Friday, August 17, 2018

Shopping for Lemons!

Altima Getting Paint
For BMW Theme

Everyone at NMS is doing their final shopping for Lemons, the 24 Hours of Lemons race that is! While Brian has completed two of these races and likely owns all the safety gear he needs, I've been melting down my credit card to get the stuff I need to wear to keep safe. The big attraction for Lemons (or Chump Car) racing is that you can get on track with a cheap-o car and race with dozens of other lunatics without having to go thru a long and expensive licensing program. On the other hand, don't fool yourself, it costs money to burn up tires, brakes, install roll cages, buy a radio, transponder, enter the race, and then buy/rent/borrow all the safety gear.
New Tires

So, for what it's worth, here's my running total of what I've had to buy to enter my first Lemons race. I'm sure there are plenty of other sources of information on line, and you can also buy your safety gear from the Lemons folks too. You might even want to check out one of the most popular posts on our blog where Brian answered the question: SO HOW MUCH DOES THIS LEMONS THING COST?  Let's start with what I'll be wearing in the latest fashion from head to toe:
Old Tire

Helmet: This is one item I have had for a few years (a Zamp full face helmet), and luckily mine is still new enough that it meets the safety requirements. Like a lot of safety gear, it will last you a few years, but will eventually need to be replaced since we want effective safety items, and not your dad's helmet from 1976.
My cost for Lemons: Zero.
To buy a new one today: Let's say $200 and up.

Balaclava: Another goodie I got for Christmas a while ago, so no cost this time. This is a fire resistant head covering that hopefully I won't need, and it's optional, but sounds like a good idea if you hate being on fire as much as I do.
My cost: Zero
Buy one today: $25 and up

Racing Suit: OK, here's something I didn't have, so after looking around the various racing gear places on line, talking to other drivers, you have a basic choice of a one piece suit that also requires you to buy fire resistant underwear, or buy a multi-layer suit that doesn't require fire rated underwear. I went with an inexpensive Zamp suit that has three layer, so I feel pretty safe with that, and hey. I like their helmet so why not try their suit! Probably the cheapest multi layer suit I found on line, so good for safety buy man it's going to be hot in South Carolina next month. Some folks advised me to go with a thinner two layer suit due to the heat, so hopefully I won't regret this! See below for another item that will help me beat the heat.
My cost: $200, but you can spend a LOT more

Cool Shirt: This is a brand name that includes clothing and the car mounted cooler systems that pump chilled water into your Cool Shirt under your race suit. Race cars are hot, don't have AC, and as I've mentioned it gets hot down south, so once I'm driving I'll plug my shirt into the car's cooler, and have cold water circulating in my shirt lined with surgical tubing. These bad boys aren't cheap, but everyone that races seems to use one to help beat the heat. Totally worth it I'm sure, but you could skip it if you love to sweat.
My cost: $126 cheapest price I found on line at PitStopUSA

Nomex Socks: Yes, even though I have a fire suit, I have to have socks to go with it, and shoes too. Racing can be dangerous, so I'm glad that even the Lemons racers require us to go all out with the safety gear.
My cost: Two pair of socks was about $25 I think, so clean socks for Saturday and another pair for Sunday.

Driver Shoes: Another purchase I made a few years ago, I've worn these for autocross and some track days, so I should be all comfy with these on my feet. They are also fire resistant, and have smooth soles and heels to help use those pedals in the car. I went with some cheap Racequip brand shoes, their stuff is inexpensive and gets the job done!
My cost: Nothing at this time!
Cost now: $70

Registration. OK, for the Lemons events, it costs 600 per car and 195 for each driver. If you had 600 drivers that would only be a dollar each for the car, but most teams go with 4-6 drivers, so it costs a bit more! We've got 5 on our team, so
My cost: $315

Car stuff. Two of our team members bought the car, so the rest of us have contributed various amounts for tires and brakes, and we definitely want good tires and new race brakes (from G-Loc).
My cost: $157 for rear brakes.

Other goodies for the race include camping fee split by the team, transponder for the car split five ways, and we'll probably get around to splitting some more costs for food, drinks, gas, etc.

Bottom line: I'm not going to add all that up, but like Brian has stated, this cheap racing is not exactly cheap! However, compared to a 50-500 million dollar F1 team, a 15 million dollar Indycar, or  about 20  million for a cheap NASCAR season ACCORDING TO JALOPNIK, this should be a good bargain for the "fun driving" experience that will be priceless.

Monday, August 13, 2018


Pick Your Number They Said! 77 I Says!

How was your weekend? What did you do Saturday? (your answer here)

Here's my answer:  DRIVING ON TRACK
POCONO Raceway with NASA NE
We Drove the South and East-Yellow/White Part

Got up at 0430, which is right about 4:30AM, dropped off Julie at LaGuardia airport, and then drove thru NYC to Pocono Raceway. Hey, any day that starts with getting to a ridiculous airport, thru NYC, across Jersey, and into the country in PA is already a pretty good day! Even with rain along the way, it was fun, with a full day of driving on track still coming up! At this point I had no complaints, since my better half was stuck in a plane for 2 hours on the ground in the same rain. Eventually we both got where we were going!

0730, sign in, park, find my instructor Peter Raymond, register, get the car briefly inspected for safety, and then it's time for several iterations of driver's meetings, classroom "learning" about track driving, SIX 20 minute sessions driving the NMS Abarth on track, and since that was NOT enough, I spent several other 20 minute sessions riding along with my great instructor in his Spec E30 BMW race car on track. Without going into the blow-by-blow and minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour or too-many-hyphenated-cliches, it was a ton of fun!

Check out NASANE.COM for Driving!

OK, I also learned a lot, got some good experience driving in WET and DRY, saw some things on course I'd never seen (other drivers spinning, a dry course turning wet, and the ever popular lightning which is unsafe for the course workers so you get off track), and had fun! Did I mention the fun part? The fun part happened when...exactly at...when that guy....ALL DAY!

On the other hand, some things didn't go according to plan, such as my Check Engine Light came on, so I just pulled off track into the pit area, checked a few things, and then decided to cut that session short to see what was what. After a while I remembered the only other time the FIAT threw a code was due to a loose gas cap! So, I check the gas cap, and it was a little loose, obviously caused by driver error when I fuelled up right before the event. Long story short, I drove it anyway, even with the light, and sure enough by the last driving session the CEL went out. My car likes to keep the CEL on for a while, so it usually takes a few miles of driving or X number of on/off engine starts to clear the error light.
Joe Casella Leads the Classroom Session for Drivers

Also not planned, some rainy sessions, and some dry sessions. This was really a good thing, since driving in the wet is more challenging. The rain hit one time when I was riding with my instructor Peter in his car, and we kind of saw the rain coming, and then it hit in a corner right at the end of the back straight, so with race tires on and having gone directly from dry to wet we came close to sliding off track, so that was kind of exciting! The real racers have dry and rain tires, so I can better understand why you need to be on the right tires! Then for a few laps we had some wet track in a few corners, while the rest of the track was dry, so that was challenging to say the least! After a bit of that we got off track and waited to see what the weather was going to do.

Then, in one of my afternoon driving sessions, the course started dry, but then with dark clouds overhead, I spotted a black flag (meaning come into the pit and get off track) as my instructor spotted some lightning. While you're probably safe in a car with visible lightning, the course stops to keep the course workers safe, since they're out there in the weather with no protection. So, that session was a bit short, and once the weather cleared things got back on schedule.

Peter Raymond's BMW

Also on the not-perfect world, when I got to the track the passenger window didn't quite go all the way down (have to have windows down on track, it's a safety thing), and then it wouldn't go up either. At lunch time I took the interior door panel off and tried to get the glass back in the track but had no luck, so the rest of the day I had loose glass rattling around inside the door, so now I have an appointment for the glass shop to fix it up (under warranty since it's a new piece of glass). To say the least, driving home for a few hours with the window open was a lot of fun IF YOU LIKE LOUD NOISES!

Back to the good stuff, my instructor helped me learn the track and where to place the car in the corners by driving my car the first few laps during the 1st morning session, and this was a GREAT strategy for teaching that helped me a lot. I'm convinced that this cut down the learning time to achieve the same results if I'd just started driving first. With this type of track event, the intent is to make the driver smoother, and not to worry about lap times, not to go buy a McLaren, and not to race the other students driving on track. Shoot, if I win the lottery maybe I'll buy a McLaren anyway, but as Spider Man says, "with great power comes great responsibility." Or was it Iron Man? Whatever.

Those Garages Look Dry Inside!

We had specific passing zones on track, and also the following driver isn't allowed to pass on the straight until the lead driver gives them the "point-by" on the left or right. This makes the passing very predictable, which is important for newbies on track, and made me feel safe too! I pointed plenty of cars past me, and I also passed a few cars, so it was fun doing that too. A few times I was stuck behind a train of 4-5 cars, and with limited passing room my instructor had me pit in, and wait for some clear spot on track to come back out and not have to slow down for other cars. In a way that was pretty fun too, although I'm still not ready for IndyCars, but they'll be racing at Pocono next weekend if you want to watch them.

Hey, here's a video of some track action. This is on part of the infield course at Pocono, just the 2nd session of the day, so it's drying nicely. For the entertainment part, go to 13:30 and watch the 4th car up ahead spin out on a left hander that I'm approaching. The corner worker was all over it, and practically was waving the yellow caution flag and checking on the driver incredibly fast!

2nd Driving Session

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How To Get Into Formula 1

Maybe you want to be a world class driver and pilot a Ferrari or a Mercedes car for a living, making $20,000,000 a year and living the jet set life? Or maybe you'd rather be a world class car designer, mechanic, crew chief, or the chef for one of the big teams that travels the world to Monaco, France, Russian, Germany, Singapore,  Japan, etc. There are a lot of jobs in the Formula 1 world, with each of the ten teams employing hundreds of personnel at locations mostly in Great Britain, a few in Italy and Switzerland, and of course the USA's own Haas F1 team.

How do you get one of those jobs? Well, it usually takes years of working your way up from the lesser racing circuits, or getting a degree in engineering if you want to design the cars, or years as a mechanic if you want to be working on the cars during race weekends. One of the guys that was a TV announcer for NBCSN last year, Steve Matchett, has a few books based on his experience as a mechanic, and as I recall he started as a regular mechanic at a few dealerships before getting into F1. I suggest you read his book The Mechanic's Tale, it's a great read!  MATCHETT ON AMAZON

Want to be a driver? OK, you better start at about age 5 and spend ten years driving a go-kart, and then work your way up to driving in F1. Odds are that if you're reading this you are WAY past 5 years old, so maybe you can buy a kart for your kids, or grand kids, so good luck with that one.

When I retired from the Army last year, I applied on line to work at the McLaren F1 team in England, so, at least I can say I tried. They even sent me a very nice rejection email, so apparently I don't have the right stuff! From that experience I discovered that if you do a bit of Googling you can find all kinds of useful info. Today I found another job in F1, and believe it or not it's right here in the USA.

The Haas F1 team has a part time opening for a janitor at their HQ near Charlotte NC. Here' the link, I hope you get into F1. Good luck!


Monday, August 6, 2018


Hoonigan's Wanted

The fine folks at FIAT and HOONIGAN have teamed up, and YOU could be the big winner!

Rules for this contest are simple, and all explained on this webpage: HOOLIGANS WANTED

Basically you can just shoot a video with your phone, upload it to Facebook, and go to the page above to make your entry official!

WHY would you enter this contest? Sure, there are a lot of contests in the world, but what's so great about this one? Oh, you mean, what's the prize? Glad you asked!

10 winners will be selected, and then they will compete in various driving competitions, and the winner will win a new FIAT 124 Spider. The deadline is SOON, so check out all the rules at this location:  HOOLIGANS WANTED RULES

Sunday, August 5, 2018

August Autocross Report


This is a different kind of autocross report, because for various reasons I don't know what the results were and don't care. Today was pretty hot for New York, mid 90s or so, and let me tell ya, out in the middle of a big asphalt parking lot at the Nassau Coliseum, well, it was HOT! After working on course for about an hour and a half, and then getting to do 4 runs in the NMS FIAT, and then working another hour and a half on course, and then waiting to drive again, there were some technical issues with the timing system, so instead of waiting in the heat some more, I just packed up and headed home.

Normally I'm all for driving as much as possible, but the heat got me today, on top of being up late the night before to see a cool drum corps show in Pennsylvania, so it looks like getting a good night's sleep would be something I should do in the near future! Don't get me wrong, the show was great, the driving was fun, but it was just too much and some of us do have to work tomorrow!

Here's a quick video of the course, it had some very tight slow sections at first, then opened up with some faster slalom and big big sweeper sections, then finished with some medium tight elements, overall about a 36 second course we'll say.

Other than that, here's some photos from the day, plenty of cool cars to see, funny license plates, good bumper stickers, etc. In other words, your normal autocross day!

Who DOESN'T Need a Drag Strip?




SCOOTER and Novice Meeting

Helmets! Red Flags! Extinguishers! SAFETY!



Flying the ABARTH Flag at Nassau Coliseum

Very Fast Mustang!



If You Can Read This, Thank A Teacher.
If You Read it in English, Thank a Veteran. 












I Spent Most of My Money on Race Cars, Booze and Broads.
The Rest I Wasted. 



MINI 1999

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Formula 1 Takes a Break

The Formula 1 teams are all enjoying a few weeks off of racing. This might seem crazy for a major sport to just stop in the middle of their season and not compete for four weeks, but it's what they do. At the heart of it I think it's based on European worker laws, or just the custom to take time off in August. If you've ever been in Europe I think one of the stereotypes is the month of August flood of people on vacation heading south, typically driving cars with their campers or caravans and generally making traffic lousy just when you take time off and want to travel!

Competition wise, various sports do it differently, with college football teams maybe having an off week before their big rivalry game, NFL teams get a bye week and can get rested up a bit, and Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NHL all take a few days off for their All Star game mid season, although the all star players have to play part of one game. But hey, if most of those athletes are millionaires, it's probably not so bad.

In Formula 1 though, I can see that unlike most other sports, there are a large number of the mechanics, engineers, support staff, and hundreds of people supporting each two-car team, and from what I know a bunch of them are working some ridiculous  hours, almost always away from home, so a couple weeks off probably helps them keep healthy and makes the family back home happy too!

In other Formula 1 news, Red Bull driver and seven time race winner Daniel Ricciardo has announced he will switch teams next year and drive for Renault. That should shake things up, and we'll soon be hearing about other drivers switching teams too. Everyone wants to drive the fastest car or play for the winning team, so drivers are the same and have to make their best guesses on how the teams will perform in the future if they want to move to the best place to become a champion. Ricciardo stated that every time Renault has entered Formula 1 that they eventually have improved enough and taken the world championship, so he's betting that history will repeat itself. With various changes to the designs of the cars in 2019 and 2021 or so (new engines), we're all looking forward to team battles with more than just one maker with a chance of winning.

Other news this week is less positive as three time former champion Niki Lauda has undergone a lung transplant, so we wish him the best and a good recovery. If you're not familiar with him or why he might have some health issues, I recommend you watch Ron Howard's movie "Rush" about the 1976 F1 season, and you'll see why Lauda is such a tough guy as a driver, besides the rest of his background as a business man, pilot, and a director with the Mercedes Benz F1 team today.  LAUDA ON BBC

The other news recently was the passing away of FIAT and Ferrari executive Sergio Marchionne, who certainly left his mark in the auto industry in many ways, including the FIAT purchase/rescue of Chrysler.    MARCHIONNE ON BBC