What's the Plan, Man?

By Tim Suddard
Apr 20, 2017 | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

Although racing can seem to an outsider like it’s the polar opposite of a desk job, to one extent or another, pretty much every race team has to sit down and develop a plan. As I write this at the beginning of the year, it is time for us to do the same. We need to evaluate how our racing went last year, and what we want to do more, less, or just differently in 2017.

One thing we’d definitely like to avoid is crashing our Miata (or any car, for that matter), as we did at Barber last year. While that incident could have been much, much worse, we still wrote off a Miata and had to start again, which is time-consuming and rather expensive.

Our race efforts have some different goals from most teams’. As we discussed in our planning meeting, our racing needs to provide great editorial for our publications, a respectable showing in everything we do, and true involvement and relationships with the sanctioning bodies, competitors and sponsors in the series we run. Further, it needs to do so safely for our team and others while providing fun and camaraderie for our staff and guest drivers.

There’s a reason we use the words “respectable showing” instead of “winning.” Winning is not our ultimate goal; instead, we need to be prepared and perform well enough to be your guide to the racing world. In some ways we have more to lose and less to gain than most racers, since we’ll be remembered for making asses of ourselves in public far more than we’ll be admired for a win. And if we are dead last and our team is a total cluster, readers will have no respect for us.

Still, we are humans who have a lot to learn and occasionally make mistakes. I don’t consider that a problem; these mistakes are what we can best share with you, so you can learn from them as we do.

Thankfully, recent years have seen us running at or near the front in both our vintage racing and LeMons efforts. We’ve had a good run–and gotten a lot of hopefully great stories for our websites and publications out of the deal.

So what’s up in 2017? We will run our reinvented Miata in LeMons and ChumpCar races starting at Barber in February. My trusty TR3 will be at Daytona, Roebling, Savannah and Put-In-Bay. Our CAM Mustang will continue running SCCA autocrosses as well as Ultimate Street Car events. In addition, most of us on staff have rallycross, autocross or track day cars that we plan to run independently at a smattering of WRL, NASA, SCCA, PCA, BMW CCA and other events.

One fundamental difference between the way we race and the way most people race is that we have a hunger for new and exciting editorial. This precludes us from doing the same thing all the time. It’s why we regularly cycle through project and race cars; we are always looking toward building new cars for the future, so we have new projects to write about and new things to learn.

That future is full of possibilities right now. There’s the barn-find fintail Mercedes sedan from the ’60s that we have considered decking out like an old German taxi cab, or perhaps as the car that chased James Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” to take crapcan racing. That’s still off in the distance, though, as we have tentatively decided to do something a bit more relevant to our readers: We’d like to build a water-cooled VW for this type of budget racing. Since the New Beetle is largely hated (though mechanically the same as the Golf), we are looking to score a deal on an early turboed, five-speed model and begin the project later this year.

We have also been looking to build a new vintage race car. While our TR3 has been a blast for 20 years, we have now written about its restoration twice, so this project has most likely run its course. We are looking for something new to build, and the plethora of cheap restoration hardware and speed parts, as well as the knowledge base at places like Edelbrock, NPD and Cobra Automotive, have us thinking of going with something with a small block Ford. The appeal of running an old Mustang would be very wide, and these cars are very fast as well as cheap and easy to build.

Personally, my dream would be to race a genuine Shelby, but the price tag and risk of damage are deterring factors. I think rather than starting with the obvious $15,000 Mustang shell (or that $150,000 Shelby), we could find a lot of appeal in a $1500 Falcon, Comet or Fairlane project that could run with Shelbys and be built all-in for less than $40,000.

I put these plans out in public because we value your input. Shoot me an email or stop me at the next event and tell me what you want to read about. I still think that old Mercedes could be a lot of fun!

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View comments on the GRM forums
HapDL New Reader
4/20/17 10:58 a.m.

I like "respectable showing", it's a good goal to shoot for in amateur racing. I might also add in the word "fun" to that somewhere. If racing's not fun why the hell do it?

FlightService MegaDork
4/20/17 11:05 a.m.
HapDL wrote: If racing's not fun why the hell do it?

Truer words are hardly spoken

APEowner GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/20/17 11:18 a.m.
Tim Suddard wrote: And if we are dead last and our team is a total cluster, readers will have no respect for us.

You may actually have the only car magazine on the planet with a readership that wouldn't lose respect for you under those conditions. However, you should still probably strive to avoid that.

racerdave600 SuperDork
4/20/17 11:23 a.m.

A Fairlane would be major cool. Other than maybe a few old historic drag cars, you rarely see them. I love the '64's in particular, no apparent reason really, I just like the way they look.

Bobzilla UltimaDork
4/20/17 11:38 a.m.
APEowner wrote:
Tim Suddard wrote: And if we are dead last and our team is a total cluster, readers will have no respect for us.
You may actually have the only car magazine on the planet with a readership that wouldn't lose respect for you under those conditions. However, you should still probably strive to avoid that.

As long as you're not out there playing bumper cars and hitting everthing in sight, I imagine the readership here will be just fine with DFL. Looking at you C&D at Nelson Ledges.

Toebra Reader
4/20/17 11:39 a.m.

I think the guy with the lime green shirt ought to plan on wearing a hat next time.

Why are all the responses in bold text?

FlightService MegaDork
4/20/17 11:42 a.m.

In reply to Toebra:

because we are yelling

TurboFocus Reader
4/20/17 5:04 p.m.

ahhhh! yelling!!!
my plan for 2017? get the car running and on a track lol

Toebra Reader
4/20/17 5:17 p.m.

How do I make it have more echo echo, echo

never mind, I got it

EastCoastMojo GRM+ Memberand Mod Squad
4/20/17 7:42 p.m.

Corrected the extra bold tag in the OP. If you wish to keep yelling you will have to add your own.

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
4/21/17 9:47 p.m.

Since you asked, consider: 1. Don't sell the TR-3. Instead, write about the incremental improvements made to the car over its life. Many people vintage race this way. Continue to write about it and your exploits from race to race. Eventually you will have enough material for a book. I am dying for someone to write that book. That would be different. 2. If you want to drive a big bore car, swap with JG a couple of weekends. Have JG race the TR-3. The contrast would be interesting. 3. Someone over there needs to race an Italian car or a Japanese car at some point. Yes, you've had both as projects but not race cars. 4. Introduce Tom to the swinging, swirly world of vintage racing if he has the inclination. That would be cool for a number of reasons, the foremost being connecting the younger generation to the old iron. Could be interesting.

God, I can write about other people's lives all day.

bigben New Reader
4/22/17 12:51 a.m.

Will your CAM Mustang be making a showing at the Mineral Wells SCCA event in June?

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