MoHud Region SCCA Solo Event #1

July 19, 2020 – MoHud got the chance to host an autocross event recently when Poughkeepsie Sports Car Club (PSCC) decided to pass on holding an event at this point in the pandemic. I, too, was a bit skeptical about all the new protocols we’d need to put into place and ensure that participants followed them, but others were eager to give it a shot. We have some folks on our team of organizers who had been dealing with pandemic protocols in their day jobs, and that experience helped immensely. We also benefited from several documents produced by SCCA National and some other regions that pioneered hosting events under Covid-19 protocols.

The site we used was the former location of IBM in Kingston, now called TECH City. It has large parking lots, and asphalt is reasonably good condition. There are a lot of little stones on the pavement, but in some ways I think that saves wear and tear on cars and the pavement as they aren’t able to put down so much grip that they lift up the pavement.

We decided to put a limit on even attendance capped at 50, following NYS guidelines for gatherings. We didn’t sell out, but we came close at 48 attendees. We also had an unwanted guest at the event: a stunningly hot heat advisory for that day. It made mask wearing a bit more uncomfortable than it normally would be, but attendees were very good at following our protocols. My special challenge for the event was arriving and realizing that the cooler I had packed with cold waters and lunch had been left on my kitchen table. Due to the pandemic, we had announced that we were not providing water to attendees, but fortunately my fellow competitors had brought extra water and generously offered it to me. I took advantage of those offers, but apparently I didn’t drink enough because by the time we had packed up and were discussing the event, I was feeling pretty woozy. Another generous offer of water and I regained my bearings and was able to tow the Evo home.

With that success, we’re looking to put on another Solo event on August 16th.

SCCA Majors Road Race @ Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park

July 11, 2020 – SCCA Racing in the Northeast has come back with Covid-19 protocols in place. NER had their first event recently at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (TSMP), hosting an SCCA US Majors race weekend. Knowing that the flagger crew generally is an older demographic, I was eager to volunteer to make sure that our new flag chiefs had enough volunteers to adequately staff all the necessary stations around the track. I was also anxious to get out and flag, having most of the first half of our season cancelled due to the pandemic. Being outdoors and not in a crowd is a necessity for me to feel somewhat comfortable in getting out to events. To further reduce the risk to myself, I decided to recruit my wife to join me as a flagger; bringing my social bubble along for the event was a good way to reduce exposures to others.

The weather forecast for the weekend was threatening to be pretty wet, with a huge storm making its way up the East Coast. Fortunately for us, the storm decided to head further inland than first anticipated, and as such we enjoyed hot and sunny weather for the race weekend. SCCA road racers were also eager to get out and enjoy some social distanced motorsports fun, too, as car counts were pretty good; some race groups were 30+ cars. My wife didn’t want to stretch her wings too much during the event, so she stayed on the yellow flags for both days, making me blue flag for both days. We were given an easier station to work so that I could keep an eye on both my responsibilities and give some help to my wife’s flagging duties when needed. By day two, she was starting to get the hang of the event and was commenting on specific cars and racer actions. It was great to finally get her out to an event and see what I do at these races. I’m hoping we can get out to a few more events as a team.

US/Canada Border Closure Cancels Calabogie For Me

I was keeping a nervous eye on the US/Canada border closure talks as I was signed up to head to Calabogie, ON in late July for Trillium BMW CCA‘s event. I and several of my track friends went last year and we had a blast. This is a trip I’ve been taking for nearly a decade now, but this year the pandemic prevented it from happening. With the announcement that the border will remain closed until July 21st, both my lodging and Trillium have refunded me my deposits on my trip. Others who planned on traveling with me had already decided to not go, so while I’m sad to not attend this year, I’m glad I’m not going to be the only Patroon member there.

Open Track Day – Lime Rock Park

Attended Patroon BMW CCA‘s Open Track event Saturday, June 20, 2020 at Lime Rock Park, and it was great to get back to the track. Things were a bit strange, what with social distancing and masks, but we got used to it quickly and focused on turning laps. This was a successful event for Patroon, and we were discussing what factors went into that. Was it the end of quarantine for many? Was it the open track format? We’d like to repeat the success of the event, that’s for sure!

Here’s a video of one of the first sessions of the day from my Evo.

No End In Sight… Yet

All of May’s motorsports activity has been wiped out. However, there are attempts to get some events off the ground in June. For me, that means a track day with Patroon BMW CCA scheduled for June 20th is still on the calendar. We’ve been talking with the track, and until the current CT guidelines allow for gatherings of more than 5 people are loosened, we can’t attempt to hold the event. The track has stated they are not offering refunds, so the club can’t get money back if government entities allow the event to take place. We’ve changed the format of the event so that no in-car instruction is needed, meaning only non-novice drivers will be allowed to participate. Also, traditional gatherings such as classroom sessions will be ditched. Drivers’ meeting would be changed to spread everyone out, and registration itself would likely be changed to limit contact between participants.

Not sure when we’ll hear whether we can move forward or not.

I’m really curious as to whether we’ll be able to go across the border for our Trillium BMW CCA July track event at Calabogie Motorsports Park in Calabogie, ON, CA.

Pandemic throws 2020 schedule into a tailspin

My initial plans for the 2020 season have ground to a halt due to the pandemic. The Tire Rack Street Survival event I was going to instruct at in April? Cancelled. The Sebring 12 Hour race I was going to miss due to the NCAA tournament games I was going to attend, but watch on the DVR? Cancelled and cancelled. My first flagging opportunity will be in the first weekend of May, but I’m doubting it’ll happen. Autocross has been up in the air since last year due to the lack of sites my SCCA region has gained. We had a plan to host a few events at a site about 1 hour south of my home, but since the pandemic broke loose I haven’t heard any more about it.

Personally, my first organized event is our June track day at Lime Rock Park with my Patroon BMW chapter. I’m starting to think that will likely fall victim. Trillium Chapter’s Calabogie track weekend I’m scheduled to attend in July? It’s probably a 50/50 shot of happening at this point. Even if the US decides to end the guidelines for the pandemic, who knows if Canada will do the same?

Stay safe, ‘cuz it’s gotten weird out there.

2019 SCCA Runoffs @ ViR

Just got back from a week away at the 2019 running of the SCCA Runoffs, the national championship event for SCCA road racing competitors.

I signed up to corner marshal for six days of the event – basically all of the qualifying and races, minus the test days. This was my second Runoffs, having attended the 2017 Runoffs held at Indy.

It was exciting to visit ViR, a track I haven’t been to since 2005, when I was participating in One Lap of America as a co-driver in a lightly modified E46 BMW owned by my friend Christo Tinkov. The SCCA staff did a good job of changing up our assignments each day, making sure we got different stations each day and thus different perspectives of the track. I was at 1 (Horse Shoe), 6 (Snake), 7 (Snake), 9 (Climbing Esses), 15 (Rollercoaster), and 17 (Hog Pen).

Rustic stations look great, but the shingles leave a lot to be desired when it starts to rain.
The view of Oak Tree from the access road.
Jared Lendrum brought his T3 STI and his T4 BRZ.
Honda had a T3 Civic factory racer on site.
The data acquisition guys from MoHud discuss their work.
With vendors on site, you can try on flagger suits before you buy them.
Working station 1, we discuss how we’ll work the day.
MoHud racers Jared Lendrum and Charlie Campbell attend the NER paddock party.
MoHud flag chief Rich Alexander catches up with Montreal F1 friends.
Found MoHud racer Jason Smith and his AS Mustang.
Flag meetings kick off before the sun comes up.
A Spec Racer Ford left it’s hood at our station after dropping two wheels over the curbing.
I’ll take a ride from anyone.
Beautiful moon over our cabin in Buffalo Junction, Va.
A back marker spraying oil for 2 laps meant big problems for competitors in the GT-1 race.
The tradition toast ends the event, honoring those members who have passed during the year.

By the end of the week, we all agreed that after being on our feet all week, we’d appreciate the sitting for the long ride home that much more. It seemed odd not being in that early morning flag routine come Monday morning. A good way to send off the year that was the 2019 race season.

Vinyl wrap for the Evo

I have a family friend’s daughter who recently got a new job at a graphics shop. I was checking out the website and noticed they did vinyl wraps for vehicles, so I figured I throw them a bone and have them do my Evo’s hood. It’s a bit road rashed at this point with all the track days I’ve done with it, so it could use a refresh. I think the results are pretty good! As a buddy point out to me, most carbon fiber hoods for the Evo actually weigh MORE than the stock aluminum hood (unless you get a dry carbon fiber one, which is four figures), so the wrap makes a lot of sense for me.

Thanks to the gang at Graphicworx for the nice job!

MoHud Solo event #2 @ Berkshire Mall

We had good weather for our first autocross on Sunday August 11th, 2019, at the now-closed Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough, MA. The lot that is available for use and in appropriate condition was somewhat small (D below), so the course was pretty tight for the Evo. I couldn’t really get on the power, which is the Evo’s forte, so I was left fighting it out mid-pack while the nimble cars ruled the day, with the exception of a very well driven F Street Camaro. Cars were gridded up in the upper left corner of the C lot, and cars were paddocked in the rest of the lot to the right. We had a lot spectators show up, which is unusual. The 65 entrants put on a good show for them, and even one of the EMTs attending the town mandated ambulance got to take a ride. Event results can be found on the MoHud Solo webpage.

Trillium Chapter BMW CCA @ Calabogie Motorsports Park

My first time back to Calabogie Motorsports Park since 2017, when I blew a turbo in my first session and discovered the real value of my newly purchased 2016 Chevy Colorado tow vehicle and a 2015 Econotrailer. It’s a great facility, with yet another new garage onsite, and has a fantastic track layout. The track has a reputation of being a real tire grinder, and that once again held true. I arrived with a set of Nitto NT-01 tires that had six light sessions from Lime Rock Park on them, and when I left after three days, two tires had the outlines of tread on them, and the other two were worn smooth.

The hot weather that plagued the northeast US the weekend of July 19th, 2019, was also present in western Ontario. Friday’s portion was an open track day for attendees, so I had no students to take care and could focus on my driving. This was to be the coming out of my Evo after a season of mechanical issues, including the aforementioned turbo demise, a rebuilt tranny, a replaced head gasket, and my more recent CV boot replacement and rerouted brake ducting. These changes held up to a last-minute event I attended at the end of June with CT Valley Chapter BMW CCA at Lime Rock, and so I was hopeful they would do the same here. Spoiler alert: the car held up well. I was a bit worn out, but the Evo was good.

Days Two and Three were a traditional HPDE, and I was assigned two students. Neither of my students had been to this track before, so I quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to sign anyone off in good conscience at least until the second day of the HPDE. This is no fault of the students, as I had a very difficult time as an A student when I first visited, taking three sessions before I learned every corner. The heat was brutal, and having back-to-back-to-back sessions of an instructor session, the A session, and the B session meant you were in a car for nearly a full hour. I ended up skipping a session or two of my own. As luck would have it, my A student got bumped down to C as it was a lightly attended group and allowed him to better learn the track without having to continuously watch his mirrors and issue point-bys. My B student was a very critical thinker on the track that quickly picked up a set of skills that made him one of the quickest cars out there, despite his modest HP car. Both were very entertaining gentlemen and underscored my sense of track folks being some of the best folks around.

Trillium Chapter put on this event, and they did a hell of a job. Isi P, the president of the chapter, wasn’t driving this weekend, and he did much of the heavy lifting in making sure the event went smooth. Need coolers of ice for the 40 cases of water for attendees? Isi got them. The food shack is no longer on site and can’t feed the 100+ attendees? Isi arranged with a local grocery store to make brown bag lunches each day for attendees to purchase. He did a hell of a job.

Another side story was from a fellow instructor I met from the Quebec BMW CC chapter. He showed us Americans an email that Quebec Chapter and Ottawa Chapter members received an email urging them to boycott this event. We were stumped as to why, but as we dug into the details, we found out that Trillium Chapter, centered in Toronto, was drummed out of BMW Club Canada due to a disagreement between Trillium and the other Canadian chapters based on voting rights – Trillium members represent about 40% of total Club Canada membership, so they wanted proportional voting as opposed to 1 chapter, 1 vote. I heard the arguments from both sides, and I had to agree that Trillium made a good point. Why should another Club Canada chapter with 19 members have the same say as a chapter with 1,000 members? We flew a pirate and beer flag as part of our paddock camp, and we felt the pirate flag held even more meaning after learning about this issue. Oh, the resolution for Trillium is they petitioned and were granted the ability to join BMW Car Club of America, so this move has actually benefited them as they gained

I had done some homework and verified that the local Calabogie Brewing microbrewery had some good stock on hand, so I stopped in and stocked up on some of their Five Island Watermelon Gose and Front Porch Kolsch. One of the highlights of this event is come 5pm when the track goes cold, we gather under our EZ Up and start bench racing with some brews. Being this far into Canada, there’s not much going on in Calabogie, so many just hang around the track and socialize on a regular basis. Our gang of 4 Patroon Chapter members were able to paddock together and visited on a regular basis, and were able to attract a steady stream of characters to stop in and visit with us. Great times!

Crossing the border note: I bring my stepson’s old BMX bike with me, on a rack attached to my trailer. The Canadian border guard took one look at it and said “Who uses that bike?” I told him I do, and I could see he was going to challenge me on that before he broke out into a smile and just accepted my answer.