Tag Archives: California

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…

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 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.

Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 2016

Huge Thanks to the organizers of the Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this year (the seventh itiration of the event) and the very first opportunity to volunteer for me. I’m super grateful!

I have already shared a few exciting posts about the individual activities from the weekend, but have yet to write a debrief of sorts, so here it goes.

The whole purpose of the trip for me was to sign the Millionth Miata. I had missed my opportunity several times earlier this year so it was now or never. I had read up about previous Miatas at MRLS (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) on the Miata.net forums and the idea of participating there was very intriguing but I figured with the difficulty I have had organizing local events in New Jersey it was never going to happen. But I was wrong. After quickly reaching out to a few folks through M.net I got a positive response and much more. Rick Welden the MAN behind the operation outlined what my skill set would benefit their project and what my reward for participation would be. A very direct and no-BS approach to the scenario that presented itself that made me super excited to go and help out.

When I landed in San Francisco I was very pleased to see that my Hertz Local Edition hooked me up with a Mazda vehicle. How appropriate? It wasn’t quite a sporty MX-5 like the hundreds I’ll be seeing at the track later, but it had a Mazda and the #5 in it’s name, and frankly having a minivan was very convenient to haul things around, especially one that handled so well. I put over one thousand miles on it over the course of ten days, 1,141 to be precise. And the only issue I ran into the whole time was catching a nail in one of the tires, which was probably entirely my fault (or bad luck rather). The car handled great, was fantastic on gas mileage and I was very pleased overall. With the expensive California fuel prices I managed to fill it only a few times, paying roughly $120 for the whole road trip. But back to the event.

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When I arrived at the hotel where many of the participants were staying Friday night, they fed me first and then put me to work helping out with the food line. I kept the soda’s cold and made sure everyone got what they were looking for. One of the event sponsors paid for the BBQ and that was really impressive to me because it seemed like there was an endless supply of food to be had.

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The next morning bright and early I showed up to help with the merchandise store. We were set up in the next garage from registration which meant everyone that came to sign on at least took a sneak peak at what swag we were selling. Most people bought something which was a fantastic way to support this whole operation because the amount of clothing, hats and posters to buy (not only from the current year but also many left overs from previous years) was a solid investment on the part of the organizers to have this event properly stocked. I did my best selling what was there especially promoting the vintage stuff that was sold for a very reasonable $5 bux per t-shirt or $15 bux per sweatshirt and looked pretty awesome to boot. The posters were a hot seller and even Mazda North America chipped in with some freebies to give away so whenever folks bought something they got to draw a cars to see what they’ve won in addition to their purchase. That was awesome.

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About mid-day on each day of the event I was whisked away to a different part of the track to help line up the cars for the big photo shoot as well as parade laps that followed. That was great! While at the merchandise garage I got to meet a lot of the Miata owners, now I could actually see what it is they were driving, and pretty much everybody had something really special they brought. (obviously I was most interested in NC’s because that’s what I got) but pretty much everything from other generations caught my eye and I took pix of the cars, from NA’s to Exocets. I even managed to catch a ride for the parade lap with one of the NC owners who turns out is also a Motorsport volunteer and lives in Salinas so we later met up for lunch to chat more about cars and racing. Another fella that ran the merchandise stand and was lining up cars for the parade actually gave me an opportunity to drive his NC around Laguna Seca and I will be forever grateful to him for that experience. Awesome! simply awesome!

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It seemed to me the majority of people participating in the event, chose to do so on Saturday while Sunday was a bit more low key day with plenty more opportunity to drive on track whether during the various skill sessions or the parade laps. I think in total something like 700 cars showed up, with about 300 of them participating in the parade laps that I was involved in. I noticed a number of foreigners in attendance besides the Canadians that drove down, there were Aussies and several Europeans in attendance whom I believe rented Miatas to drive on track. That was really neat. I was also very happy to see so many sponsors participating and having a separate display and shop area set up to sell their wares. That was cool as hell. I just wish I wasn’t travelling with a carry on during this trip I would have definitely bought something.

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Instead I got to do what I wanted. I got to sign the 1,000,000th Miata. I got to check out the Miata RF up close and personal. I got to get a parade lap as a passenger around Laguna Seca and even drive one lap by myself. And then I spend another weekend marshaling Pirelli World Challenge which had a ton of Miatas racing in the series which was simply a cherry on top moment for me.

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Once again I’m super grateful to the organizers and my co-volunteers. I’m so happy I got to meet so many West Coast Miata owners whether they were locals from California or from the neighboring states. And since my car was originally sold in California not too far from Laguna Seca, I even went on a road trip to San Luis Obispo to check out the dealership that sold my NC new.

Freaking amazing trip!

I would highly encourage anyone that likes Mazda’s, Roadsters and specifically MX-5 Miata’s (or Fiata’s 124 Spiders) to add this event to their list in the future. The dates were already announced for next year and I pray that my situation is such that I could come back and do this fun event all over again. What a blast!

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Thank you!

Woo Hoo! Got to do a Parade Lap in NC2 MX-5 During Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Probably the most unexpected thing that happened the weekend of Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event was me ending up behind the wheel of a beautiful gray NC2 MX-5 doing a closing lap at the end of the parade lap session on Sunday… Yep, I got to freaking drive Laguna Seca and it was mighty awesome!

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For a weekend that will be remembered for it’s sensory overload, I think this is by far the highlight of the whole trip! Thanks to everyone that made this possible!

Post Card from 2016 Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

For a last minute trip this one was a super exciting one and worth every penny I spent on it thus far. After reading about Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca taking place this October in Monterey, California… one of the biggest Miata get togethers in the US, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to be a part of it. I’ll write in greater detail about my experience but for now I’ll share some pix:

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Picking up a rental car at Hertz San Francisco… what do  you know, it’s a Mazda… a Mazda5  (missing the MX obviously)

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First stop, Embassy Suites where they threw a big welcoming BBQ

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Oh, hello MX-5 RF… finally we meet:

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And just like that, they put me to work… love volunteering with these guys:

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Great atmosphere, tons of Miata people and even more food!

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First day at the track volunteering at the merchandise store first and then aligning the cars for the group photo and the parade lap:

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Lots of Miata Exocets in attendance

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Huge thanks to a new friend Adam for volunteering to give me a ride in the parade lap…turns out Adam is a scrutineer at various Pro events including WEC and F1 at COTA… methinks I’ll be seeing Adam again at various tracks volunteering races together. Thanks Adam!

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Mazda really had their logos everywhere on this track

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The first night ended with another amazing dinner that they invited me to just for volunteering…. Very awesome of them!

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The views from the Red Bull VIP lounge were amazing

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The entertainment and food were amazing also!

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Loved these scallops in bacon!

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Miatas everywhere you look at Laguna Seca

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All the vendors on one side of the paddock and then official Miatas at MRLS merchandise area where I volunteered on the other:

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We were right next to the Millionth Miata and MX-5 RF displays:

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Patriotic Canadians came from British Columbia and Alberta

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Oh look, it’s my car!

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And then the event came to a close… and I took my Mazda5 around for a little Laguna Seca photo shoot:

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Bye Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca!  Hello to Pirelli World Challenge which I’ll volunteer for next week at Laguna Seca 🙂

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Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Bucket List

After compiling a list of all of my recent MX-5 Miata Road Trips I realized there’s one event I really must add to my bucket list: the Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca happening this October.

Why is this an important event?

I could think of a bunch of reasons… for one, Laguna Seca is a fantastic facility and a home of Mazda Motorsports and Mazdaspeed activities. The Global MX-5 Cup championship opened at Laguna Seca last weekend. California is perhaps the best place to own a Miata or at the very least a very appropriate place to visit, cruising to Big Sur along the PCH with the top down. And the best part there would be hundreds if not thousands of fellow MX-5 nuts in attendance many of whom would drive their cars there while others like me would be able to fly in and possibly rent one.

I’m seriously considering doing this event one year!

Here’s the promo pitch:

Miatas at Mazda Raceway has established itself as one of the must-do events on the Miata calendar. Don’t miss out.
The event will take place on October 1-2, 2016.
Registration for the hot laps will open at 9 am PDT on May 21st.
We’re still working on details, but here’s what you can probably expect.
  • 2 days of track time at world famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
  • Hundreds of Miatas and Miata enthusiasts of all types
  • Parade laps on Saturday and Sunday
  • Vendors on hand with displays and demos and product specials
  • A BBQ and car show on Friday night
  • A party with live band on Saturday night

http://www.miatasatmazdaraceway.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MiatasatMRLS/

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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.

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