Tag Archives: North Carolina

Michelin GT Challenge Biscuitville Grand Prix IMSA at VIR the debrief

People often ask what’s my favorite race track, and it’s a hard question to answer because I frequent some of the best of them in the world. VIR though is one of the very best in my book! I can say that with confidence and I would encourage people to come and check it out for themselves.

The IMSA at VIR event was my second trip to Danville, Virginia/Milton, North Carolina this year. Of the two this was arguably the bigger event and it showed with amazing crowds of spectators that showed up in force. For the third time now I failed to read the instructions given to volunteers to camp in the South Paddock and instead did what I did before and set up my spot in the North where the usual spectators camp. I say the usual, because most of my neighbors were there for PWC weekend earlier this year, and they were there last year for IMSA as well. One of the spectators made a comment complimenting my Miata saying he remembers it from before… COOL! I even got a visit from a “Mazda Santa” this time who mysteriously dropped off a few new Mazda lanyards by my tent. ALSO COOL!

My first accomplishment of the trip was finally getting to try out Biscuitville… I’ve seen their restaurants before in this area but they were always closed by the time I had free time to visit.

To my surprise Biscuitville sponsored the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race, which is nice to see. Local businesses supporting the Motorsport activity in their region.

We were extremely fortunate this weekend to be blessed with perfect weather. It wasn’t too hot or too cool. It didn’t rain. It was perfect. Our pit fire team consisted of a bunch of visiting marshals from Daytona which was very neat. Some very experienced firefighters that follow the NASCAR circuit around.

And then there was me in their midst. Good educational experience.

Nothing noteworthy happened in the pit boxes I was responsible for. But I’m happy to say it was a lot to see right in front of me from the Weathertech Series down to SCCA Pro Formula 4. And specifically the ITM sponsored Kiwi Motorsport driver that hails from the part of the North Island in New Zealand where I got my start as a marshal. It was very cool to see them in action, and even though the guy didn’t win he certainly crashed enough… as the saying goes, if you’re not crashing you’re not going fast enough. He was fast!

I already mentioned this in a previous post but for some reason the burgundy Acura NSX really caught my eye this weekend. It was easily the nicest car on the grid. And it just so happens I was manning their pit box.

The blue one looked pretty neat too… neither did particularly well unfortunately.

Big thanks to IMSA for sending out an ice cream lady with free refreshments during the big race. They did this last year too, and it was a very nice gesture at a perfect time. This was neat!

My local New Jersey dealership sponsored Lamborghini team expanded again, with the paddock growing from 3 cars to 5 now. They didn’t do so well except for one. Which I guess was good.

All the usual NC Miatas had a great race too, but a NISSAN won, which was somewhat appropriate as VIR is NISSAN sponsored track. Nevertheless I enjoyed watching them race.

I didn’t get a chance to check out the infield with all the displays and such, but I did get a chance to walk past the local SCCA region tent which had this car on display…

Figures that the local club would feel this paint job was appropriate to attract new members. But whatever.

All in all a fantastic weekend. Car was covered by an inch of dust by the time the event was over. I would love to be back again at this track… what an amazing facility. As the Radio Le Mans commentators put it, “its a very old school track, no run off areas… you make a mistake and you’re off in the grass”

Happy I was a part of this race weekend!

The Debut of MX-5 Cup Cars (Hardtops) in PWC Pirelli World Challenge

My goal signing up to volunteer the Nissan Grand Prix of VIR was to see the Global MX-5 Cup cars make their debut in the Touring Car class of Pirelli World Challenge series. This series, unlike the Global MX-5 Cup which I got an opportunity to volunteer for under the IndyCar sanction at Alabama Grand Prix a week prior run with hard tops (instead of open top convertibles). I figured it would be great to check out the new hard tops in person… funny enough, most of the tops didn’t arrive until the very last day and the final race. Most of the practices and the first race for some cars was run open top. I’m sure many teams had a nail biting experience waiting for the big box shipment to arrive.

Naturally I took a million pix of both the new ND MX-5 Cup cars and the established NC MX-5 Cup cars that have run and win PWC TC / TCA class for years now.

The Skittles Team:

And the Long Road Racing trailer:

On Saturday big wooden boxes started arriving… and that’s when you started to see hard tops on ND’s being installed… At last!

At first it seems like each team got one hard top allocation, but by race day on Sunday all teams were wearing theirs.

They do look pretty good!

Congrats to the Miata teams that took the top step on the podium this weekend. It was great to watch!

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…

NASCAR is Hiring at Sebring & Road Atlanta

So it turns out NASCAR is hiring!

I’ve been out of work since January of last year. Needless to say I’m desperate to find something soon to help pay the bills. Jobs in Motorsport would take the highest priority for me because obviously that’s something I absolutely enjoy doing on a volunteer basis and would definitely appreciate getting paid for it, when possible. While I knew multiple tracks hired marshals on a part time basis, it’s no secret I even applied for a job with the New Jersey Motorsports Park back in 2012 or 2013, I hate the idea of being stuck at one particular track. I really enjoy traveling around and enjoying the variety of different series around the US and the world.

WELL, if anyone is interested, NASCAR is indeed hiring for several positions at their tracks including Road Atlanta in Georgia and Sebring in Central Florida.

Here’s a little preview of the job for a “Corner Worker”

And here’s a “Fire Rescue” job for Sebring International Raceway:

Other jobs like a NASCAR Race Official jobs are also available and a number of other tech and marketing opportunities as well both with NASCAR and IMSA sports car arm. A job I’d love to get myself if I lived closer to those tracks and not in New Jersey.

Maybe I ought to move closer?

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!

1,000+ mile Road Trip from LaGuardia Airport in NYC to Daytona Beach, Florida in a Hertz VW Beetle

October is an awesome month to go down to Florida, and with the hurricane season travel deals it is probably the cheapest way to go. So I booked three trips to Florida in three consecutive weeks. The first trip required a little bit of driving, which I love… so I’ll share the Road Trip details in this post… perhaps they’ll save someone the trouble of considering such a thing in the future or maybe encourage others to take the trip themselves. My experience of course could be completely different from others…

A few weeks ago JetBlue announced a flash sale… fares as low as $19 bux they advertised, typically from New York to Boston or Long Beach to San Francisco in California. The ones that caught my eye were the ones I have taken advantage of many times before, NY to South Florida, my favorite destination in the world! NYC to Miami area – Ft. Lauderdale specifically were only $39 bux each way. I booked two round trips, and with the recent JetBlue flight to California I figured if I book one more leg I’ll qualify for their 5,000 mile bonus that is awarded after 3 round trip flights flown in a year. So I was on the lookout for one more leg, and I sure found it. The flight from Daytona Beach to JFK in NY was only $29 bux….  sweet! But how do I get down there? … I remembered seeing a Hertz promo for one way rentals from certain airports down to Florida for only $9.99 per day. I checked the rate from Newark to Daytona Beach and the 3 day rental came out to some $62 bux with tax included. I thought that was a steal! I quickly booked it… but continued checking other permutations and before long ended up booking another much more favorable rate from LaGuardia airport to Daytona Beach airport for only $36 bux all inclusive, and this rental was for four days! Wow!

The Hertz LaGuardia experience was pretty shitty, I started writing details about it but figured it’s not worth the time… long story short I got a bad car. The black VW Bettle I picked up had a massive mechanical rattle coming out from the rear bumper and an even stronger hum which I suspect was a broken wheel bearing. I didn’t feel safe or sane enough to put up with it for 1,000+ miles, so I went to another Hertz in New Jersey to exchange it… three times! The fuckers at Paramus HLE refused to change cars for me saying they had nothing available, which was odd. The other fuckers at Hackensack HLE where I was sent to try my luck next explained to me that they were not going to make any money on me so they were not willing to just swap the cars out but were willing to give me another car if I paid more money to them. They suggested I try Newark Airport Hertz which I did, and where the manager reluctantly switched cars for me, and even more reluctantly put me in a similar upgrade that I started out with, which was a white VW Beetle… it didn’t have the noisy rattles or hum’s, but the wheel balance was off so the steering felt like a jack hammer especially at highway speeds. But whatever, they did what they could. I wasted some toll money and more importantly several hours of my time, and was now going to hit rush hour evening traffic at every major city along the Northeast corridor.

Luckily I took the longer way around to avoid all the Mid-Atlantic tolls, and Interstate 81 was good to me. No traffic, smooth sailing and I made it to my Shenandoah Motel around 9pm so I could start out bright and early the next morning. The first day was meant to be an easy drive of 400 miles. The next day it was about 700 more to my destination in Jacksonville. I timed the trip so that I didn’t spend any more money out of pocket for food. My plan was to hit a few TGI Friday restaurants along the way, order take-out and eat while i drive since I bought a deeply discounted TGI Fridays gift card on eBay. Similarly my fuel stops had to be at ExxonMobil, Sunoco or Speedway because I purchased discounted gift cards with those brands. And everything worked out super smoothly. Along the way I even managed to stop by Statesville, North Carolina to visit Long Road Racing again to check out the 2017 MX-5 Cup cars being built.

In Jacksonville I was to meet up with a fellow MX-5 owner from Miata.net someone who I’ve chatted with several times before and who has an identical car to mine: a 2007 Copper Red GT PRHT but apparently equipped with a TrunkMonkey which mine didn’t come with 😉 It was a pretty awesome meet-up, we sampled some delicious seafood together right near my shady motel… interestingly enough when I arrived to check in there were several cop cars there and a crime scene unit investigating a Jaguar XJ with a shot out rear window. While checking in I overheard the Sheriff telling the motel manager not to call 911 when he has issues instead he gave him a list of non-emergency phone numbers… “if you have someone selling drugs out of the rooms, call these detectives” and “if you have prostitution going on, call this vice unit…” Hmmm!

Finally, after an early wake up I was on my way to the ultimate destination in Daytona Beach (well technically to Port Orange where my fellow marshal friends that were hosting me for the night had moved to). I was in no particular rush and debated whether to continue along I95 for about an hour and a half or take the more scenic route along the Atlantic Coast and A1A… which is what I ended up doing. I picked up Florida A1A in St. Augustine and went as far as I could before a few detours around the Hurricane Matthew damage from two weeks ago. That was crazy. Never seen so much garbage on the side of the roads and standing water from water damage that the hurricane caused. In Flagler Beach the whole road got washed out. It was pretty insane, considering the area didn’t even experience the full brunt of the storm. They were very lucky though that the damage was what it was.

Once in Daytona I made the obligatory stop at the Speedway for a selfie and then we went out to  a nice restaurant near the beach for dinner. It was such a wonderful time. Before you know it, it was time to fly home. I dropped off my Beetle at the Hertz in Daytona Beach International Airport and was on my short two hour flight home. Ironically JetBlue calls the DAB – NYC flight #500 I guess it has something to do with the Speedway which I could clearly see out the airport window, along with several cars driving around the oval while waiting for my delayed plane.

Awesome trip,  I am especially looking forward to two more trips down to Miami Beach area… I really want to go for a swim at South Beach, which I love! The seas were way too rough in the Daytona!

Some pix from the trip:

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I started out with this “upgrade” a 36k mile VW Bug with Cali plates and a real bad rattle coming out from the rear bumper area, along with a strong wheel bearing hum which provided an interesting sound track of base and drums for the 70 miles I had this car for.

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I have to say it did look great, had very comfortable leather seats that wrapped around you and plenty of room for storage.

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But I couldn’t wait to swap it out for something else, and after two failed attempts at HLE’s in Bergen County, New Jersey I ended up with a white VW Bug from Hertz at Newark Liberty Airport.

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It was much… sooo much, better even though it had vices of it’s own, like the badly balanced tires which made the steering wheel feel like a jack-hammer at highway speeds.

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After wasting a good three hours trying to swap cars I hit the road.

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To make up time I only ordered stuff to-go and to save money I went with Friday’s since I bought their discounted gift card on ebay.

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I have to give props to the social media team at Long Road Racing in Statesville, NC I checked in on facebook saying “drive-by wave to the best MX-5 shop on the east coast” and they invited me to stop-by.

Got a nice t-shirt just for visiting… how nice?!

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I <3 Florida!

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The white bug got incredible gas mileage, at one point showing 36.7 mpg which is even better than my Miata on the trip I took in March.

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Someone suggested I must stop at the Florida Visitor Center to sample the free orange juice… I did!

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and tried the grapefruit juice too…

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Crime scene at my Motel in Jacksonville, Florida… looked like someone either shot at them or was hooting out of the car… hmm!

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Dinner in Jacksonville, just down the road from the Motel and while checking out a Copper Red MX-5 GT PRHT from a local club there.

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Bright and early the next morning I headed further south, this time along the Atlantic Coast and Florida’s A1A

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Hurricane Matthew damage along the coast from St. Augustine all the way down to Ormond Beach, Florida

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Notice those big mounds of sand from the beach, on the other side of the road… further down tractors were moving the sand back.

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Some areas looked like they got hit while others looked untouched.

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The damage wasn’t just along the beach but further inland too.

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Finally arrived at my destination and took some obligatory selfies.

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It was too cold and too rough to go in the water, but we went to the beach nonetheless… to survey more damage in Flagler Beach.

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And of course ran across a familiar car what is my Miata doing there?

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Dinner at Charlie Horse in Ormond Beach was delicious.

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And the next morning I was back at the airport for the flight home. Interesting that only JetBlue has a true flight out of the south providing an A320 jet service to New York, while the competition from Delta and American fly smaller MD-80’s and CRJ’s to points closer to the South and especially those with NASCAR interests 🙂

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I do love how you can see the Speedway so close… especially on take off. There were some cars on the oval doing laps, clearly visible.

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I <3 Florida! I can’t wait to move and live there.

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Mazda MX-5: 1,000+ mile Road Trip to Virginia (Southern Part accessible from North Carolina)

I’ve been looking for an excuse to take a longer road trip and the opportunity presented itself with a marshaling stint at VIR in Alton  Southern Virginia (so far south it’s mainly accessible from Milton, North Carolina… yep!)

The fastest route per Google Maps was down the I95 corridor through all the major cities until Richmond, VA and then across with just over 485 miles each way. But I elected to avoid the tolls (which are absurd pushing $100 bux) and the unpredictable rush hour traffic patters to take the more leisurely drive through I81 in Pennsylvania increasing the distance to 530 miles and about another hour to tack onto the drive.

The goal for my trip was also to test the performance of the new Timken RX-8 wheel bearing hubs and see if they would increase my fuel mileage which has recently dropped down to 31mpg average, based on my last two trips to Watkins Glen. I discovered that indeed the hubs did make a difference. My gas mileage increased to 34mpg on the open highway, while in town it dropped to 28mpg, which is normal. So all was good. I was hoping to match my all time best of 36mpg’s but the roads were too hilly to accomplish that, and I had the A/C on blast which didn’t help either.

Overall i was really happy with the car and how it handled the road. The 8 hour journey took a little bit more on the way down, and a lot more on the way back up. But I did make several stops along the way to use the restroom and buy some food. Generally I tried to stop every two to three hours to let the car cool down for a few minutes. It worked very well, but it did slow me down. The ride home took almost 12 hours but that included two 1 hour stops for food.

And a few pics from the trip:

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Good morning Maryland!

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Howdy West Virginia!

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The new Virginia welcome sign… I kind of liked the old one better with the Bird on it instead of this Lovers campaign… why is Virginia for Lovers anyway?

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Well, at least you know you’re in the south when you see more Confederate flags flying than American stars and stripes… hmm

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Hello VIR… what a beautiful facility!

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Yep, I’m in the right place!

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So you gotta drive down into North Carolina for a few miles, just to turn around and head right back into the track…

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Prior to coming to the track I figured I’d stay put and have everything I need at VIR… but it turned out that the best place to get food was back in town, which is a good 15 miles away. So I went out for dinner every night in Danville, VA and during the half an hour journey used the opportunity to charge up my phone for the night. This added another 120+ miles to the overall journey.

Looking forward to the next Road Trip soon…

Global MX-5 Cup Assembly Shop Tour at Long Road Racing in Statesville, NC

As if my three week Spring Break Road Trip to marshal St. Pete GP and Sebring 12h couldn’t get any better, it totally did. The very last stop, albeit unscheduled, on the trip home I got to visit Long Road Racing the official assembly plant for Global MX-5 Cup cars. Yep!

It almost happened by accident. My marshal buddy Ben from South Carolina invited me to crash for the night on my drive home which I really appreciated and as we were BS’ing after dinner about MX-5’s and my Miata he suggested I visit the LRR shop. I knew nothing about it… always assuming that the Global MX-5 Cup race cars were probably built to spec in Japan and shipped around the world just like their road cars, but I would be wrong. The road cars are shipped, sort of body in white trim to North Carolina, where LRR strips them down and preps each car, hand-build mind you, to spec to be shipped around the country and the world for use in each country’s specific MX-5 Cup series.

The drive to Long Road Racing was about 3 hours from Florence, SC located at the intersection of Interstates 77 and 40 (I drove right past them on the way down to Florida being completely oblivious to the magic going on there). And was a very appropriate pit stop before the 9 hour drive from Statesville, NC back to New Jersey.

One of the LRR employees who was extremely welcoming gave me a private tour of the facility. Showing each step of the assembly process from teardown to build up, fabrication station, paint shop, etc. in a very exciting fashion. And even allowed me to take some shots of the finished cars before leaving. (*you can see a ton more pictures of the actual build and various fab components on Tom Long’s personal blog… as in Tom Long of Long Road Racing fame: https://longroadracing.wordpress.com/) But I love the fact I was able to take some actual pix besides all the mental pictures I took during the tour:

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What an impressive facility and operation, I wish I could find a job with a place like this as it would totally complete my motorsport hobby…. ironically, Tom Long the owner of LRR was racing at Sebring this weekend, behind the wheel o the Mazda LMP2 car. I possibly even saw him without really knowing who he is.

While researching the trip after Ben brought it up I noticed that LRR was actually hiring people. So half jokingly I asked about it during my tour but being there in camo shorts and flip flops with three week old beard, I don’t think anyone would take me seriously. Not that I really have the skills they are probably looking for and for most marketing and business related jobs I’m actually interested in I’m sure the best candidates are chicks with long hair and big tits. But nonetheless it would be a killer opportunity to try and land something in the future… I certainly have the global experience to be useful 🙂

In the meantime, my enthusiastic tour guide said the shop is open to visitors and looking thru facebook I’ve seen whole MX-5 club get together’s at the facility, so if you’re driving by on I77 and I40 through North Carolina give LRR a visit, you’ll definitely enjoy the views inside the shop. It’s like a candy store in there. And at just $53,000 a pop, you can leave with your very own MX-5 Cup Car from Mazda Motorsports, Assembled right here in the US of A!

More info:

www.mazdamotorsports.com 

www.longroadracing.com

longroadracing.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/longroadracing

2668 Peachtree Rd, Statesville, NC 28625 (980) 223-8547