Tag Archives: southern california

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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Racing Beat Shop Visit in Anaheim, California

The first time I heard about Racing Beat as a Mazda tuner was when I was searching for my Miata to buy and a guy in Connecticut was selling one with the Racing Beat exhaust. (He was also selling the car with two sets of wheels for summer/winter which I ended up doing myself so maybe the guy was onto something).

Having some time to kill before my flight home to the East Coast post-Long Beach Grand Prix I decided to pay Racing Beat a visit, and check out their facility and products. And to my surprise the guys behind the counter were more than willing to show me around, both in the sales office and the manufacturing facility a few buildings down the street.

Racing Beat specializes in Mazda rotary performance parts but is also one of the few American tuners to offer stuff for the MX-5, and for that I support them.

Check out the pix;

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Oh and while in Anaheim do visit Roscoe’s Fried Chicken n’ Waffles restaurant about 10 minute drive from the shop. The food was pretty fantastic…. and much like Racing Beat I learned about it thanks to Motorsport advertising… the #54 Dodge Viper in PWC had a very colorful paint scheme advertising Roscoe’s during the Long Beach Grand Prix race… what a place!

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Mazda North American Headquarters Visit in Southern California

So the highlight of my trip to Southern California wasn’t marshaling  Long Beach Grand Prix, it was instead a side trip further south to Irvine, Orange County to visit the North American HQ of Mazda.

I can’t say I planned the trip there in advance, it sort of just happened. I was hoping to meet up with some local SoCal MX-5 Miata owners during the event but for some reason that meetup never materialized, and since I had some time to kill on Monday before the flight home I decided to do a few Miata related things. After a quick Google search I had a list of three places to try to check out if the California traffic would allow it. Mazda HQ was stop #1 (a visit to Racing Beat and Roadster Tuner followed).

While I tried not to get my hopes up for the actual visit, I was excited. I kept my expectations low because having both Mercedes-Benz of North America and BMW of North America Headquarters just minutes away from me in New Jersey I knew there wasn’t much to see there for random visitors other than an office building. But what’s the worst that could happen? Right…? I figured at the very least I’ll get to check out the lobby. And so it went, the lady at reception confirmed my speculation that there wasn’t much to see and nothing to buy in a gift shop because there wasn’t one. So I mozzied on out, took a few shots of the building, many more shots of the countless MX-5’s in the parking lot and was ready to leave.

And then as if a God-sent, I see three pristine red MX-5’s of various vintage rolling into the parking lot and heading straight for the Visitor Center… I later found out that the NA Miata in the group was the original car unveiled at the Chicago? auto show when the car was first introduced in America in 1989. There was a gorgeous Mazdaspeed NB that followed it, not sure about it’s history. But the red NC in the group was the 25th Anniversary edition of which there were only 1,000 made. I started chatting with the Mazda guys driving the cars into the building and the fella tried to stress the importance of the rarity of the NC… while I countered that I saw three or four of them show up to my little Sydney MX-5 fish & chips run just a few months ago…. how rare could they be? Ha!

It was by dumb luck that I stumbled upon these cars and the guys working there. But boy did that make my day! I shamelessly asked for some Mazda swag referring to the Long Beach Grand Prix Mazda Owner’s Lounge running out of hats by the time I was able to make it there on Sunday as an excuse, and  the guy come through… big time!  I got a whole swag bag full of key chains, lanyards, a Zoom Zoom magazine and some other trinkets and knick-knacks. Not that I actually need more of that stuff, but bringing home souvenirs like that was pretty awesome. I’m really grateful for the opportunity!

Of course I couldn’t help myself and took a million pictures:

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So for all you Mazda / Miata fans out there visiting Orange County, California thinking about a visit to the North American HQ… is it worth it? Hell yeah! Granted unless you luck out and stumble upon something similar to what I did, you’ll have a blast… on any other day though the visit may be slightly more mundane… but you never know until you go for it!

PS. after visiting Racing Beat the fella there suggested to check out the Mazda R&D facility where they store all kinds of goodies like the 787B race car…. that would have been nice to know about had I had more time to kill (and not rush for a flight!)

PPS. a few days after I got home pictures and videos surfaced on facebook from the same lobby I visited featuring a fourth vehicle… one I would have been really keen on seeing had I had the time (which I didn’t) the vehicle was the ND MX-5 RF targa prototype… D’oh!!!!

Planning 3 Major Trips Simultaneously: Motorsport Events in Texas, Florida & California

With the excitement from the trip to the South Pacific barely starting to wear out I’m keeping the momentum going by planning 3 massive domestic trips to marshal around the country.

What’s on the agenda?

Pirelli World Challenge season opener at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas immediately followed by a trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida for a few events. I plan to drive down to Florida in my MX-5 the day after I fly home from Texas. The trip will put at least 3,000 miles on the car while volunteering my first St. Pete Grand Prix tagged along to another exciting Sebring 12 hour enduro with the IMSA WeatherTech United SportsCar Series Championship race. After a few weeks of recovery I’ll depart on a trip to California for another IndyCar Grand Prix on the streets of Long Beach.

I could hardly contain my excitement about these trips, and am currently wrecking my brains trying to organize all the travel arrangements. In a way, the flights are the easiest part of the equation. The costs to marshal are tremendous especially when the volunteers compete for the same accommodation that drivers and fans use during a race weekend. I’ve found this to be especially true in the case of St. Pete where even the cheapest hell-hole hotels are pushing $100/night. But it’s a challenge I’m happy to accept, I find the planning part almost as exciting as being trackside for the event.

PWC at COTA

For the Pirelli World Challenge season opener at the Circuit of the Americas I’ve frankensteined a trip together using a $36 AA flight from LGA to DFW and then $2.50 bus from Dallas to Austin with Megabus. On the way home it’ll be another $2.50 Megabus ride back to Dallas to connect to a $49 UA flight back to LaGuardia via Houston: DFW-IAH-LGA. I’m looking forward to my buddy Joaquin helping me out in Austin again with his monster Chevy dually.

St. Pete GP & Sebring 12h

The IndyCar season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida will be a two day drive in the MX-5 from New Jersey. I will probably break up the trip into a 12 hour and an 8 hour drive with a rest stop overnight in Columbia, SC. I am a little concerned about parking for the MX-5 while in Florida especially if I do stay at a cheapo motel, which tend to be in bad parts of town and therefore prone to crime. But fingers are crossed everything works out. I plan to camp at Sebring, as much as I dislike the idea of camping you can’t beat the price. Although my camping gear, sleeping bag, pillows, etc. will completely pack the poor little convertible.

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For this trip I frankensteined a few flights to bring the price down. Because it’s a busy Motorsport weekend in the LA area the flights are priced higher than normal. My goal was to book something for under $200 round trip and I just managed to do it by booking a number of separate reservations with United. The one way NY-LA was about $150 but I cut that cost in half by booking NY-Chicago and Chicago-LA separately… $35 for LGA-ORD and $35 ORD-LAX with favorable departure times and plenty of room between the two separate bookings in case there is major travel disruption on the day of travel. The flights back home were the pricey ones and in fact I paid almost double of the cost to get there. I chose to fly out on the Monday after the race, and the cheapest option was a $132 flight from Burbank to Newark via San Francisco: BUR-SFO-EWR. I think I am pretty happy with these bookings considering the alternative was at least $75 to $100 more, or I would have had to rely on wasting an award which I would rather save up on a flight to Europe.

In the next few days I’ll continue researching accommodation for these three trips and trying to decide whether to stick to public transport in California or rent a cheapo car to get around.

I’m excited!

PS. I am especially looking forward to the lengthy trip in the Miata, after a beautiful Road Trip in New Zealand I want to appreciate driving my own car as much as the owners I met love driving theirs.