Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Recent Events - Much Travel

Too much has been happening in the past few months, but here are some highlights of what I have been busy with -

I flew again to Los Angeles on February 26th to test the newly acquired Skyline GT-R N1 Race Car at the Streets of Willow Springs. For this occasion, we flew in Suzuki Tetsuo from Shift-Japan. Suzuki-san has been the crew chief for Falken's endurance racing efforts for a number of years now, competing in the Japanese Super Taikyu series with a car identical to ours as well as with Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. In addition, the Falken Nurburgring 24hr GT-R is the defending champion in its class. Suzuki-san provided us with priceless background and setup information on AF's GT-R, and we greatly appreciate his time. The shakedown went great on the track, considering that it was my first time in any GT-R, not to mention a right-hand-drive car, and it was my first trip ever to Willow Springs. Suzuki-san masterfully rebuilt the 6-speed Getrag transmission in a matter of hours - and he made it look so easy. A true master.

Following Suzuki-san's departure back to Japan on March 5th, Sean Morris and I transported the car over to the Los Angeles Convention Center for Hot Import Nights. The guys at Hybrid were terrific for finding room for the car within a matter of hours before the event. The display of the car went great, attracting crowds (and detracting from the cars around ours). We ended up leaving the convention center last, which was an interesting sight - vast space filled with emptiness and trash.

I made my way back to Lexington, KY on March 7th, only to leave for Sebring, Florida on the 14th. There, Sean and I spent the entire week doing recon for the series the car will be entered in next year - SCCA's Speed World Challenge. This was a great experience for us in understanding what goes on behind the scenes of the series. We spoke with various drivers, crew members, the officials, and anyone else that gave us a little of their time. I got a chance to talk to Michael Krumm, a Nissan factory driver of 7 years, who has been driving the GT-R and now the 350Z in JGTC GT500. I was glad to see a spark of interest in him toward what we are doing. I was also introduced to the people at Skip Barber - Abhi, the VP of Operations, and Divina, VP of Racing. Divina was the first female F1 driver, and talking with her totally astounded me. The introduction led to three of us in devising a plan for this year's driver development. The start with Skip Barber will be marked by 3 days at Laguna Seca on April 11-13.

On the 19th, Sean flew back home to L.A. and I flew to Cincinnati to spend a few hours with my parents and then to New York for the auto show. The show was a non-stop mental exercise for me, as I spent most of the time with Jorge Koechlin, a great gentleman from Peru, with experience in Formula One, and also my mentor. I got to get used to this "thinking" stuff. One thing I've learned so far since beginning this enormous project of entering such a unique car that has never seen competition on this side of the globe into a series with factory-backed competitors, in addition to working on my personal driver improvement, is that planning is everything. The scope of the entire endeavor is simply magnificent, and I can certainly admit that I had no idea. During my stay in New York, I made a short trip to Connecticut to visit the Skip Barber headquarters, which ended up to be quite an adventure. I again met with Abhi and Divina, but Bruce, their senior instructor made a causal proposition to me - "do you want to go flying later today?" Of course I said yes, and later that day I got to fly in an airplane that he hand-built. I know myself for a weak stomach, and whenever I did not have control of the plane, nausea took over me. When I mentioned it to Bruce, he said that he too has the same problem of not feeling good whenever he is a passenger in a machine, whether it is an airplane or a race car.

After attending the NY Auto Show, I flew back home and took a few days off to relax. Although I am doing what I love, whether it is things related to AutomotiveForums.com or my racing career, this past month has definitely taken it out of me. After a short break, I went back to work on AutomotiveForums.com and now I am preparing to fly to Jacksonville on the 31st for the Endurance Karting race. Johan Schwartz, the founder of Endurance Karting, is a great guy with lots of experience in the racing industry.