Club News

Dancing with two left feet… instructing a RHD.

posted Jul 10, 2018, 7:45 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Jul 10, 2018, 7:58 AM ]

Article by: Eric M; 7/10/2018 -

(0700, Pocono) - Morning coaches meeting brief: the CI approaches me and says “Oh and btw, you have a student with a GT-R” -- Nowadays, when someone says “they drive a GT-R” your mind immediately goes to the Nurburgring record busting R35 Skyline which debuted in 2007. “No, no, not one of those” and then your mind drifts to the Hollywood-made-Glamourous Skyline R34 as seen in movies like The Fast and the Furious. “Nope, an ‘89” - an ‘89? You mean … the R32?! #thatsbadass. Despite my outright boyish glee to finally get to ride in a Skyline R32, knowing that these cars have now passed the statutes for legal import into the US (from Japan and the UK), I’d completely forgotten than they are 99% right-hand-drive (RHD) vehicles. Oops.

2007 Nissan Skyline GT-R (R35)

Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34)

Admittedly, I’ve always wanted to drive a RHD vehicle, it’s a bucket list item. And I’d only ever ridden in a RHD once, and it was for less than a half mile ;-).

My student, Lukasz, has had his R32 for a few years now. Recounting the journey to get the car to the US and the mods he’s done to improve it, he’s very proud of his Skyline and has the utmost respect for the vehicle. Lukasz admits that this car is a love for him, his only manual transmission vehicle, and pales in comparison to his daily Toyota Camry that he uses to commute to work each day. It does put a smile on his face when people “ooo & ahh” over it, whipping out phones to take pictures, but that’s not what fuels him. His goal is to learn to master the R32 on track. His twin-turbo Skyline puts down close to 550 wheel-horsepower, and has an 80/20 rear-front All-Wheel-Drive split. Since the AWD on the Skyline is like the older German products (meaning, it kicks in when it’s too late) working with this car on track would be a lot like other high HP rear-wheel-drives.

Geeking-out throughout the day we talked about the Skylines, their history, their heyday, and the newer Renault-inspired products. At one point, I asked Lukasz: “why the R32 over the R34?” In short summation, he said: “The R34 is the car that makes You look COOL, the R33 is the Skyline you buy for your Wife, and the R32 is the one you take to the Track!”

Skyline R34

Skyline R33

Skyline R32

Ok, enough fawning, back to coaching… with 550 whp, I honestly expected the Skyline to be a bit of a handful. I’ve been warned by others that they can be a bit twitchy and unforgiving. After my “coaches inspection” this R32 seemed well sorted.

Setting off, my immediate impression, despite getting used to sitting on the left side of the car with no steering in my hand, was a smoothness reminiscent of the E46 BMW ///M3. The sound, the body roll, the gear changes, the balance was all too-familiar. I can work with this. Until we hit the main straightaway … outside of some minor turbo-lag, once spooled, my inner voice suddenly channeled Captain Picard … “Engage!” and maybe a few expletives as my body sunk into the seat. The power delivery was intense, the the speedometer needle was completely buried mid-way down the front straight. Many outsiders commented on how “the car looked slow” but in reality it was deceivingly quick. With with the car being so composed matched with Lukasz’s silky smooth shifts and the R32s muffled exhaust, it was just a white blur.

The only shortcoming of the Skyline was the brakes, bringing the car down from Warp-6 was quite the chore. We both agreed that the brakes didn’t inspire confidence for an entire session so we tamed our speed and worked on perfecting the line. Thankfully, Lukasz had been to Pocono before, and was much more interested in building his technique than setting lap records. Dropping to sub-light speed meant we needed to be more aware of traffic around us, as more capable high HP cars would easily catch us. This meant point-bys. The first few times we had to give passes it was a bit frantic since I kept wanting to check the rear-view mirror out of habit, and I felt “blind” to what was going on. Only having a small, shaky, the left side mirror to gauge our fellow drivers left me with some visibility challenges.

At first you could tell that oncoming cars weren’t sure what to do with us. We did our best to point over the roof for a left-side pass and stay right, which people seemed OK with, but when it came to a right-side pass things got weird. Driving the car on the street, Lukasz’ tendency was to stay right “to keep the car in the lane” and follow the right edge, but there are sections of Pocono where you must stay left to give a pass. Putting your arm straight out the right-side window was near impossible for people to see, and crossing the track to give an over the roof point-by was unpredictable. That meant, I was tasked with timing and giving an over the roof point by from the left seat which would be less confusing for the other cars on track. Thankfully, Lukasz and I were able to come to an agreement early on and it seemed to work for our sessions.

I will say that Lukasz’s right turn apexes were spot-on! - which was opposite of what I am used to, where people struggle to see the right-side apex across their A-pillar, whereas we had to work on our left apexes. I also had to change from using my left arm for hand signals to my right, a habit as a right-handed person I’ve worked for years to break while coaching. Later in the day, I took Lukasz out in my car so that he could get perspective on the course with someone else driving. Joking, he said “this ride-along is perfect for me, because this is exactly where I sit and what I see in the other car.”

All-in-all it was a great day at Pocono, and Lukasz was an awesome student. He and I bonded on different topics being fellow IT and Sci-Fi nerds, but especially around a passion for the R32, I fell in love with this car as a kid and it’s hard one to let go of. #jelly.

The beginning of our day was definitely awkward but the fundamentals of coaching were still the same. And by the end of the day, being in a RHD vehicle started to feel very normal. However, it’s very important to remember one thing as a coach, you need to adapt and overcome. Remain flexible, and take every opportunity to learn something new. #goodtimes #neverstoplearning.

We look forward to seeing Lukasz and the his Skyline at more events in the future.

Whatever happened to automotive styling?

posted Jul 4, 2018, 10:37 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club

Article by: Matt Y, 6/1/2018 -

Gone are the days of styling when the make and/or model of a car could be easily identified across a crowded parking lot. Take for instance, one of the most cherished designs in the heyday of automotives, the 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air Convertible, aka “the ‘57 chevy.”

1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air Convertible

The ‘57 Chevy outside of being an icon, is one of those all-inclusive designs. From the appropriately placed chrome accents, swooping headlights, two-tone paint, and moderately sized rear fenders - this car had it all. Back then cars were distinctive inside as well as out.

It was attractive, plush, came in different variations, and it was highly sought after then (and still is today).

Even the Europeans - well, mostly the Italians - had a real flair for design, with some absolutely gorgeous cars. Take for instance, one of the most beautiful works of art - at least in my opinion - to come out of Europe, the 1967 Lamborghini Miura. It's one of those cars that doesn’t need to be explained, it has a universal gut reaction of “wow.”

1967 Lamborghini Miura

The Germans were never known for being overly flamboyant, but some of their designs did set the bar in various design vertices. Outside of the constantly evolving 911, one such design: the Audi Quattro when it debuted at Geneva in 1980 changed the way we looked at complex mechanics in a small package. Not to mention, it started the whole boxy car + knife-edge flare craze that many manufacturers copied throughout the late ‘80s and ‘90s.

1983 Audi Quattro Coupe

In Japan however, designers were never much for creating something new, but they were excellent at taking an existing design and improving on it. Cars like the 1967 Toyota 2000 GT derived its inspiration from the Jaguar E-Type. The Datsun 510 and the original Nissan GT-R were loose copies of a FIAT. And one of my favorites, Mazda - who was taken to court by Porsche for too closely mimicking the design of the 944 turbo when the 2nd Generation RX-7 debuted. I digress, but I will give them credit - Japanese designers really loved those fender mounted side mirrors! Do a quick search on “iconic Japanese vehicles” and you’ll note many of them include this design feature. (Even if they are a carry over from british roadsters).

1967 Toyota 2000 GT - with fender mounted side mirrors!

But why can’t we have cars that “look” like the ‘57 Chevy,  the Miura, and others from the past? -- why do they all have to look like mobius blobs of metal? By comparison, todays cars all look like something that would have only been imagined for Blade Runner or Total Recall but in a nutshell, automotive styling has been overshadowed by a need for fuel efficiency. Since only one shape cheats the wind, automotive style has started leaning towards “that shape” which can be easily described as teardrop or pill shaped. This doesn’t mean that styling is completely dead, just much more muted than before. But how did we get from the swooping fenders, poodle skirts and the “new for the 19xx model year” designs to today?  

The ‘70s gas crisis changed everything, it was the first step in the wrong direction. Instead of lightening the vehicles and making the engines more efficient, engineers opted to scrap their Mustangs, Challengers and Firebirds for something smaller. For decades, the American Big-3 were notorious for “badge engineering” a concept that spanned from their sub-compacts all the way to their full-sized luxo-barges.

General Motors “Model J” line-up, from left-to-right: the Pontiac Sunbird, Chevrolet Cavalier, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza and Cadillac Cimarron.

Perhaps the worst example of badge engineering comes from the General Motors “Model J” series (seen above) in 4-door sedan trim, these were all the EXACT SAME CAR with different branding bits. Because these were all based on the same chassis, the visible differences between the cars were minimal with only slight differences being such styling cues as front clip (headlamps, grille and bumper) and tail lamps. Despite these cars being total rubbish, there was something important going on, the idea of “Platform Sharing” had started to emerge, a concept that is being touted today as “new and innovative cost saving measures” on the part of automobile manufacturers.

As mentioned in a previous article, a lot of the cars from this period were heinous, terrible places to live. Not many people recount the glory days of driving around in their Skyhawk (despite the name sounding really cool). And as a note, compared to the rest, the Cimarron (being a Cadillac) wasn’t much of a step up, using low-grade leather to cover the seats at a time when only “luxury” cars had this offering. But more importantly, devolving from these trend setters came all the econo-boxes of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.  

One of my favorite econo-boxes, the Geo Metro (aka: Suzuki Swift).

“Cab-forward” and how the ‘90s ruined cars forever.  Chrysler's marketing department coined the term "cab-forward," and it has been used by journalists to describe the styling of ‘90s-era cars ever since. The idea was to take the entire interior cabin of a vehicle and move it forward -- extending the windshield over the front wheels. The result is an interior that can be "stretched" to provide more space. At the same time, the rear wheels move closer to the rear of the vehicle. This reduces body overhang and provides a longer wheelbase for better ride and handling, as well as a more stable vehicle platform, all within the same, or even shorter overall length. Do you remember the Pontiac ads from the ‘90s? Many ads read: “wider is better.”

1993 Chrysler/Dodge Intrepid, the first “cab-forward” design.

Once the design engineers had figured out how to make more “people space” in a modern vehicle the safety engineers got involved developing a new concept called “crumple zones” along with “airbags.” All of this new safety gear required space, space that a cab-forward design could now afford the engineers.

By now, we take for granted what airbags are and what they are for, but many might not know that crumple zones are areas of a vehicle that are designed to deform and crumple (crush) in a collision. These areas are engineered to absorb some of the energy of the impact, preventing it from being transmitted to the occupants. It all makes perfectly good sense: more people space = more people protection needed. With ‘90s prototypes completed, the Sales and Marketing teams got involved. These ideas of cab-forward and crumple zones now became key differentiators for this new era of car. “Safe” and “Space” were now buzzwords. First to market is always important. Ever wonder why so many people still categorize Volvo as “the safest car on the road”? -- it’s because marketing did their job.  

As a technical aside: Audi was one of the last European manufacturers to employ airbags in their cars, mainly due to the high reliability and cost-effectiveness of the technology they trademarked as "procon-ten". The procon-ten system used thick winch-like cables linked to the rear of the engine, and in-turn connected to the steering column and seat-belt mounts. In the event of a frontal impact, the force and momentum would shift the engine rearwards, tensioning and therefore “pulling” the cables. When the cables were taught they would pull the steering wheel towards the front of the car, clear of the driver, and also remove any slack in the seat belts, holding the occupants more firmly in their seats until the accident had finished. Since no other manufacturer adopted Procon-ten it was eventually discontinued in the middle part of the ‘90s.

Meanwhile… as American consumers grew more sophisticated, their tastes became increasingly less enamored with badge engineering, which ultimately lead to the demise of Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Mercury, and Plymouth - to name a few. While this has created fewer offerings, this has also created some new and interesting partnerships between previously rival automakers.  All the while, the continued need for greater fuel efficiency thanks to new government regulations loomed overhead.

The Japanese approached all of this quite differently, knowing that the American market wouldn’t support premium products from an established value line. (Two examples of such failures were the Subaru SVX and the Volkswagen Phaeton - both were premium models that were often double the cost of the cheapest models). Customers interested in premium cars simply didn’t visit those dealerships and customers who were interested in inexpensive cars weren’t willing to pay twice as much for a car that they weren’t interested in purchasing. And to the point, this is why Acura, Lexus and Infiniti exist.

But how did all of this affect today's styling?  Quite significantly. Manufacturers scrambled to provide their customers with a premium look and feel all the while packaging the latest safety equipment and technology into their vehicles while focusing on creating a corporate appearance. This had happened in the past but with fewer models in their portfolios, the focus was more concentrated. This styling approach allows the compact model to look very similar to the mid or full-sized model (and often share parts, molds, etc) so that a buyer of the least expensive model wasn’t as easily identified. An obvious example is evident in the current Ford product line with the Fiesta and Focus being very similarly styled and while the Fiesta is smaller, it isn’t appreciably smaller, making it difficult to spot.  

Example of “The Corporate Appearance” with the 2014 Ford lineup.

Throughout product lines, the distinction between Economy and Luxury has been blurred as well. Car models used to be a Base model and a Deluxe model but in the modern market, there may be 2 or 3 models (packages) in between.  Look at the venerable Ford F-150 that offers the XL as a Base model and the Platinum as the Deluxe model. In the past, Ford offered a Base (no designation), an XL, an XLT and the Ranger. Granted, trucks are a bit different from automobiles but the Base was the contractor-grade with zero options, the XL and XLT had a few more creature comforts and the Ranger was equipped like a base automobile.  In today’s market, the XL is fairly bare-bones with a washable interior while the Platinum rivals today’s luxury cars.

Another factor that has hurt automotive styling is the willingness of manufacturers to copy each other’s designs to capture sales.  Two examples of this are the original Hyundai Azera and the Lexus LS.  Both of these cars were directly aimed at the class-leader: the Honda Accord and the Mercedes E-Class, respectively.  From a distance, the cars looked virtually identical from the body shape to the grill and light designs, down to the shape and placement of the various badges as well as being offered in nearly the same color schemes. This provided a tremendous value benefit to Hyundai and Lexus because their owners no longer were seen as driving a bargain replacement because the appearance was so similar that most motorists were unable to tell the difference.  

Fortunately though, not every manufacturer has fallen into the generic automotive design trap.  Fiat/Chrysler (FCA) has maintained some bit of individualism with it’s gigantic muscle cars and SUVs, Ford with their Performance Line (Mustang, GT and ST/RS) and Chevrolet with the Corvette and Camaro. Unfortunately, the European and Asian automakers are producing blobs that all look frighteningly similar.  

In the end, much of the “lack of design” in automobiles in today's era is summarized by the need for better aerodynamics, safety and fuel efficiency.  However there are also fewer unique cars on today’s roads due to the cost benefit of technology and platform sharing. But if we can learn anything from Chrysler - who as we’ve seen - has been on both sides of this design pendulum, maybe the engineers can find a way to bring back popular designs and update them to today's standards. But for now, we’ll call it a study in aerodynamics… #whatsoldisnewagain.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

- Matthew -

Editorial: WR - EMRA-hgerd - Kudos to John R!

posted Jul 1, 2018, 4:22 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club

Response by: Matt Y, 6/30/2018 -

A few weeks back, Eric M called to ask if he could leave Doug’s SM for John R to drive at the EMRA event. Knowing how precious time is for Eric who had volunteered to tow the Piñata AND knowing that I won’t be able to drive much, if any in 2018, I offered use of my Honduh.

I was pleased that John agreed since it gave me a kick in the pants to move stuff around. My initial concern was to tie off the gauge sensors that I decided to replace with electrical units. The next concern was which set of tyres needed replacing.

As D-Day hit. I realized that the inclement weather meant rain tyres. I have 1 sets but the mounted set was at a friend’s shop. Eric and John were kind enough to perform the overdue oil change and transport the car to the track.

After the group dinner. John rode with me to collect the rains from my friend. Given the POURING RAIN, we made the command decision that John would take my Land Rover in the morning and I would force myself to drive the Mustang.

By the time I arrived on Saturday, John had figured out that I hadn’t changed the REAR tyres since one had corded. Ack!  Not a good way to make friends or influence people. Fortunately I have friends at Summit Point so I dragged John to another friend’s shop to pick out 4 slightly used 15” R7s (we only needed 2 BUT I wanted to cover my bases).

Unfortunately John missed his last session BUT he now had 6 treaded tyres, 4 mounted and in the car, 2 unmounted spares and 4 mounted rains. At least John got a good lesson in how NOT to mount tyres - I learned from one of the best, Paul @ Radial Tyre and I’m fairly certain that I’m the poster child for doing it wrong.

All the drama aside, GIGANTIC KUDOS to John. The Honduh was the first FWD that he’s driven. Unlike the Mustang, the Honduh (as evidenced at last year’s Dyno Day) is the incredible torque less wonder. Like a rotary, the Honduh has to be “on boil” constantly or it’s an absolute slug. The other huge change for John is the fully independent suspension and the 2500# weight compared to the 3500# bulk of the Mustang. Of course, the Honduh has no driver aids like ABS which makes the car much more elemental.

John handled the Honduh with aplomb-no drama, no whining. Congratulations on a Job Well Done!!

- Matthew -

Weekend Recap: EMRA-hgerd! - Time Trials

posted Jun 26, 2018, 12:55 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club

Article by: Brad N w/ Eric M; 6/26/2018 -

There comes a time in every driver’s life when just doing laps isn’t enough. They have become skilled and seasoned enough that simply improving their lines and working on their skill doesn’t cut it anymore. These people are looking for more, something to add that extra bit of “zing” back to their track weekends.

Well, to these people I say: “Hey, EMRA’s got you covered!”

The Eastern Motorsport Racing Association (EMRA) is a motorsports club that travels the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic facilitating track days for motorsports enthusiasts. However, at EMRA, there’s a twist. Each run group is its own Time Trial session (or TT for short). Additionally, the highest tier, Blue group, is a mix of TT’ers with the required safety equipment, and Club Racers. That’s right, EMRA runs a full on race during their track days, mixed in with all the time trial goodness. And if that wasn’t enough adding to the competitive spirit of their track days, each session is at least 30 minutes long, meaning extended track time compared to some other organizations (an average of 2.5 hrs per day) Who doesn’t love more track time?

Friday / Saturday - Meanwhile, on to our weekend recap… this weekend started out just like any other. We all met up at the track Friday night for drop off, unloaded quickly (in the wet because mother nature hates us all this year) and then we went to dinner. Friday night’s dinner was Buffalo Wild Wings with members John R., Eric M., Kenny E., Kevin E. (Ken’s son), Matt Y., and Brad N. in attendance. The food was great and the conversation was even better. Afterwards we went our separate ways to prepare for the Saturday “Summer Shenanigans” event at Shenandoah Circuit.

And a big shout out to Matt Y (pictured above) for putting us up for the weekend and for allowing John R. the use of his fully prepped Honda Civic race car. Much appreciated!

Rain, Rain go - away! Please come back some >other< day...

Saturday morning started off rough. It was raining, then not raining, then pouring, then raining… it all made for an aggravating morning to say the least. And yes... the Viking (Brad N) had a mini temper tantrum fueled by frustration and a potentially ruined first track day of the year.

Registration and driver meetings were the norm with the exception of driver’s picking up their rented transponders.  Except for the blue group “racers” who had their own drivers meeting, it was very much what you would expect. After registration and tech inspections (yes EMRA does tech on-site) it was just about time for a short orientation session. Since I hadn’t been out on track since VIR in November and my car setup has changed, I decided to go out. Saying the track was slick, or wet, or like driving on glass or ice... would be a huge understatement. It was rough goings, even at slow speeds. During the orientation laps a car went 4 off and spun, conditions were not in our favor.

The first couple sessions of the day experienced the same wet conditions as the orientation laps. Cold, wet, slick track surfaces combined with rusty drivers resulted in some slow and cautious lap times and a few black flags. One car wrecked which required a stoppage on track to get safety vehicles and ambulances out there, all drivers were safe and the only casualty appeared to be what was a well sorted Acura Integra.

Towards lunchtime the clouds opened up, the sun began to shine if only just a bit, and things started to improve. The track was drying (and would remain so for the next few hours) and drivers were starting to really hit their stride. I believe each group was able to net at least two dry sessions. It was during these dry sessions that the competitiveness had started to climb. Drivers were taking risks and being aggressive, attacking the track with vigor and applying pressure to their enemies, or nemeses. Each time we came in off track we would run to the timing tower to see how we did. It was exciting! In red and white groups it wasn’t wheel to wheel racing by any means but it was racing against the clock. Whereas, Blue group requires the additional safety gear because it is Club Racing + Time Trials in an “open passing” format. But for me, who hasn’t really thought about getting into competitive driving to this point, it certainly added some extra flair to my track day.

Imagine yourself … >here, here or here<

At the end of the day there was one final session, the blue group race/TT mix. The racers were gridded up front and lined up based on their qualifying times, and the TT’ers were held back. There was a rolling start (similar to our GTM run group at HOD last year) and then once they hit start/finish it was on! Each racer took off and things were underway. Or so we thought, not two laps into the race the black flags came out, the cars came in, and there was a lone car on track in pieces against the wall (oddly enough in the same place the Integra crashed earlier in the day). It took a good 20 minutes to get the track clean and clear again and the racers went back out to give it another go with one less car. Sadly, mother nature insisted it was time to end so the racers got one more lap and that was that. The track went cold and another successful, yet at times frustrating, track day was in the books.

About a half hour after that there was a brief awards ceremony and meeting to talk about the day. Here is where the excitement of TT really hit us. GTM members walked away with 5 trophies (3 first place, 2 second place) in their respective classes and a round of applause from the crowd (mainly for providing the beer, not for our driving). I didn’t stay for day two as I had a family obligation so I will let my buddy Eric M. fill you in on the rest…

Other than a passing squall the weather on Sunday was anything but wet. Yes, it was hot and humid, but track conditions were perfect, aside the typical mud hole that forms between Turns 18 & 19 (Little-to-Big Bend) at Shenny. Times dropped radically as contestants were able to use better tires on Sunday. The competition between GTM members was still hot, Saturday’s dinner and BS session just made exacerbated the excitement for clear + dry track.

Member Kerwin W joined us for Sundays brawl entering in ST1, which is EMRAs highest class with his supercharged BMW E46 M3. With a stellar early morning run, Kerwin was set to take the 1st place slot in ST1 and Fastest Time of Day, had it not been for a Corvette who sniped his time by less than a half second. Either way an excellent performance by Kerwin for his first TT, and I think he summarized the weekend well in saying “I’m mad I didn’t come in 1st, but now I’m hooked. NJMP will be a different story.” #onlikedonkeykong

“Candid Camera” shot of our corner paddock area #thepartyiswhereweare #partycentral

Despite the chaos emanating from our boisterous paddock: the jokes, music and new on-track rivalries with some shouting about “cheater tires” we were fortunate to have one of the most exciting final sessions of a track weekend in a long time. Many of the racers had gotten their points and packed up for the day. Which left five GTM’ers to their own devices in an open passing session… uh-oh! ;-) At the awards ceremony the flaggers said we put on a helluva show.  Deep passes, apex blocking, 3-abreast, you name it, a great battle with fast equipment, drivers you can trust and great friends. Member Ken E posted some of the footage on YouTube for your viewing pleasure with more pictures from the event can be found here:

Closing out Sunday, we took home three 1st place finishes in ST3, ST5 and ST6 with 2nd place finishes in ST1 and ST6. Over two days, it was a lot of trophies.

Left-to-Right: Day 1: Kevin E standing in for dad Ken E (ST6 winner), Brad N (ST4 winner), Eric M (ST5 winner), John R (ST6 2nd place) and Steve F (ST3 2nd place). Day 2: Ken E (ST6 winner), Kerwin W (ST1 2nd place), Eric M (ST5 winner), Steve F (ST3 winner) and John R (ST6 2nd place) - Congrats to all our GTM’ers!

But a final Yelp review on EMRA: we definitely give them 2 Pistons Up! We could tell EMRA was definitely excited to have us there, and we were excited to be there and will definitely race with them again!

We look forward to NJMP in August, and we hope you can join us too.  


The Red Clay Rally (RCR) 2018 – Coal Country Scramble

posted Jun 18, 2018, 7:27 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Jun 20, 2018, 7:49 AM ]

Article by: Corey with Doug T, 6/16/2018 -

The Red Clay Rally (RCR) is *not* a race. It is an annual three-day timed event where the goal is to complete each stage as close to a predetermined GPS “track“ as possible. Competitors  travel through a specified route and to observe the culture and meet the people of the region while traversing some of the toughest, challenging, unkempt roads in that area.

Pictured above: Corey’s modified Toyota 4runner from the 2018 RCR; more photos from this event are available at:

Requirements and Information for the Red Clay Rally

Requirements to participate in the rally are very specific, and the information provided ahead of time is very limited. Vehicles are required to be “dependable” and equipped with at least a 31” tire, a full sized spare, and extra fuel. The vehicle also has to be lifted and fitted with “true 4 wheel drive.” Note: In the previous year’s rally, AWD Subarus were allowed. However, due to problems with multiple Subaru teams blocking the trail …the 2018 rules were amended to not allow them to compete.

Very little location information is released to competitors prior to the start of the rally. Competitors do not have access to the complete mapped route, or final rules until 1 week before the start of the rally. This prohibits teams from running the route ahead of time. The only information provided is the starting and ending Locations for the RCR.

In addition to surviving the route, teams have to collect as few penalty points as possible, stay together as a team, and finish as a team. Believe it or not, there are a many ways to earn penalties, for example:

  • If a team hits their checkpoint too early, they are penalized 5 points for each minute they are early.

  • If a team checks in late, they are penalized 1 point for each minute they are late.

  • If any team blocks the trail for more than 15 consecutive minutes, they are disqualified.

  • If a team shows up to all checkpoints cumulatively 20 minutes early, the team is disqualified.

Moreover, Competitors are not to talk about Red Clay Rally… not to the locals, not to law enforcement, not to anyone in any area the rally travels through. Teams are not allowed to put any Rally identifying marks on their vehicles, nor team numbers. Teams were also made aware to not trust any other team because they might purposely be deceptive, give wrong information, or directions.

Competitors are provided the final GPS “track” a week before the start so they could download their maps. Each stage has an amount of time it should take for the track to be completed associated with it. We did not know the location of each checkpoint, so it was impossible to cut corners or skip any part of the GPS track. Additionally we did not know what the terrain would be like, so trying to speed up or slow down could hurt our team. There were several sections of trail that teams could get extra credit points to reduce their overall score, however it was risky because those sections would take more time and the condition of the extra credit trail was unknown. This could potentially result in recoveries that could take even more time and add points to the end score for the day.

Rally Preparations

Our two teams registered to run the rally in August of 2017, so we had 10 months to prepare. We had a total of five vehicles: Team 99 consisted of myself driving my 2013 Toyota 4Runner SR5, and my good friend Tom driving his 2016 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition. Team 98 was made up of our friend Mark with his 2006 Toyota Tacoma (with 201k on the odometer!), Steve driving a 2015 Toyota Tacoma, and lastly Pete driving a 2016 Toyota 4Runner SR5.

Preparing for the rally was a daunting task because we did not know what types of terrain we would be getting into, nor the areas we would be driving. None of our vehicles were set up the same, but all had suspension lifts with at least a 33” tire. Most of us had been running our current suspension setup for a while and the thought was to get out, wheel the trucks in the preceding ten months’ time, gain more experience, and tighten up any loose ends. We all agreed making any large last minute changes could have an effect on how we were able to run the rally. The organizers had warned us that the biggest failure the year before had been brakes. We all made a point to change out our brake pads, as close as we could to the start of the rally.

Loving to tinker with our machines, a few of us did decide to add new solid plate steel bumpers on the front, rear, or both to increase our departure angles over obstacles and to give us better recovery points in the event that we got stuck and recovery was required. We reviewed safety procedures for winching to verify that we were well versed in proper winching. We put together a collection of tools, fluids, and spare parts that might fail, ensuring that if we did have a problem that we would be well prepared to fix them. After all, we still had to drive the trucks home after the rally was over.

Recovery gear was one of the most important items needed, and we compiled our own list of gear that we would have on board. Items such as: snatch straps, tree savers, soft shackles, kinetic ropes and snatch blocks. Three of the five trucks had an on board winch, and those owners were responsible for making sure the winch line was properly cleaned, tensioned, and the winch was in good working order.

Finally, we all made sure that we completed any maintenance items and went over our vehicles with a fine tooth comb. We changed fluids, checked wheel bearings, tie rods and lubricated suspension parts to make sure we would not have a catastrophic failure that would knock our team out of the finish.

The Big Moment: Running the Rally All competitors were to arrive at Borla International in Johnson City, Tennessee by Friday morning at 6am. Our team opted to check in on Thursday night and get as much information as we could, instead of waiting until Friday morning. We met Thursday evening, checked in at Borla then headed out for a team dinner and drinks to build some comradery and discuss our vehicles and driving order/position.

On Friday morning we returned to Borla and the organizers took a roll call. A total of 52 teams consisting of 133 vehicles checked in to begin the Rally on day 1.

After some strategizing, we felt it was necessary to be one of the first to leave Borla to avoid getting caught in “Rally traffic” and potentially not be able to get fuel after 100+ trucks had fueled up in some of the smaller towns. Once roll call concluded we quietly positioned our vehicles near the starting point - effectively cutting off another team attempting to do the same thing.

Teams were released in two minute increments to allow for them to get down the road before encountering traffic. Releasing the teams would take the organizers the better part of two hours. We felt starting early and getting to camp early would benefit our team as we would be done for the day and have time to discuss tomorrows track. According to the GPS, we would spend roughly 7-8 hours in the trucks, with little time for breaks.

Our team set off just after 0700, and the majority of the day was a combination of freeway and skinny winding paved roads through small coal towns. We pushed the vehicles to their limits, trying to keep on route and on time. We missed several turns and had to turn around to get back on route. We quickly learned that having a dedicated navigator - in at least the lead truck - was absolutely necessary. Looking on the map it was impossible to tell which sections were paved and which were dirt. So we tried to keep as close to the GPS times as possible.

We rolled into camp in West Virginia at the end of the day, after completing an incredibly steep hill climb with very loose terrain.

That’s one helluva view. Member Doug T, standing next to his wife Corey’s 4runner.

On the top of the mountain was one of the best views we’d ever had camping. We had made it  through day one, mostly unscathed. One driver on our team reported having some ABS activation issues, so he chose to go home and not continue to the end. Our team of five was knocked down to four. At the end of the day after everyone had checked in, we were pleased to find out that our two teams were in 12th place for the day. We had several late check-ins, so we were penalized for those. Our goal was to leave at the beginning of the pack, for day two.

Some confusion at the beginning of day two had all teams leaving “on their honor.” In retrospect this was a disaster, as we all tried to check in at the organizer’s camp site and were told to just leave at our specified time. We ended up leaving 10 minutes late, felt a bit slighted,  and we would now need to make less stops. The team that left in front of us had a Jeep bringing up the rear with a clearly visible broken shock mount, that would slow us down. The day started with us driving through dirt packed mountain roads, and evolved into many different types of terrain including several miles next to railroad tracks.

Day 2 brought us less pavement and extra credit challenges. We watched as a land cruiser attempted to drive up one of the extra credit sections. It was a longer steeper hill with loose terrain. The truck did not have enough power to make it to the top sliding back down the hill, nearly toppling over sideways. We wisely chose to skip that section and continue on. At the end of the day, we were one of the first teams to finish, and when we came upon the last checkpoint we were told that he (the checkpoint official) was in the wrong location due to a communication error. We were a bit annoyed that we (and about 30 other trucks) had to turn around. We chose to not camp with the big group and found a great secluded campsite in the Kentucky Mountains up on a ridge a couple miles from the rest of the competitors.

Corey & Doug’s mobile campsite.

There were wild horses that wandered past our campsite and later in the evening a couple of old guys rolled up on their RZR to invite us back to their area for more exploring. We dragged a huge dead tree to our site and set up a large fire. After dark, some friends recognized our vehicles and rolled into our camp. They looked defeated and exhausted. They had suffered a vehicle failure due to an idler pulley seizing earlier in the day, resulting in a 45 minute drive out of their way to get the part at a Toyota dealer and then repair the truck. They continued on to the last checkpoint and were disqualified due to their late arrival time. Our team had finished day 2, in 11th place.

Much like the day before, Day 3 began with us not knowing what time we were to depart, so we made sure we were up early to pack up camp. We sent one teammate to the organizer to pick up our time sheet and identify our departure time. Due to several teams arriving late they had shifted departures to 0800 instead of 0700. This afforded us some extra time to take photos and discuss the route. Since we had a few early arrivals at checkpoints throughout day 2 (taking on additional penalties) we departed camp a few minutes later than our designated departure time at 0825.

Day three terrain started out on some of the tightest trails in terms of brash and trees. The constant scraping for the first mile or two unnerved some of our teammates.

As we continued, there was a lot of thick heavy mud and much of the route took us through heavily wooded areas. There was also more traffic on the trails as vehicles were getting stuck, breaking down, and not having the appropriate tools to get through the woods. We ended up with two trucks on our team that started to overheat due to the thick layer of mud that caked on the radiators. Fortunately we caught it early and we were able to use our pressurized water tank to rinse them off until we could find a car wash along our route. Two of us got stuck and required recovery. We were able to pull both vehicles individually in less than ten minutes each, so as not to be penalized or disqualified for blocking the trail. Later in the day, another team was limping along with a broken vehicle and were effectively blocking the route. Getting around them was a challenge but we eventually we forced our way around got past. The route eventually doubled back on itself, and we found ourselves held up for over an hour because an FJ Cruiser had overturned when the ABS locked up on a gravel curve and sent it into a ravine. Fortunately it had been stopped by a large tree, but the truck was more or less totaled. Eventually they were able to winch themselves out and the driver was unharmed. We saw several other vehicles with broken windows and heard of a few with snapped axles.

We made it to the last checkpoint on day 3 with what we felt was a good end time and all team members in fairly good shape. Continuing on some more fun and challenging trails before hitting the pavement to the finale at a brewery in Lexington to celebrate and find out our final score.

At the brewery we were finally able to relax and get some real food and much needed drinks. We waited patiently for the rest of the teams to show up so the officials could announce the winners. After traveling through 32 counties, 4 states, traversing over 500 miles, and putting our trucks through the stress of a fast paced three days, only 22 teams finished the Rally. Our two teams came in 7th place! We were incredibly proud of our finish and had a blast doing it. We look forward to running Red Clay Rally again next year and can’t wait to see what the organizers have in store for a new route.

If you’re interested in learning more about the RCR, or joining us next year, here are some useful links:

Weekend Recap: Car Care Clinic, Auto-X and Slayer

posted Jun 12, 2018, 6:22 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Jun 12, 2018, 6:42 PM ]

Article by: Brad N, 6/12/2018 -

Many of you know that GTM is a non-traditional car club with members that have varying interests; from track days to karting and off-roading (and everything in between).

(Above: Members Andrew B, Harry B and Andrew M at the CCA AutoCross)

Well, did you also know that GTM has an educational branch as well? Or that we are working with other groups and organizations to not only grow our sport, but also make it safer?

> Saturday <

GTM hosted our Youth Car Care Clinic (CCC “Level 1”) at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, MD (which happens to be the alma mater of members Brad N and Eric M). At the clinic, volunteers from GTM presented many different aspects of car ownership and maintenance to these new drivers, soon to be college students, and their parents.

The day was broken into two segments, a one hour in-classroom presentation and a one hour hands-on lab. Eric and Brad taught the in-classroom portion and club members John R., Sam H., Kerwin W. (and Robbie), and Judd G. took over with the hands on lab.

Members: Eric M and Brad N hosting the classroom portion of GTM’s Car Care Clinic.

In the classroom, the guests learned all about different car layouts, different noises and smells, what their fluids should look like, the difference between good and worn out brakes and tires, what to carry in case of emergency, and so much more. They were also given complimentary tire pressure gauges and a more in-depth booklet we are calling our “Level 2” material. After they were thoroughly dazed and confused, it was time send them out into the parking lot.

Here, John R. had his car prepped for a wheel change demonstration along with many show-and-tell parts like brakes, rotors, etc, in various conditions. After John’s demo, it was time for them to go over their own cars. Each guest was taken to their cars with a skilled GTM member and shown where to find their various fluid containers and dipsticks, as well as shown how to check their tire pressures and tread depth (the old penny test). They were given checklists to go over with their expert and mark down what they found out about their own car. And when they were done, we had a wheel torquing station (to show what it feels like to properly torque your wheels) and battery jump start demo. Needless to say, in a short two hour window we threw a ton of information at them.

Member: Sam H performs a guided tour of this Infiniti M35, helping its owners build a map of their engine compartment and learn to inspect key areas.

We have to give a big shout out to all our members who came out to help: John, Sam, Kerwin and Judd we couldn’t have pulled this off without you guys... Thank you!

The general feedback from the group was positive and many requested that we do another one and reach out to other schools. GTM is planning on hosting another CCC at DeMatha this fall and we are always looking for volunteers to help us hold these demonstrations. If you have any ideas or would like to see our presentation and course materials, please reach to us at or visit

> Saturday Evening <

To celebrate such a successful first half of the day many GTM members and families headed to Baltimore for dinner at Fogo de Chao, partly because GTM NE Region co-Chief Harry B. was visiting the area for an autocross and a concert. #familydinner

GTM’s paparazzi John R, snagged this shot of Brad N, Harry B and Sam H heading out on the town after dinner. We’re rather impressed by the Chevy Bolts spacious interior. #likeaglove

> Which brings us into Sunday… <

Sunday GTM members Andrew B (C7 Corvette)., Andrew M (Cobra)., and Harry B (Mini Cooper). competed in the June Corvette Club of America autocross event held at Lincoln Technical Institute in Columbia, MD.

The skies were a bit grey, the humidity was high, and the course was difficult, but GTM was there to represent and help out. The morning started out with registration and tech inspection, followed by many course walks. This particular course was very challenging and difficult, I believe throughout the day there was only a handful of drivers that didn’t actually have a DNF. Add to that an illegally parked car on the course, forcing the designers to adjust their map slightly, it quickly became a recipe for confusion. However, that didn’t deter the participants and the field was packed with cars for both heats. Our group of scrappy competitors were driving in heat 2 which meant they were volunteering and working the course during the first heat.

The first heat ended without much drama (aside from a few cone casualties) and after a short 10 minute break and wrangling the heat 1 drivers for their coursework assignments, it was time for our heroes to hit the course. Now, a little bit about our drivers: Andrew M. was driving a Factory Five roadster that he and his father built with their own hands. He just finished installing power steering on the car a week prior and wanted to test it out. Andrew B. was driving his newly obtained C7 Corvette Z51 with which he has logged exactly 0 competitive or performance driving miles on. And Harry B., who was autocrossing for the first time ever using his Mini Cooper S daily driver. So, in a sense, our guys were a little like fish out of water. However, in spite of numerous DNF’s and getting lost on track, each of them was able to set at least one complete run for the record books.

At the end of the day there wasn’t really much in the way of drama but there were a few quotables: “I didn’t know what to expect coming in, but autocross was a lot more fun than I thought it would be” - Harry B; “I can’t wait to get back out there and do some more” - Andrew M; “They wouldn’t let me do donuts, but I still had fun” - Andrew B.

I’d like to give a special shout out to the great people at Corvette Club of America (CCA) for putting on a great autocross event. Their courses are always challenging and fun and they make the most out of the limited lot size they have. If you would like to learn more or sign up for their next autocross (in September) please follow this link: CCA September Autocross. I guarantee there will be more GTM representation there.

After the autocross, Members Brad N., Harry B., Sam H., and Andrew B. went on to see Slayer (and a few other bands) on their 2018 final tour.

Great fun was had by all! #youhadtobethere  #whathappensinvegas

Oh and before we forget, for a handful of other members (Ken E and Brett S to name a few), they were attending the annual "unmuffled day" at LimeRock Park with HookedOnDriving!

What a busy weekend for GTM!

More Pixs from the CCC available here:

More Pixs from the Auto-X available here:

More Pixs from LimeRock available here:

Weekend Recap: Cannonball Run (PITTRace + Mid-Ohio)

posted Jun 1, 2018, 12:53 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Jun 1, 2018, 12:56 PM ]

Article by: Eric M, 6/1/2018 -


The Cannonball Run: “A wide variety of eccentric competitors participate in a wild and illegal cross-country road race. However, the eccentric entrants will do anything to win the road race, including low-down, dirty tricks.” -- that’s the premise for the 1981 cult-classic, and the inspiration for the 4-day mid-west adventure ten GTM members set out to complete with CHIN Motorsports at PITT Race and Mid-Ohio Race Courses on May 25-29.

For those of you watching at home -- It’s definitely one of those “you had to be there” sort of stories… so since you missed it, we’ll just roll with the highlights… #insidejokes

Serendipitously, nature called at nearly the same time for our first wave of travelers. From left-to-right: members Erin K, Eric M, new friend Peter Stillwell, Marissa C, Shane S and John R just happened to stop at the exact same rest stop on the PA turnpike at nearly the same time. Some would say it might have been staged, but it was actually luck! The scramble to PITT Race heated up from here. Despite some holiday traffic we made good time and were able to get settled in before dark.

Pittsburgh International Race Complex (PITT Race) offers three track configurations. The North track configuration is 1.6 miles and the South track covers 1.2 miles. The full course is 2.78 miles in length and combines both the North and South track. All tracks feature significant elevation change throughout and were designed to follow the natural terrain. Without going into a lot of detail about PITT Race, we all agreed that “it is a FUN lap” and worth a return trip! (Continue reading for videos of the Track).

Morning drivers meeting: That’s one helluva squatty potty…

"Hey-yo… you see this post from Brad? Whats he talkin’ about?" - Kerwin W

Member Gordon B’s “Cadzilla” (CTS-V Coupe) coming in from ripping up the tarmac at PITT Race.

“So you’re going to have to fit in … >there< Still want to go for a ride?” says member Shane S with his ‘76 Porsche 911 to Gordon B.

Jam-nut backed off the tie-rod… no problem, we’ll just do a quick string alignment #becauseracecar #mastertech

We know member Shane S is used to “agricultural living” in PA but using the 911 as a lawnmower is a whole new twist. #heatcycled #oldracetires

Tania M inspects the splitter and undercarriage for signs of wildlife.

Packing up late Sunday we headed for Mid-Ohio, well... some of us did. The stint from PITT Race to Mid-O is an easy 2-hour drive on the OH/PA Turnpike. “The Commonlaws” (Erin K and John R) headed to Mid-O by way of Cleveland with a quick stop at a 24-hour AutoZone for a new front wheel bearing. #clevelandROCKS! -- Be sure to ask Erin about “calculating fuel mileage remaining and the pita-pit.”

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is a road course located in just outside the village of Lexington (nestled between Mansfield and Ontario, Ohio). The track opened in 1962 as a 15-turn, 2.4 mile (3.86 km) road circuit run clockwise. The back portion of the track (including “the kink”) allows speeds approaching 180 mph! Mid-O is a very challenging lap with many nuances, blind turns and gotchas. It’s really a great place to expand yourself as a driver. (Continue reading for videos of the Track).

Hanging out at Kerwin W’s AirBNB just outside the gates of Mid-O.
The proprietors were amazing and offered great food and an even better atmosphere.

Oh baby! Member Sam H caught disrobing after his session.

Temps at Mid-O were in the 90s which meant you didn’t spend any additional time in your race suit if you didn’t need to.

The facilities at Mid-O aren’t aging well, but some of the hardware in the barn-like garages was pretty impressive. #crowdcontrol #saferontheinside

Sometimes, things don’t always go as we planned… worse is when things that affect you are completely out of your control,

like what happened to Kerwin W when another vehicles engine expired leaving all it’s hot fluids across the track in front of him. #nodebrisflag

From left-to-right Kerwin W, Marissa C, Tania M, Gordon B, Erin K, Eric M, John R, Shane S and Peter Stillwell

(taken at PITT Race, while Sam H was still on his way!)

In the end, we had a great time and look forward to returning to PITT Race and Mid-Ohio. We’re happy to share all the stories, and mishaps the next time we see you. It’s always great to go on an adventure like this with friends! We hope that you’ll join us for our trip to Road Atlanta in the fall. #cannonballrun2 #rideordie #roadatlantaorbust #allroadsleadtoatlanta

More pictures from this event can be found here:

And if it’s true that pictures are worth 1000 words, then videos are a filibuster… check out these:

Hot laps (video) from PITT Race

Hot laps (video) from Mid-Ohio

Field Trip: Pepboys Speedshop - Glen Burnie, MD

posted May 30, 2018, 5:13 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club

Article by: Eric M, 5/20/2018 -

For those of us that turn our own wrenches, we have our favorite places to shop. Maybe it's based on your car, your preference or your pocketbook… tastes can range from RockAuto and Amazon, to Summit Racing and Jegs, or BimmerWorld and ECStuning. We all have our loyalties.  

But for the average Joe there are major families of parts stores: those owned by Advanced Auto (ie: Carquest, WorldPAC, BWP, etc), AutoZone, O’Reillys, NAPA or Ichan (Pepboys, etc) - wait! *WOW* across the US that’s actually a lot of parts places.

Before “internet 2.0” there was a bit of an auto parts desert leaving shade tree mechanics with few shopping options and sub-par aftermarket brands. But as eCommerce grew, so did online parts stores and specialty stores which caught our attention, leaving the traditional brick & mortar stores in the dust. I grew up with “Track Auto” and “Hi-Gear” stores locally (which were eventually swallowed up by AutoZone); and unfortunately the phrase “Trash-Auto” is still tough to get out of my vocabulary. I can’t speak for everyone but I would argue as DIY’ers and Track Junkies, we often overlook these big box stores as an old time “general store” compared to the web.

With the revolution in consumer spending in the last decade, the traditional parts stores were forced to expand their inventory, offerings and reinvent themselves. Pepboys has really gone out on a limb introducing their “speed shop” stores. One of my long time best friends (Kris) has been in the automotive industry for many years and has been working for Pepboys as a manager for quite some time. At family get togethers, we’d often talk about his work and the stores. With my preconceptions I’d never really visited any of his locations. Recently having issues finding a shop that could do both a state inspection and 4-wheel alignment, on a gamble I called Kris and asked if his shop could accommodate. Much to my delight he said it wasn’t a problem and scheduled some lift time with his techs.

The Glen Burnie Pepboys is a retail store and service center, which sits off Richie Highway, nestled between the 695-beltway and MD-97. It’s a bit off the road in an older shopping center so it might be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.

From the outside it looks like any other store, but once inside I was completely taken aback. Rather than wax poetic about the facility, let me take you on a virtual tour of the store so you can understand why I was so impressed...  

Walking inside the Glen Burnie Pepboys, a large speed shop display immediately greets you.

A trip down the first aisle for some last minute safety gear (G-Force), tow-straps, DOT-4 brake fluid, VP cans, or Moroso gear? … yea, they got that. I actually bought up the last of the black roll bar padding - sorry folks! More in stock soon :-)  

Need some high quality ARP engine internals? - not a problem! For the muscle car folks in the group, you can even purchase Holley carbs, as well as performance Cams and other “go fast parts.”

Steel braided hoses and -AN fittings, check!

Autometer, Bosch and other makes of gauges - In stock!

Need to get your race tires mounted and balanced? - Where other tire shops say *no*, this Pepboys says Yes! They can also order you Mickey’s, Hoosiers and many other performance brands.

Might as well pick up a spare set of track rims while you’re here. Tons of styles and sizes in stock - and very affordable prices.  

A full “nuts & bolts” section (Metric and SAE) that is on par with Tractor Supply, and a huge assortment of Mobil-1 products (Oil, Transfluid, ATF, and more!)

Have a foreign car with special needs? … Pentosin and other brands are also available.

And for “the waxers” all sorts of high end products from Zymol, Griots Garage and Lexol.

There is so much more to see in this store, but by now you should understand why I was surprised by what I found there. The Glen Burnie store is huge compared to most, and not all Pepboys locations are “speed shops.” There are only a smattering of them around the country, and we’re very fortunate to have one here in the DMV. So... if you’re in the neighborhood, take a couple minutes and stop by the shop, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Kris Dauteuil (below) manages the Service department for the Glen Burnie Pepboys, and welcomes GTM members to the shop. Show your GTM membership card (to Kris) to receive a discount on your project and discuss how Pepboys can help get your car track ready. Need tires mounted/balanced? Pre-track inspection? Or something else… this shop is definitely “racer friendly.” If you’d like to reach out to Kris and discuss a project, his contact information is below. Also be sure to use the club phone number 202-630-1770 to build up our rewards for better discounts in the future!  

… he hates getting his picture taken, btw - Thanks Kris!

I wanna go fast … things I wish I knew as a noob.

posted May 14, 2018, 9:08 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated May 14, 2018, 9:10 AM ]

Article by: Brad N, 5/7/2018 -

Hello there fellow car enthusiast! I see you just bought your dream car and you are ready to live out your Cole Trickle fantasies on a real race track! Ready to put that Ricky Bobby motto to the test and “shake and bake” your way right into the winner’s circle! Good for you! Or maybe not, maybe you just want to become a better driver and and see what you are made of personally.

Whether you think you are ready to go out and win Daytona or you just want to run your fastest laps and beat your personal best, you have to actually drive on a race track first. That’s why I’m here... this article is going to highlight the things I wish I knew before going to my first track day/weekend.

What to do before the event

Registration - Before you can get out there and “let a rip, tater chip” you need to find an event that works for you and your schedule. The best resource for this is MotorSports Reg (MSR). Many (not all) of the clubs use this site to list their events throughout the year and most will let you register for the event right from the site.

Some clubs are a bit special in the registration department and require you to go to their individual site to register but their events are still listed on MSR. And then there are some very special snowflakes that don’t even list their events at all on MSR and rely solely on their own website for schedules and registration completely. My suggestion to you is to first pick a date, or a couple alternatives, for when you have time in your schedule to go, then pick a track you want to run (in this area the closest tracks are Dominion Raceway in VA and Summit Point Raceway in WV).

You can check the track’s website first and see if they are running events that day and which club is running it, OR you can go to MSR and find a club that is running on that track. For the special snowflakes, they are a bit harder to find. Thankfully you have me to point you in the right direction. Hooked On Driving and Chin Motorsports are two examples.

Track Insurance - So, you have found your track day and you are registered. Way to go! But the decisions are not done yet, now you need to decide on track insurance. Most, if not all, auto insurance companies DO NOT cover any types of claims as the result of you driving on a race track. They may have clauses in your existing policy that prohibit you from even driving on track. It is wise to check your policy documents very carefully to make sure you aren’t in breach. My car is not registered for the street so I do not have this problem, but you should be aware of the risks you could face.

Anyway, back to track insurance. Because your insurance company will most likely not cover you in the event of an incident, there are options out there for you to insure the car on track. We wrote an article not to long ago about one such company, Lockton Insurance. A few of our members use this company and have had great experiences. If insurance is something that would give you piece of mind while on track, then please look into getting a policy for the event.

Pre-Track Day Tech Inspection - Now that you have registered and decided whether or not you need track insurance, it’s time to focus on the car. Some (but not all) clubs require a tech inspection of your car with a form that needs to be completed by a licensed mechanic. Clubs that require this are Audi Club (ACNA), Porsche Club (PCA), and Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) as an example. Please note SCCA allows for a “self tech” option where you can sign off on the inspection for yourself.

The inspection goes over the basics of your car and just touches on whether the car is operating properly and is in good working order for a track day. Some of the things the mechanic will check: tires, brake pads and rotors, brake fluid, check for any leaks, proper safety gear (seat belts are operating properly), no play in the steering and suspension, brake lights and turn signals all work etc. Pro Tip: Whether the club requires an inspection or not, it is important to inspect your car before any type of performance driving whether it be a track day or autocross, whatever. This can save you a lot of headaches in the future if you can catch something wrong before getting to the track. Once your car has been given a clean bill of health, you are ready to go!

What To Bring With You - Well, not so fast. You are registered and your car is good to go, but now you need to prep. Below is a list of items that I feel are important to bring with you to any track day:

  1. Proper clothing - jeans are great or any pants that are known for being less flammable than other materials. A long sleeve shirt is still required for some clubs. Socks and comfortable thin soled shoes are a must. (Adidas Sambas or Converse All-Stars are good cheap cheap alternatives to driving shoes). You want to be comfortable and you want to be able to drive the car without any issues. Also bring a jacket or sweatshirt for temperature changes or rain.

  2. A Helmet - some clubs will provide a helmet to you for a small fee if you don’t have one. Also OG Racing in VA rents them out. A motorcycle helmet is not allowed.

  3. Gloves - these aren’t required but they are useful since you will be sticking your hand/arm out the window for point bys. Something bright colored and easy to see are best.

  4. Food and Drinks - water, sports drinks, anything to keep you hydrated. Driving a car is hard work and you will exert a lot of energy. It’s best to stay well hydrated and fed. Make sure you eat a good breakfast and bring food for lunch. Some tracks have food and some clubs even provide food for you for lunch and dinner (ie: Hooked on Driving).

  5. Tools - You are going to want to bring some basic tools with you, jack, jack stands (2 should suffice), torque wrench, sockets and wrenches needed to change your wheels, tools needed to change your brake pads/rotors, tire gauge: these are the basics.

  6. Extra Parts - extra brake pads, brake rotors, oil and engine coolant, etc. Might not be terribly necessary for your first time out but hey, track days are expensive and you don’t want to miss time because you ran out of brake pads.

  7. Miscellaneous - bring blue painters tape in case you need to put numbers on your car. And bring a liquid paint pen, white shoe polish or chalk to mark your tires. Your instructor can explain why this is important. You don’t need to worry about fuel as most tracks have fuel tanks there (for example: Dominion has a gas station right across the street from the main entrance). However you might want to bring an air compressor in case you need to fill your tires. Not all tracks have air.

  8. A Great Attitude - One thing you should leave at home is your ego. No one is Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton, especially at their first track day. Come happy and positive with a desire to learn and be taught, because you will learn something about yourself and about your car. DO NOT come with a bad attitude or a chip on your shoulder. “I know how to drive, because I play Forza” … A good instructor can sniff that out a mile away and you will be sent home, sometimes without a refund. If you are nervous or timid, that’s OK! It’s scary going to your first event, especially by yourself, but everyone there will be friendly and willing to help the new guy/gal. We want you to have a good time and we want you to want to come back!

  9. Friends - Lastly, you don’t have to be alone, bring your friends, preferably to drive their own cars even (the more the merrier). Bring your families! Instructors can usually take people out for a few laps without totally disrupting their day and most clubs allow parade laps during lunch time (time on track without a helmet at safe slower speeds). Take advantage of this to get other people enthused about your hobby!

The Day Of The Event

Your schedule - It’s time, the day of the event is here. You got a good night’s rest and had a healthy and filling breakfast. You are ready to go! The first thing you will do is arrive at the track and complete the registration process. Just get in line, head up to the table and let them know you are there. They will give you numbers if your car doesn’t already have them (if not, use blue painters tape to make easy numbers that won’t damage your paint). They will also give you a schedule. This schedule is your bible for the day/weekend. Please be on time for everything, especially the driver’s meeting (usually starts at 8:00am) and your classroom sessions. If you are not on time, you are only hurting yourself. Now for some important things, your day will be broken into classroom sessions and on-track sessions.

Classroom - The classroom sessions are meant to teach you about the safety concerns of being on track as well as to teach you what each of the different flags mean and proper driver etiquette for point-bys and pitting. The classroom sessions are very important. DO NOT MISS THEM. After your classroom you will go out on track with your instructor. After your track sessions you will have more classroom sessions meant to teach you a little more and debrief about your experiences during your on-track session.

Instructors - Your instructor is the brave soul willing to get in the car with you, a complete stranger, in a high stress and dangerous situation and try to teach you while at the same time keeping you, and them, safe. Your instructor is a volunteer, they are not getting paid to be there (not monetarily anyway) and they are taking time out of their day to help you. Be nice to your instructor and listen to them. They have the experience that you lack at this point. Their goals are to make sure you are safe and to make sure you have fun and learn something. However, if you have an instructor that you don’t click with personality wise, don’t be afraid, kindly ask if you can have a different instructor. Not everyone will get along with each other, that’s human nature. But you don’t want to have a ruined weekend because you didn’t like your instructor and you felt stuck. Trust me, I made this mistake and almost gave up entirely.

On-Track Sessions - FINALLY! The fun part! You get to show off your Ricky Bobby skills and run circles around all the other noobs out there. Well, not so fast there Dale Jr. You gotta learn the basics. The on-track sessions are where you and your instructor will go over what you learned in the classroom and you will apply those skills and teachings in a real world environment.

Yes you can drive as fast as you can (safely!!! Do not over-drive the car and listen to your instructor!) but remember to apply what you learned in the classroom and be willing to learn the proper line, situational awareness, correct passing maneuvers, where the flag stations are, what the flags mean, proper braking techniques, proper throttle application, proper shifting, keep your head and eyes up, be courteous and PREDICTABLE to the other drivers on track, etc. Does that sound like a lot? That’s because it is a lot.

There is a lot going on when you are driving and you need to be mindful and aware of all of it. However, go at your own pace. You and the other novices are all out there to have fun. If you are super fast compared to your group, just be patient and pass where it’s designated and pull into the pits if necessary. If you are the slow one out there, THAT’S OK! Take your time and work on your line. If you have traffic behind you, acknowledge them and let them by when you can, if you are causing too much traffic, pull into the pits and let them go by. Your instructor will notice all of these things and have you act accordingly. Don’t worry, you will have fun and so will everyone else!

In-Between Sessions - There will still be some down time between your classroom sessions and on-track sessions. Take this time to rest, speak with your instructor, hang out, refuel your car and your body, and check over the car (tire pressures, treadwear, brake pad wear, oil and coolant levels, etc.).

So that’s it, those are my tips and a summary of how your first track day should go. Obviously, some things may be different depending on the club you run with and the track, but don’t fret, most clubs all operate about the same. The most important things to remember are to have fun and be safe. Be willing to make some new friends because you are going to gain a ton!

Happy Motoring and Never Stop Learning!

Tech Tips: The battle against Brake Dust - taking care of your Track Rims

posted May 7, 2018, 7:10 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated May 15, 2018, 2:38 PM ]

Article by: Eric M, 4/20/2018 -

Laugh if you must, but last season I decided to purchase yet another set of Team Dynamics wheels, this time in Alpine White. In retrospect, this might not have been the *smartest* of decisions, but they do look “hellagood” on my vehicles.

Folks have been teasing me about the maintenance of these wheels - relentlessly - and normally my reaction (and i’ll bet that of others) to cleaning wheels, especially those on my track toy is...

But having white wheels has definitely changed my opinion about the appearance of my Track car. #becauseracecar #becauselazy

At the end of one 30 minute session, the wheels end up looking like this. We’ll call them “off-white”

But a larger, unnoticed problem with my wheels surfaced while I was prepping for the start of this season. After the long winter hibernation, I pulled out my other set of wheels, my black set of Team Dynamics… and they were showing signs of corrosion.

Corrosion? On a forged & coated wheel? What the heck is going on?

This perplexing discovery led me to send an email to our GTM sponsor at Radial Tire Co, who is a dealer for Team Dynamics Wheels (now owned by Forgeline). The friendly folks at Radial contacted their Forgeline representative to see if there was a defect with the coating on these wheels, as they too had never seen this type of issue before. #warrantyclaim

Forgeline responded with confidence that this was no defect, but the result of improper cleaning. Something they see often with track cars.

Thinking back over the later part of the season, I pled guilty to having had the car at a few events where it rained (Shenandoah, VIR ... for those that remember); the thought never crossed my mind to tend to the wheels after those events. Higher end brake pads like Hawk DTC-60s and Porterfield R4s are amazing pads, but they don’t leave much in the way of “cleanliness” and the dust they give off is sticky, fine and rather costic - especially compared to Street Pads. It turns out my problem was “caked on brake-dust that was neglected” …. So, just add water, and watch it… RUST.

Now for the good news, this “rust” isn’t embedded or eating into the finish of the wheel, but rather “glued” there. Forgeline recommended a special cleaner/soap for their wheels (more on that later). After looking into the rather expensive product, it got me thinking: “is there a better or cheaper alternative to the cleaner that was suggested?” -- And now for the bad news, it was time for some spring cleaning!  

Time for a bake-off! After some careful research and late night shopping, I narrowed my contenders down to FOUR.  The main criteria was that each product needed to be “safe” for painted, powder-coated or clear-coated wheels - and designed to “dissolve brake dust.”

From left-to-right our contenders: Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner, Armor-All Extreme Wheel & Tire Cleaner, Black Magic Intense Wheel Cleaner and Adams’s Polishers Wheel Cleaner.

To keep our science project fair, I took two wheels (one white & one black) to test each product, and also sampled one “clear coated” wheel per product from my Jeep.

Additionally, I followed the manufacturer directions for “best use.” Lastly, to make sure I removed the cleaning solution throughly from the wheels, I used a new tool that I acquired that makes wheel cleaning much easier: The Brush Hero, Professional Wheel Cleaner.

The Brush Hero Pro-Wheel Cleaner in action, think... Water Powered Rotary Tool.
You’ll never clean wheels by hand again.

Round 1: Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner

Admittedly, I’ve been using Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner for some time, it’s great for my daily drivers, but I’ve never put it up against track wheels. Car Guys products are highly rated by detailers and waxers alike. Since I use it often, I happen to have the 1 gallon refill jug and my own sprayer (as pictured earlier). Car Guys Wheel Cleaner is a deep raspberry red color, and has a thickness similar to room temperature Maple Syrup.

Car Guys Wheel Cleaner with the right spray bottle foams up easily despite its viscosity and turns pink as it’s working.

The Car Guys Wheel Cleaner makes quick work of day-to-day road grime and brake dust. It was quite good at cutting “grease” left over from the lug holes and tire slag. Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to penetrate the track pad residue. FWIW, The Car Guys formula, was the best at cleaning the inside of the wheel, which looked awesome, but that’s the part we rarely look at.  

Round 2: Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner

Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner was the product recommended by Forgeline for use with Team Dynamics wheels. For the same size bottle as Car Guys, it’s only a few cents cheaper. The cleaner itself is a teal color, and when applied to the wheels turns purple as it’s working. I was taken aback by the smell of the cleaner, which was oddly reminiscent of a freshly opened package of Haribo Gummy Bears. The Adam’s product seemed to really work well in the “tough to reach areas” making quick work of the “team dynamics motorsport” font on the outer lip of the wheels and other tight areas. I did note that in order to get a “proper foam” it took nearly half of the bottle for two wheels. Quick math brings us to an entire bottle for four wheels making it the most expensive option in the line up. Adam’s is strong soap, but it did leave behind some spots and gunk that should have easily come up. It took away about 25+% of the track residue which edged it above Car Guys in terms of cleaning power.

On the black wheel you really couldn’t tell what was happening, but the color change was very evident on the white wheel.

Round 3: Black Magic Intense Wheel Cleaner

Having used Black Magic products in the past it was a brand I was familiar with, and having seen how their other potions work, like “Back-to-Black,” they make some great products. Of the four products we tested, the Black Magic Intense Wheel Cleaner is by far the cheapest.

Black Magic Wheel Cleaner has a very thin consistency - watery - but foams up surprisingly thick, neon pink and quickly. It has has a distinct “snap-crackle-pop” of a heavy detergent. As Black Magic is working you’ll note a smell in the air like Strawberry Jam. I found the cleaning power of the Black Magic to be very close to that of the Car Guys product. It was great for lifting the normal dust, grime and gunk, but wasn’t able to really penetrate the track residue.

Round 4: Armor-All Extreme Wheel Cleaner

Armor-All is one of those brands we all know, right up there with Turtle-Wax, as having “been around forever.” During my research I noted that this was the only product that outright recommended you wear skin + eye protection during use… it had to be on the list! The Armor-All Extreme Wheel Cleaner solution has the same consistency as the Armor-All you would use on your interior, the spray bottle makes a light white foam that smells heavily of bleach.

The Armor-All Extreme Wheel Cleaner only needs about 30-seconds to start working versus its much slower competitors and was the only product where you could visibly see the grime melting off the wheels. This product comes in as the 3rd cheapest in our test, and by far the strongest. The packaging is littered with warnings and even boasts needing very little, if any scrubbing. The Armor-All Cleaner was able to penetrate and loosen the track residue, not 100%, but it did make it easy to scrape off even through the nitrile gloves I was wearing.

From a distance when you pile all the white wheels up together it’s hard to tell which wheel was cleaned by which product. That’s a good thing!

The black wheels on the other hand, were more obvious which product worked and which one didn’t, in the end, I can’t blame any of the products for not being able to fully penetrate the track residue that has accumulated on my wheels, but I think i have come up with a solution…

A soft plastic bristle brush attached to a Dremel Rotary should help break up the build up on these wheels without damaging the finish and then we can continue our final cleaning.  #dremeltime

Quick Comparison

Car Guys


Black Magic


Cleans Dirt, Dust, Grime





Cleans Track Residue




100% with persuasion

Base Color

Deep Red




Changes State



Neon Pink


Needs Scrubbing




Almost None






Requires Gloves






$16.97 / 18 oz

$16.99 / 16 oz

$6.79 / 23 oz

$7.99 / 32 oz


Online Only

Online Only

Amazon, Advanced Auto

Amazon, Advanced Auto, AutoZone, Walmart, etc.


My favorite “wheel cleaner” by far (above)… but in all seriousness, if we were talking about hyper-polished wheels on a daily driver, any of the four products we tested will work wonders. For the post track-day clean up, we think there is one cleaner (in this test) that stood out above the rest in terms of Price + raw Cleaning Power...

There are so many products available in stores today. We hope this narrowed the field a bit, but by all means, please don’t take this as a hard-and-fast recommendation. Find a product you like and works well for your application. But above all, please remember to take care of your track wheels before they are too far gone. Try and make a habit of cleaning them after an event, off the car, and once they have cooled.

Keep the shiny side up!

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