Tag Archives: mazda mx5 cup

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:

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.

Michelin GT Challenge Biscuitville Grand Prix Spotter Guides by Andy Blackmore for IMSA at VIR

Great news!

Andy Blackmore Design has released the latest spotter guides for the Michelin GT Challenge and Biscuitville Grand Prix racing this weekend at VIRginia International Raceway.

This is the event I’ll be working as a pit fire marshal and am very much looking forward to spending some quality time in hot pits.

So a few observations looking at this guide compared to the last IMSA event I worked… there’s a change for the #50 WeatherTech car… it used to be a Mercedes-AMG GT3 and now is a Porsche 911. In the Conti Series, a bunch of McLaren 720 GT4’s have been replaced by Mustang GT4’s… interesting!

I’m sure there are other changes also. I’m glad to see the same Mazda MX-5 Miata’s in the ST class.

I’m looking forward to seeing the Prestige Lamborghini’s doing well. I’ll be driving past their dealership on my way to Virginia here in Paramus, New Jersey.

2017 Official IMSA Spotter Guide

www.spotterguides.com/portfolio/17_imsa/

Thanks to Andy Blackmore for these awesome little keepsakes I get to collect at every IMSA event I participate in.

65th Running of the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring the Debrief

My third consecutive Florida event comes to a close, rounding up an excellent run with Central Florida Region working as a pit marshal.

A lot to talk about this event, many pictures to share in addition to the individual posts I’ve already made from this event, so bear with me and hopefully I don’t leave any details out.

First things first, I can’t say enough how fantastic it was to work on the Pit Marshal crew. What a rush and a privilege it was to be there. Completely different atmosphere and experience to Turns 13 and 15 that I worked at my past Sebring events.

That said the days were extremely long, with the shortest being just under 12 hours and the longest being something like 15 or 16 hours, it was thoroughly exhausting.

But there was lots to see and I was in the prime location to see it. There was lots of downtime also, and a crew that encouraged me to take breaks which was really nice. Even the club allowed us to take pictures as long as we don’t offer them for sale in the end, so the atmosphere was extremely welcoming and positive.

I couldn’t believe just how close I could be to cars and teams, working closely with the IMSA officials, doing whatever overflow work they threw our way. It was simply awesome.

My position in Pit In. The concern was cars coming out of the paddock and jumping out on pit lane, our job was to make sure we gave them a clear lane, or held them up if another car was coming into pit lane from the track, at speed. There were times when teams brought out cars way early ahead of their practice sessions, which was neat because I could snap a shot or two before we were on duty.

This is the Pit Out post. Compared to Pit In, it was far more relaxing. Less work to do, and a far less crowded spot overall. No spectators to deal with. No speeding cars competing for the same real estate. The Sebring weekend started out super cold, temps were in the upper 30’s in the morning, which was a shocker compared to St. Pete GP the previous week. But luckily I was prepared having left a bag full of clothes in Florida after the freezing times at Daytona 24h and the Roar before the 24.

One of the IMSA guys allowed me to go on the grid some time before the practice session started to get some close-ups o the Mazda RT24-P

At the end of the session, there was significant downtime… and an opportunity for a few shots of cars exiting to the paddock.

Some shots from the Porsche GT3 Cup

Notice the visible design difference between the First generation 991 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car and the Second gen models… The lower grill design was \…./ like this on the 1st gen, and /…..\ like so on the 2nd gen. The running lights and tail lights are also different.

Since our bathrooms for Pit Out were on the end of the paddock, on my break I wondered down to see some of the set ups there.

A lovely Mazda MX-5 RF outside the Mazda Motorsports rigs, unfortunately team Mazda were very stingy this time with their swag. There was no Mazda Owners Lounge at this race, and the few people I asked said that Mazda is taking a different direction now, without going into detail.

Has Mazda pulled back on their previously generous owner appreciation efforts?  No more hats, t-shirts, etc. for those Mazda fans rooting for the Mazda DPi?

It was a bit weird, to say the least… the only Mazda swag I did manage to snag came from the lower Mazda racing series in the Mazda Prototype Challenge running the old IMSA Lites cars and the not-Mazda engined 5 liter V8 LMP3 cars.

Anyway…

Mazda RT24-P performance was sad to watch this event. The #70 car brought out our first caution of the race plowing into the tire wall at Turn 17… but all LMP2 cars struggled including the other DPi cars based on the LMP2 like the #2 and #22 Nissan Nismo Patron cars. The #52 Oreca and even the Multimatic sister car of the Mazda’s, the #90 Visit Florida car spend a lot of time in the garages during the race. They really should consider renaming the series Cadillac Sports Car Championship.

The other disappointing thing came from CFR and their pitiful attempts at food services. Some of it absolutely sucked. I can’t believe I ate ham for three days in a row, same meat masked with different bread each time, but essentially the same thing over and over. The worst was a serving of some mystery soup that hardened by the time it was served. I wanted to give it a chance, but a few spoonfuls later I realized the chemical taste wasn’t going to do my body any good, and like the rest of the people on my team threw it away…. luckily though the Patron VIP Suites nearby were very generous with their leftovers and threw the crew at turn 17 a bone, bringing tray fulls of delicious gourmet food, from steak to fish, to pasta and sausages… we pigged out on the good stuff!

WTF?!?!

MMmmmmmmmm…….sooo tasty!

Why can’t CFR hire the same catering crew?

Is it the money? Come on, put my hefty $95 annual membership fee to a better use, eh?…

Thank you Patron for your generous scraps! For such long days on track good food sure made it more enjoyable to participate.

And by long days I really mean very long days… from dawn to dusk and beyond, with night practices and eventually the night race.

I was so tired most of the time I crashed as soon as I got to the camp site… luckily again I have my tent that lives in Florida now, with a comfy sleeping bag, an air mattress and an extra comforter so despite the cold I managed to sleep like a baby every night. The next day started the same as it finished, with more beautiful race cars roaring on track.

I had enough downtime to wander down to turn 17 as the grid was popullating for the Conti race.

Oh look… Miata!

Oh look… more delicious food from Patron!

Park Ferme, and the Dekra scruitineering set up near Turn 17.

Friday night dinner with the CFR was a bit low key… not much in a way of swag, but I got a good keepsake, a CFR Race Official hat! And of course some much desired Mazda lanyards.

And so another race in the books… thanks to all that made this one a memorable one for me. I totally appreciate the opportunity!

How about a Road Trip to the South: Volunteering MX-5 Cup at Barber in Alabama and PWC at VIR?

I would really love to plan a Southern Road Trip to Alabama and Virginia for some awesome car racing. The trip would be approximately 2,000 miles long and last two weeks with a weekend at Barber Motorsports Park volunteering for the Global MX-5 Cup and it’s parent sanctioning body IndyCar. Followed by a fantastic weekend at Virginia International Raceway volunteering for some classes of the Pirelli World Challenge which would include Sprint X, GTS and the TC/TCA/TCB support series which all feature Miata’s.

How cool would that be?

I think it would be fantastic! But how do I make it work?

Challenge #1: Money!

My concern isn’t just driving down 1,000 miles to Birmingham, Alabama… that’s actually an easy part, and I could make it happen relatively cheaply. There’s only $1 in tolls crossing the Delaware River from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and then smooth sailing all the way down i81 which is my preferred route to travel to Florida. The problem is if I plan this now when I’m still unemployed it would be super tough requesting time off from an employer if I do find a job which obviously presents a predicament… should I make contacts now hoping to be accepted or wait until later time when I know for sure I am not committed to actual paying work… I don’t know.

Both the Barber event and VIR event pay for participation. At Barber Motorsports Park, Flagging by Faynisha organizes marshals. They pay some money which would certainly offset the fuel and some of the accommodation costs involved in getting there. Similarly, VIR pays employees for participation at non-club events. And even though last year both the Global MX-5 Cup and Pirelli World Challenge were under the SCCA Pro umbrella, this year neither one is. The MX-5 Cup went with IndyCar as it’s sanctioning body while Pirelli World Challenge switched to USAC for the same reasons. And that will be interesting to see how and what, if any, will the differences be within the series. I suspect little to none, but I am curious to say the least.

There would be a few days to kill between the event in Alabama and the next event in Southern Virginia on the North Carolina border, which is about 500 miles drive from Barber. I would imagine instead of heading directly to VIR I’d make a few day stop in Georgia and maybe spend some time exploring Atlanta. It’s a nice city with nice food and I would love to have a few delicious meals there, like the amazing Fried Chicken and Waffles I sampled on my last visit to Barber where I flew via Atlanta and spend the night before flying back through Philadelphia (hey, the flight was cheap… $35 bux cheap). Anyway, it would be pretty amazing.

And I think I’ll put this high up on the list of events I’d like to participate in this year.

Since neither event is SCCA sanctioned and neither of the marshal bodies are run by SCCA people, I wonder if I should even renew my SCCA membership this year?

Stay tuned…

2017 MX-5 Cup Cars Already Being Built at Long Road Racing in North Carolina

Huge props to the Long Road Racing social media team… I checked in with a silly comment on facebook: “drive-by wave to the best MX-5 shop on the East Coast” or some such statement, and someone replied: “Come Visit!”

So visit I did… I was making good progress on my Florida Road Trip, with about 20 minutes to kill before the restaurant opened – my designated foodie pit stop before continuing on to Jacksonville. And what better excuse to kill time than checking out some MX-5 race cars being built…? the actual process of it!

Some may remember my earlier visit to Long Road Racing in March while returning from another Florida Road Trip where I volunteered at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix and Sebring 12 hours. It was a neat tour then… but this was a great follow up. Considering the racing season just wrapped up at Road Atlanta with MX-5 Cup playing a support role to Petit Le Mans, there were plenty of banged up MX-5 cup cars being re-built… some with body panel damage others with blown engines, where new ones were being put in. And then there were the shiny new 2017 models being ready to go through the configuration process, roll cage install, suspension and braking components upgraded, etc.

I had such a fun time being a tourist. And I wasn’t the only one… apparently some journalist from Racer magazine was getting a private tour also, look for an upcoming write up about the Long Road Racing prepped street-version of the Cup car to hit the streets soon… This time around I took a ton of pix:

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Oh and it’s worth mentioning that Long Road has plenty of OEM new take offs from all the standard cars before they’re configured. You can buy wheels/tires combos… complete seats, or even Long Road Racing designed office chairs that utilize the stock ND Miata seat. There’s a whole pile of brand new air bags for sale. Soft tops… exhaust systems. And I’m sure plenty more. So if anyone is looking for some brand new stock take-off parts, I’d give Long Road Racing a shout. I’d be the first to say that facebook gets a real quick response.

I’m looking forward to flagging some MX-5 Cup races next season, they are sure a lot of fun especially with the huge fields!

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PS. Thanks for the freebie Long Road Racing t-shirt… I already have a ton of Mazda swag, but it’s my first MX-5 Cup factory souvenir, I’ll wear it proudly!