So forgive me for not keeping you all in the loop lately but things this year have been anything but what I expected as I worked through my 18’ motorsports plans during the winter months of 2017. The good news is the race-helmet and drivers suit have been getting some use and the back half of the year looks to be really exciting going forward.
So I closed the chapter on Charlotte, NC recently. Having moved there so long ago, I really thought I’d stay there forever but recent opportunities had continued to emerge over at the Porsche Track Experience (aka: Driving School) in Birmingham, AL and I concluded that a change was in order. I’ve continued to grow within the company there, I really like the team and how everything is run. Accepting an ever-increasing role at the school had brought me to the point where I was spending more and more time there and not in Charlotte. Not being a big fan of commuting-driving, I decided to pack things up and make a permanent move to the fast growing city of Birmingham.
Add to this, I found out not long before the 2018 drift season started that my friends at JNR would not be returning to Canada to compete in the drift events that we did together last year. Naturally, doing them completely on my own would have been possible but the logistics and costs involved of running just a single car up north just didn’t make a lot of sense. So with the 18’ drifting plans on temporary hold, some restructuring had to be set into place.
This brings us to this update that finds me now in Alabama fulltime, working on setting up a new shop, finding a new place to hang my hat and keep the driver-coaching and racing activities alive as well. As of today, I have been fortunate enough to be soooooo-busy, that I’ve yet to find a new house so I’m racking up hotel-points faster than you can believe. That’s ok because that means I’ve been working and racing a lot so it’s a small price to pay for having fun. That said, as a few days off become available, I’ll be working hard to secure a new house for me and all my gear.
As for coaching and racing, things have been good as well. A few years ago, two new race series emerged as places for teams to go that were looking for something more than amateur/club racing yet at a cost that was not as high as pro-racing. These two series, the World Racing League (WRL) and American Endurance Racing series (AER) have become a great place for teams and drivers alike to build and drive some great cars, at great tracks, with fare competition in a “endurance/long format” that is both fun and rewarding.
Besides all out long-format racing fun, these series have also presented themselves as a good place to do some “real world” driver-coaching, as there is plenty of seat-time and with multiple drivers, you can easily compare styles, techniques and strategies during the actual races. Our latest opportunity for this was a couple of weeks ago at AER’s dual 9-hour races at the National Corvette Museum track outside Bowling Green, KY. I had never been to this track before but had heard good things about it and I can tell you I was not disappointed. The track was really fun to drive, it’s a very nice facility and was very convenient to get to being literally right next to I-65.
My friend Ari Rubenstein and I shared the Connelly Motorsports BMW 330 with Matt Connelly and Rafael Torres. I knew Matt from a previous adventure many years ago but Rafael was a driver I had not met before. Rafael turned out to be a super great guy, very easy to work with and a very-quick driver. Matt and his team did a great job taking care of us. His daughter Lexi and the crew made sure we had fun and we had a great time hanging out with everyone that was there.
For my part, after Rafael qualified the car on Friday, I started the race on Saturday before handing it over to Ari. He drove a great stint and got faster as his race went on. After turning the car over to Rafael, Ari and I got to work analyzing his laps, comparing our videos and figuring out ways for both of us to go even faster the next time we got in the car.
Unfortunately, our car later suffered issues with the fuel pump gasket so a good amount of time “behind the wall” put our car down the order a bit. As with endurance-style racing, some other teams also experienced mechanical challenges and thanks to our crew working hard to get the car back out, we ended our day in 3rd place in class.
Our Sunday race started out crazy because in finishing up the pre-race prep, the fixed fuel-leak issue came back to bit us. Matt and his team did a great job of getting it fixed just in the nick of time, time for Rafael to start the race from last on the grid. Driving like a madman, Rafael ripped through the field, drove amazingly well and turn the car over to Matt well up the running order. Being the experienced racer that he is, Matt drove a great stint before turning the car over to Ari, who then turned it over to me and so on.
As if by design, Ari drove event better on Sunday turning faster laps as his stint went on and then I ended up doing a 2-hr long stint after he finished. As I had done on the very last lap of the race on Saturday, I turned my quickest lap of the race at the 1hr 55-min mark of my stint. The races were very rewarding for me as a driver and watching Ari improve all weekend long was equally rewarding for me as a driver-coach. He did a tremendous job all weekend long, drove nearly mistake-free and had a fun time to boot. With our car finishing 3rd in class again on Sunday, we were also awarded 2nd place overall for our class in the combined scoring.
We really enjoyed our event and can’t thank the folks at American Endurance Racing enough for putting on a great, fun and safe event. Matt and his team were great to spend the weekend with and I can’t wait for Ari and I to do our next event together.
Up next for me will be an amazing opportunity that I’ve been working on for a while and I can’t wait to share it with you all once everything comes together…
Thanks for reading this and I’ll talk to you soon…