting up the dining area out in the parking lot… boy am I glad I did because in the process I got an opportunity to pilot the brand new Mazda CX-9 SUV probably/most likely supplied by Mazda North American Operations for the event on a couple of supermarket runs.

It was a pretty early start to the day… arriving at the Embassy Suites where the BBQ was to be held around 7:30am

The CX-9 fits 36 cases of Shasta and 12 cases of spring water along with three occupants comfortably.

Several trips to the supermarket later we were ready to start prepping all the ingredients for a delicious BBQ

This part of the event was presented by Moss Miata and their crew did a fantastic job doing much of the prep work

and slowly but surely cars started filling in the empty spots in a busy hotel parking lot (which ironically had a conference going on in the morning so the parking lot was especially full when we started)

This fellow volunteer’s NC1 was especially meaningful to me because of the custom license plate… Sea to shining Sea!

Hey it’s a Suzuki Capuccino… err Brapuccino crashing the event!

During the course of the day being in Seaside, California some ten miles or so from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca which is located between the cities of Monterey and Salinoas, we found an excuse to head to the track to pick up some supplies there… to my surprise there was a track day already in progress there! Open to the Miata’s that showed up for our event but also some other cool machinery…

Love the paint job on this 911… and the ND Miata too:

Mazda had a display for the event, and the CX-9 we had at our disposal was clearly showroom condition like the display cars

I did enjoy driving it around very much!

Always wanted to see the off-road Miata in flesh… and voila!

Volunteers working hard cutting Tri Tip as the food line started forming with hungry Miata folk

…so hungry I had to run out and buy some more meat at the local supermarket clearing out their entire shelf of Tri Tip.

Such a great variety of cars some travelling as far as Vancouver, Canada… New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and my buddy from Atlanta, Georgia of course!

Huge thanks to the Moss Miata folks for sponsoring the feed!

Flying’ Miata a huge hit with all of their engine power adder options

One of the many Exocet’s in attendance… this one just arrived from a long trip out of Washington State probably didn’t enjoy the cold windy weather on the drive down… but glad he made it!

That’s a wrap for Day 1

Huge thanks to Rick Weldon first and foremost for organizing this event for so many years… and especially big thanks to my buddy Peter who thought it was worthwhile inviting me to help out with a few things here and there during the event as a volunteer. I loved it!

Gnarly California Trip 2017

Another radical trip in the books… this time I spent nearly two weeks on Monterey Peninsula in Northern California enjoying myself at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

This post will act as a glossary of all of my activities and adventures, which included:

I’ll be writing the individual posts over the next few days so please stay tuned…

The trip went absolutely wonderfully. It’s been a while since the last event so I was well rested and enjoyed the experience very much. Instead of paying for a cheap flight I broke down and burned some frequent flyer miles to get to California. Which meant I could do some crazy routing to finally fly directly into Monterey. On the way over I used my Alaska miles that I got by converting Virgin America points (which Alaska bought out)… luckily two out of the three legs of the trip were actually on VX which was super enjoyable. I love their Airbus A320’s. I flew New York to San Francisco. Instead of getting off the plane and driving two hours, I spent the next four hours in the air over California. First taking another VX flight to San Diego where I connected to an Alaska Air operated by Horizon prop-plane Bombardier Q400 to fly back up to Monterey. My goal was to fly over Laguna Seca and take some shots, but 7:30pm this time of year meant complete darkness… so the only visual I have of the track is what I saw… it’ll stay in my mind instead of captured on a cell phone camera.

Car rentals at MRY weren’t cheap… as expected. But instead of paying $400-500’s for convenience I instead booked a car from Hertz Local Edition in Seaside (and Salinas as a backup)… it was only $162 which is a great deal for a two week rental. Got a Hyundai Accent which got a solid 33mpg! And because I’m so broke I tried not to do too many California road trips… ironically when I returned the car I had put 805 miles on it, which surprised me!

The two events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca were fantastic!

I got a chance to get a ride in all versions of the NC Miata… the early years NC1 – my buddy Daniel from Gerogia who drove his 2008 all the way cross-country for this event. Then hopped into the same NC2 I drove around the track last year (the owner let me drive it again which was awesome!) And finally my host in Prunedale owns an awesome looking NC3 which I was lucky to ride in again. We met at the Miata’s at Laguna Seca event last year and him hosting me for the duration of the trip was probably the only thing that made this all possible.

I can’t say enough positive things about my Cali visit this year. It’ll probably be a while before I get a chance to go again, so I’m going to savor the memories and share them on this blog along with many pictures.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Trip Booked in October 2017

I’m really happy to say that the West Coast trip of 2017 has been booked. I had the privilege of participating in my first Miata’s at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event last year followed by an exciting weekend of Pirelli World Challenge at the same facility, and this year I’m going to repeat the trip. Flights have been booked. Events registered for, the only thing left to do is find cheap accommodation.

It’s exciting!

First, I cashed in some airline miles to actually fly into Monterey (MRY) this time. No more flying to the Bay Area (SFO, OAK, SJC) and driving two hours. Instead I wanted to see the track from the air and there’s no better way than to fly into the Monterey Regional Airport which takes the final approach right over the circuit.

Second, I can’t wait to volunteer again with the organizers of Miata’s at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event. It was such an amazing opportunity last year I couldn’t pass it up this year: ¬†https://www.miatasatmazdaraceway.com/

Third, PWC is going to be a blast because of a potential race that may actually take place this year. I may sound a little skeptical because the SRO advertised a US round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge a year ago at COTA with a proposed 6 hour race, which never happened, and now the California 8 hour enduro is on schedule but suspiciously very little information is available about it. At the very least I think the PWC event will take place, and last year it was great fun to volunteer it. But as a fan of endurance racing I want to see this California 8 hour race happen. More importantly I love the concept of teams flying in their talent… race car drivers, engineers, crew and renting local vehicles to compete instead of flying all that machinery in with them (from Europe, Asia, Australia, etc.) The concept is cool, there are certainly plenty of PWC and IMSA teams that wouldn’t mind making some money from rentals in this way, but will it actually happen? We’ll wait and see.

I will have a few days of downtime between events, so my goal (besides finding cheap accommodation) is to find something to do from Monday to Wednesday in early October. I’ve done road trips up to San Francisco and down to Saint Luis Obispo last year. This time I’d like to do something different.

Can’t wait!

 

PS. as an avgeek I used some of my recently converted Virgin America miles to book a flight with Alaska Airways whom have absorbed VX… lucky for me, I’ll still get to fly Virgin’s A320’s.. and the routing I booked is a little crazy. I’ll do JFK-SFO on a VX A320, connecting to SFO-SAN on a VX A320, my first flight into San Diego, for absolutely no other reason than to connect to a puddle jumper Bombardier Q400 on Horizon Air to do SAN-MRY. It’s going to be fun arriving Monterey on a little propeller plane. On the way back I’ll fly United Express Canadair CRJ-200 MRY-LAX, connecting to a red-eye transcon Boeing 757 on LAX-EWR route. So many dots and lines for my flight map thanks to frequent flyer miles.

42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach the debrief

The day after arriving home from the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in Texas I was back on the plane heading west, this time to California for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Unlike the Texas trip this wasn’t a last minute deal, I had booked my flight a few months in advance though knowing now that I’d be going to Texas the weekend before it would have made more sense to continue on to SoCal from Texas than going back and forth to New Jersey.

As far as the flight goes I was pretty excited about getting a deal but another one came up shortly after I booked mine that made me regret losing at least $75 bux on my deal. I thought I had frankensteined an awesome deal. Direct NY-LA flights were over $100 bux each way. But I found that by booking LGA to Chicago and Chicago to LAX, I could get the trips for $35 apiece. I had padded the trip to give me a few hours between the separate bookings in case something went wrong, but the weather was perfect and everything went as scheduled. On the way back I booked Burbank to New York via San Francisco for $131 bux… which seemed like a good idea because it flew on the day I wanted to fly namely Monday after the event, but a few weeks later I saw United offering $64 each way fares from NY direct to LA, which would have saved me a ton.

Luckily the car rental worked out perfectly. I pre-paid for a car at Dollar for about $120 all inclusive for a week. And when picking up the car I was offered a free drop off at Burbank instead of bringing it back to LAX which saved me a good $20 bux. The car proved really useful around Los Angeles and Long Beach… I was able to pick out a nice Toyota PriusC which after about 400 total miles done only cost me $18 in fuel where Cali fuel runs for $3+ per gallon.

Except for the first night which I spent at a hostel in Venice Beach, I had a neat place to stay in Winchester which is just 10 miles south of Long Beach in neighboring Orange County. The place we got to stay at was organized by my buddy James from Hawaii who invited me to go to Long Beach when we worked together at Bathurst 12 hour.

For the race itself Cal Club SCCA was very welcoming. I got to work turn 8 which turned out to be a really busy station, lots of cars bouncing off the tires in the apex of the turn, many smashing into the concrete just past the tire wall. The thuds of cars smashing into the concrete not only made the cars leave on a flat bed, some left the event altogether… like the Gainsco #99 McLaren.

While the IndyCar race itself was pretty tame and borderline boring, the rest of the series were far more exciting. The celebrity race though was over the top stupid with people recklessly ignoring yellow flags which would have cost someone’s life if they weren’t as lucky. Station 8 was also close to the convention center which meant I managed to go check out what was on display there. Part of the building was used as the paddock for PWC, part was displays for vendors among them was a nice set up for Mazda, which had an Owners Lounge I got to visit and walked away with a nice t-shirt too.

Long Beach, Southern California in general and Orange County specifically is one of my favorite places to visit in the world. It’s like a combination of Singapore and Dubai where you don’t need a passport to visit. I would love to go back again in the future.

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 23 mazda owners lounge

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 13 turn 8

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 11

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 5 mclaren on city street

Post card from the Grand Prix of Long Beach

Greetings from sunny Southern California! Los Angeles, Long Beach and the home of the Grand Prix of Long Beach along the streets of downtown and the beautiful waterfront.

My station was at Turn 8, on Pine Ave between Bay St and Seashore Drive directly across from the Long Beach convention center and along the row of restaurants which turned out to be very handy when the Cal Club provided lunches started losing their appeal.

This time around the station assignment was a little less pretty than my stint at Turn 2/3 a few years ago next to the beautiful fountain featuring a roundabout with a dolphin that made it’s way on TV every time the cars went by. Although sitting at Islands Burger Joint for lunch on Sunday and watching the replay of the PWC race, the track still looks magnificent. Definitely hues of Singapore here stateside.

We were lucky enough to have a bunch of incidents to deal with. Many cars smashed upon exit of our turn somehow magically managing to miss the tire wall. Several McLarens crashed, including the Gaisco Red Dragon which was basically written off for the weekend. The K-Pax black McLaren with a baby blue roof crashed twice. Once bouncing off the tire wall and second time being put into the wall by a passing Porsche 911 which wrote that car off too, the rescue guys had a hard time towing it. Speaking of rescue guys we had a major fuck up during the celebrity race where one of the rescue guys was sent flying over the hood of a crashing car. No good!

I will do a more detailed debrief later, but for now enjoy some pix:

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 1 indy haulers

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 2 cadillacs on city streets

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 3 macau

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 4 indy car on city street

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 5 mclaren on city street

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 6 mclaren on city street

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 6 nissan gt-r nismo on city street

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 7 citroen in santa monica

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 8 cal club

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 9 in-n-out burger

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 10 alexander rossi indy car

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 11

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 12 turn 8

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 13 turn 8

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 14 turn 8

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 15 turn 8

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 16 corvette c7r

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 17 ferrari 488

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 18 mazda mx-5 drift car

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 19 mazda mx-5 drift car

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 20 mazda mx-5 drift car

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 21 lunch at islands

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 22 ferrari 458 world challenge

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 23 mazda owners lounge

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 24 mercedes-benz amg sls crash

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 25 mercedes-benz amg sls crash

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 26 bentley continental gt3

Stay tuned for more…