Saturday, November 12, 2005

SEMA Show and 2 Time Attacks later...

I am yet again amazed by how much progress we've made.

Victor Reyes, Josh Mitchell, and I left RB Motoring at City of Industry with our new 75 foot race rig for SEMA on very late Sunday night - we arrived at the convention center early morning on Monday.

Sean Morris could not go with us as Universal's shooting of the Fast and the Furious 3 coincided with the first part of SEMA. He caught up with us in Las Vegas on Thursday, just in time for our very own party at Hotel Paris' Club Risque.

Josh Mitchell is now officially our head mechanic, and we are excited - his experience, ability, and discipline is unmatched. Josh will be moving down from Alaska to work with us full time shortly; he is also bringing his road-legal R32 GT-R down here as well.

We also spent time with Mr. Hiroshi Tamura, the Product Planner of the R34 Skyline GT-R and are extremely thankful for his interest and support of our motorsport efforts.

Following SEMA, we headed straight for Pahrump, NV for Modified Magazine's time attack. Most of the track was resurfaced a few days before the event and somehow the glue that is supposed to be between the layers of asphault was on top. One Lotus Elise actually burned down to the ground, while we saw dozens of cars go off track throughout the weekend. Due to such special conditions, we made a conscious decision for myself to go easy on the car irrelevant of the finishing time or place.R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R at race track

We ended up coming in 2nd place in the Unlimited AWD category, behind Kim Johnson's 600whp R34. Sticking with the projected World Challenge spec in terms of power and downforce in addition to the spec tire really put us at a disadvantage in both Time Attacks.

I ended up doing a what I believe to be a successful interview with Big-C from G4TV (we shall see how it turned out...) and Dustin from Teckademics made a point to drop by to shoot the car and myself.

From Pahrump, Sean, Josh, and Merritt left straight for Los Angeles while Victor and I went back to Las Vegas with the rig to drop off Thi Quack and my brother Vlad for their flights home - New Jersey and Kentucky, respecitvely.

Monday, Victor and I arrived in Los Angeles, and then the entire team departed North for Buttonwillow on the same day.

Again, our foremost objective here was to further familiarize ourselves with the car, to play with the setup, and to work on team dynamics, but we got plenty of bonuses -

Even before we were done setting up at the track, we got approached by ESPN2 and Speed channel, and we got coverage throughout the day - another welcome turn of events.

However, the Super Street Time Attack also gave us a chance to shine in term of performance as we posted a 1:57.3 lap time - the fastest of all cars on Toyo RA1 tires, even with our handicap of running our car in World Challenge series spec (very limited horsepower and downforce) , as we were surrounded by cars like 600whp carbon Lancer Evolution, 700whp R34 GT-R, and a full carbon Honda S2000, all driven by professional and seasoned race car drivers.

The support we got at SEMA and both of the time attacks was tremendous and we will do our best to exceed the expectations that have been put on us!

Sean and I agreed that all this was a chapter of its own that is now behind us, as we continue forward with our momentum for next year's Speed World Challenge.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

SEMA Show - Las Vegas

Let's back track a bit -

We tested the car at Gingerman in Michigan where all went according to plan and all of our objectives were reached. Visit the Gingerman GT-R Test Photo gallery

Afterwards, the car came back to Los Angeles with us, and all development is now out of RB Motoring.

Shortly thereafter, we also had an opportunity to test the car at Buttonwillow Raceway a few hours North of Los Angeles to prepare for the Super Street Magazine Time Attack on November 8th.

Over the past months, we have been continuously working on preparing the car for next year's World Challenge debut.

Just a few days ago, the team acquired a 75ft long race rig with stacker trailer with inside lift and room for 3 cars. This is a handy addition as we are anticipating arrival of an identical spare car from Tokyo, Japan in a few months.

Right now, we are but a few hours away from departing for Las Vegas to show the car at SEMA; our booth number is 20529 in the Performance and Racing section.

From there, we will attend the Redline Time Attack in Pahrump, Nevada, and then the Super Street Time Attack only 2 days later.

Everyone at the team is excited at the pace of progress and we hope to maintain this momentum through the Winter and next year - the first time that a Nissan Skyline GT-R will compete in a professional road racing series in North America!

Using our racing effort as a springboard, we have launched a new website: check out GT-R Nation - our new community for GT-R owners around the world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Finally - Los Angeles

I have finally moved to Los Angeles from Kentucky. In mid-July, I made another trip to L.A. to seek out an apartment to rent and to meet with a few people.

I again met with Iwamoto-san of NISMO and arranged an engine rebuild program for the RB26DETT at NISMO-Japan.

The car is still in Wisconcin and we hope to test it at Gingerman next week, after which it will come back to Los Angeles.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Chicago HIN and Mid-Ohio Go-Kart racing

Time flies by!

On June 8th, as Sean Morris flew in from Los Angeles to Chicago, I drove in from Lexington, KY. The car was invited to attend the Mac Event held on June 9th at the McDonald's adjacent to Wrigley Field. Afterwards, we showed the GT-R at the McCormick Place on the 11th at Hot Import Nights. The AF GT-R was the "Feature Car from Japan." As with the previous shows, the GT-R received much attention and many gasps, and hundreds of copies of the press releases laid out on the car were snatched apart.

The plan was to test the GT-R at Gingerman on June 15th, but some unfortunate events held up Mike McGray up in Canada. Hopefully we will reschedule the test in the near future.

This development gave Sean and me a few days of leisure around Franksville, WI. We killed time by eating a very good Chinese restauruant, watching movies, and hanging around Fedex Kinko's for internet as Starbucks as our main base of operations. In fact, we spent so much time at the Starbacks, that we received many drinks for free on the house. I recall getting a new 'test' drink not available on the menu - basically 4 shots of espresso on the rocks.

On the afternoon of the 15th, we made our way back to Chicago. Sean flew home to L.A. and I remained in preparations for the WKA Mid-Ohio race weekend. My mentor, Nick Wong, lent me his 2nd go-kart for the event. We arrived on the eve of 16th to Mansfield, OH. Paul Szuba and his father, Slavik, were our companions for the trip. Paul is a national go-kart champion at WKA. He operates an aftermarket shop in Chicago nearby O'Hare - P&L Motorsports.

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

Monday, May 16, 2005

SEMA IAS - Atlantic City, NJ

For the past week, I have been preparing everything for the SEMA International Auto Salon that is coming up on the weekend of 21st/22nd in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

This will be the East Coast debut of the Skyline GT-R N1 Racecar. As SEMA's feature car, we will be alotted time to make a presentation about its history and World Challenge plans.

The car left Los Angeles last week, and it will be arriving in Atlantic City on wednesday or thursday.

The AF gang at the show will consist of - Sean Morris, Victor Reyes, Mike McGray, Nick Wong, Michael Wechsler, and myself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Skip Barber Victories

I am now back in Lexington from Virginia, with a short detour in Boston for a meeting with a very interesting programmer.

The Friday practice went very well, allowing me to readjust to the new track conditions after a rain the previous evening. Saturday, the real fun began - as I decided to race for both regions - Mid-West and Eastern, I had 2 qualifiying sessions in the morning. I got pole on the first one, and the 2nd qualifier should have placed me on pole as well, had I not gone off the track with all 4 wheels. By regulations, I was placed in the back of the pack.

Getting pole on my first ever race qualifying was a wonderful feeling, but of course the win in the race was my only benchmark. I started on the inside with a Skip Barber National series racer, #14 car, in 2nd position to my left. With the green flag, he got a head start into turn 1, I let him go with no attempts to repass, keeping my mind focused and relaxed. I followed him in safe distance through turns 3, 4, 5, and the esses, not knowing his driving style and characteristics. Coming into the Oak Tree corner, I was right behind him, and managed to pass him with the aid of drafting on the back straightaway leading into 14. For the remainder of the race, with the R/T 2000's high drafting characterstics, the #14 car maintained its presence in my mirrors for the remainder of the race, and I ran away with my first ever race and my first ever win. After the cool down lap, I came into the pits with a welcome checkerd flag for the parade lap, but also got a treatment from a cooler full of ice water.

The 2nd race had rather different dynamics - it was raining, and hard, with nearly zero visibility at times, and I started in the back of the pack due to my off in the qualifying. I ended up crashing into a tire wall coming out of turn 5, breaking both, the front and the rear wings, and brought the limping car back into the pits. My high from the first ever race and win was withdrawn from my body rather rapidly.

This was certainly an interesting day - my first ever race, my first ever pole, my first ever win, my first ever race in the wet, and my first ever crash.

Sunday, the weather was great and the track was ready. I again started my race on pole due to my win the previous day. The #14 car and I kept on passing each other for the first several laps in the drafts and braking zones. A full course yellow allowed the rest of the cars to catch up to us, and added to the excitement as many cars went in hard into turn 1. Although I was in the lead going into the corner, there was a car on the inside, forcing me to forfeit going through the apex and going very wide in mid-corner to avoid contact with the car on the inside, which failed to brake in a timely fashion, missing its line. I nearly went off the track, losing 2 positions, coming out of turn 1 in 3rd. In the remaining few laps in the race, I passed both of the cars going into turn 14 in a single maneuver for my 2nd career win.

My last race was also very different in dynamics than any of the previous races - I started in the last position due to my crash the previous day. After the green, I quickly gained around 3 places going into turn 1. I maintained my position and backed off, ensuring no risks are taken this early in the race. On the 2nd lap, after gaining a few more positions in the braking zones and speeds out of the corners, I was ready to go into turn 14 at a very high speed, but the still-cold tires locked up, letting physics do the work of making sure I did not make the full turn. I made a wheel-to-sidepod contact with another car and was forced to make a pit stop to check for damage. I was quickly back on my way but the leading pack was very much ahead at that point. Luckily, a full course yellow came out when a car crashed in turn 1, which allowed me to catch back up to the field. I was in 9th position with 4 laps to go. I passed 8 cars in the next 3 laps, with a good margin of victory and a deep breath.

I walked off with 3 1st place trophies and a rookie of the race - not bad for my first race weekend.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Virginia International Raceway (VIR) - Skip Barber

Today, April 21st, Thursday, is my 4th day here at VIR. I arived late Sunday night into Greensboro airport and had to get a taxi to the track, which cost me over $130 - I have found out that rental car companies do not like to rent to those under the age of 21. I have had success in Los Angeles with Rent-A-Wreck and in New York city, as the law mandates it there. I am staying at the Lodge, which is a hotel on the race track - looking out the window I can see the track's turns 4 through 7.

Monday and Tuesday I attended the 2-day advanced racing course. The cars are the infamous Dodge R/T 2000 Formula Cars. The 2-day course provides dramatically more track time and less lecture than the 3-day, but I feel that the 3-day course was of great benefit for me to get accustomed to the open wheel cars slowly and surely. We practiced car control on wet skid pad, learned the track with lead and follow, practiced starts, and exercised passing with the instructors. Lots of lapping sessions gave me the time necessary in these new cars to get acclimated and to test various theories on the track. The instructors all contain a plethora of knowledge, and the more interest you show, the more they will share.

The lapping day on Wednesday was a definite confidence booster, as I actually timed my last session of the day to find that my lap times are consistenly as fast as the test drivers that were equalizing the cars for this weekend's races.

Today, I took a day off, as I have 3 more long days of racing - Friday is practice and then 2 races each on Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Laguna Seca - Skip Barber

I spent the past 3 days at Laguna Seca with the Skip Barber Racing School. Their 3-day course was extremely beneficial for me to learn the race track, as World Challenge competes here, and to get used to the open-wheel Dodge formula cars is necessary as I plan on doing a season in the Skip Barber Series. I was impressed with the backgrounds the instructors had in racing - Nick Nicholson has raced in Le Mans and has had Michael Andretti as a team mate, for example. Next week, I will be going to Viriginia Internal Raceway, where I will spend the entire week on the track and will have my first race.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Endurance Karting Race - Jacksoville, FL

Shaun Bailey and I attended the Endurance Karting 6 hour race in Jacksonville this weekend. We were the only 2-man team, with the rest of the field being any where from 3-6 people. We finished 2nd in our class and 3rd overall, behind Endurance Karting instructor and veteran-filled teams. With the start of the race being delayed, I ended up missing my flight back to Lexington the same evening, which was an experience, having to spend 2 hours on the phone with Delta. Luckily, I managed to get on both flights - from JAX to ATL and from ATL to LEX as the last person on standy, the very next morning.

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 or my racing career, this past month has definitely taken it out of me. After a short break, I went back to work on 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.