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Historic Sportscar Racing Classic 24 hours of Daytona + Trans Am Season Finale the debrief

I remember coming across a picture of a Tic Tac livery Porsche 962 Group C car advertising an event at Daytona… didn’t take me long to decide I must participate. The event: Historic Sportscar Racing Classic 24 hours of Daytona presented by IMSA. Reading about it I thought there would be a million people there… after all everywhere I go people say that Historic events are the best, at Watkins Glen or Laguna Seca or even international events like Spa-Fracorchamps.

Reality though was a bit more low key. But lucky for me not only did I get to see the aforementioned Tic Tac livery Porsche 962. I got to see four of them altogether. I figured they’d do a few parade laps and take it easy for display purposes. In reality though each car was pushing their limits. Some I clocked at nearly 180mph from my post at Pit Out during the race. Wow!

I was always of the opinion that prototypes resembling production cars made the best race cars. The more recent Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR or CLK LM I got to see a few times now is one of my favorites. Similarly Porsche 911 GT1 and the McLaren F1 GTR are amazing. But the cars that preceded that era of racing were the Porsche 956 and 962 respectively and for me seeing them race was a true highlight of the visit to Daytona.

Even though this Rothmans livery Porsche didn’t actually race, it was neat to watch it during practice keep up with the competition. I was convinced this was the car I got to see sitting at Bruce Canepa museum in California a few weeks back, but it was actually a different chassis altogether.

I knew the Dyson team was a competitive Mazda prototype racers in American Le Mans Series, but it was neat to learn they had a history with Porsche Racing in IMSA GTP

The Hawaiian Tropic Fabcar didn’t roll out until race day and after seeing it I really took a liking to it. Compared to the Tic Tac livery car this was like comparing IndyCar to F1, but still it looked beautiful.

I was happy to see other interesting sports cars I haven’t seen before like the Sunoco livery Camaro and the Oldsmobile Aurora IMSA GT.

Overall it was an incredible week… Five days on track at Daytona and most of the time all by myself in Pit Out. What an amazing experience.

It’s ironic that I’m going to mention Trans Am almost as an afterthought, but that’s what it felt like they were at this event. Even though it was their season finale they definitely played a support role for the HSR. That didn’t stop them from having some aggressive racing on display and I truly enjoyed the experience.

Anyway…  race day especially was a real enduro. We only had three SCCA people on Pit Lane (possibly four but he was on the HSR radio) and those three were basically there for the full 30 hours of the race. Starting 7am Saturday for the morning meeting, and finishing Sunday 1pm’ish after that last race got totally mangled with incidents. I attempted to work the full race through for two of my previous Daytona 24 hours (modern IMSA races) but the closest I came was working 22 hours in 2013… somehow this time around I managed to do all 30! It did help that there were 45 minute races with 15 minutes between sessions that I could sit down, but still.

Getting to the event was a real enduro also. I elected to drive down because flights weren’t all that cheap, and a one-way Hertz rental from one of NYC’s airports was just $4.99 per day. I decided to book a car for two days so I could do a more leisurely drive. And my total came out to just over $13 dollars. As cheap as it seems though the fuel killed the deal. It cost me $71 in fuel for the little Nissan Versa I got. Plus another $49 for a hotel in South Carolina to get some rest. I picked my usual stop on the North/South Carolina border to get some fresh pig wings from Dixie Pig in Rock Hill… my favorite!

Spending the night in Charlotte area was neat because I got to see a ton of Miata’s driving around. There was one sitting by my motel at a gas station when I pulled in. And another must have been dining at a fast food place near the motel when I went to pick up my food. So I quickly posted on facebook to see if anyone would want to meet up. Obviously it was too late to do something that evening, but next day I headed out to a Miata specialist shop in Columbia, South Carolina to check out their NC Miata race cars and the garage. And while there got a message from a Miata owner in Savannah, Georgia to meet up for lunch there. Perfect!

The Savannah Miata mini-meet was kind of funny… I neglected to mention to my new friend that I’m driving a rental car, and he almost showed up in his minivan that is used for car pooling… but I’m glad he stopped home to swap into his gorgeous Miata. Love that color blue!

Great opportunity to meet a fellow Miata owner and to try a new place… never been to Zaxby’s before, and it wasn’t bad.

The rental car though was a solid piece of shit, the only saving grace was the fact I squeezed out over 40mpg out of it on the 1,100 mile road trip.

Wish I could bring a little palm tree home one day… or move to a state with palm trees… like say: Florida?

I think one of these days I’ll just move down there!

Speaking of Florida two of my First Coast Miata buddies came out to watch the races on Friday… but because our schedule was so hectic I didn’t get a chance to say Hello… luckily I did get an opportunity to take a shot of their cars coming back from lunch:

Some great folks from the First Coast Miata Club in Jacksonville, FL

And so in closing it was a super incredible weekend. Got a chance to see some awesome machinery going really fast. And some stuff you don’t normally see out and about…. like the Ferrari F40

…which looked almost common parked next to this amazing thing:

So yeah, can’t say enough good things about this trip!

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:


















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!


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!

Mazda MX-5: 3,000+ Mile Spring Break Road Trip South in a Miata, from New Jersey to Florida

Question: “Is Mazda MX-5 Miata a good Road Trip car?”

Answer: Yes, absolutely!

I have found first hand how good my little red sports car was for the little Spring Break Road Trip down the Eastern seaboard from NJ to Florida. My goal was to marshal the Grand Prix of St. Pete and Sebring 12 hour, but what I ended up doing was much more than that. I got to visit several more circuits including Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL and Roebling Road in Savannah, Georgia. And I got to enjoy a ton of foodie experiences along the way, which is probably the best way to make a long trip in a Miata really comfortable. The trick is making sufficient stops along the way to not get tired or bored of the drive.

I also kept a little game going trying to play with my fuel mileage and finding most reasonable fuel prices along the way. I relied on an app called Gas Buddy which helped a lot considering the spread for fuel prices for 91-93 octane Premium fuel was vast, from $1.90 in the Northern States to $3,00/gallon in Southern states. I’ve found out that even from the same brand gas station, not all fuels were performing comparatively. I got better gas mileage sometimes from Speedway gas stations than I did from BP, Exxon or Sunoco.

Although not very scientific I created this spreadsheet of all 15 of my fill ups, including price paid, amount of fuel used, and MPG #’s:

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida fuel strategy and gas mileage

But enough about strategy the key attraction for me was sightseeing

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south central florida region scca at sebring

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida sebring international raceway

Sebring was the farthest point South I’ve driven my MX-5 Miata yet, I always wanted to get a shot of the car with the track. Daytona International Speedway was another, I’m happy to accomplish both!

mazda mx-5 day trip to daytona international speedway 2

On the drive back I had some time to kill since my plan was to spend the night in South Carolina at a fellow marshal’s home (who wouldn’t get out of work until about 5’ish which gave me plenty of time to be a tourist while driving up). So I visited Roebling Road in Savannah, GA on the drive up.

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida roebling road savannah georgia

And that was as far as racetracks went on the trip. I did drive right past Darlington Motor Speedway (and Raceway, and Dragway) but that was around 5 o’clock in the morning and way too dark to take pictures anyway.

The rest of the trip was devoted to general sightseeing. Every time I’m in that part of Georgia I love visiting Savannah and Tybee Island.

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south tybee island savannah georgia

And believe it or not, I have yet to take a single picture of me in my car until now, I offered to take a photo for some tourists at the sign and they returned the favor for me to take this shot :

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south tybee island savannah georgia russ

Of course the main reason to visit Tybee Island is for it’s incredible seafood at The Crab Shack, which is exactly what I did.

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south tybee island savannah georgia crab shack

The food wasn’t particularly cheap, and the portions were kind of small, but you couldn’t beat the experience of freshness. Worth it!

Food therefore was a major theme on my Road Trip, and an integral part of keeping me entertained and enthusiastic about the drive (read: not bored!).

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida watering hole sebring

On our very first night in Sebring, Nancy Digh organized a nice marshal welcoming party at the Cowpokes Watering Hole in Sebring. I had a fantastic Brisket Bacon Burger there.

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida watering hole sebring brisket burger

But my favorite meal at Sebring (besides what the spectators fed us at turn 13) was at the Palm Diner trying their seafood belly buster:

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida palm diner belly buster

My most favorite meal in Florida thought was in Lake Worth while Couchsurfing. My host took me to a little hole-in-a-wall place called Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood where I had an awesome meal.

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida cherry pocket steak & seafood fish

The appetizer was really my favorite. We had gator bites while sitting on a patio looking over a lake looking directly at a small alligator sunning itself out of the water. The salad that came with it had the most awesome strawberry flavored sauce, finger licking good!

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida cherry pocket steak & seafood gator bites

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida airboats and seaplanes

Only in Florida where you can arrive at the restaurant by car, seaplane or air boat.

Driving further north my buddy Ben took me to Redbone Alley  serving an amazing dish of Grits and Catfish… very southern!

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south grits and catfish florence south carolina

Even chain food in North Carolina was delicious, Bojangle’s famous biscuit and gravy, cajun chicken and sweet tea were sooooo good!

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south biscuit and gravy cajun chicken sweet tea bojangles

Virginia and Pennsylvania welcomed me with an even faster fast-food option right at the gas station: Sheetz and their delicious sliderz and chicken strips tossed in Dr.Pepper BBQ sauce… Yum!

Long story short, the Road Trip in a Miata becomes not just bearable but extremely enjoyable when you take your time and enjoy the sites, try the local foods and enjoy yourself when you can.

After making it home I went ahead and swapped my Winter BFG’s that now have about 4.5k miles on them for Summer BFG’s with 0 miles on them and am looking forward to taking another Road Trip soon…. stay tuned!

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south wheel swap winter for summer

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south wheel swap winter for summer bfg