At the last ChumpCar race you blew the engine up on your racecar going up the hill toward the corkscrew at Laguna Seca. Bummer. Now your racecar is sitting dead in the garage and your wife is storing Christmas decorations on it –a felony in some states. Your old sponsor isn’t answering your e-mails, because he knows you’re just looking for free parts for the nuked motor. You, good Sir, are a long, long way from your next checkered flag. Or are you? Borrow your wife’s Hyundai (since the motor in that car still runs) and head over to a K1 Speed near you for some adrenaline pumping wheel-to-wheel racing action! THE COST Twenty bucks. Yup, only twenty bucks for a 14-lap race at K1 Speed. When was the last time you raced for that cheap? Oh, that’s right… never! I’ve spent over $20 just getting one tire mounted and balanced at a race track. There is one hidden cost though, (isn’t there always?) you have to buy an annual K1 Speed competition license. A mere $5.95 which last you for the whole year, I’ve spent more on a cheeseburger and crapped it out two hours later. K1 Speed also has some buy two get one free deals so you can have three races for $40. For guys who drop $1,000 for a weekend entry fee road racing, that sounds pretty good. SANCTIONING BODY K1 Speed runs quick electric karts and has 10 locations (6 in California, 1 in Texas, 1 in Arizona, 1 in Washington and 1 in Florida). They supply you with a helmet and a nice head lice guard so you can come away from the event with a smile on your face without a parasite in your hair. K1 Speed is co-owned by road racing hero Boris Said, so you know the racing is going to be legit. Similar indoor karting can be done at places like Pole Position and Fast Lap however Fast Lap uses petroleum powered indoor karts which means you suck on exhaust fumes the entire time you’re racing. The electric karts are a lot easier on the lungs. THE HIGH Nobody ever leaves a go-kart track without a smile on their face. The karts are fast, the courses flow well and provide ample passing locations, it is a good time had by all. If you think you are a good driver, you’ll find out soon enough when an eight-year-old kid dives past you into the sweeper. The tracks have a cool projection screen with your ranking in the race and your lap times. You can see the screen as you go by and know if your last lap was faster than your previous one. This information pushes you to driver harder and harder until… whoops, you’re in the wall! CAR WEAR This is the best part, your car will be fine. This is a “beat and release” program, where the only damage to your car will be if a bird decides to leave you a little surprise in the parking lot. The K1 Speed karts seem to hold up to a pretty good pounding (they don’t really appreciate it when you do beat up the karts but, come on, everybody knows you’re going to beat them up just a little.) YOUR DAY First thing is first, you need to spend some time in front of a registration computer and log yourself in and make sure you give them your e-mail address so they can send you spam for the rest of your life, and probably beyond. Choose your race and pay the man. They have some cool race programs where you get a qualifying race, then a real race with a rolling start based on qualifying, t-shirts to all of the participants and trophies to the winners (including the all important podium moment –sorry no champagne spraying here) but you can take a photo with your iPhone and upload it to your Facebook page within milliseconds to let your ex-girlfriend know you’re a badass race car driver. Not that she cares, she’s dating a guy with a guitar now. Before you hit the track there will be some lawyer written speeches about safety, yada, yada, yada. Finally you will get to drive on the track, now the fun begins. Race your heart out, remember to breathe. When the checkered flag falls hopefully you were out in front. After your session is complete you will get a printout of your stats and you can see how your times compare to other racers. THE PEOPLE Everybody likes karts so you can end up racing against grandma, a contingent of insane 12-year-olds at a birthday party or some serious racers. If you see a guy bring his own helmet with a two thousand dollar air brush paint job on it from Troy Lee Designs, put his ass in the wall for being a douche bag. The parking lot will tell you a lot about the folks you will be competing with. When we arrived, there were a fair amount of Subarus with window decals and big exhaust systems sitting static in the parking lot. From that I gathered there was a solid amount of Subee nerds inside wearing Travis Pastrana jackets gathered around a video game talking about how Mitsubishis suck. Luckily for me the karts were only two-wheel drive and thus the four-wheel drive contingent struggled with lateral grip on the track. Victory: Speed:Sport:Life’s Racer Boy. GLORY There is glory to be had here. Trophies are on the line, bragging rights, and statistics with your name on them showing if you are the hot shoe you have been pretending to by when you post in different online automotive forums. It is a great place to settle that ongoing feud between you and your friends about, “who is fastest?” OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA? The key here is practice, practice, practice. The first K1 Speed that I hit was in Carlsbad at lunch time. I was expecting to dominate anyone on the track. What I found out was that the “lunch crew” was a group of guys in a nearby corporate park that raced at K1 every single day. They schooled me in my first session. You have to know the track, you have to connect the corners and make the track flow and be smooth. But the real trick to winning is staying out of trouble with “The Man.” The speed of the electric karts are controlled as a group by the “The Man” in charge, he can also individually slow your kart down if you are being a bad boy. That, as they say, is the rub. You rub fenders out on the track, chances are you will get a sign held up that says, “No Bumping!” Ignore that a few laps in a row and you will find yourself with a lot less horsepower. Which means at the end of the race when you really need the power to stay out in front, “The Man” will take it away from you and you will find yourself in the… EXCUSES ZONE! RACER BOY GAUGE Let’s review the Racer Boy gauge cluster here: FUEL (Cost): The fuel gauge is almost full because this is super cheap racing. You can’t find another wheel to wheel competitive event for this kind of money. They also have racing leagues with point standings for a championship. RPMs (Adrenaline): The tachometer is at 3,300 RPMs. This racing will get your adrenaline pumping, but you’re not worried about being killed (like in other forms of motorsports), therefore the RPM’s are way below the redine. MPH (Danger): The speedometer is at 25 miles an hour indicating how safe these cars are. You have seatbelts, a helmet, and soft barriers around the track. There is nothing for mommy to worry about. VOLTS (Time): The volts gauge is just under full because this racing is easy on your personal time. Arrive, drive, leave. No car to tow, no tires to scrub in, brakes to bed. You just rolling in, race and roll out. The guys in Carlsbad do it during their lunch hour. MILEAGE (Car Wear): The mileage is at 1 mile because you don’t have to beat up your car to do this sort of racing. Beat up Boris Said’s cars instead. CHECKERED FLAG To get a feel for K1 Speed we took a bunch of All-American Soap Box Derby racers to the Santa Clara location and let them run hard. The kids had been racing each other all day long at a rally event in Palo Alto. They were pretty beat from a long day of racing, so we weren’t sure how up they would be for more racing. But once we arrived at K1, they forgot all about how tired they were. After a few minutes on the track they were nothing but smiles. Nobody leaves a kart track without a smile on their face.
Category - Racer Boy
You already have a car with a rollcage and you finally got your competition license. The only problem now is you’re totally broke from installing the rollcage and paying to go to driving school. With limited funds, how are you going to race? Simple, split the operating costs with a few friends and go endurance racing. With endurance racing, you and your friends will each get more than enough seat time and you can all share the
burden fun of working on the car and paying for tires.
I’m not going to blow smoke up your anus here. Racing is expensive, and endurance racing is hours and hours of expensive racing which means fuel, brake pads, rotors and tires will be destroyed in abundance. But I’ve found that the best way to keep the costs reasonable is to spread it out amongst a team effort. In a previous Racer Boy we covered how much it costs to set up a car for racing in NASA’s Performance Touring Series, in this article we will concentrate on the endurance racing side. Performance Touring cars (PTA, PTB, PTC, PTD, PTE, PTF) fall right into NASA’s endurance classing (ESR, ES, EO, E1, E2, E3).
The major cost of racing is the ante (the initial investment of the car, safety equipment, etc.). But once all of that is sitting in your garage (keeping your wife’s car outside in the driveway) the race-to-race operating costs aren’t that bad. As long as you don’t stuff the front of your car into the back of another (resulting in some major repair costs), all you have to do to keep the car on the track is replace renewable items (tires and brakes). A harder compound tire (Toyo versus a Hoosier) won’t be as fast but it will last longer and Carbotech makes an endurance racing brake pad that lasts three times as long as their other pads. Using equipment that has longer life span and splitting those costs up between two or three drivers really makes things manageable.
The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) runs the longest closed course endurance road race in the world, The 25 Hours of Thunderhill, which makes them the endurance experts. ChumpCar and The 24 Hours of LeMons are other sanctioning bodies that provide inexpensive forms of endurance racing (and have been covered in previous Racer Boy columns). For this column we will focus on “the show” and that is racing alongside the pros with NASA, who orchestrate the Western Endurance Racing Championship (WERC).
Racing with NASA is fast paced. The multi-class racing makes every lap exciting because you have faster cars always passing slower cars. There is no breathing room, there is no cruising for a few laps and getting your focus back, your focus has to be 100% for the entire race. Inevitably someone is always in your mirror or you are overtaking another car. One small mistake and you are sitting in the paddock wondering why your radiator and windshield are in the same place. And if that kind of non-stop action doesn’t do it for you, eventually the sun sets and you have to race at night. Night racing can be summed up with one word: scary.
At night you can’t see the track for squat. And everyone’s headlights and auxiliary lights are so bright that you can’t tell if the car behind you is right on your bumper (about to pass you) or if it is seven car lengths back (so you should run your line through the next corner). Simply put, it’s harrowing.
Cars occasionally die in road racing. Cars certainly up their risk level in endurance racing. The amount of traffic, rain, night racing, multiple drivers (multiple skill levels) all increase the chance that your racecar may come back from a race as scrap metal. The trick to keeping your car alive is to understand that endurance racing is all about enduring. Let the other guys run way too hard and stuff their car into a tire wall. You play it safe, save the equipment and at the end of the race you may still have a car to run, and hopefully a new trophy to sit on a shelf and collect dust.
Call all of your friends. I mean all of them. Even that guy Bruce that you had nap time with in kindergarten. Endurance racing is a team effort and it takes an entire team to be successful. You need friends to fuel the car, to spot on the radio, to keep track of mileage, to change tires, and to make sandwiches. It’s always smart to have a girl in the pits who is good at massages to loosen you up when you climb out of the car after a triple stint behind the wheel (Well, I say it’s smart if you’re single, if you’re married and you found your ex-girlfriend on Facebook and had her come out to the track to give you a massage, you can kiss the race team goodbye when your wife makes you sell the car in the divorce).
The biggest difference between sprint racing and endurance racing is pit stops. There are tons of rules when it comes to fueling cars and changing tires (you can’t do them at the same time in most classes). If you want to be successful you need to become an expert on all of the rules (NASA Endurance Racing Rules are here). While learning those rules you’ll realize that you have to outfit your crew (you know, Bruce, from nap time) with the proper equipment. NASA won’t let Bruce stand in a pair of flip flops and shorts with a cigarette in his mouth while he fuels your racecar. He has to be completely covered in Nomex with a helmet (equal safety equipment as the driver). You can get all the crew gear you need pretty cheap at I/O Port Racing Supplies.
The length of the race will orchestrate how many driver swaps and fuel stops you need to make. Any time wasted in the pits trying to get your seatbelts on is time lost out on the track where you could be making a pass for position. We lost a three hour race this year by 15 seconds (I still lie in bed at night thinking about that damn 15 seconds).
We raced the entire season of the Western Endurance Racing Championship this year with NASA. Teams in the first race, who were complete strangers to us, we are now on a first name basis with and consider to be close friends (Team Jagermeister, did you get my Christmas card?). The endurance racing community is a close knit group who have battled and shared a lot. I remember climbing out of the racecar after an epic night battle with a guy in a Miata. The best part of the event was having a beer with the dude after the race and talking about our sparring, turn-by-turn, all of the crap we pulled on each other (he tried a late inside move on me and we touched, I got him back on the straight and then put two wheels off on purpose to kick dirt up in front of him on the track, which will blind a driver at night –its all in fun). The endurance racing folks go above and beyond to help one another out in the pits with tools, parts or advice. Once the green flag drops, those friendships are over. When the checker falls, we are all friends again. It’s a great time.
Winning an endurance race is awesome because you get to share it with your friends. Trust me, you didn’t with the race. Your team won the race by everyone working together. The races are so long and hard, and there are so many competitors going for it, that there is an incredible amount of satisfaction that comes from actually winning an event. And racing hard all year long and actually managing to win a championship; that is awesome.
OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA?
The first thing to know about endurance racing is you need to be able to see to go fast. We made the mistake of going cheap on lights one time and it cost us a win. We will never make that mistake again. The bigger and brighter the lights, the better. However, big lights cause big strain on an electrical system and you may find yourself in the pits changing an alternator in the middle of the race. You have to find the right balance of lights and longevity in order to be successful.
If you just want to win one race then I’ll tell you to go for broke and go like hell. If you want to win a championship then you need to think about the big picture all year long and grab every point that you can earn. You may find yourself taking a conservative strategy that only results in a second place finish for one race, but if you can do that over and over again all year long, odds are you will be the one with the championship trophy. Running an entire season is a real commitment, not only for you and your car partners but your friend Bruce too. Travel, fuel, food, all of those costs have to be considered when going after a championship. You have to make every event. In the 2010 NASA Western Endurance Racing Championship there were no drops. Every race counted, and the finale at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill was a double points race.
So with all of that on the line, you need to keep your friends happy. Standing at the pit wall and screaming at them because they forgot to check the torque on the lugs will probably guarantee that they won’t come back to the next event. That means you will be torquing your own lug nuts. Be a nice guy, and you will have a nice crew. Be an asshat and you will be jumping out of the car and fueling it yourself –that’s no way to have a fast pit stop! And it is definitely not the road toward a championship.
RACER BOY GAUGE
Let’s review the Racer Boy gauge cluster here:
FUEL (Cost): The fuel gauge is less than a quarter tank because lets face it you are going to burn a lot of fuel in a 3, 6 or 25 hour race. This is expensive racing but sharing the costs as you share the driving duties will help keep things so you will at least have enough cash after the race to hit the dollar menu at Taco Bell.
RPMs (Adrenaline): The tachometer is at 6,800 RPMs because this is awesome door-to-door racing. Mix in a little darkness for night racing and it can give you a heart attack.
MPH (Danger): The speedometer is at 123 miles per hour because you will probably be going that fast. And if you aren’t, someone in a faster class will be, and they will be passing you while you’re only going 112. That makes things still 123 miles per hour dangerous for both of you.
VOLTS (Time): The volts gauge is less than a quarter full because this sort of racing takes an enormous amount of time. A lot of that time is spent tracking down your friends on Facebook to see if they want to drive six hours to put gas in your car. Bruce? Where are you? Napping again?
MILEAGE (Car Wear): The mileage is at 150,000 miles because this racing is very hard on cars. Endurance racing breaks stuff on cars you didn’t even know existed. Welds will break, bolts you never saw before will loosen over time. We should all feel very sorry for any car that lives its life at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
Road racing with NASA has been some of the best racing action I have ever experienced. Adding the endurance aspect to it and doing it side-by-side with my friends made it even better. During the 25 Hours of Thunderhill we ran alongside World Challenge Champions Peter Cunningham and Lawson Aschenbach, driving a Honda factory effort. It was awesome to get the chance to rub fenders with these accomplished drivers. If you have the chance, grab your buds and find the longest race you can. Find out if you can endure. See you at Thunderhill!
After getting your ass handed to you at the local mini-golf go-kart track by eight year olds, you’ve given up on your own dreams of racing F1 (don’t feel bad, the little whipper snappers have a hundred pound weight advantage on you in a 5 horsepower go-kart). But the reason you were at the go-kart track in the first place is because you’re a daddy now. In fact one of the eight year olds that was shaming you in Turn 1 was your own kid. You have looked into competitive go-kart racing for your child but after you did the math and saw it was going to cost the same amount to get a competitive go-kart and equipment for the kid as it would to buy you a new Lotus, you realized it ain’t gonna happen. Now what? I have the solution for you. Congratulations Dad, you’re now getting a racing promotion, you are going to be “crew chief” as you and your kid take on The All-American Soap Box Derby. THE COST This isn’t as cheap as the Pinewood Derby but it’s still reasonably priced. A basic stock kit from All-American Soap Box Derby (AASBD) is 387 bucks. However that is a bit misleading because that kit does not come with wheels ($100) or any weight (around $100 more once all is said and done). So you are looking at a 600 dollar investment which does sound like a lot (Hint: get Grandma and Grandpa to sponsor). Plus entry fees for the weekend race can be between 35 to 70 bucks. Think that is too much? Try to budget a season of racing for a kid in quarter midgets ($25,000 and up). SANCTIONING BODY The All-American Soap Box Derby (AASBD) is the main player in the soap box derby world and they run a National Championship in Akron, Ohio every year. The AASBD has local clubs and chapters nationwide for kids to compete in and try to qualify to attend the national championship. AASBD requires that the kids be between the ages of 8 and 17 years old and that they use the provided AASBD cars and wheels. There are other sanctioning bodies locally that have more grassroots events with home built cars allowing for a lot of ingenuity in their design and less cost. Those local events also let younger kids participate. The biggest problem with these smaller events is they are generally hard to find out about. I lived in a city for three years and then found out by chance one day we had a race (I saw a car in the back of a pick-up at an intersection and chased the driver down like a madman). I found out they had been running a soap box derby race for kids for over 20 years. THE HIGH For the kids running down the hill it is an absolute blast. They have the wind in their face, they are running neck and neck with another competitor down a steep hill. For a lot of kids it is their first experience of real speed (believe it or not we have seen speeds up to 32 miles per hour in these cars). As the father, it will give you a mild heart attack as you run down the hill cheering your kid along and hoping that the wheels you put on the car hold up. CAR WEAR The cars don’t have much in the way of moving parts so these cars can last for years, being passed down from big brother to little sister in some cases. Occasionally I have seen some cars run off course and hit a barrier (which isn’t good for the barrier or cars, but the kids always walk away unscathed). The good news is they don’t have internal combustion engines so there won’t be any late night motor swaps or expensive machine shop bills. Just align the axles and you are good to go. YOUR DAY Before you can head to the track you are going to need to buy and build the car. For AASBD you have three choices, Stock, Super Stock or Masters. Stock is the easiest kit to build and doesn’t require painting. Super Stock requires a lot of paint and Bondo to get the car smooth and aerodynamic. Masters is the “builders” class and requires hundreds of hours of work to get the car “perfect” for racing. The instructions are easy to use and a basic tool kit can build a Stock car. The kids and dads can work together assembling the car (which is part of the fun). If you want to personalize the car and give it a little flair (which the kids love) you can add decals or designs to the car. We always used Figstone Graphics since they do custom stickers for any sort of race car, whether it has an engine or not. Once the car is built, get the car up to weight by adding metal plates in the interior (check for the maximum weight in your class and weigh the car with your kid in it). Next thing to do is find a race and pack up the truck. It’s time to let the kid cruise down a hill. At the event the car will be inspected. Tech inspection is very serious in the AASBD. Every single bolt has to be O.E.M. and they measure and weigh the cars quite closely. This is not the place for Smokey Yunick engineering if you know what I mean (for those who don’t, it is known as creative rule book reading or simply: cheating). The car will also be weighed before and after the race. There will be a grid sheet and a bracket set up for the kids to begin eliminations. The grid sheet will tell you which lane you are running in and which opponent you will be racing against. Get in line and hurry up and weight. Once you are up you can place the car into the ramps and then wish your kid luck, you have done all you can, it is in their hands now. The kids will head down the hill and you will scream your lungs out for them to “drive straight” and “don’t use the brakes until after the finish!” The kids won’t listen to you, but they will have the time of their life while racing. After the kids make their runs the cars are trailered back up the hill on these trick car haulers (which is great for dad’s back). At the top of the hill a “wheel swap” is performed where the wheels off of one car are traded with another. Then the same two kids race each other again in opposite lanes from the first race. This way there is no lane or wheel advantage. It is the difference between the times of both runs (one for each kid in each lane) that determines the winner of the round. The winner will move up the bracket to the next round, the loser will be out, or move to a secondary bracket (called the loser’s bracket) to compete in just like in E.T. Bracket Drag Racing. The more races you win, the more runs you get down the hill. Simple as that. Eventually there will be nobody else to race and you are the winner. Well, when I say “you” I mean, “your kid.” THE PEOPLE You will find a great group of people volunteering and running these races. These things take a lot of time to put on and many children get to enjoy the benefits from the work of a few people who selflessly donate their time to organize the race. It is a family affair and there are lots of dads on hand to help with the construction of the cars and set up advice. You learn quickly that even though these cars are “stock” some just seem to be faster than others (just like in any form of racing). Spending time with the dads who build the fast cars will usually earn you a few set up tips that might help your kid’s car scoot down the hill fast too. The kids that race in these events are always smiling and having a good time. They are competing with each other but the competition itself always seems to take a back seat to just the good time of running down the hill at speed. Usually it is the dads who care about who wins the race or not, the kids just like driving the cars. GLORY For the kids and parents winning one of these events is awesome. There is usually a trophy presentation and sometimes the kids even get their names in the newspaper. This is pretty cool for a ten year old kid. But even if you don’t win, kids find glory in just being a part of the event. Sometimes there are parades prior to the races and the kids get to participate and show off their cars. Kids love this sort of stuff. They are in the limelight for a weekend and it’s a neat thing to seem them experience. For dads, the crew chiefs, it is the satisfaction that the car you built brought home victory for the family race team. OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA? In order to do well in All American Soap Box Derby or any other local derby you have to have a competitive car. The only engine in these races is ole Mr. Newton and his theory of gravity. Therefore the only thing keeping these cars from heading downhill super fast is friction. You need to find a way to get rid of as much friction as possible. Alignment is a big factor in this case. Using alignment tools will help you to build a car that isn’t fighting itself with a toe-in/toe-out condition or cambered wheels (putting too much weight on only one part of the bearing). The other thing to fight friction is to give the car as much weight as allowed and by putting that weight toward the rear of the car (to give it as much potential energy as possible). The cars can only weigh a certain amount at the event, but the car that weighs as close to as possible what that maximum amount will have an advantage. But the real key to winning is the kids themselves. They have to drive the car straight and make the track as short as possible. They need to keep their heads down and make the cars as aerodynamic as they can. This all comes from experience. The more races you run, the better your chances are of bringing home a win. And for many lucky kids the ultimate prize is in Akron, the All-American Soap Box Derby Championship on a three lane wide track in front of thousands of fans in grandstands. This is the Daytona 500 for Soap Box Derby. RACER BOY GAUGE Let’s review the Racer Boy gauge cluster here: FUEL (Cost): The fuel gauge is around three quarters of a tank. The cost of the car will set you back a bit but after that the racing is relatively inexpensive. You do have the cost of the entry fees and getting the car to the event. Some people have motor homes and car trailers, while others just bungee cord the soap box derby car to the roof of their Chevy Tahoe. RPMs (Adrenaline): The tachometer is at 4,000 RPMs. Dads, your adrenaline will only get going about 2,000 RPMs while watching the kids go down the track, but the kid’s heart will be hitting 6,000 wile they’re driving. We’ll average out the two and call it 4,000. MPH (Danger): The speedometer is at 30 miles an hour which is about as fast as these things go. This is a very safe event. More kids are hurt cheerleading every year than racing soap box derby cars. VOLTS (Time): The volts gauge is around half because there is some time invested in building these cars and getting them to the event. You’ll spend hours in the garage getting that alignment just right. MILEAGE (Car Wear): The mileage is at 100 miles because that is about all the miles you will put on your truck taking the soap box derby car to an event. The derby cars themselves last for years and years. However, check the AASBD site before an event because inevitably every year or so they require an update for the cars (probably won’t cost you more than $30 for the new part). All of the cars are required to be the same so you will need the latest updates. CHECKERED FLAG Whether you are a gear head or a racer yourself, Soap Box Derby is a really fun thing to get involved in with your children. It teaches them how to use tools during the car construction, how to fine tune a car set up during the race, and the spirit of competition. It is absolutely a great bonding tool for parents and their children and it is totally fun and safe for the kids. See you at the bottom of the hill.
You don’t own an Aston Martin Vanquish, you’re not independently wealthy, and you don’t have a week to kill driving across country in the BullRun or the world in the Gumball 3000 (nevermind the $120,000 entry fee –you read that correctly, 120 large). However, you think you would enjoy the experience of driving side by side with some choice exotic machinery and competing in a high-end rally event. This is where Targa Trophy comes in. A one day, reasonably priced, rally experience for exotic cars. THE COST I said it was reasonably priced, however that is in comparison to other events in its class. The entry fee is $895 which includes, swag bags, t-shirts, lunch, dinner, awards and the epic after party. Sure, it is a hell of a lot more expensive than a weekend autocross for 30 bucks but when was the last time you had your picture taken with a NOS Energy Drink Girl at an autocross? Didn’t happen. The additional costs to consider are your wheels. Do you have a Lamborghini in your driveway? Me neither. However, Black and White Car Rental will rent you a car for the event, the right kind of car that will get you into the event (and probably get you the phone numbers a few girls as well). You also need to consider how much it will cost in fuel, figure on two to three tanks worth of high-test. SANCTIONING BODY Jason Overell, is the master of ceremonies of Targa Trophy and has done a fantastic job making this event feel special. This isn’t your typical time and distance or gimmick rally. The cars in this event are rare, exotic and wicked fast which gives the event a “status” feel to it. Jason has linked up with numerous sponsors to keep the event classy yet affordable to competitors. Besides each individual event, the Targa Trophy runs their Triple Crown Series where championship points are earned from every event and an eventual champion will win a $6,000 specially made Targa Trophy pendant from LUZ. How much was that trophy worth that you won during the E.T. Bracket Drag Race at your local strip? Nine bucks, maybe? THE HIGH It doesn’t matter if you are a fourteen year old boy or a grown man, stickers and numbers on a car can make any car cooler. Seeing a Porsche GT3 with a number panel on the door is always cooler than seeing a plain Porsche GT3 sitting in the supermarket parking lot. As a competitor, when you come out of the start of the rally amongst a crowd of onlookers and you are driving down the street in your car, plastered in rally decals, you can’t help but smile. And cruising down the street next to a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder covered in the same decals, you absolutely can’t help but feel like you are part of something awesome. People will stare at you. Strangers will take pictures of you. Some people will give you the thumbs up while others will give you the bird. You won’t care. You’ll just rev the motor and be happy you’re driving the event as opposed to standing on the sidewalk, watching it go by without you. CAR WEAR This is a street legal road rally which means car wear is everyday normal use… pretty much. Some spirited corner taking on some mountain roads may incur a few extra thousand miles of wear on your soft rubber summer tires. You don’t have to worry about rubbin’ fenders like you would racing NASA Performance Touring. Roads are roads and some have the occasional pothole, which can play havoc on some European exotics with their low ride height and extremely lightweight wheels wrapped in super low profile tires. My feeling on this is if you can afford a Ferrari, you can probably afford to fix a Ferrari. Run that mother like it was meant to be run! YOUR DAY After spending a long afternoon polishing your baby… wait what am I talking about? If you can afford a Lamborghini, you have your people polish the car. Either way after the car is looking sharp you and a friend (gotta have a navigator) will road trip to the start at the host hotel. During the Targa Trophy Bay Area Rallyfest this was the W Hotel in San Francisco (yes, very posh). There you will sign the requisite waivers which say you won’t run your Ferrari at 130 miles per hour and ram it into a family of five riding in a Nissan Quest on their way to see the Golden Gate bridge. You will pick up your sticker pack which will have numerous sponsorship stickers, Targa Trophy decals and your number panels which you are required to cover your car up with. The stickers they use are high quality, come off easily and will not damage the paint on your Bentley. Breakfast will be catered and you will find yourself mingling with people who are having conversations about real estate developments and their recent trip to the Playboy mansion. There will be a driver’s meeting, where they will remind you again that this isn’t a race, and then all of the cars will line up for the start. Photographers will be snapping pictures of you like the paparazzi and you will feel like a B list celebrity. The event is definitely cool to be a part of. Targa Trophy staff will record your mileage and your start time, hand your navigator the route map (this is the first moment you will get this information) and send you out thirty seconds behind the car that left before you. Your navigator will tell you where to go left and right. Hopefully you didn’t pick a dyslexic navigator because staying on the route will improve your score based on mileage. After around 150 miles of some of the curviest roads you have ever come across you will land at a checkpoint. During the Bay Area Rallyfest event the checkpoint was a EuroCarnival car show hosted by NOS Energy Drink. There was a huge crowd welcoming the Targa Trophy cars, a live DJ and BBQ. Targa Trophy staff will check your mileage and time as you enter the checkpoint. From there you can fill your car with gas, get a bite to eat and mingle with the 19 year olds from the car show who want to ask you a thousand questions about what its like to be in the Targa Trophy. My answer to them was, “It’s like driving for three hours and not getting the opportunity to take a leak, excuse me, I gotta find a bathroom.” When you leave the checkpoint there will be a large crowd, plenty of cameras and the Targa Trophy staff will again check your mileage and time. You won’t know how you are doing so far in the rally so it is difficult to make adjustments from the checkpoint toward the finish. The second part of the rally will be more of the same insanely tight and twisty back roads as you make your way, the longest possible way, back toward the host hotel. Running along the route, many times you will encounter other Targa Trophy competitors. Some times you will be in a long train of cars cruising along the route which is filled with gorgeous vistas and challenging terrain. Since everyone is driving in a train on a two lane road with double yellow lines (no passing!), it is difficult to decide if you are “on pace” or not. Blink luck may help you win the event since you don’t know what the perfect time is until the rally is over. At the finish you will enjoy some great bench racing with other competitors at the hotel bar, catered dinner, the awards ceremony and a nightclub style after party. During the awards is when you will find out if you hit the time right on the money or if you went way too fast or slow. Targa Trophy hands out awards seven deep as well as some specialty awards (which we will discuss later). THE PEOPLE Targa Trophy competitors are an interesting mix of car folks. They love cars just like the rest of us, only they love very expensive cars. It isn’t enough to own a Ferrari F430 Scuderia, they want to throw on a set of $80,000 twin superchargers from Novitec Rosso. Mods are mods. It’s really no different than you throwing an ST Suspensions sway bar on your Honda Civic. Well, I guess it is a little bit different, like $79,800 dollars different. The cars are epic fast however these Targa Trophy guys and gals are by no means racecar drivers. But they are at least adventurous enough to be out driving their exotic cars as opposed to just polishing rare cars with zero odometers in a climate controlled garage. GLORY Just participating in the event will earn some amount of glory. You will see numerous professional photographs of your car whizzing by the landscape. Media is always present at these events earning online and print magazine coverage. At checkpoints you will find crowds of people checking out your car. And if you’re lucky enough to win the Targa Trophy you will be rewarded with a beautiful cup trophy and prizes. OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA? If you want to win, slow down. Seriously. This isn’t a race. Even though two hundred mile an hour cars are entered in this race no one needs to run two hundred insane miles per hour on a public road. The way to win the event is to match the set time and distance run by a Porsche 911S, driven by a reasonable guy. The time is kept a total secret. You won’t have a clue if you are on pace or not until the awards ceremony. With that sort of wide open parameter, it is difficult to strategize or really try to win the Targa Trophy. However, there are things you can do to give yourself a better chance of not losing. 1. Don’t come in first. I personally made that mistake in an incredibly capable Ford Shelby GT 500 which I hustled around the hills safely yet spiritedly (running door to door with an insanely driven burgundy Lamborghini) giving me the fastest time of the event. That earned me the honor of receiving the “Bonehead Award –Too Fast For Your Own Good” from the boys at Targa Trophy. As a rookie to the event, I assumed the 911S pace was run pretty quickly but after coming in ahead of the Lambo (and 32 minutes ahead of time), I realized I blew the whole rally (and I have the “Bonehead” plaque to prove it). You will lose 5 points for every minute you are off (fast or slow) from true time during the rally. 2. Stay on track. Mileage is also a big part of your score so not getting lost and staying on the course will increase your chances of winning the event. You will lose 10 points for every mile you are off (up or down) during the rally. 1000 points is the score you start the rally with, it only goes downhill from there. 3. Drive with caution and care for the law. The 911S did not get stopped by the police and if you do, you are only hurting your overall time, your driving record and your wallet. Based on the way the rally is run (with a completely unknown target time) this is not set up to be a hardcore competitive event. It more like a dynamic car show for high-end exotics with a great party at the finish. The event definitely has panache so all of the competitors are winners in some sense. RACER BOY GAUGE Let’s review the Racer Boy gauge cluster here: FUEL (Cost): The fuel gauge is around a half a tank. The entry fee is steeper than most events you will go to and you’ll need a high-end ride to come out and play. Not all of the cars need to be priceless, the promoters enjoy different types of automobiles (some vintage right hand drive Skylines from Fatlace were in attendance). If you’re not sure apply here and ask if your Mom’s Hyundai Elantra is cool enough to make the cut. RPMs (Adrenaline): The tachometer is at 3,500 RPMs. Your adrenaline will kick into high gear when you are running with the Bulls but it really isn’t the same thrill as trying to out brake somebody in a road race on a closed course. Speed isn’t the point of this rally, therefore adrenaline isn’t a huge part of it. MPH (Danger): The speedometer is at 80 miles an hour which is ten over the legal speed limit in California, realistically faster than you will need to go during the event. Not really fast enough to get a ticket on the freeway, but still fast enough to kill you. VOLTS (Time): The volts gauge is around three quarters because this event won’t take up much of your time. The whole thing will eat up a whole day and there really isn’t much prep work required prior to the race, except an extra coat of wax on your baby to protect the paint from all the sponsor stickers. MILEAGE (Car Wear): The mileage is at 5,000 miles because even though you are only probably going to run around 300 miles in the rally, you will put some heat in your brakes and wear your tires more than normal based on the back roads that are used in these events. CHECKERED FLAG The Targa Trophy is a cool event that fills the void between the Gumball, Bullrun and a local time and distance rally. If you’ve got the right car and the cash, I’d say don’t pass it up. There is nothing quite like the experience of running down the open road lined up next two two Lambos and a Ferrari. Three V-12s in unison have a sound you will never forget. Photography by Mo Satarzadeh, Ryan Siu and Omi Tanaka.
You’ve always wanted to get into road racing but you don’t own the requisite Spec Miata or Spec E30. No problem. The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) has you covered. Their Performance Touring class allows just about any four wheeled production car to run in their series. Using a system of points based on modifications allows almost any car to be equally competitive in a multi-class system. So forget the excuses, take the back seat out of your Mom’s Buick and start welding in a roll cage. Chances are NASA is holding a race in the next few weeks at a track somewhere right around the corner from your house. THE COST This is road racing, which means it isn’t cheap, however it’s probably not as expensive as you may think. If you are starting from absolute scratch (meaning you need personal safety equipment, competition licensing and safety equipment for the car) then, yes, this is going to set you back some clams. But if you build a car over time and start to piece together your safety gear as you progress through NASA’s High Performance Driving Experience (HPDE) then you may be able to spread the cost over time. I/O Port Racing Supplies has some cool package deals that can help you get most of your equipment in a bundle and save you some money. But down to brass tax, how much is this really going to cost? Because this is road racing you are required to have a fire resistant driving suit, a Snell rated helmet, gloves, shoes, nomex socks and a NASA required HANS device (or other approved head and neck restraint). Your car will have to have a safety cage, a fire extinguisher, a five point harness, a racing seat with proper rearward support, right and left side nets, tow hooks/straps and a transponder. Plus don’t forget the required class markings and numbers which you can get from Figstone Graphics. Once all of that is done and you have built a bad ass racing car, now you need to find a way to get that probably not-street-legal machine to the race track. That means a truck and trailer. Yup, mo money, mo money, mo money. No, this isn’t autocrossing which you did in your street car and spent $20. You are in the big leagues now and are spending the big bucks. I’d add it all up for you but if I did, then I would know how much I spent, which would mean my wife would know how much I spent, and I don’t really want to have that conversation right now. SANCTIONING BODY Performance Touring, where you can run just about anything, is the brain trust of the National Auto Sport Association (NASA). Before you can race you will need to join NASA here for only $45 a year which is a great deal because you get Grassroots Motorsports Magazine free with your membership. NASA is all over North America with different events and races in almost every part of the country. Specifically for Performance Touring you will need to pay attention to the points and classing system. The rules and guidelines for Performance Touring can be found here. An example of how the points system works is as follows: a 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R is classed in PTF with no modifications. With a few modifications, springs, intake, and exhaust, the car only earns a few points and can remain in PTF. However, with a few more modifications, like ST Suspensions sway bars, Jim Wolf Technology racing cams and Hoosier slicks, then the car earns enough points to graduate to a faster class, PTE. Even more modifications/points would move it to PTD, and so on. THE HIGH You are doing it, this is the real deal, full blown, door to door, road racing. The speeds are high, the noise is real and you are trying to out brake the guy next to you as you head into the first turn. You’ll know right away if you have what it takes, because if you don’t, the rest of the field is going to take turns passing you. You will be wearing the fireproof suit, the helmet and the HANS device just like the big boys on TV. You’ll hold your breath through some corners as you drive on the edge of adhesion and narrowly miss things like walls and other cars. This is serious, this is fast, and this is dangerous, all the things that make your adrenaline race through your veins. And when the checkered flag drops you’ll know why you were there. There really is no substitute to road racing in motorsports. CAR WEAR Cars can last for years in NASA’s performance touring ranks, but they can also die in a single split second mishap. This is head to head competition, you go off line, there will probably be another car there and then “crunch” I hope you’re good at body work and paint. NASA’s rule on the prettiness of cars is at 60 feet at 60 miles per hour the cars need to look straight. This rule keeps the road racing cars from looking like a Saturday night dirt track heap or a ChumpCar survivor. In any NASA road racing weekend I have seen up to three cars totaled. The driver’s generally walk away from the accidents but the cars are nothing more than recycling at that point. It is something to think about. If this is the car that has to get you to work on Monday, don’t road race it. One thing you really need to be prepared for in road racing is brake wear. Fresh rotors, high temperature brake fluid, cooling ducts and high heat brake pads, like from Carbotech, are a must. When thinking of car wear, nothing will destroy a car quicker than a car with faded brakes. Remember kids, once the brakes won’t stop you, the only thing left to get the job done are the concrete walls. YOUR DAY Your day running in NASA’s Performance Touring series is actually a long weekend. Before you can actually run you will have to take care of a few pre-race details. One is online registration where you will sign up for your class, register your transponder number, request your car number, etc. This is also when you will shovel out approximately $350 for two days of racing (depending on the track). Prior to running the event your car will need to have a yearly safety inspection completed and a log book issued. This is a relatively painless experience and usually costs around 70 bucks from a certified race shop. I had 7s Only Racing handle this for our car. Now it is time to roll to the track. I hope you have some friends because road racing is not a solo sport. You will want to feed your friends well and have plenty of beer on hand for these guys because they will be helping you get in and out of your car (with your new astronaut outfit), changing tires, spotting you on the track and telling you where to grid. Trust me, take care of these guys, you’ll want these friends to come again. Every race weekend with NASA has a very tight schedule (which is available online) so print it out and stick it on your trailer or tow rig or wherever. Just make sure it is next to a clock because being punctual means you will get the track time you paid for and also make sure you don’t miss any important driver meetings. You must attend these meetings, as crucial information is disseminated, like how the start of the race will be run. Generally you will get one warm up session in the morning, this is where you learn where the track goes left and where it goes right. A few hours later you will get a qualifying session where your lap times will determine your starting position. In your qualifying session try to space yourself out, away from other cars, to get a nice clean lap without any traffic. Find out where they will be posting the qualifying times because there you will receive your grid position, which is where you will line up in the paddock or the hot pits prior to the start of the race. When the moment you have been waiting for finally comes and the race begins make sure you have downed a lot of fluids. Your new fire proof outfit will make you extremely hot in a racecar and even during a short 30 minute sprint you can get dehydrated. You will line up in your designated grid spot and wait for the pace car to take you around the track. Generally, starts are done in double row formats. As you come around the final turn before start/finish, and the pace car has pulled off, watch the starter closely. As soon as you see him flinch, he’s about to bring out the green flag, floor the gas. The race is on! During the race you will want to keep your eyes on the different flag stands for important signs from the safety crews, yellow flags, red flags, etc. Use your mirrors to watch faster cars passing you. Performance Touring races generally run with multiple class formats meaning you are racing maybe six guys in your class, but there are forty cars on the track racing in different classes. These multiple classes have differential speeds so it is not uncommon to get lapped by faster cars during the event so keep your eyes in the back of your head peeled. Nothing can ruin a race weekend like a fast American Iron class Mustang parked in the trunk of your slow Performance Touring class Sentra. When the checkered flag drops hopefully you are ahead of the other cars in your class. If that is the case then head toward the podium to pick up your trophy. If you liked how the first day of racing went, good, because the second day will usually be exactly the same with the same schedule, a warm up, a qualifying session and then the race. At the end of the weekend you will be tired, broke and absolutely hooked for life. The experience is second to none in any other racing I have competed in. THE PEOPLE NASA folks are a cool group people. The entire series is really run by racers for racers. There is less elitism that is often felt with the road racing segment of the SCCA. I’ve never had a bad experience with the people I’ve met on the track or in the pits with NASA. And these guys can drive. Since this series is run by people who care about the sport, the rules and the layout of the event is very participant friendly. One thing you will need to do with NASA is be patient. Almost everyone working a NASA event is usually also racing in the same event. This work/participate system is what keeps costs down. So when you are looking for an impound guy or a race director, understand they are busy getting their cars ready and racing while also handling the details of the event. If you are patient with them and understand where they are coming from you will eventually get the information you are looking for. GLORY Winning a race in NASA Performance Touring gives you the accolades you have come to expect from years of watching racing on television. They have trophies, sometimes they even have hot trophy girls. I have even seen champagne sprayed. If you come across the finish line first in class with that checker waiving above your head it will be a moment you will never forget. There will be an awards ceremony, your name will be called and you will get your moment on the podium. With NASA you will have the opportunity to win races at world class race courses like Laguna Seca, Infineon, Virginia International Raceway, etc. OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA? The key to success in NASA’s Performance Touring is working with the points system and choosing the correct car to start with. Yes, you can enter a Dodge Dart, but even with enough modifications to put it into PTA chances are a modified Corvette is going to crush you. Be careful not to put foolish modifications on your car that will earn you enough points to move up from PTF to PTE when those modifications do almost nothing for you performance wise. For instance a cheap strut bar that maybe isn’t doing anything anyway or a cheesy Pep Boys spoiler that actually just creates drag and no actual down force. You would be better off to lose those items, stay away from the points and race in the slower PTF class. The other major thing to work on (and car guys love to modify their cars and completely forget this) is your driving ability. Road racing is a real art and learning the craft isn’t an overnight process. I guarantee you no matter how fast you think you are, someone else can jump in your car and embarrass you (it has happened to me). This is a very sobering moment, but one you can truly learn from. So listen to the guys around you, follow the lines of the more experienced drivers and send yourself to racing school. Trust me, you can only learn to go faster. RACER BOY GAUGE Let’s review the Racer Boy gauge cluster here: FUEL (Cost): The fuel gauge is less than a quarter tank because this isn’t cheap. This requires safety equipment both for the car and for yourself, it often requires a tow rig and a trailer. Don’t forget entry fees, tires, race fuel, etc. You can race yourself poor here. However, over time a lot of this stuff is accumulated and then you only have the perishable items, tires, brake pads, fuel and entry fees to keep paying for. Lesson here kids, finish college! RPMs (Adrenaline): The tachometer is at 6,800 RPMs because this is the real deal. Racing door to door at over a hundred miles an hour while trying to beat the guy next to you through the next set of esses will get your adrenaline pumping like nothing else. MPH (Danger): The speedometer is at 123 miles per hour because if you drive a fast car, chances are at a NASA race you will be going 123 miles per hour heading right toward a hairpin corner and a pile of tires. You can do sheet time at the hospital if you’re not careful here. VOLTS (Time): The volts gauge is less than a quarter full because your life is about to become very busy. You gotta prep the car, you gotta prep the tow vehicle, you gotta tow the car, you gotta qualify, you gotta race, you gotta get all this crap back to your house and store it somewhere. This ain’t autocrossing. This sport takes a lot of time and can engulf your life. MILEAGE (Car Wear): The mileage is at 150,000 miles because wheel to wheel racing can be hard on your fenders (and your head). Some cars (Nissans) live fine lives at 150,000 miles while others at 150,000 miles die a horrible death (like my Dodge truck tow vehicle). NASA Performance Touring is a similar situation on the track, racing is hard on cars, some survive while others don’t. CHECKERED FLAG NASA Performance Touring is a fantastic opportunity for you to get involved in road racing with whatever car you have sitting in your driveway, which for a lot of us is all we have to work with. The licensing opportunities with NASA are friendly and the HPDE ladder system makes road racing an actual reality for people who really want to achieve that level of competition. What this all means is if you want to road race the only thing between you and actually doing it are a pile of excuses… and admittedly a small pile of money. See you at the track!
You want to get involved in some sort of motorsports but you're dead broke and the car you're driving has 90 horsepower on a good day, and that’s downhill. You’re in luck! There is an event perfect for you. Enter a Coursemarker/Gimmick Rallye, where the challenge isn’t who has the best ride, but who has the best mind. Coursemarker/Gimmick rallyes are events where a driver and a navigator use a set of instructions to drive through a predetermined course on public roads. The instructions are littered with gimmicks to trick teams into driving on the “incorrect” course as opposed to the “correct” one where points are gained by finding coursemarkers. These coursemarkers may give you more instructions (and possibly more gimmicks) along the rallye. First one to the finish line is usually the loser. There is no speed component to gimmick rallyes. It’s like ole Wyatt Earp said, “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” THE COST To run coursemarker/gimmick rallyes you don’t need an expensive helmet, or a fully prepped racecar. There are no $1,000 entry fees to put up or a fresh set of tires to buy (and destroy in a single day). These events are run on public roads in everyday street cars. This is probably the least expensive motorsport in existence. The entry fees are between $15 and $25 and all you need to compete is a pencil, a clipboard, and any means of transportation (yes, your Mom’s Camry will suffice). You also don’t need to spend an entire week in the garage busting knuckles to prepare for the rallye. Clean your windshield, sharpen your pencil and drive to the event. It’s as simple as that. Just for entering the rallye you will get a dash plaque to prove to your friends back at school, you’re a rally driving bad ass (well, not exactly). SANCTIONING BODY Your geographic location will determine the sanctioning body for your area. In Northern California The Rallye Club and the El Dorado Touring Club both put on monthly rallyes. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) runs rallys in some of their regions and doesn’t bother in others. A lot of the SCCA rallys are time and distance based rallys (which we will cover in a future Racer Boy). Regardless of where you live, chances are there is a club running rallys (or rallyes depending on who you ask) nearby. The hard part is finding these clubs. They don’t tend to advertise much and locating these events can be sometimes difficult. Start with Google and harass the next guy you see in the grocery store parking lot driving a Mini Cooper with a lot of lights hanging on the front. Each club brings their own flair to every rallye. The guys at the El Dorado Touring Club pride themselves in really putting on an “event” that participants are excited to be a part of. Their trophies and dash plaques are second to none. Their website has a sample rallye to help you get the grasp of what it means to participate in one of these events. THE HIGH Coursemarker/Gimmick rallyes are not the place to go to grab a burst of adrenaline. This is not stage rallying, where you drift a car at eighty miles an hour between two Redwood trees. This is driving 25 miles an hour (lost) looking for coursemarkers stapled to telephone poles. However, the competition portion of the event is still fun and if you like the idea of beating the guys you are running against, your adrenaline may start to pump while you're waiting for your name to be called during the trophy presentation. CAR WEAR The biggest thing you have to worry about regarding car wear in a coursemarker/gimmick rallye is spilling your coffee. Or maybe worse, your navigator takes a highlighter and nicks the passenger door interior panel leaving a little pink stripe. This is a street legal, no-speed contest event. Your car has a better chance of getting damaged sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot than it does running a coursemarker/gimmick rallye. The only wear and tear on your car will the be the tank of gas you use driving around endlessly in circles. YOUR DAY Rallyes are easy events to attend. Grab a navigator, fill up the car with petrol and head to the rallye. I suggest getting to registration as early as possible. Once you arrive, you will pay your entry fees and get a set of General Instructions, Route Instructions, Supplemental Instructions and a Score Sheet. It is a lot to read and you will want to sit in your car and read it all carefully at least five times. Highlight things of importance in the instructions to help you remember it later in the rallye. If you see something in the instructions that is confusing or doesn’t make sense you are allowed to ask the Rallye Master (the guy who wrote the event) questions. He will try to help you as much as possible, without giving away too many of the gimmicks at the same time. There will be a “First Timer/Beginner” class/driver’s meeting that you will definitely want to attend. At this meeting they will explain how the rallye is run and probably throw a few of the gimmicks your way for some easy points. They will show you what coursemarkers look like and explain how to fill in your score sheet. Once you’ve read the instructions and you and your navigator feel as if you guys are ready, use the Route Instructions and head out on course. This is where the gimmicks really start to play havoc on your day. Here is an example of a gimmick you might run across. Your Route Instructions tell you to make an L at Parkar. Your General Instructions define L as “a turn to the left.” As you drive down the street your navigator says he sees the sign for Parkar. The only problem is the sign actually says “Parker” –the spelling is different. If you chose not to turn on Parker you will find a coursemarker up the road a bit, which will give you points and Supplemental Instructions to delete the incorrect Route Instruction, make a U-turn and then turn right at your first opportunity. This will put all of the rallyists on the same course, those who mistakenly turned on Parker when they shouldn’t have and those who got it right and scored the couresmarker. Sounds easy? That’s about as easy at is gets. As you continue on course, eventually you will run across a checkpoint sign where you are required to come in. At the checkpoint you may get more instructions, sometimes these instructions are hidden inside candy wrappers or inconspicuously printed on the back of pages. Sometimes the rallye staff will have you do a wacky stunt at the checkpoint for a tie breaker; flip coins, bean bag toss, putt golf balls, it could be anything (and its usually related to the rallye). Once you’re finished, you leave the checkpoint and head back onto the rallye course. Your new instructions that you got at the checkpoint might be something that seems obvious but it actually has a hidden meaning. For instance the instruction may say, “Just a reminder: During the rallye obey the Vehicle Code, all laws, and to keep our club running rallyes please don’t take any chances while out there on the roads.” It seems like a reasonable reminder to the drivers at face value -don't mess around and screw things up for everyone else. Then a few minutes later you may be traveling down a road and your Route Intructions say “L first chance.” Some people will make a left at the first opportunity, but because the instruction said “don’t take any chances” you shouldn’t make the left turn. Going straight will take you to another coursemarker. Rallyes are filled with these sorts of gimmicks and tricks, some easy, some more advanced. The good news is regardless if you are on the “right” track or not, after approximately 3 hours the instructions will lead you to the finish. The finish is usually at a pizza place where you turn in your Score Sheet (and cross your fingers). You will get the answers to the rallye, called a Critique, and see how many times you have been duped. After all of the scores have been tallied by the rallye personnel its trophy time! THE PEOPLE Coursemarker/Gimmick rallyists are the Dungeons and Dragons set of the motorsports world. That’s not an insult, it just means these folks are smart. Rallyes are huge logic problems set across an entire city, requiring critical thinking skills and precise reading comprehension. If you think your vintage Datsun 240 Z with the Panasport wheels and the cool Hella rallye lights on the hood is going to give you an advantage, you’re wrong. Two old guys with beards driving a Volkswagen Vanagon are going to kick your ass. The nice part about rallyes is after the scores have been tallied, the old guys will tell you “how” they did it and you’ll get to learn from their years of experience. GLORY You won’t be sprayed with champagne or kissed by Ms. North Carolina after winning a coursemarker/gimmick rallye but you will be rewarded with dash plaques and trophies. Some clubs have yearly points systems and championships. A lot of the fun of the rallye is hanging out at the pizza place afterward, reading the critique of the rallye (the answers) and bench racing with your competitors. OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA? The great part about coursemarker/gimmick rallyes is they have classes set up so that a large pool of people have a shot to win their own class at the event (and pick up a first place trophy). First Timers only compete against other First Timers, same for Beginners, Novices, etcetera all the way up to Master Experts. But even to win the First Timer class you need to do what Yoda said, “Unlearn what you have learned.” What that means is the “reality” of the rallye you are running is outlined in the General Instructions. Those instructions are to be followed precisely. If the General Instructions say “The rallye will not cross any bodies of water,” and you come to a bridge, you need to make a U-turn. And even sneakier, if you come to “Pacific Street” you’ll want to make another U-turn. Both of those U-turns will put you in a position to find a coursemarker and earn points. If you pay attention to detail, read everything as literally as possible you might stay on the right course, earning a respectable score and have a shot for a class win. To prepare for a rallye, have a large clipboard, lots of highlighters and scotch tape for putting notes on the dashboard as reminders like “Don’t cross water!” If your rallye is run at night you’re going to want good interior lights in the car and nice spot light to search for coursemarkers. And last but not least, start with a full tank of gas and pee before you leave, the rallye route won’t always bring you to a gas station (we found this out the hard way). RACER BOY GAUGE Let’s review the Racer Boy gauge cluster here: FUEL (Cost): The fuel gauge is full because this event will cost you less than taking your girlfriend to the movies. You won’t find a cheaper motorsport anywhere, even the Pinewood Derby is more expensive. RPMs (Adrenaline): The tachometer is around idle because during most of the rallye that is what you’re doing, idling and re-reading the rallye General Instructions (again) trying to figure out why you’re lost (again). This isn’t a fast paced adrenaline type of motorsport. MPH (Danger): The speedometer is around 25 miles per hour because your biggest concern during the rallye is getting lead poisoning from the navigator’s pencil. Most of the rallye is run at about 25 miles per hour. This is a very safe event to be a part of. Take the kids! VOLTS (Time): The volts gauge is maxed out because this event won’t take much time. No real preparation is needed, just arrive, drive and eat pizza. The whole thing will probably take 6 hours. I’ve spent more time changing the oil on an MGB. MILEAGE (Car Wear): The mileage is at 60 miles because that would be the longest distance you would possibly drive in a coursemarker/gimmick rallye. The only thing that might wear on your car will be the reverse synchro from making fifty U-turns. CHECKERED FLAG A coursemarker/gimmick rallye is a really fun event to run. Show up prepared to be entertained by the rallye personnel and look forward to being “tricked” a few times. It’s easy on the car and the pocket book, and it’s something you can do with friends or your kids. If you’re looking to get involved in some sort of sanctioned event, but have never made the “jump” to participating in anything with your car, this is a great place to start. And don’t forget “R” means “Right” except when it doesn’t, and sometimes it won’t. Confused? I was too. See you at the Rallye!