Club News

Weekend Recap: Spring WGI - Know when to fold ‘em

posted by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated ]

Article by: Eric M, 4/18/2018 -

There is nothing more satisfying than kicking off your season with a spring visit to Watkins Glen International (WGI) Raceway. It’s rich racing history is partnered with a charming, quaint and rustic lakeside town making it an ideal getaway. For several years now, GTM has joined HookedOnDriving to celebrate the coming of spring and opening weekend at WGI.

Before we recap this past weekend, I want to roll back the clock to last years event. Watkins Glen by mid-April is generally sunny, trees and flowers are in bloom, tourist season hasn’t quite started, and there is still a slight Canadian breeze keeping temps in the 50s.

Spring 2017, Watkins Glen.

But as we all know, this years winter on the East Coast has been one for the record books. Some of the coldest “cold” on the books, and winter has definitely exceeded its “best by” date. Even Punxsutawney Phil was way off. For 2018, Watkins Glen treated us with 30 degree temps, high winds, heavy rains changing to sleet and finally snow.

Spring 2018, Watkins Glen.

I think it goes without saying, conditions were “less than optimal” for this event. Due to some administrative decisions on the part of WGI, it was decided that “the show must go on” and therefore the “brave and the bold” set out to get their laps in despite the conditions.

Veteran coaches will say “always keep learning” --  use every opportunity to advance your skills. Driving in these types of conditions definitely ramps up your learning curve. To quote member Kerwin W, “...I thought I knew, but I now know what having ZERO grip feels like.”

Driving in the rain requires patience, constant assessment, planning and above all “being smooth.” Longer braking zones and careful application of the throttle will get you around the track safely even in trying times. Without the proper rain tires you won’t be able to drive 8-tenths, but 6-tenths with street tires and a dash of risk every now and again will get you around the course without disappointment. I have to say it rather amusing to see a front-wheel-drive (or hot hatch all-wheel-drive) keeping the higher horsepower rear-wheel-drive cars at bay. Rain is the ultimate equalizer.

Admittedly, our story takes a bit of a tragic turn towards mid-day on Day 1. Since the late-2016 repave of WGI, the track surface has changed. The previous version of WGI included different grading, added camber, flatter curbing, etc. The new version of WGI (much like other recently repaved tracks) now includes crowning for better drainage, less camber, taller and freshly painted curbing. Despite all the of changes, you cannot remove WGI’s large elevation changes and water will always travel on “the path of least resistance” which means during a heavy storm large pools form around apexes, a lake forms between T9 and T10, and strong undercurrents start to form down the straightways, as well as a small river across “600-hp-Hill” (between T7 and T8 in the sole of the boot).

Member Doug T was the unfortunate victim of the “Hilltop-River” between T7-T8. While under acceleration, his Lancer EVO started to hydroplane and then went into a spin. Catching a wheel off track in an attempt to save the car in an area with little runoff meant a slight chance to not catch some Armco. Unfortunately, even in dry conditions grass is an accelerant - now add water - and there is no stopping a vehicle unless something stops it for you (in this case, the wall).

Dougs EVO before (left), during (center), after (right).

Once Doug pulled the EVO into the garage the GTM crew went into action, with help from Members: Eric M, Sam H, Kenny E and Kerwin W, the EVO didn’t miss a session and was back on track for a shake down run. We’re happy to report that the EVO only suffered cosmetic damage and spent time on track the rest of the day.

Doug’s new front splitter works great as a lawnmower.

By the end of Day 1, the track conditions had worsened with Heavy Fog and Sleet rolling in, and drivers were pulled in early and activity was halted. Many left the paddock with hope that “tomorrow will be better.”

Waking up the next morning to snow fall, WGI made their decision by 8:30am to keep the track closed since temperatures were not forecasted to rise much above freezing, making track conditions perilous. Disappointed, folks began to pack up and head for home. HOD handled the situation masterfully and offered drivers a possible “make up date” or the option to reappropriate their event fees to another weekend later in the season.

You can never predict the weather… and sometimes, we just have to remember what Kenny Rogers told us: “...You've got to know when to hold 'em, Know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away, And know when to run…” -- remember to always use your judgement before going on track, don’t be pressured to go out in conditions you’re not comfortable with, know when “enough is enough” and come off track. And above all #safetyfirst.

We’ll continue wait for the weather to change in our favor, and hope to see many of you at a sunnier event very soon!

Save the Pavement, and your Pocketbook

posted Apr 13, 2018, 6:43 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Apr 13, 2018, 6:49 AM ]

Article by: Eric M, 4/13/2018 -

Bill Nye says: “Asphalt, also known as bitumen is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum…” -- great, now that we’ve established a base-line let’s talk about how to preserve asphalt and your pocketbook.

We all need to perform basic maintenance, tire rotation, brake bleeds, etc. However on those hot days in the spring/summer, asphalt can become quite soft, especially on recently paved driveways or paddocks. It doesn’t take much for the weight of the car to begin to dig-in to the pavement.

Has this ever happened to you?

Some might argue, “who cares” - but more and more tracks on the East Coast are seeing re-paves including their paddocks. These repaves aren’t cheap, and many of the facilities are patrolling how folks are “abusing” their fresh asphalt and are issuing fines to drivers. For example: Virginia International Raceway.

The opposite is also true, some tracks haven’t invested in paved paddocks will have paddocks that are gravel based or sandy/soft. Having a non-paved surface to work on means your jack stands will dig in or sink. Venues like: NJMP and Palmer Motorsports Park.

Alas … what is an enterprising DIY’er supposed to do?

Well, the boffins here at GTM have a solution for you -- JACK STAND BASES!

This DIY will require a quick trip to your local Lowes, Home Depot, or whatever local hardware store you frequent for some supplies. We’ll provide you with a shopping list, so that you only have to make ONE trip. As well as a step-by-step guide.

Items Required

  • Using 8-inch wide based jackstands, a 1” x 10” x 48” SOLID Pine Board - *do not* use glued slat board, composite, engineered or particle board. Adjust your board size to accommodate larger stands. We recommend a 1-inch border around the base of the stand. (see Step 1)

  • EIGHT - ½-inch wood screws per Base.

  • Metal (Galvanized) or Plastic Plumbers Strap

Tools Required

  • T-square

  • Pencil or Sharpie

  • Screwdriver (or Screw Gun)

  • A wood Saw (circular, cut-off, sawzall, etc)

  • Wood file (or grinding wheel)

  • Tin Snips

  • Tape Measure

Step 1: Prep & Measure your Bases.

Depending on the size of your your jackstands, you should measure off a base plate size that allows a 1-inch border around the feet of the jack stand.

Use your t-square to mark off the cutting areas, the case of our jackstands (8-inch) we’ll be using 9” square bases.

Step 2: Measure Twice - Cut Once

Using something to secure the wooden plank (ie: vice), use your cutting tool of choice: table saw, circular saw … or in our case, our favorite… the SAWZALL! Double check your measurements before you start your cuts. Always remember to wear eye protection before starting your cuts.

Step 3: Clean up the Rough Edges

Using a bench grinder, cut off wheel, hand-file, etc. smooth off the rough edges of your base plate. No one wants to get a splinter from a rough edge! Always remember to wear eye protection before performing this task.

Step 4: Setup your straps

Align the stand with your new base, and mark where you want to screw down the straps to secure the stand to the pad. Use the pencil (or sharpie) to make a mark, or press into the wood to create a divot (with a pencil or [drill] punch).

Step 5: Create the Securing Straps

Use can use either Metal (Galvanized) or Plastic Plumbers strap, we recommend Metal, but be mindful of the effects of weather on the metal. You *might* have to replace the straps in a few seasons. Plastic is great, but it doesn’t conform as well to the shape of the jack stand. Either type works well, it’s your call. Using your tin snips, cut the strap into 5-inch segments. Note: we are using the smaller holes for our screws. (seen below).

Step 6: Prepare the straps for the jackstand.

Using the ½-inch screws you purchased, affix all of the straps to the four locations you marked in Step 4. Bend the straps upwards so that the jack stand will fit over them.

Place the jack stand over the straps and onto the base. Fold the straps over, then screw down.

Step 7: Gettin’ Fancy!

Note that the wood we chose is NOT weatherproof or pressure treated, but it is solid (not glued planks or particle board). Some folks maybe choose to lather-rinse-repeat Steps 4-6 for a complete set of jackstands (usually 2 or 4). We however want to protect our wood from moisture, which will require us to paint / treat them.

Instead of using polyurethane or stains (which you can opt to do for a really classy effect); choose either an oil-based enamel paint or some sort of outdoor paint. Some examples are shown above.

Since we’re a little bit more over-the-top at GTM, we choose to use BLACK brushable rustoleum. Rustoleum is oil-based enamel and soaks into the wood easily. It takes much longer to dry than rattle-can paints. But the high gloss finish is beautiful and weatherproof.

Many hours later, our bases are dry. On average it takes about 3 hrs for this type of paint to dry, always remember to paint outdoors or in well ventilated areas. It should only take one thick coat to seal the wood, but multiple rounds to cover the top and bottom. Pro Tip: paint the edges first, you’ll get less runs and it won’t stick to your painting surface. After painting is done, return to Step 4 to complete your project.


Interested in a set of Jackstand Pads? -- but not handy or don’t have all the tools? No problem! We at GTM can help. If you provide your own jack stands (and measurements) we can build a set of pads for $40 for up to 4 stands. (all proceeds go to the Club) - if you need a set of jack stands, prices will vary based on price and availability.

Contact for more information.

Enjoy your new stands, your driveway will thank you!

Nannies, Nannies, Boo-Boo

posted Apr 10, 2018, 6:16 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Apr 10, 2018, 6:19 AM ]

Article by: Mike C, 4/9/2018 -

TCS, ESP, ASTC, VDIM, DSTC, ICCS, PSM...  all sounds like acronym soup, but they are all synonymous for some sort of Active Stability Management system in today’s modern vehicles. We refer to these more commonly as “Nannies.”

Compared to cars built prior to the early ‘00s when these types of systems were first being introduced, drivers using more modern cars for HPDE have some new variables to consider before going on track.  Advancements in safety technology may reduce accidents on the road, but having spent time instructing in modern cars we’ve learned many of these systems can create unpredictability on track.

Looking back at how these systems have evolved, manufacturers have made it increasingly more difficult to disable Nannies, and engineers have made them more integrated into the vehicles general performance with the added bonus of being more challenging to detect when they are kicking in. More importantly, it’s the understanding of what the technologies are and how they may react on track that we will cover.  

DISCLAIMER: Disabling “safety technology” or instructing a student to disable safety technology is not without risk, both in terms of safety and liability. As a driver, research your owners manual for details about the systems equipped on your vehicle or contact the manufacturer for details before deciding to enable/disable any features. All of the following information is for reference only.

Stability Control

Stability control started to appear in mainstream brands in the mid-’90s, and were simple systems that leveraged ABS technology to reduce wheel spin, and maintain vehicle balance. But stability control, in its many shapes and forms has evolved, it has become so much better that people often don’t even realize it is working behind the scenes - the car just feels “normal.”  As an example, if you note that the car quickly consumes or overheats its rear brakes, this is usually an indicator that stability control is active - even if you can’t feel it or don’t know when it is engaging.  Disabling stability control (usually through a button or switch) can always be a risky proposition. But disabling, or turning down the sensitivity - such as BMW’s M Dynamic Mode (MDM) may be the only way to have your car complete a track day without having to significantly reduce speed or buy new brake pads during the lunch break.

Example: How TCS systems were designed to work on the street.

Some stability control systems do have the added quirk of overreacting to banked turns (such as the Carousel on Summit Point’s Shenandoah Circuit, or the Lightbulb on NJMP’s Lightning Circuit). Because of onboard gyroscopes (or potentiometers connected to the suspension) these systems are tricked into thinking the car is rolling over and will go into an “S.O.S mode” attempting to right the vehicle by activating the brakes or cutting throttle intermittently.  If you are experiencing frustration with this interference - which is probably ruining your weekend - one solution might be to turn off the system. Before doing so consult with your manual to see if that is even possible. Check to see if “off” means OFF, some of these systems still react even when disabled or in “track mode.” Another option is to not use the banked part of the turn (if possible).  

Automatic Braking

Example: Automatic Braking System, by Renault.

Having personally run across this technology on track, it can be VERY disconcerting.  Automatic braking uses either radar style sensors, cameras or a combination of the two to detect closure rates on the vehicles in front of you and apply braking without the driver depressing the pedal.  In a braking zone of a straightaway, this “added braking” isn’t the worst thing, but it *can* interfere with your braking zone. The unanticipated weight transfer to the front end will force you to enter the turn more slowly than you planned.  

Cornering is where the real fear of this technology lives, Automatic Braking will interfere with attempts to take a run on another car exiting a corner and suddenly apply the brakes. This sudden and unexpected braking will cause the car to pitch and upset the composure of the vehicle.  The opposite is also true, as this sudden braking could cause issues for drivers behind you if your vehicle suddenly starts braking in the middle of the corner. However, if by chance, both cars in this scenario have the same system… maybe you will achieve synchronized braking!

Moreover, if you have managed to disable or limit the strength of your stability control but not disable the Automatic Braking, take a look at your controls and see if they are separate systems, requiring an additional on/off toggle - again, consult your owners manual for details.   

There are also stories about the Automatic Braking system confusing guardrails for other cars during lane changes, therefore this type of system may react strangely as you move over on the track to avoid another car, or are on a track where walls are close to the track edge - for example: Pocono Raceway, or Watkins Glen International.  

Automatic/Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)

Example: How ACC sees the world, from Volkswagen-Audi Group (VAG).

We mention this only because ACC is generally related to Automatic Braking using the same sensors/technology - vehicles with Automatic Braking often have ACC. In short, cruise control should *never* be used (ON) while on track. Admittedly, many folks who drive rather than trailer their track cars forget to turn off their Cruise after the long trip. Make sure you’ve turned off your cruise control once your cross the entry gates to the track!

Lane Departure Warning / Lane Keep Assist

Example: “Drivewise” system by KIA, used for Lane Assist.

Ignorance is not BLIS (Blind Spot Indication System) -- You have probably been on the highway where the car next to you starts to move into your lane and you can tell the driver is completely (or rather, blissfully) unaware of their surroundings.  Lane Departure Warning - a system that alerts you when you start to drift into another lane without signalling - and Lane Keep Assist is designed to steer for you to keep you in the lane. Both of these systems can be accident avoiding aids on the highway.  

On a race track though, these technologies can be dangerous.  If you are on a track that has lane markings (often used for other exercises) or even edge lines, it could trick the system into thinking it’s on the highway and needs to follow the lines. In the absence of lines, some of the technologies follow the car in front of you. As we’ve learned in the HPDE classroom sessions, “never follow the taillights of the car in front of you, because if they go off, you will go off too!” -- the same rule applies for this type of system.

The unpredictable nature of these technologies caused one region of BMWCCA to initially ban all cars that were equipped with this technology and/or auto braking (even if it could be disabled).  These types of technology really don’t have any place on a race track. With that said, as an Instructor if you are adverse to asking your student to turn it off, at least attempt to find out how it behaves during orientation laps.  

Auto-Rev Matching

Example: Auto-rev Match “data flow diagram” from Honda.

Auto-Rev Matching was introduced in the last 5 years, and was designed as a driver aid to replace having to learn “Heel+Toe” - Ideally this will feature actually limit the likelihood of a spin during downshifts, under braking. But there are two things to consider, if you find the Auto-Rev Match to be “slow” and decide to disable it, you *will* need to revert back to Heel+Toe, but if you leave the feature enabled, it’s important to learn the timing of when and how the Auto-Rev Match occurs: Is activation when the shifter is in travel? Or is it when the clutch is depressed? How long does it take for the rev-match to occur? Does it happen consistently across your rev-range? Can you “outshift” the rev-match? Not understanding how this feature works can cause the rear end to lock up, step out, or force the car into a spin. #savethemanual #learnheeltoe

Stay Vigilant

Unfortunately, there are too many vehicles and systems available to cover all of the procedures to turn features on/off and the specifics of each model’s shortcomings.  As with any safety technology there are risks for disabling it. As an instructor remember to ask about what “Nannies” are available in your students car. Our recommendation is that you take the first session with ALL NANNIES ENABLED and learn the vehicles dynamics, don’t assume anything, and if you and your student agree that these systems are interfering or causing the car to act strangely it might be worth considering turning some off.

DISCLAIMER: The vehicle owner needs to be the one to disable these systems, not the instructor. The student and instructor must be in agreement that the choice to disable a system is for their safety and that of others.

If you choose to disable, or change the settings, be aware that turning the car off after a session and turning it back on often resets the settings.  A full pre-flight check becomes necessary to ensure that things are in the desired state before heading back out on track.

Stay Safe, Have Fun, and never stop Learning!

Coming to America

posted Apr 2, 2018, 4:55 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club

Article by: Tania M, 3/21/2018 -

Greetings from the Lone Star state! The weather is already warming up – wait… ::scratches head:: … did it ever actually cool off? – which means you gotta take advantage of the three beautiful spring days you get each season! And what better way to do that than getting a ride in an American muscle car. A 2014 Ford Shelby GT500 to be exact. “because, ‘Murica!”

> let’s circle back to the joy ride in a second <

So, the tale of the Mighty Mustang starts only a few months ago when said GT500 owner moved to the US from merry old England. Keeping the innocent, innocent, let’s call the owner Nigel, who moved to the US for a rotational work assignment. Amusingly, many Brits like to buy a Mustang while here in the States, so this car choice was not entirely shocking. So picture Nigel, Jason Statham-esque, but with a lighter accent. Car choice making sense? His description of the GT500: “This car is obscene. It’s also the worst car I’ve ever owned. But it IS fun.” To add some perspective, an AWD Porsche 911 sits back home waiting for his return. Not to mention various previously owned BMWs, as well as motorcycles. Did I mention he’s tracked motorcycles at Brands Hatch? It’s okay, that feeling is jealousy. It will pass.

“...picture Nigel, Jason Statham-esque but with a lighter accent.”

As we progress this tale, here’s some food for thought – how well do you ever really know the used car you just bought?

After arriving from the UK, he got the GT500 shipped to Texas from an independent dealer in North Carolina. In England, vehicle records are a super big deal. So before purchasing the car he looked into the Carfax report, which signaled “all clear,” and also asked the dealer what maintenance had been done – to which the reply was: “brake pads and an oil change.” The GT500 was listed as having ~11k miles.

Barely into his assignment in the States, Nigel was already contemplating bringing the car back to the UK after the completion of his work. Knowing that the Carfax report would be important for the UK version of the DOT, the day after purchasing the car he returned to Carfax to print the results. Logging back into the system, Nigel discovered that the Carfax had been updated.

> Well that can’t be good… <

The new log included information pertaining to “Engine Replacement.” Digging deeper, Nigel discovered that the previous owner had an aftermarket tune added to the car’s ECU, which for reasons unknown resulted in catastrophic engine failure. How catastrophic? Eh.. just ended up melting cylinders 7 & 8, minor stuff really, there’s 6 other cylinders right? The car was brought back to Ford, who basically said, “Yep.. that’s gonna be a new motor.” Presumably that was not a favorable outcome for the pocket book, so the previous owner opted to trade the car back into Ford for something else, and the car was subsequently flipped to an Auction House, where the Independent dealer in NC bought it.

So the clock reads 11k… but what is the true mileage and origin of the motor in Nigel’s GT500? Did it come from a wreck? A recall? Or is it just someone else’s abused and ragged out 5.8L V8 with swapped peripherals, and who knows how many miles?

Attempting due diligence, Nigel immediately contacted the NC dealer to file his various complaints. The most obvious question to ask: “when I asked you what was done to the car why didn’t you mention this?!?!” To which the answer was “you asked about maintenance, this was repair.” At this point in the recounting of these twisted events, I mentally slam my head into a wall.

At the end of the day, Nigel is stuck with the car. No refunds, no returns. All sales are final. #5mile5minuteWarranty. And speaking of warranties, the car was still under the factory 5 year warranty – but oh wait.. a motor replacement voids that… (sigh). A truly heart wrenching and stressful experience. So what is next for our motorsports enthusiast, Nigel? In a recent review of his situation he said to me, “I’ve been here only a few months, but I am already embracing American culture, I’m suing them.”

As if the cake needed any icing, upon delivery, a quick once-over of the car revealed the rear tires were worn. Innocent enough, and comes with the territory.  Nigel diligently went online and ordered a new rear set of Goodyear F1s, which is what the car came with from the factory, and had them mounted/installed at a Goodyear Tire shop. Unfortunately, or fortunately, as the case may be, it was raining pretty much daily around the time the new tires were mounted. I remember Nigel telling me “the car is absolutely undriveable.” So undriveable, that at every turn and every on/off ramp the car was an absolute mess, fish-tailing constantly. Upon further inspection of the rear, he comes to realize that the directional tires that should be left and right, were both lefts! An easy thing to neglect to double check for after the “pros” have allegedly done their job. Needless to say, left + left does not equal right, especially when you add in high horsepower and precipitation.

Circling back to the food for thought... How well do you ever really know the used car you are buying? Carfax only gets you so far… as far as the someone who filed a report on an incident. If the car was wrapped around a tree and fixed outside of an insurance company and no police reports were filed, then did it really happen? The old.. “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it..” conundrum. When buying a used car, you check for the usuals… rust, dampness, soft suspension, squishy brakes… but no one can be ripping interiors out to see if there are signs of repaired body damage, or locating engine stamps and trying to find out if its the original motor or not. You just have to do the best due diligence you can, and hope for the best.


> Now, back in the passenger seat <

My impression of the GT500 from the passenger seat - Despite the stunning appearance and its allure, it’s an absolute handful! Making a simple turn from a stop and adding the tiniest amount of throttle, puts the car completely sideways. One could argue that’s fun, until you see a curb coming at you and you remember you just put groceries in the trunk… The GT500 does seem “easy” to bring back into control. Granted, it’s one thing to correct oversteer at 20mph, completely different to control the inevitable powerslide out of a turn at 50mph, 60mph or beyond. Even in a straight line, it’s not necessary to stomp on the gas to start breaking the backend loose.

The car sounds nice, but was surprisingly subdued and muted. I would have expected a lot more howl, as the hounds were released from their fiery depths. Also, as is the case with most modern cars… it barely feels like it’s moving even when it is. Modern cars are just so smooth, there is a disconnect from feeling truly engaged with the car. Not to mention, with the number of ponies under the hood, I was disappointed to not feel like I was really getting to know the beautiful Recaro seats under acceleration.

Like Nigel said, it’s not a bad car, but it’s not great either. I can only assume that the lower models like the GT350, 5.0 GT or the Eco-Boost are more composed and controlled, making them much more pleasurable to drive. I would still be curious to see how it handles with slicks, on a racetrack. Is the mustang tamed or is it still a wiId bronco?

In summary – ‘Murica. I wouldn’t want to drive it in the rain. ‘Murica. Not a grocery getter. ‘Murica. Maybe the GT500 has 660-too-many horsepowers for everyday use.


Tania - Region 3 Chief.

Forza Motorsports League Recap - Series II - “Seriously, I am not a gamer.”

posted Mar 25, 2018, 6:18 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Mar 25, 2018, 6:33 PM ]

Article by: Brad N & Eric M, 3/23/2018 -

We can’t tell you how many hours and dollars we have wasted grasping for the next racing title to hit our consoles. There are some real gems out there: Need for Speed Porsche Unleashed, Forza Motorsports 6, GTR-2, DIRT, the Need for Speed Underground Series, Gran Turismo 2 and admittedly even iRacing. But for every diamond, there are 4 turds that come out alongside them, for instance: Horizon, WRC Rally, Project Gotham, Viper Racing, Ride, Project Cars, Ridge Racer, Test Drive: Unlimited ... the giant digital swirly goes on and on.

After debut, Forza 7 (FM7) was headed “down the tubes” - plagued with issues, bugs and constant patches. It was nearly unusable in multiplayer mode. Some would argue it was really “Forza 6 - Service Pack 2” -- a very typical Microsoft strategy. In retrospect, for all its faults,  Forza 6 (FM6) was a strong offering, solid and reliable.

Early in Series I the commissioners had almost committed to ditching FM7 and returning to FM6 for the duration of the winter. Since October 2017 when FM7 hits the shelves it's been consistently upgraded and stabilized, is it perfect?, No… but much like high performance driving in the real world, we adapt and overcome.

Series I - “the Super Bowl Series” was our first foray into FM7 with an organized league, building off our experience and past successes with the FM6 league. Series I was designed to be “the Greatest Hits album” of all the previous series we had completed, giving folks a taste of what it’s all been about. After a while, there are only so many combinations of races and gimmicks one can devise to keep people interested and engaged in a long running program like this. We needed something new.

With that said, Series II - was no small undertaking. Having learned some very meaningful lessons about league management from “the Glencident” during the 2017 season, having a “series based on real life” like the ALMS/Tudor was now considered taboo. Admittedly, we lost a lot of good racers during that time, but the desire to try again has always been there.

After attending the Rolex-24 in Daytona in early 2018, the commissioners decided to revisit the idea of “simulating a real world racing schedule.” Rolex or maybe the lack of sleep that weekend  gave them hope and inspiration it could be done. Soon after, they began to develop the “Ultimate Motorsports Series” -- promising to keep it new, fresh, and full of competition. The premise of the series was to host/score FOUR independent Tiers of racing classes in one event, while minimizing confusion, incidents and fostering some really good racing - just like IMSA.  

Without getting too scientific about how the series works, the four tiers break down in their simplest forms as :

Tier X - Unlimited Class / RWYB (Run What You Brung)

Tier 1 - Prototypes / LMP

Tier 2 - GTLM / GT2

Tier 3 - GTE / GTC / GT3 / GT4

Despite the ever growing rule book for our League, the commissioners were able to revisit and create rules that really helped everyone stay engaged in the series despite work/travel schedules getting in the way. One of the biggest improvements we’d like to highlight is the concept of a “Phone It In.” Modeled after similar configurations found in a Bowling League, participants that can’t race live have a set period of time to complete/submit their results so as to not take a Zero for the week. Many people leveraged this option and we’re rather proud of the success. Not to mention the tension it brought to the Tiers - not knowing where/when points would appear for an absent racer.

But enough, jibber-jabber about the way the series was run, let’s move on to how the series ended - now for the results…

The color coded nightmare that was multi-tier scoring, we’ll move on to the results.

>drum roll<

Tier 3 - GTE / GTC / GT3 / GT4 (aka “S-class”)

Congratulations Tier 3! - in 3rd place was Kerwin W using a wide assortment of Open-Wheel Racers. Kerwin held 1st in Tier 3 for more than three quarters of the series before Parker and Tania made their final push. Jumping to 2nd place was Parker H with his Polestar Volvo S60 and stealing the lead in 1st place... Tania M with her Rotek Audi S3.

Tania M - 2014 Rotek Audi S3 (left), Parker H - 2014 Polestar Volvo S60 (right).

Tier 3 was arguably the most contested Tier in the Series, with the points gap staying within a few points of separation until the very end. The final spread was 139 (1st) - 125 (2nd) and 117 (3rd). Good work Tier 3, we know it was a tough battle for the drivers and we enjoyed every minute of the action. #GonnaHaveToWait. #10minuteracetimer.

Tier 2 - GTLM / GT2 (aka “R-spec”)

Congratulations Tier 2! - In a surprising 3rd place finish was Sam H, running with enough fuel to finish 50% of the series! In 2nd place was Brad N flipping between BMW and Mercedes as his weapon of choice. And in a true underdog / “come-back-kid” story, starting mid-series was new comer and long time friend of Sam H, Don Corso, leveraging his Lancia Beta MonteCarlo for his 1st place finish. Well done! #smallgastank

Don Corso - 1980 Lancia Beta Montecarlo (left), Brad N - 2014 BMW Z4 GTE (right)

Tier 1 - Prototypes / LMP

Congratulations Tier 1! - Flip, then Flop - Flip, then Flop. That’s the story of Tier 1. Swapping and Battling from week to week. 3rd place went to Peter B in a variety of vehicles, while a battle between Mazda and Mercedes boiled. In the end, 2nd place went to Ben S with his killer tri-rotor 787B Mazda and 1st place to Eric M in the ground thumping V8-turbo Sauber-Benz. #groundeffects. #ismelldiesel. #pitlanefinish. #realracersdriveprototypes.

Eric M - 1998 Sauber-Benz C9 (left), Ben S - 1991 Mazda 787B (right)

Tier X - Unlimited Class / RWYB (Run What You Brung)

“By the end, everyone will be in Tier X,” we heard frequently. This class was dominated mostly by Formula 1 cars with staggering speed and equally ballistic lap times compared to the rest of the field. But we have to tip our hats to the Tier X drivers for being some of the most respectful out there to the lower classes, waiting for “point bys” ... even if their Autopilot post-Race Drones are jerks ;-) #dronesarelive.

3rd place in Tier X went to Peter B. With a huge push to make up points after leaving Tier 2 - and giving Doug some chase, 2nd place went to Brad N.

To “Mr. Renault F1” the spoils of war - 1st place was Doug T’s to lose!

Doug T - 2017 Renault R.S.17

> and now... for the overall championship <

We have to give a big shout out to Parker H (Tier 3) for his last minute rally - jumping into 5th place overall with 79 championship points! In 4th place with 115 points Eric M (Tier 1), in 3rd place... Brad N (Tier 2) with 120 points. A last minute leapfrog into 2nd place by Ben S (Tier 1) with 128 pts .... and our newest Forza Series Champion... with 152 pts out of a possible 200. please join us in congratulating Doug T (Tier X) as Series II champ!

Congratulations DOUG!

> rabble, rabble, rabble -- applause <

Doug T was quoted in a post-championship interview via Facebook as saying "I'd like to thank faster cars and sake. Without both I couldn't have achieved greatness. I'm the best there ever was. I basically wake up and piss excellence." #onlyDoug. #thatKYassASSin22

... oh and one last minute shout out to Brad N for putting up with a lot of grief during practice, it’s going to be hard for him to live down “the Miranda Lambert Concert…” but he does deserve some praise for being the highest combined points earner across all tiers with a massive 290 pts.

Looking back over the entire League, but with FM7-Series II specifically, we feel we finally got the recipe right, and really feel this series was a lot of fun. The boffins back at the lab will definitely have a hard time topping this one - So What’s Next? Well, to quote one of the most memorable lines of this series…

Thank you ALL for participating, without members like You, none of this would be possible! #WhenDoesForza-8-Debut?

Track Insurance - Is it worth the price?

posted Mar 20, 2018, 12:22 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Mar 25, 2018, 6:33 PM ]

Article By: John R, Brad N; 3/16/2018 -

For many of us, track insurance is a hit or miss idea. There are a number of us who drive cars cheap enough that we feel we can take the risk, and then there are others who drive expensive cars that would financially and emotionally tear them apart if something bad were to happen. As one of our more senior members will tell you, “don’t drive something on track that you can’t afford to walk away from”, well not everyone shares this viewpoint. Insurance is a funny thing, in most cases it’s a necessary evil. It’s something that we all pay for but we also all hope we never have to use.

There are a few companies out there that may offer track insurance but this article is going to focus on one specific company, Lockton, as club member and co-author of this post John R. has extensive experience with them.

Note: There are three types of track insurance policies available: HPDE (strictly driver’s education, no racing or time trials), Transportation (anywhere but on the track) and Race (self-explanatory).  All are based upon an “Agreed Value” and can vary in price/plans based on the carrier.  

GTM members: Erin K (left) and John R (right)

John drives a 2014 Ford Eco-Boost Mustang as his daily driver and also his track day weapon. He shares this vehicle with his significant other, Erin K., and the car sees a lot of time on track. Because of this John and Erin pay for Lockton track insurance for every event. Last season they did have to use their track insurance and they were glad they had it. Below is a short summary of their experience with Lockton and the claims process.

TL;DR — “My car hit a wall at Summit Point last summer and had to use the track insurance to cover the damage.”

John R: “Lockton immediately started processing our claim and sent an inspector out to verify all of the damage.  Lockton contracts with local insurance agents to process the claim so the agent was from York Insurance (if I’m remembering correctly).  He was extremely friendly and made sure that if there was a scratch anywhere it would be included in the claim.

Lockton gives you two options, both of which involve picking your own repair place:  1). They send you a check for the repair estimate submitted by the inspector. 2). They work with your repair shop to settle the bill.  I chose Option 1 because sometimes if you are paying out of pocket repair shops will offer you a lower price than normal. If you need to make adjustments to the claim amount (because the fixes cost more than the estimate) you just need to work with the Lockton and the inspector to produce new estimates.  Doing it over again, I’d just have Lockton work with the shop and have the shop contact me first to discuss what work needs to be done before they talk to Lockton.

The repairs turned out absolutely amazing, but I needed to hold their hand through a lot of the more technical bits (like exactly what parts my car needs since I know my car much better than they do, etc).

I had to purchase a single event policy from them after I made that claim and they did NOT increase the price I had to pay for the policy given I had one claim on my record.  Also, Lockton offers a multi-event policy discount which I take advantage of to save some money! The premium per event is based on the insured value of the car that you set. Please remember that there are two options for deductibles with Lockton, 10% or 15%, so you will have to come out-of-pocket some.

I have had one issue with their website (which you do all your purchasing on — it is very easy) where it looked like they had no records of my policy purchases nor had I had coverage for the event on Shenny just one week earlier.  This turned out to be a glitch which was fixed the next day, but it gave me a heck of a lot of anxiety during the VIR South event with HOD last fall. Lockton emails you proof of insurance immediately upon purchasing your policy so I had proof of coverage regardless.”

John & Erin’s Mustang is looking good as new, and ready for more track duty!

In John and Erin’s case, it was beneficial to have the insurance and Lockton stepped in and did exactly what they paid them to do. They did so professionally and timely, which is important when dealing with a sensitive matter such as car repair. It’s ultimately up to you to decide if you think track insurance is worth it. But when considering driving on track, remember that this is a dangerous sport and anything can happen. We make sure that our bodies are covered in case of emergency, but it’s important to consider the impact this may have on your machinery as well.

For more information on Lockton and their insurance programs, please visit their website at .

The Neverending ‘80s, Part 2: Judgement Day

posted Mar 12, 2018, 7:09 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Mar 25, 2018, 6:33 PM ]

Article By: Matt Y, Brad N;  3/1/2018 -

Matt Y: Picking up where last weeks ‘80s retrospective article left off ... while it’s a great look back at the ‘80s cars, I don’t think we gave the American’s their fair share. I'm not nearly as well versed on the Italian cars as some - I know the German junk and some of the Japanese stuff because that was what I grew up driving / racing against, and I happened to own one of those german-built Ford Capris (‘76 Capri II Ghia with the 2.8 V6).  

By current standards, cars of the ‘80s are terrible BUT compared to their predecessors, these cars were a tremendous step forward. The oil crisis of the mid-’70s started a significant change in focus for auto manufacturers, even the American “Big Three” (GM, Ford and Chrysler). Gone was the continual development of 1950s technology - body-on-frame, RWD, gigantic but gutless V8s, replaced by lighter unibody vehicles with FWD and smaller but more powerful V6 and 4-cylinders engines.  

1985 Chevy Celebrity (left) and Citation (right)

From General Motors, the lovely A-Body (Celebrity, Century, Cutlass, 6000) and the X-platform (Citation, Skylark, Omega, Phoenix) started to eclipse venerable "full sized" models.  As mundane as it may be, Ford introduced the all-new Taurus, a FWD sedan that ultimately replaced the entire full and mid-sized Ford product line. Not to be out done (and to save themselves from bankruptcy), Chrysler introduced the K-Car and it's variants that ran from basic (Reliant to LeBaron to minivan).  

1983 Plymouth Aries “K-car”

Even the imported cars were improved from the ‘70s. Volkswagen started the trend of bringing virtually the same vehicle as sold in Europe to the American shores - previously and throughout the ‘80s, many of the "imports" were American-market only for fear that Americans wouldn't purchase small cars with tiny 4-cylinder engines.  In other cases, the cars were branded under American nameplates again to reduce the "import factor."  Notable are cars like the Chrysler Conquest T---S---I aka the Mitsubishi Starion or anything called a Geo *cough* Suzuki.  

As an aside, I was actually looking for cars when the Toyota AE86 was still available in RWD - I can't remember if I drove one or not.  This was during the time of the "Additional Dealer Markup" and Toyota dealers couldn't be bothered by some 20-year old kid whose parents were buying him a car.  I had also attempted to drive the brand-new Acura Integra but was told to bring my parents - funny, my parents didn't care what I bought so long as it was in a dollar range AND I liked it.  My quest included the Mustang GT because I was in school in North Carolina where the Pony Car was king - that and my friend's GF had a new GT but in an auto-tragic. And, I rather liked the LOOK of the Fiat 131 - my friend's parents had a sedan and I remember it being a nice looking car but I don't ever remember riding in it.  His parents' other car was a full-sized Buick station wagon though.

The big eye opener for the American market was first that these imports were TINY - the Plymouth Champ is smaller than the current MINI (aka “the Maxi” in some circles).  With the available turbo, the Champ/Colt was surprisingly quick and nimble compared to anything "built in America."  I vividly remember driving a ‘74 Grand Am with a fire-breathing 400CID and getting absolutely waxed by a Colt Turbo from a red light - the Grand Am's owner was devastated by the loss which was perhaps one of the best examples of America's finest being a bit tarnished.

The Plymouth Champ

Even the best of the ‘80s are quite crude compared to even today's cheapest economy cars.  However the cars were light and overboosted, power assists hadn't been introduced - that would have to wait until the mid-’90s.  Unlike today's cars, the ‘80s cars took to modifications with great aplomb, mainly because in stock trim, the ‘80s cars were soft and floppy.  

For anyone considering an ‘80s car as a toy - first remember the the old adage of "Don't Drive Your Heros" which pertains rather vividly to these cars.  That said, many of the cars from the ‘80s are "worn" rather than "driven".  Case in point would be the ‘79 VW Scirocco that was so tiny that I had to practice erotic contortionism to enter/exit the car BUT when driving it, the car felt like an extension of my body.  Compared to the gigantic, heavy modern cars, these cars of the ‘80s were infinitely tossable and fun combined with simple engine management systems. The downside to the simple engine management was and is that they're not nearly as tuneable as modern systems.  

1976-1981 VW Scirocco Mk1

I ultimately ended up with an GTI because the dealer treated me like an adult.  I liked the German styling and the features that the Japanese cars didn't offer.  Add to that it was one of the first cars with aerodynamic headlights and that became the big winner.

> turntable screech <

Brad N: Hold up!, so far my co-author Matt Y paints a grim picture of ‘80s in America - the citation? the chevette? the aires? the champ? UGH! YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME. Are you going to sit there and tell me that there aren’t ANY good “square body” cars from the US in the 80s?

Um… I think the Camaro IROC-Z, Firebird Trans-Am, Monte Carlo, Grand National, GNX, and Ford Thunderbird (because NASCAR BRAH!) would like to have a word with you.

> with roberts rules of order, in play <

Matt Y: Those American cars specifically noted were certainly a step above the mundane but even compared to European offerings, these cars were horrible.  

1986 Chevy Camaro IROC-Z

Camaro IROC-Z (or Z28) and Firebird Trans Am - The cheap plastic dash on these cars screams "budget" - the earliest 82 Camaros had a strange 2-arrow speedometer that showed MPH on one arrow and KPH on the other.  This was on-par with the '83 Porsche 944 that had the "backwards" tachometer.  Back to the Camaro/Firebird - the interior as a whole was cheap - like as in: Chevy Vega cheap - the plastics were on the verge of falling apart even when the cars were new.  The passenger seat was HOT and offered no leg room - why? Because the catalytic converter needed a home … therfore, directly under the passenger's legs was the "perfect" solution.  Add to that a pair of leaky t-tops and virtually NO STORAGE SPACE (especially with the t-tops stored in their slots at the rear of the car).  Power came from a very anemic 5.0 (302) or 5.7 (350) V8. The 5.0 produced approximately 150hp! FWIW, my anemic, uber-slow 4.0L Land Rover with it's Buick-based drivetrain produces 150hp!  

1986 Chevy Monte Carlo SS

The Monte Carlo SS was perhaps one of the BEST marketed cars on the planet along with the Ford Thunderbird.  Both cars were "racing" in NASCAR but the NASCAR versions were nothing like the production models.  The V8 that was available in the Monte Carlo SS was the same anemic 5.0 as the Camaro BUT in a heavier, softer chassis with brakes that could stop the Queen Mary (in a few miles).  Otherwise, the Monte Carlo was a very nice, large "personal coupe" that looked sporty - while the “Aero Coupe” version was a bit more special because of the rear window which increased aerodynamics and turned the cavernous trunk opening into a postal slot!

1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

The Thunderbird (sometimes jokingly referred to as “the Thunderchicken”) had the performance oriented Turbo Coupe which was certainly a lot more amusing.  Unlike the Monte Carlo, the interior was aimed towards performance and even included a *gasp* manual transmission and fancy, multi-adjustable seats that were stolen from the Mustang GT.  The downside to the T-Bird was that it was a heavy car and given the engine management of that time period, unless the engine was on full boil, driving a Turbo Coupe was more like driving a 4-cylinder Ford Ranger - the vehicle that donated it's 2.3L for the base of the turbo motor (and in later years the EcoBoost Mustangs and Focus RS).

1986 Buick Grand National

Lastly are the Grand National and GNX - the Grand National, unlike the Monte Carlo, offered a drivetrain that was anything but mundane.  Even the interior was more fanciful than the basic Regal which was the Country Club variant of the Monte Carlo.  The suspension was tweaked a bit on the Grand National to make it less boat-like but the car is still a unibody luxo-cruiser.  The GNX is the same thing but with more power and more suspension tweaks which made it actually drive reasonably well for the time period.  Don't confuse the Grand National and the GNX though - they look similar and have the same parentage but the Grand National is the car you could take home to Mother while the GNX was the dirty little secret you enjoyed around the corner.  

> and now, back to you in the studio, Brad <

Brad N: Okay guys, I see your points, but I still think you are generalizing all US made cars into one totally shitty bucket compared to the rest. Even though the 5.0L and 5.7L engines of those eras were anemic in stock trim, you can’t argue with their tunability and reputation at the dragstrip. There is a reason that people are still swapping Ford 5.0L and Chevy 5.7L motors into everything, from luxury Jaguars and Land Rovers to your beloved german sports cars like Porsches and BMWs. Matt Y himself had a “Jag that runs” with a swapped 5.7L. #lsswapallthethings.

As referenced above, there was an oil crisis in the ‘70’s that essentially drove the American automakers to make drastic changes to their cars. If the U.S. government would have allowed them to make 500HP fire-breathing V8s that went 0-100mph in 5 seconds and got 5 mpg, they certainly would have. But instead, they neutered their offerings but allowed for a substantial aftermarket industry to essentially make up the difference and give the cars “muscle” again. And regarding the Grand National and GNX, with a turbo 3.8L V6, it may have only produced 200-245 HP (depending on year), that was just a knob turn away from doubling that output (albeit, probably not reliably).

As was stated earlier, by today’s standards, cars of the ‘80’s are terrible... All of them, zero exceptions, they are horrible examples compared to any of today’s offerings.

However, nostalgia is very real in car culture and we love these “pieces of crap” unconditionally. I would love to have an old square body Silverado and box Chevy Caprice Classic sitting in my driveway for no other reason than the fact that my family had them when I was growing up. I spent my childhood riding in the back seat (without a seat belt or car seat) jumping around wrestling with my brother on the way to the beach... :) #goodtimes.

We can only hope that the next generation will look back on the cars of this era with the same affection. #reflections.


posted Mar 9, 2018, 5:37 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Mar 25, 2018, 6:34 PM ]

Article by: Brad N; 3/5/2018 -

Earlier this week, I removed the license plates from my track car. The time snuck up on me and the registration was set to expire by the end of this month (March 2018). As I walked in to the MVA location down the street today, I couldn’t help but have a bittersweet moment of reflection on what I was about to do.

2003 GTI, Before “Eddie” was born, March 2014

I bought Eddie (aka “the Triple 6”) back in March 2014 with the hopes of taking him on adventures around local race tracks and getting myself back into the performance driving world. I found him on Craigslist after searching for a few months and having countless conversations with Eric M and others about what would be a good beginner track car. I had a 2001 GTI 1.8T and a 2004 GTI VR6 previously so it was safe to say I was familiar with the chassis (especially since I autocrossed the 2001). I knew a GTI would be a good platform for me, I could fit in them for one, and they were fairly inexpensive to maintain and run at events. I bought the car from a young kid in Germantown, MD who really didn’t do anything to it except poorly wire a stereo system and break off the passenger side mirror. With only 89k miles the car didn’t need much to be road worthy and for the price I think it was a great find and a great starting point for my future obsession.

Admittedly, I was conflicted at first. I wanted the car to be a nice streetable ride but I also wanted it to be able to handle weekend warrior duties. Little did I know that I would jump head first down the Golf, err Rabbit-hole towards full-on track car in a matter of years, no matter how hard I fought the inevitable. The car was relatively untouched by the time I signed up for my first event.

Mods started with a tune up, new plugs, coil packs, timing belt, hoses, pulley kit, fresh fluids, and other age-related maintenance. Other than that the car was as-is for my first time on track. Our first event was with PCA Potomac on the SP Shenandoah Circuit. I ran in green group (obviously) and had a long time PCA instructor as my passenger. That weekend was rough for many reasons that I won’t go into here, but needless to say after that event I had to take a step back and ask myself if this was something I really wanted to continue doing.

I didn’t sign up for another track event until almost a year later. In that time I picked up some hand-me-down parts from Eric M - thanks to his extensive experience and history with the MKIV platform. I also upgraded my brake pads and bought a really cool digital boost gauge. I removed the stereo (the wiring was awful and it needed to come out anyway #weightsavings) and bought some new wheels at a steal of a price from along with new tires.

I was set, ready to hit the track (this time with ACNA on SP Main) and get back at it. My instructor this time was someone I knew and someone I was comfortable with, which really helped. The weekend was a success - for the most part - except for an issue with brake fade and rear brake pads essentially destroying themselves. By the end of the weekend, I had that *moment* where I knew this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to hit the track, and I wanted to get better.

Eddie at a PCA autocross, June 2016 (left), Stylin’ and profilin’ at an HOD event , Jul 2017 (right)

From that moment forward, things changed quickly. The more track events I did, the better at driving I became, and the more and more I could feel and see the weaknesses in my current set up. Couple all that with a job change, which would help propel me and Eddie into new territory.

Used coilovers, Upgraded front brakes (Porsche/Brembo) with racing pads, completely gutted rear interior, new-to-me wheels with R-comp tires (thanks again to hand-me-downs from Eric M.) and I was killing it. I was having so much fun and the car was becoming a blast to drive.  

Sadly, this was the beginning of the end for Eddie’s streetability. With each new modification I added, the car became less and less comfortable to drive on the street. I even blew out a coilover driving on the road. An entire winter and spring went by where Eddie didn’t touch the road except to drive to events (if the event was too far away the tow dolly and my Jeep would handle that duty).

By spring, I had a new set of coilovers, new tires, new control arms, new sway-bars, new sway bar end links, camber plates, the suspension was re-tuned and track ready. The last thing I wanted to do was drive it on the street and risk breaking something even more expensive than the last. At the same time I was also becoming a better driver, more confident, more comfortable, and also less risk averse. #goingfaster. This meant that I ran a higher risk of breaking something out on track. The definitive step in taking Eddie off the street was the decision to buy a trailer for the hauling duties. (it helped that I got a smokin’ deal on the trailer from a then-club member).

Eddie hanging out with his pal FreakShow at the ACNA event on VIR, Nov 2017.

For all of 2017, Eddie was either on track, or on the trailer. There wasn’t any in between. And the more time Eddie spent on the trailer, the more I realized that I was wasting money by having him insured and registered. I made the decision early this winter that when his tags were due for renewal, I was removing them and turning them in. Fast forward to January 2018 when Eric M decided to return his silver GTI back to stock and I again received a gracious bounty of upgraded parts to include a hood with louvers and painted headlights. At that point, the nail was in the coffin, there wasn’t any way I was going to be able to drive Eddie on the street again. It was over. Removing the engines aging emissions related components, didn’t really help much either.

In the last two months I’ve dealt with a bit of sadness and melancholy. Of course the times we had a nice day and the weather was just right the first thing to come to mind was to ride up to my dad’s place (where Eddie is being stored) and take him around the block or down the highway for a couple *spirited stints* before putting him away again. Only, I realized I wasn’t able to anymore. Gone were the days of antagonizing “yo-boys” at traffic lights only to watch them scream off while I laughed hysterically. Gone were the days of taking the backroads to nowhere just to hear the exhaust and feel the wind rush by as I drove briskly through the open countryside. Gone were the days when I would wake up early on a beautiful Saturday morning to drive to Katie’s and grab a burrito while checking out all the hot rides at the Cars and Coffee event, only to walk by Eddie and think, “damn, I love my car.” Gone were the days… just gone.

Now, here I am, back at the office after returning the tags. I just logged off my insurance company’s website after removing him from coverage. I can take comfort in that I will be able to save a few hundred dollars a year, which I can turn around and put into track events and parts.

And what’s next for Eddie? … or should I say “Geddie” (recently renamed after Rush bassist Geddy Lee). He and I can most certainly move into this new chapter of our adventure together, but I can’t help but still feel sadness for those earlier days. #reflections #thefeels.

Meet Geddie, (named after Geddy Lee of course), coming to a track near you in 2018

In the words of the great ’80’s band Cinderella, you “Don’t know what you got, till it’s gone.”

Merry motoring.

“Square Bodies” – An ‘80s Retrospective

posted Mar 5, 2018, 7:26 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Mar 25, 2018, 6:34 PM ]

Article by: Eric M, 2/27/2018 -

Many will agree that there was a heyday of bespoke design in the automotive world which encompassed the 1950s and ‘60s; the ‘70s gave way to a new “space race” of brute force, power and muscle. But the ‘80s, oh the ‘80s. Aquanet, Jordache Jeans, and Duran Duran… setting the stage for prominent cost-cutting innovations like: high-revving high-compression 4-cylinder hatchbacks, front-wheel-drive, and mechanical fuel injection systems with James Bond-esque names like: Jet-tronic and C.I.S. Overnight, everything became “digital.” (seen above: the dashboard from a 1980 Lancia Orca) #121jigawatts.

The ‘80s saw a radical shift in automotive design, from flowing artistic expressions of character, beauty and physique to mimeographed copies of the same basic “square body” template. And yet, these homely and understated vehicles are some of the most nostalgia-inspiring vehicles for the “50 and under crowd” today – why is that, you might ask?

I feel, in part, that some of the fondness comes paired with a recollection of the awe-inspiring racing history woven throughout various disciplines of the time: Formula-1, IMSA, Grouppe-B Rally and DTM. If you look back over their sagas at a high level, the drivers, the tracks, the records that were set stretching from 1980 into the early 90s, it’s arguably some of the best racing of all time. But what makes it all *special* … what makes the ‘80s a decade for automobile enthusiasts like no other?

The answer is: Homologation, a set of rules that forced manufacturers to make “watered down” versions of their race cars available to the masses in limited quantities. These vehicles were “the same” cars that our superhero racing idols were going to battle with weekend after grueling weekend. Therefore, in an attempt to rekindle some of those “feels” as they say, and in no particular order, here’s an overview of some of the most memorable “square bodies” of the ‘80s.

The Italians, Romeo and Giulia

1986 Alfa Romeo GTV-6 (left), 1985-1992 Alfa Romeo 75 (right)

The Alfa GTV was in essence a carry over from the ‘70s, designed to compete with - and look like - the german-built Ford Capri, but the GTV didn’t really tease its hair until the mid-80s when Alfa decided to shoehorn a 2.5 litre V6 into the existing GTV shell.

Removing the disco-fever, when the GTV-6 was introduced Alfa was already sunsetting the model line and simultaneously beginning to close it’s dealerships in the US. Alfa decided to refocus their attention on the up-and-coming DTM series, bringing to bear the Alfa 75 to compete against the E30 M3 and the Mercedes 190-E. The Alfa 75 would morph to become the basis for the infamous Alfa 155 DTM. The Alfa 75 was brought to the US in a last ditch sales effort as the “Milano” before officially closing the US market in 1992.   

1980 Fiat Abarth 131, Series II

This rag-tag Fiat Brava-based family sedan turned Grouppe-4 champion rally car was a head-turner with it’s raspy twin-cam 2.0 litre and was piloted to over 20 wins by greats like: Markku Alen, Walter Rorhl and Michele Mouton. Unlike its street version cousins, the 131 Abarth was Rear-Wheel-Drive.

1987 Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evo-2

The Lancia Delta, also known as “The Tipo 831” was penned by the famed italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro as a competitor to one of his other designs: the Volkswagen Golf. The Delta was originally commissioned in the late ‘70s and after three generations the most notable Deltas would go on to topple the rally charts after the disbanding of Grouppe-B in 1987.  Manufacturers like Audi, Peugeot and others removed their entries from Rally citing safety concerns with the sport.

Despite being an early “hot hatch,” one of the Delta’s most notable technological contributions to the era was the use of a complicated “twin-charging” system where for the first time in a compact car a supercharger and turbocharger were paired together to create over 300 bhp from a 2.0 litre 16-valve 4-cylinder.

The French Connection… and a car developed in a Shed.

1985 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 (left), 1985 Renault R5 Turbo (right)

Archrivals, no doubt… but Peugeot and Renault decided “alors, oui, we can make them: smaller and faster,” they undoubtedly said over a morning croissant … “but, convoluted, they must be!”

Both the road going versions of the Peugeot 205 and the Renault R5 (sold as “Le Car” in the US, and later renamed the “Clio” in Europe) were your run of the mill front-wheel-drive people movers. Quirky and very French. Checking all the boxes, both vehicles had space for your grocery run, kids, poodle pup and came with roll up windows and a radio. About as basic as a vanilla crepe gets.

How these two manufacturers bent the rules is still up for debate, but they transformed these unsalted baguettes into fire breathing, mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive missiles. Homologation be damned, these guys were onto something!

1985 Morris-Garage (MG) Metro

And then we have a car that was developed in a shed, somewhere in the midlands… MG, famous or maybe infamous for it’s “roadsters” like the MG-A and MG-B of the ‘50s through ’70s, decided in a “me too” moment to take their copy-cat people mover and also create a mid-engined monstrosity. MG wasn’t about to let the French have the last word.

From the land of the Rising Sun...

1986 Toyota Corolla AE86 (left), 1985 Toyota Starlet FX-16 GTS (right)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Japanese were perfecting the art of driving sideways very quickly and precisely. They too, decided to try their hand at producing “square bodies.” Often, the most recognized Japanese car from this era was the Toyota Corolla “AE86”  (and it’s sister “The Levin”), it came with a Cosworth inspired indestructible twin-cam 4-cylinder strapped to what looked like a failed Volkswagen Scirocco design. Upon debut, with its history still unwritten, what would happen next for the plucky AE86 was anyone’s guess. “...the lightness, the balance, the strength of the engine, what seemed like an unending amount of RPMs, the razor sharp steering…” years later Initial D would help to romanticize the AE86, but their proven records on the Formula D / Drift scene really set it apart. #driftking

And for what it's worth, I rode in my cousins brand-new AE86 in Montreal - back in the day - but I also drove my grandfather's Notchback SR-5 version here in the US, which for some reason always smelled like a KFC. I digress, the interior in the AE86s were nothing to write home about, it really wasn’t a great place to live, terrible actually, but all that changed once you were in motion. You knew you were driving something special. Something meant to do more.

(Sigh) … then there was the Starlet, maybe the name was supposed to poke fun at the hollywood Starlets of the time, but this Corolla definitely suffers from an identity crisis. It was one of those cars that really didn’t know what it wanted to be, and looking back, Toyota might not have known what they wanted it to be. It came with a long list of engine combinations and drivetrain packages - globally, you could choose front or rear wheel drive. Even though it was modeled after the Ford Fiesta of the late ‘70s, it truly shined - in the same way as its inspiration - on the AutoCross scene. Light, short wheel base, high-revving and nimble. Those were the keys to success.

Oddly enough, both the AE86 and the Starlet were clearly entirely different vehicles, but they both donned the badge “COROLLA.” #OGK.

1984-1988 Honda CR-X, Gen 1

The CR-X… what is there to say? A pocket-sized car, sold as a 2+2: Was it a coupe? Was it a wedge? Was it a hatchback? It really had it all, it was the micro-machine you could own. Thankfully it didn’t have pop-up headlights or it would have been hallmarked as a true car of the ‘80s.

Instead, the CR-X was one of those cars that entered like a lamb and exited a lion. It was one of the few cars - of foreign descent - born in the mid-eighties that still had side-draft carburetors. Honda soon remediated that “feature” of the CR-X. Feisty and light, the CR-X gave birth to a entire generation of proud Honda owners. The CR-X is definitely missed, and we still await its true successor.  

Flight of the Valkyrie: German might and magic…

1988 BMW E30 M3 EVO

BMW has always had this passion for creating understated but bat-shit-crazy vehicles. It’s no wonder the second car to wear the ///M badge was the E30-based original “M3.” Powered by a 2.3 litre four-cylinder, the M3 was used everywhere BMW could find a driver and a registration packet for it. It goes without saying that we should also tip our flat brimmed trucker caps to the E28-based M5 in the category of “flying bricks.” From Rally to DTM, BMW motorsport made its marque on the 80s.

1988 Mercedes-Benz 190-E EVO

In 1987, I’ll bet you could have overheard the engineers at Mercedes, after a pint of lager or seven, say “hell, if BMW can do it, so can we.” The “Type W201” aka the 190-E was Mercedes’ answer to the smaller, ankle-biting M3. Before AMG existed, this factory prepped 2.3 litre, stripped down luxury saloon turned racer, went toe-to-toe with BMW and Alfa Romeo in DTM. As a note, Mercedes also attempted to use the 190-E in Rally as well.

1985-1992 VW Golf GTI 16v (Mk2)

The GTI returns! The Mk1 Golf was sold in europe from 1975 until 1984, but the GTI didn’t make it to US soil until 1983. By late ‘84, Volkswagen was already working on the next generation Golf dubbed “the Golf Mk2,” which would debut in 1985 worldwide. The base Mk2 came with the standard 100 bhp 8-valve engine. But the GTI was fitted with a 16-valve, 1.8 litre engine, bilstein suspension, larger brakes and an aesthetics package setting it apart from the mundane Golf.

What the GTI lacked in sheer technical prowise when stacked against its competitors, it made up for in lightness and agility. VAG cars were rated as some of the “best handling” vehicles on the road at that time, without mods. The Mk2 GTI came in many variants not available in the US including the G60 Supercharged and Rallye AWD versions. The Mk2 GTIs are still some of most sought after VAG cars, and have been used for all sorts of Motorsport. #FAHRVERGNUGEN.

1980-1987 Audi (Ur-)Quattro Coupe

The Ur-Quattro… Godfather of ‘80s European “square bodies.” A car that turned the racing world on it’s nose, introducing military inspired AWD into a production vehicle, and then into racing. Audi (who officially merged with VW in 1985 to become VAG) had it’s growing pains during the early days of Grouppe-B. But the 20-valve 2.1 and 2.3 litre 5-cylinders would prove a best of both worlds engine able to “accelerate like a four and provide the torque of a six,” partnered with an airplane-sized Triple-K turbo, the racing 5-cylinders produced anywhere from 500-750 bhp depending on the application.

The Ur-Quattro and it’s variants: The Sport Quattro (Shorty), The S1 (Pikes Peak), and later the 5000 Trans-AM and IMSA-90-GTU are still held in high regard today. Audi toppled the rally dynasties of Lancia and others with innovative ideas and those sexy knife-edge flares. The technological advancements aside, a turbo 5-cylinder at wide-open-throttle still has one of the most notable engine sounds to date, best described as sounding like “a dragon emerging from the depths to unleash fury upon the land.”  #ICH<3MIENAUDI

The Americans…

We would be remiss if we didn’t include an honorable mention for the Americans in our top square bodies review. Sadly though, there wasn’t much to highlight except for:

1982 Chevy C10 / GMC K1200 (“Fall Guy Edition”)

But all kidding aside, Dodge was bringing vehicles like the Omni-Shelby Turbo to the frey.

1986 Dodge Omni - Shelby Turbo

>you can stop laughing now<

Granted, the base Omni was a copy-cat of the Mk1 Volkswagen Golf - it even shared the same 8-valve 4-cylinder power plant and drivetrain - but this version was anointed by the man himself, Carroll Shelby, and fitted with a Turbo and a punched out block. The new 2.2-litre made a staggering 175 front-wheel-drive horsepower. You’re looking at: “the muscle car of hot hatches.”

Looking back with fondness...

There were plenty of other “cool” things going on during the ‘80s from movies, to music, technology, etc. It was truly the renaissance of the modern era. But as some will look back and delight in memories of Back to the Future (1981 Delorean DMC-12), Knight Rider (1982 Pontiac Firebird) and Magnum PI (1980 Ferrari 308), we hope that the vehicles here invoked that same reaction. Do you have a favorite car from the ‘80s? or special memory of driving an ‘80s classic? #cultclassics. We’d love to hear your feedback, so feel free to post your comments below.  

Merry Motoring.

The Demise of the BMW ///M Badge

posted Mar 2, 2018, 10:38 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Mar 25, 2018, 6:34 PM ]

Article by: Matt Y; 3/1/2018 -

Sitting in traffic this morning behind a newish BMW X3 ///M40i, I realized just how far the vaunted ///M badge has fallen for the BMW brand.  The X3 is about as far away from the concept behind the ///M badge as possible, becoming nothing more than a marketing gimmick that appeals to the car buyer who wants to look sporty but has no clue about performance.  

The BMW ///M badge was originally the moniker for BMW's skunkworks, a group of rouge engineers whose focus was on racing and development.  Their crowning jewel from the late ‘70s was the ///M1, a supercar in the early days of supercars when the only other players were Italians who produced beautiful and woefully unreliable cars that were incredibly impractical but sleek and sexy.  Ironically, the M1, unlike the other supercars, was normally aspirated and only powered by 6 cylinders instead of the accepted 8 or 12 cylinders of the Italians - yes, Lotus offered a 4-cylinder turbo in the Esprit but that was so unreliable that it even made a Lamborghini look like an endurance champion.  

1978-1981 BMW M1 Procar (left) & Homologation Street Edition (right)

///M was also associated with the E28-based ///M535 and E24-based ///M635 - European variants of the 5-series sedan and 6-series coupe for America.  These used the M1 engine albeit with a more common and tame fuel injection system (Bosch Motronic) which was significantly less troublesome than the Weber-Marelli system on the M1.  Aside from the drivetrain, these Euro-only cars were the epitome of sleepers - slightly larger wheels and black-out chrome, and dual tipped exhaust were the only external cues aside from a small badge on the boot.  Inside, the leather trim was upgraded but it wasn't visually much different from the base models.  

1988 BMW M3

The E30-based ///M3 was a completely different story.  Unlike the M535 and M635, the M3 was created to compete in the DTM (German Touring Car series).  To meet the homologation requirements, BMW was required to offer these cars to the general public, in limited quantities.  The motor was a 2.3 litre 4-cylinder, effectively the S38 (M1 motor) with 2 fewer cylinders.  Fender flares were added as was a taller rear deck lid to improve aerodynamics.  Unlike the bigger cars, the M3 was noticeably different from it's more mundane cousins.  

1987 BMW M5 (left) and M6 (right)

By the mid-’80s, BMW's sales were starting to sag as their product line aged.  Corporate marketing decided to throw their American fanatics a bone - offering an Americanized version of both the M535 and M635 as the ///M5 and ///M6 stateside.  The promise was that the M5 in particular would be a limited edition with no more than 1200 examples produced.  Like the European versions, these cars were the art of subtlety, looking virtually identical to the "base" model.  For the US market, the M6 was available with more color options than the M5. And as a nod to enthusiasts, both cars were only available in a manual transmission.  In the US, the M5 was only available in black with a tan interior - the Canadians received black cars but with black interiors.  

Performance of the American M5 and M6 didn't disappoint - granted the cars lost 30hp in the Federalization process (256 hp) but compared to the 171hp of the base 3.5 litre, the ///M cars were relative rockets.  Add to that "gigantic brakes" that hauled the M5 down to zero ALMOST as fast as a VW Beetle, err 911 - the M5 had the distinction of being the 2nd fastest stopping car in America for 1988!  Not bad for a 3500# barge with self-leveling rear suspension and seating for you and 4 of your closest friends.  

Sadly, BMW's focus changed in the early ‘90s.  The E34-based ///M5 was still quite understated although it used wheels that were visually quite different from the pedestrian version, which made the car much more recognizable.  Unfortunately, the ///M3 started transitioning away from a Skunkworks car and into a styling and marketing exercise in the E36.  Compared to the base model, the E36-based ///M3 was certainly a step forward but now it used special ///M colors and ///M specific wing, ///M specific bumper covers and an ///M specific interior that was more than just nicer leather.  While performance was better the the basic E36, the M3 started using more mainstream parts including a change to a single throttle body instead of individuals that were used on the E28 and E24 variants.  The running joke at the time that upset many M3 owners was that "real" ///M cars had individual throttle bodies.  

1995-99 E36 M3

As the M3 aged, BMW further diluted it's motorsports ties by adding slush-o-matic transmissions, 4-doors or a cabriolet option to the M3 - a car that had been conceived as a coupe.  This certainly increased the car's appeal as it now made the car available to families who needed a sedan AND so-called performance drivers who were unable to master the art of 3-pedals and only 2 feet.  Performance was still better than the base models but the exclusivity of ///M cars was on the decline - appealing to the badge lovers rather than performance enthusiasts.  

As the ///M brand has aged, BMW has put quite a bit of effort into producing performance cars that set the ///M cars well above the base models.  However, they've lost the art of subtlety - newer ///M cars have super-aggressive and flashy bumper covers, chrome exhaust tips and sadly, ///M badged engine plastics that do nothing for performance BUT give young boys a certain tightness in their Underoos.  It's not that the new ///M cars are slugs, just that they're now tools for tools - a precious few owners understand or are able to understand and use their ///M cars to their limits.  

Back to this morning - the ///M badge, like the Audi R-Line or the Mercedes-Benz AMG badges are now more of a styling exercise.  Even General Motors recognized this when they created an "SS" model of every vehicle in their line-up including the valued and performance oriented Malibu Maxx SS (look it up - fugly is a kind description).  Granted the ///M badge has been available on the open market and applied to every car on the planet - perhaps my favorite being the uber-rare: 1988 BMW E30 ///M325es - a badge engineered car created by a poor teenager who couldn't afford the M3 so he stole an ///M badge instead.  

What makes the X3 ///M40i so special?  A "huge" 4.0l V8**, big tyres, big brakes, an ///M bumper cover and the obligatory quad-tip chrome exhaust.  Most likely it has ///M badges on the seats as well as the steering wheel to remind the owner why they paid a gigantic premium for "nothing special."  All that is well and good though because it allows BMW to sell more cars to suckers, er, well-heeled "prestige" customers.  It's just too bad that BMW's ///M division sold out to the badge engineering crowd - I miss my days of driving a sleeper and being nothing more than an aged Asian man driving an equally aged black BMW sedan...

** [ Editors Note: after some fact checking, the M40i has a 3.0L turbo 6; and probably more M badges than horsepower ;) ]

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