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Sunday, May 29, 2005

SEMA IAS - Atlantic City, NJ - Debrief

Where to start... so much has happened over the past few weeks.

I began my drive to Atlantic City on Wednesday morning, at around 5 AM. The trip was a bit over 700 miles from Lexington, KY. Sean Morris had already flown in from Los Angeles by my arrival and we quickly began all the necessary preparations for the show. The car arrived from Los Angeles on Thursday morning.

By Thursday evening, the car was placed in a feature location right at the entrance of the show, attracting big crowds even on Friday's Industry Preview day. We had the pleasure of conversation regarding our plans and the car with Degawa-san - General Manager of member of the board of directors at NISMO Japan, and Iwamoto-san - the NISMO Liason for North America.

Throughout the weekend, I spent a considerable amount of time with "Tarzan" Yamada-san, as I was one of few Japanese-speaking individuals at the show. The connection we had did not end there however - to my excitement, I learned the Yamada-san was the driver of the #23 Totomu-Fujitsubo GT-R in 2001 Super Taikyu Series, winning 3 races with multiple podiums. The fact that I will be racing in the car that he himself raced so successfully certainly brought us closer than any other factor - even our common histories of having lived in Japan as well as the United States.

On Saturday, the main event of the day for us was the feature car presentation at center stage at 5 PM. We rolled the car in front of the crowd, which went absolutely wild over this exotic jewel. John Naderi gave a brief overview of the car's history and handed me the floor to give more insight into our Super Taikyu winning race car, the Skyline GT-R's phenomenal racing history, and our plans for the future - to race in SCCA Speed World Challenge GT in 2006.

When I thought the event could not be going better, I stumbled onto Griff Allen, who ended up shooting a scene for ESPN2 which included the car, myself, and the link with Yamada-san.

Sunday brought on a certainly unexpected event - near the end of the show, our Nissan Skyline GT-R N1 was named best "Best Performance Car" of the show as voted by the judges. Well, of course it is, but considering the fact that it was purpose-built by Nissan in Japan for endurance racing, I thought we hold such an unfair advantage that the car simply would not be considered for such an award at an aftermarket auto show such as SEMA Auto Salon.

On Monday, I drove Sean Morris and Victor Reyes to the airport and got on my way to New York to meet with a few "Wall Street" type business individuals and my good friend, Michael Wechsler. From there, I drove back south to Washington, D.C. to spend a few days with Dustin Worles and Dado of Teckademics. Dustin gave me a quick 20 minute tour of our capital, which was spiced with Dustin's usual and famous commentary. Watch for the N1 GT-R to be the feature car in one of the next Mischief DVDs!

And finally, I began my drive home to Lexington on Thursday afternoon after making a stop at Frederick Nissan in Maryland. This Nissan dealership does something extraordinary - they modify Nissan vehicles with the performance parts of your choice (not just NISMO), whether it be wheels, coilovers, or turbo kits, and even offer their own warranty on the work. Everyone at the dealership is a passionate enthusiast. The owner, Gene, owns an R33 Skyline GT-R along with a widebody twin-turbo 350Z. Dan Lopez, the head of the motorsport / aftermarket division, owns an incredible race-ready 240SX show car.

This was the most exciting trip yet for me in the automotive industry, and I want to thank lots of great people that I have managed to be surrounded with, without whom, I could not have enjoyed the work that I do.

The show organizers really helped us out every way they could, even personally assisting in moving the car from the stage back to the show entrance feature location in the middle of the show through crowds of people.

Sean Morris, Victor Reyes, Joe Lu, Tom Myroniak, Alex Sandler, Iwamoto-san, "Tarzan" Yamada-san, Dan Lopez, Dan Gardner, and Mike McGray --- THANK YOU