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Category: Racing Schools
Posted by: Mike
Bob Bondurant school of high performance driving has announced a new racing series. The series runs from September to April and utilizes several tracks configurations all at Firebird Raceway in Arizona.

The cars are standard Formula Mazdas with racing slicks, a pretty high performance car for a school series, and the pricing seems reasonable.

It's nice to see more options for people considering running in school races, especially since Bridgestone Racing Academy stopped running their series a few years ago. Currently in the US, there's the Skip Barber regional and national series, Bertil Roos FF2000 Championship and Jim Russell Championship Series

Category: General
Posted by: Mike
First off, props to mazda for their massive support of road racing. They do more to promote road racing in america then any other company by a long shot. It was awesome to see what looked like a lot of new people to racing out at the track for the Formula X event at NJMP this weekend, and I'm sure many of these people were there due to promotions though Mazda or companies associated with them.

The scholarships are another awesome deal that mazda offers. The Skip barber national champion gets a ride in star mazda, and the star mazda champ gets a ride in the atlantic championship.

The 2008 skip barber champ was Conor Daly. Congrats to him for winning the Star Mazda race at New Jersey Motorsports Park this weekend.

Conor Daly

Watching Conor's car flying around the track this weekend, I couldn't help but notice that Conor seems to have more sponsors on his car then the rest of the field combined! So many, he might be one of the only guys that could run the series pretty comfortably without the free ride from Mazda. Keep in mind I don't know the Daly's at all and this is all speculation on my part. And I don't mean to take anything away from Conor's successes. But what if the scholarship had gone to someone else instead?

In 2006, Discovery Channel Canada offered the winner of the star racer reality show a funded ride in star mazda. The judges selected Devin Cunningham over the more accomplished choice Lorenzo Mandarino. Mandarino managed to get a ride in the series without winning the show. Cunningham won once in 2007, Mandarino twice, and Cunningham finished one position ahead of Mandarino in the final point standings.



Category: Karting
Posted by: Mike
Up until recently, the only karting I'd done was at my local indoor track. I'd considered trying a few other rental places, but there are no other ones close to me and I hadn't gotten around to going out of my way until recently.

A few weeks ago, I rented a TAG kart from Full Tilt Racing at Englishtown, NJ as part of a private group. At first driving 3.5 hours to run a rental kart with people I've never met seemed crazy but I considered a few things. First, the only other places I could rent a kart of this performance are equally far away (NJMP, Beaverun), second, the cost at the private/corporate rate was about half that of renting for a normal practice day, and third, on a normal practice day it might be intimidating being on the track with a bunch of competitive, more experienced guys. So now trying out the TAG kart in a casual environment for a very reasonable price seemed like the most viable option.

The karts we rented had PRD Fireball engines, and I believe most were Top Kart chassis.

The karting track at Englishtown is decent but far from spectacular. It's a parking lot track and has some painted curbs and cones to mark off the track. Obviously, pretty much no elevation change, and in the corners there were no cones, major shortcutting is possible. The layout of the track is nice though, as there are a mix of left and right hairpins of different radius, a sweeping carousel, and a few sections where multiple turns are tied together.

First time out in the kart, the first thing I noticed was the acceleration very fast indeed, about what I expected. The next thing I noticed was it is absolutely brutal, more so then I expected. The cornering forces are high enough that, even still working up to speed and not cornering anywhere near what I thought was the limit, I already got a coughing sensation from the ribs being pushed up against the outside of the seat in the corners! Then there's the bumps the track is not even that bumpy, but with no suspension hitting the transition to the concrete patches in the corners, and any other small bumps in the corners is absolutely jarring.

For the first half of the session I was slowly picking up some speed all around but obviously still nowhere near the limit. Then a horrible thing happened! My neck started getting tired and I could not hold my head straight anymore, and this was only halfway though the first of four sessions! Clearly, the occasional neck exercises I've been doing were not enough! I tried to throw my head into the corner, leaning it in severely, but I still couldn't do anything to keep it from tilting to the other side from mid corner on. I was able to continue at about the same pace but was no longer thinking about picking up the pace but rather hanging in there for the rest of the session.

The rest of the session were pretty much the same story. I was unable to push any harder because of my neck. It was vary frustrating to feel limited by a physical strength issue. I know I wouldn't have been awesome on my first day in a racing kart, but I'm confident I would have been significantly faster and learned much more if the neck was not an issue.

Although I haven't driven the karts much yet, IMO besides being 10 times more physical, they were remarkably similar to driving the indoor karts. All the steering and pedal inputs are very close to what you'd do on the indoor track. And although there is a greater sensation of speed, the feeling of how fast things come at you is about the same too since the indoor track is smaller and tighter. Based on my limited experience, I would say the Indoor / Outdoor karting symbiosis, is definitely real as a lot of the skills transfer over.

I've been seriously considering getting my own kart to race competitively, so it was a great experience for me to get to a outdoor sprint track for the first time and get a feel for things. Obviously though, I will have to get more practice on these high powered, outdoor karts before I can commit to racing them.
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
I haven't really followed the import/sport compact scene much since high school, but reading a few threads on road racing forums recently about the time attack format got me thinking about it.

Sport compact scene motorsports activities (for my lack of knowing a better term for it) - such as car shows, drag racing, drifting and time attack, are immensely more popular among youths compared to traditional forms of motorsport - such as NASCAR, formula cars or sports car racing. The only people I know of who have gotten legitimate sponsorship in motorsports have been involved in the sport compact scene. Why is this?

Here are some of my thoughts. A lot of people are into cars first, then racing. They want to hook up their street cars. They're the same type of people that would buy a Porsche and track it occasionally (if they had the money). A lot of young people don't have the means to own a second car to race, or even a go kart. The concept of competing with street cars is relevant and something they can participate in, not just sit on the sidelines watching. Aftermarket companies and tuner shops realize that by sponsoring cars or running their own teams, they can show off to a pretty large crowd that want to do the same thing to their cars. In the past 10 years, major auto manufacturers, including GM and Toyota have caught on, and pumped big money into the scene (the effects of this is for another post).

Check out the difference between the redline time attack rules and the scca club racing general competition rules. One allows you to use any car, do crazy stuff to it, and compete with it. Even in the "street" class, many neato mods, built engines, forced induction and big ass wings are all permitted. The other rulebook is thousands of pages long and notes the specific cars that are allowed to compete in each class and the specific parts that must be run. I can definitely see the appeal of the first option for someone trying to get involved.

My motorsports interests always seemed one step ahead of the curve. Although I was always interested in wheel to wheel racing, I also took up some interest in car modifying and import drag racing in my mid teens - before most of my peers knew of such things. By the time my friends learned what a B16 was, I had already moved on to AE86s, S13s and FCs, if you know what I mean. By college, I had already focused my energy on wheel to wheel racing. I bet my high school friends were finding drifting then and maybe into the time attack stuff now. To me the connection from time attack to wheel to wheel road racing is obvious.

Road racing whether club racing or pro racing need to draw these time attack/drifting guys in, but most aren't doing a good job at it! I've been to the local SCCA club races and I'm pretty much the youngest person there. The Grand Am weekend I went to featured drifting on the small track, which is a great idea that's been used a lot, but I saw little interaction between the two crowds. It's a lot like indoor karting vs. outdoor karting.

Organizations like trackdaze and chin motorsports offer people a chance to get on the track for relatively cheap, but where do you go from there?

NASA seems to have a pretty good idea, from track days, to time trials to competition racing in the same weekend. Check out the interview with Chris Cobetto, mid atlantic regional director here. The success of their "pro" series attempts is another question.