Tag Archives: Salinas

Another Post Card from the Grand Prix of Monterey and the California 8 hour at Laguna Seca

I wanted to share a few pix from the actual flag points during the PWC and SRO weekend at Laguna Seca… so here it goes.

My goal was to work in pit lane for this event. I was introduced to someone who chiefs that specialty and that person never replied. So to not miss the event, I decided to volunteer as a flagger and instead of requesting a specific post to work (like I did in previous years, like Turn 8 Corkscrew or Turn 2 last year for this very event) I just asked to be put wherever they needed me. And lucky for me they needed me in some very cool place. I got to work for two days in the beginning at Turn 3 which was amazing… and for the last two days of racing at Turn 11 which took the cake!

1957 was an amazing year it turns out… Lime Rock was built in 1957 and are celebrating their 60th this year. So is Laguna Seca apparently, and even VIRginia International Raceway was built in ’57 except that track went on hiatus for a bunch of years recently.

View from Turn 3 towards Turn 2 above and Turn 4 below.

A super convenient station which allowed me to sneak out to do another paddock walk to take some pictures during lunch time on Thursday. My awesome coworker helped me out by grabbing lunch for me at the Social tent which was delicious… I wolfed it down before the practice resumed in the afternoon.

The only European team in attendance. Belgian WRT Audi which “almost” won this event if it didn’t take aggressive actions against another fast Audi that lead most of the race and spun out into the gravel going down several laps before it was pulled out.

Pretty car though…

The Audi R8 that lead most of the race… they also had their Daytona 24 hour IMSA car on display in the paddock. Lead most of the race but were overtaken by Magnus Racing Audi towards the end.

Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Mazda of course had a prominent display in the paddock including their Miata “halfie” street/race car. And the new RF fastback.

I did some shopping before coming to the track so I had plenty of snacks to much on during the weekend…

Oh look “CARS” stamped fishies…

It was cooler in the mornings but the temps went up during the day, and the sun was pretty brutal especially at Turn 11 where I was without any cover during race days.

San Francisco Region SCCA did a fantastic job as usual feeding us.

Though I didn’t win this t-shirt that I really wanted, my buddy Ron who did win for some crazy reason offered to me. I’m super grateful!

On Friday evening SRO had rolled out all it’s cars for a group photo…

A very small group of only 19 cars to race for the 8 hour endurance, most of which typically only race sprint 2 to 3 hour races with PWC. team WRT of course and MARC Cars Australia have more endurance racing experience with Spa 24 and Bathurst 12 hours under their respective belts (along with many others I’m sure).

Thank goodness I had a bunch of bandanas to cover up so I didn’t fry my face… on Sunday it turns out Fort Ord conducted a controlled burn which scared the crap out of a lot of fellow marshals. Especially people working pit lane when ash started raining down (near fuel rigs). Oops!

My buddy Adam who hosted me for the weekend and who also works for SCRAMP came to visit me at Turn 3 and Turn 11.

Monday morning it was a wrap… a wrap of my two week California getaway. Speaking of wraps, I love the cover Adam is using on his Miata, and should probably invest in one for my car. Fits like a glove.

We grabbed one final lunch at my favorite diner in Salinas that severs the freshest salad I’ve ever had: Elli’s (get it, like Ellis Island)

And I headed back to return my 2017 Hyunday Accent at Hertz Seaside before heading back to Monterey.

I’m used to seeing Canadian flags here in New York at most places, but in California obviously the Mexican flag is more prevalent.

Then caught a $2.50 bus ride to the MRY – Monterey Regional Airport just a few miles away from town… where Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was prominently on display encouraging people to visit.

It was such a fantastic trip. I would love to go back…

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 🙁

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 2: Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – The Ride Along

This year’s event was considerably smaller than last year’s… but the quality in my opinion was outstanding. It was cozier. I think people got their money’s worth for those that paid for track time. I got to work the merchandise area again like last year… showing up bright and early around 7:30am but the highlight of my day was around noon when I helped with aligning the cars for a big group parade lap around the famous Laguna Seca circuit. And best of all I caught a ride around the track with my buddy Daniel from Atlanta, Georgia

Cobra eh?

My office for the weekend… sold a ton of poster sets, most of the previous year’s t-shirts and we absolutely ran out of all of the current year t-shirts. Great sales day I would say!

I think my favorite car of the weekend…

The Playboy MX-5 Cup cars were literally the reason why I started my interest in Miata’s… and after one crashed into my station at Road Atlanta during Petit Le Mans I knew I wanted to buy one.

Checking out the vendor’s wears on display in the paddock

A Miata celebrity autograph session…

My buddy Daniel’s car sprung a leak after the first session on track, pissing coolant all over the place… I’m amazed he was able to drive it 2,500 miles back to Georgia after racing on track. Craziness!!!

Daniel is running meaty 245 size tires all around… wow! And I thought going to 215 was going wide, lol

Moving off the paddock to the staging area… first customer was from Las Vegas, Nevada

And while I waited for cars to show up to populate our “pre-grid” there was a parking lot of AMG Track Experience cars for me to oogle at… they were parked 11 across and 10 deep… over 100 cars!

That’s a lot of Miata’s… about 350 to be exact

My chariot for the parade laps… a 2008 MX-5 track car I first met in Duluth, Georgia on my trip to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama and VIR in Virginia.

Here we goooo…

We were supposed to do maybe 2 or 3 laps, but that was turned into a full 30 minute session with many more laps than just a few.

The Corkscrew!

Thanks Daniel!

The famous starter stand…

One of my favorite flag points at Laguna Seca, Flag Point #8

Love the way Daniel has his car set up. Great noise from the exhaust. Comfortable racing seats and a good roll cage which I hope he’ll never have to use at his track days.

Love seeing a Miata with diplomatic plates… I’m guessing a child of a Consul to the USA?

Doing some quick shopping at the Laguna Seca Souvenir shop

Wonder why no Fiata’s showed up for this event…

And the day ended with a delicious dinner with a bunch of Miata owners… HUGE thanks to Rick Weldon for letting me be part of this event… I am forever grateful!

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.

Mazda5: 1,000+ mile California Road Trip along the Pacific Coast

Another incredible road trip in the books, this time driving a Mazda5 rental along the Pacific Coast of California (cue in the theme song from the OC).

I have such incredible admiration for this state and feel truly blessed and fortunate to have had this opportunity to explore one of my favorite places in the world… The main reason for the road trip of which there were several actually, was to kill some time between events at Laguna Seca. So Monday after Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca I headed south for a few hour and several hundred mile drive to San Luis Obispo along California 1 Freeway which zig zags along the Pacific Coast… Tuesday I headed north to Half Moon Bay in the opposite direction, and Monday of the trip home I took that road again all the way to San Francisco instead of taking the more direct route along Highway 101.

The first trip south to SLO was awesome. I got to drive along the Monterey Peninsula past Pebble Beach, through Big Sur and along some amazingly scenic overlooks… visited the elephant seal beach. Had some tasty food in San Luis Obispo and also visited the dealership where my MX-5 Miata was originally sold. It was great! The only snag was realizing there’s absolutely no bathrooms along the coastal route, so I nearly exploded by the time I reached a souvenir shop/restaurant and started waiting in line behind ten antsy people like me, eager to Go!

The second trip was a bit quicker in nature, the road towards San Francisco is better and higher speed, with fewer twisties. But there’s still a lot to see especially when the waves are big and there’s surfers all along the coast doing their thing.

These trips also doubled as Foodie Tours because I used every opportunity to stuff my face with local cuisine. And I don’t just mean In-n-Out Burger which I visited a whole bunch of times on this trip. But also Phil’s seafood in Moss Landing, the Giant Artichoke in Castroville, and Sam’s Chowder Store in Half Moon Bay among others. What a pleasant experience that was.

I could go on and on babbling how awesome it was but instead I’ll just share some pix:

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Most of my trips started at In-n-Out in Seaside, CA with a double-double:

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The In-n-Out is revered in California and for good reasons, I’d say it’s far more loved than McDonalds… and McDee’s knows it!

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The beauty of the Road Trip was the fact that you got spectacular views along the entire trip… there wasn’t much waiting to see things while driving, you just saw amazing stuff

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And I took full advantage of the pull off areas to take some pix of the Mazda… Zoom Zooming along…

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Oh yeah, and plenty of Selfies too…

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Luckily I didn’t get stuck in traffic most of the time I was driving, and when I was following someone it usually was cool cars instead of slow poke RV’s chugging along

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I did check out the local wildlife also, it was so cool

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Lunch stops were the best… and I tried to go for sampler platters to taste more things on the menu

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Everything was super fresh… albeit a big pricey

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Love the Bears Crossing sign on the highway

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This place was pretty spectacular and I was very surprised to see a Hostel situated just outside of a historic lighthouse, there were several of these along the coast driving north from Monterey

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Sometimes I ordered food to go, pulled over in a scenic area and ate

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I have to say that the New England clam chowder in New Jersey is better than what I typically find, in California they seem to love adding sour dough bread to the meal, which tastes a bit weird for me

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I keep forgetting how exotic San Francisco is with all of their beautiful palm trees everywhere. This time I explored a part of SF I hadn’t visited before, mainly along the Pacific Coast, under the Golden Gate Bridge and eventually returned to one of my favorite spots: to drive down the crooked Lombard Street.

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Lunch in SF was delicious too, although I wish I had gone for some Asian food instead…

Can’t wait to come back soon!

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!

Mazda MX-5 RF: Finally Caught the Retractable Fastback in Person during Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

The Mazda MX-5 Miata RF has been as elusive for me as the Millionth Miata but I finally caught a glimpse of it in person at the Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event in Monterey, Cali this weekend… What a pretty car!

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Somebody left it overnight at our Merchandise garage so I got some up close snaps of it before it was rolled out on display outside…

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I do like it!

Maybe this thing will replace my current NC1 GT PRHT… Hmm!

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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