Introducing the Honda Civic Type R: Wallet Savior? Well…

As my summer progressed, I started to face some hard truths with owning a BMW: it’s incredibly expensive to own a BMW, and an M2 Competition that needs to be prepped for a dual life on the track and the street ramps those costs up further.

The main problem with the M2 Competition was it was a dual edged sword: you get the better S55 engine as opposed to the M2’s N55 engine, but you also get massive rotors that require 19″ wheels and tires. Those 19″ wheels don’t have a lot of good choices for trackable performance rubber, and the choices that are out there run you around $1600 for a set of 4 tires.

Most owners who want to regularly track an M2 Competition look at changing two things: putting a smaller brake kit on the car, which enables you to drop down to 18″ wheels, in turn putting you in reach of a better, and cheaper, range of performance rubber, and allowing you to change the 245/265 width stock tire setup to a square setup of 265 or wider at all four corners so that you can rotate all the tires to extend the life of those tires.

My research came up with a projected cost of nearly $14,000 to get to that promised land:
Front brake kit – $5100. Rear brake kit – $5000. A set of 18″ wheels – between $1800 to $3000. Didn’t even include the cost of the first set of 18″ tires, and I was already shaking my head. Add in some issues I was experiencing with my choice of camber plates and an undiagnosed creaking in the struts/steering that had a $1000 unsuccessful attempt at fixing, I decided to stop throwing good money after bad.

Saw not one, but two Civic Type Rs come up for sale at a local Honda dealer, and decided I was going to move on from the M2 Comp. As soon as I committed to that plan in my mind, I literally felt a weight lifted from my shoulders.

The process of acquiring the Civic Type R was a money risking process in itself. It required me to grit my teeth and do some things I swore I’d never do; i.e. pay above MSRP for a vehicle, and trade a car in rather than attempt to private sale it. I decided to trade it in as the steering creak would have made selling it at a reasonable price very difficult to do. The dealer I bought the car from has Honda, Mercedes, and BMW dealerships on the same lot, so I figured they’d be able to put the stock camber plates back on the car for a low cost.

I wasn’t sure the dealership was going to charge a markup on the CTR as they never listed it on their website – they simply showed the car at the MSRP. Most marked up cars typically will have a “call for price” added to their listing or similar, so I naively hoped that there was no markup involved.

I scheduled an appointment to look at the CTR. No test driving, but they did let me sit in the car as they knew I was a serious buyer (hell, I was dangling a decent ’21 BMW M2 with a higher MSRP as a trade-in). The car felt good, and I relied on my experience of having test driven a ’19 CTR previously to assume this car would drive as nicely as that FK8 platform did. The dealership was pretty protective of the two CTRs on the showroom floor – both cars were kept locked unless someone was specifically interested in buying it. As soon as we stepped back out of the car, it apparently was locked again, as while we were negotiating terms and the salesman went to check with a manager on my offer, I tried to open the car to look at the interior further, and it was locked.

I had to pinch myself to make sure I was really there and making this deal.

This was the first car negotiation I’ve ever used the F-bomb in. When I asked about the MSRP being the purchase price, the salesman conceded that there was a markup, and I was… not impressed with that answer. They initially said they were looking for $15,000 over MSRP, and when I laughed out loud the salesman quickly conceded that they would negotiate some from that. I scoffed at paying even half that amount over MSRP, and then the salesman seemed to again quickly offer that the pricing was negotiable. I offered what I thought would get me in the ballpark – yeah, I blinked rather than try to swing for the fences and give them a lowball offer. I also really wanted to inform my wife of what I was doing – she knew I was going to discuss the car – but I wanted to let her know things were moving quick. Couldn’t reach her, so I decided to lean on “well, I tried” and moved ahead. The salesguy didn’t scoff at my counteroffer, and while I took the picture above, waited for approval of my offer. Salesman came back and offered a handshake, and that was that. I was offered the chance to drive it home that day, but decided to hold off for a few days so I could remove some go-fast parts from the M2 and extract a few bucks of my investment in the parts I had purchased it

For purchasing a high-priced car, this was one of the most informal and sloppy dealer experiences I’ve ever had. I needed to hand over some cash to seal the deal, and asked if I could put a down payment on my credit card. “Sure, but we can’t put the whole amount on there.” I knew that as it is a typical rule at any dealership. Finance manager comes over, I sign some papers, hand him my credit card to do the down payment, and wait. He comes back, hands me my card, and tells me the entire purchase price was put on my card. I was secretly thrilled as this would a) allow me to skip hitting the bank for a certified check, and b) I’d get some pretty decent rewards back on my card from a solid five figure transaction as this. However, my honest made me speak up and point out the error that was made. The finance manager thought about it quick, and then shrugged and said “That’s OK, we’ll let it stand.” Awesome. Well, there was one small win for me.

The day I showed up to pick up the car and leave my M2 Comp with them, it was all a blur. I had a list of paperwork shoved in front of me to sign, with brief one sentence explanations of each form that, on the surface, sounded reasonable. The salesman asked if I needed to be walked through any function on the car, which I really didn’t but I verified if I had questions, I could call them to ask. I then took a quick trip to see the business manager, who supposedly shares an affinity for taking cars to the track like me. We walk in and the business manager doesn’t introduce himself, but instead asks if I recognize him. I apologize, but I don’t. He then says he’s friends with the chief instructor at CT Valley Chapter BMW CCA, but that most folks recognize him by his car, gesturing to a calendar on his office wall of a generic BMW sedan that I also didn’t recognize. I offered I knew the chief instructor friend of his, but unfortunately didn’t recognize him. He seemed a bit offended or disappointed in that response, and then moved on with the paperwork. One of the oddest interactions I’ve had. When I asked, he didn’t indicate whether he recognized me or not.

Back out to the showroom floor, I was given a handshake by the sales guy, and I went out to the parking lot where my Boost Blue Pearl FL5 Civic Type R was waiting. No tour of the dealership, or showing me where the service desk or parts desk was. It was pretty lazy and disappointing as a customer, making it seem like the dealership wasn’t too concerned with the niceties that most dealerships perform for their customers. Later on, one evening I sat and read through all the paperwork I had signed at the dealership. I found two add-on items totaling $1000 of additional cost that I never would have agreed to if I had understood what it was. One was an $800 Armor All ceramic coating with a 7 year guarantee. How one would determine that your ceramic coating has failed and what specifically the guarantee covers are still cloudy to me. That item was only explained to me as I had “an $800 credit” I needed to use if I stuck with my decision that I didn’t need the car ceramic coated. We argued back and forth about what it really represented, but it was honestly explained that I was charged a non-negotiable $800 as part of the purchase. It was always explained as a credit I was owed that could be used on ceramic coating, an extended warranty, wheel & tire warranty, fabric treatment, etc – all that stuff of dubious utility and value, but had to be part of the deal. What was never mentioned during the explanation of each paper I signed was a $199 charge for an insurance policy that covers the markup value of the car if it is stolen in the first four years of my ownership. Interesting, but again, it simply adds more money to the dealership’s bottom line rather than represent any real value to the customer. Cheap, scheming, low-rent business practices in my opinion. But hey, as I was reminded several times during the sale, Honda may send me a customer satisfaction survey (never got one), and unless I can give them only 10s, to discuss it with them first. Sorry, I’m going to rate you what you should be rated, and it wouldn’t be 10s. I’m praying I do get that survey.

Patroon/CT Valley/NY Chapter Track Day @ LRP

April 29, 2023 – It was the debut of the BMW M2 Competition era of my motorsports career on this Saturday in April. The day was raw – wet and cold. The early rain stopped when I arrived at the track, which I greatly appreciated for unloading the car from the trailer. However, shortly thereafter, the rain started up again, and my nerves about my first time on track with this car, not having had first-hand experience with a 400HP rear wheel drive vehicle, were ramped up.

The first few laps – two, to be precise – were uneventful. On lap 3 I decided to start taking my normal lines, which included diving into the entry to the Uphill off the apex, in order to get the car far to the left and cresting the hill. This move resulted in the car cresting, and then suddenly searching for a direction. I tried to counter the gyrations, but they were happening so quickly I wasn’t sure I was helping, so I just kind of held the wheel and waited it out. Fortunately the car suddenly snapped straight, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and my track day insurance policy wasn’t going to be needed. I decided to keep the car in the middle of the Uphill after that, and there wasn’t any more drama.

The rest of the day dried out, although the temps never warmed up and the wind would come and go. I got to safely explore the limits of the car, albeit with my pretty worn out front Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. My student for the day was rocking a 2020 M2 Competition, so it was great to be able to interchange my experiences for the day between my own car and my student’s. I learned somethings from him, too, as he walked me through the steps of reduced traction control settings that BMW offers. I was really impressed with his car’s handling, especially given that he didn’t have camber plates and thus only had -1.5 degs of camber up front. I then discovered he had upgraded his wheel and tires to a set of Apex wheels that allowed him to run 275s up front, and 295s in the rear (stock is 245 and 265, respectively).

The day was a success, friendships were renewed, a student driver improved greatly, and I’m better convinced that this car is going to be a great car to rely on for years of track fun.

The BMW Tax

I’ve had a few months now of ownership of the BMW M2 Comp, and while I’ve found the new car very comfortable to run around with on the streets, and it’s been fun to be competitive in stock form at the autocrosses, I’ve been actually shocked by the cost of aftermarket parts for this car. Prices for parts have been twice to nearly five times as high as what I was used to paying for my Mitsubishi Evo. Camber plates? $350 versus $750. Intake? $400 versus $800. Front brake pads? $230 versus $800.

The economics of the BMW have taken a good amount of the joy of owning the M2C out of the equation for me. While I thought I was making a statement by avoiding paying an outrageous markup on a used Civic Type R, I think I’ve fallen into a similar financial pit with the cost of parts for the M2 Competition.

Doing the reliability mods first: replacing OEM plastic charge pipes and J-pipe with ARM silicone charge pipes and an ARM aluminum J-pipe. Adding in a Burger Motorsports oil catch can while I’m in the engine bay.

I’ve consulted with some friends who own and track similar M2 Competitions, and I’ve gotten some good advice on what’s needed to enhance the car’s performance at the track and to keep costs down in the process. The paths of the two friends provide the choice between two road maps: A) minimal mods to enhance performance and minimize costs, and B) significant mods to… enhance performance and minimize long-term costs at the expense of significant upfront costs.

In the minimal mod corner, I’ve gotten the suggestion of getting some camber plates to address the limits of the stock front camber adjustment range in order to even out wear on the front tires, which I’ve been told will typically get more wear on the outside edges. However, this leaves uncovered several drawbacks that track use vehicle owners will recognize, not only with tires, but some other components as well. Let’s look at the tire issues.

The stock wheel & tire setup, which isn’t “square” (i.e. the same all around), is a 245/35R19 front tire and 265/35R19 rear tire setup. The OEM wider rear tire configuration means that you can’t rotate tires front to back, which can help even out wear and prolong the life of your track tires. On top of the lack of a rotation option, the pricing and selection of performance tires in this 19″ sizing is pricey and limited. Michelin makes a great tire, but you pay for that quality and performance. The experience of owners says that there are better (and cheaper) choices in the 18″ tire sizes, but there is an issue with that: OEM brake rotors do not allow you to convert to 18″ wheels due to the stock M2 Competition rotors’ diameter being so large as to require 19″ wheels. To break out of this 19″ wheel limitation, you’ll need to jump to option B as mentioned previously.

Option B, the significant mods method, you make some significant investments in brake packages and new 18″ wheels, and then reap the rewards of cheaper options for tires, longer lifespan of those tires, and significant savings on brake pads. However, to get to these benefits, you’ll need to grit your teeth and be prepared to part ways with over $10k worth of upgrades and parts. First up, would be a brake kit to accommodate 18″ wheels. I’ve used AP Racing brake kits from Essex Parts, and they are quality kits. Brake pads are significantly cheaper for these brake kits than they are for the stock Brembo calipers the M2 Competition come with, but the prices of these kits are eye-watering compared to what I paid for the kit I put on my Evo. The Evo kit I had went for roughly $2400, while the cheapest kit I could go with for the M2C is over $4700! Where I really start to cry is that cost only covers the front brakes; to cover the rear brakes would require another kit and cost another $4400!! These rotors are slightly smaller than the OEM stock rotors, and thus fit 18″ wheels, but provide comparable braking performance so that you don’t lose anything in the conversion, other than a significant portion of your bank account.

So, you’ve gone $9200 into downsizing the brakes to fit 18″ wheels & tires, now it’s time to purchase those wheels. Wheels in the sizes needed for the M2C – say, 18×9 or 18×9.5 – typically are running at minimum $2k or more.

Another option I’ve seen some owners take is simply plus sizing the front tire widths and squaring up the setup – 265s all around. This requires some new wheels – APEX has a great guide on this setup.

I figure I’ll do a track day first before figuring out what direction I may want to go with the car. Next steps are setting up an appointment at Highline Motorsports to get the camber plates installed and do a whole vehicle fluids change (thanks Henry @ BimmerWorld for putting together a package for me). Then, I’ll be hitting a track day at Lime Rock Park with Patroon Chapter BMW CCA.

I Did A Thing

While house / dog / mom sitting, I had some time to get serious about track car shopping. Using Cars.com and AutoTrader, I zeroed in on some specific models of certain years and mileage. For a few days I’d watch the cars and the prices of them, and comparing the offerings to what values NADA.com said were reasonable, I started to narrow down the choices to a select few cars scatter around the US, mostly east of the Mississippi. When the dust cleared, and some of the vehicles disappeared while I was debating, I jumped on this beauty…

A ’21 BMW M2 Competition rescued from an Audi dealership in South Carolina.

Cars.com was a pretty slick operation. You can really target your search to narrow in on specific details of cars offered in whatever range from you decide on – years, mileage, transmission, price range. After talking with a Civic Type R owner about the amount of modifications needed to make it track-worthy (mostly from a heat dissipation standpoint), and having had a similar discussion with an M2 Competition owner, I decided the M2 Competition was the better choice. Was it pricier than the CTR? Sure it was. However, if you look at the value of available cars in relation to MSRP, the M2C was a far better value.

I narrowed my search down to three specific examples of the M2C: a white ’21 at a Nissan dealership in Cincinnati, a blue ’21 at an Audi dealership in Greenville SC, and a red ’21 at an independent dealer in NYC. I was leaning towards the white one as it seemed to represent the best value, but when I sent the listings to my wife, she said she preferred blue, so who was I to argue? Shortly thereafter, the white one was taken off the site, so I figured I needed to move NOW on the blue one before it was snapped up.

As I discussed the car with a salesperson at the dealership, I learned the cosmetic damage incident revealed in the Carfax report was contact with a deer in the suburbs of Atlanta. The Audi dealership had recently replaced the rear tires as part of their sales prep, which gave me a bit of assurance that the frame isn’t suffering from any issues. This, and the mileage (~36k), made it a very affordable choice. Similar M2Cs that had mileage under 10k on them and a clean Carfax were commanding a premium of $4k-$7k above what I paid, so I was happy to get a discount for a minor incident and some miles.

Flying down to Greenville later this week to pick it up and drive it home to Albany. Just hoping the weather cooperates with my flight, and the drive, so it doesn’t make a long trip any longer than it has to be.

Search for a new track toy is ON

If you’ve done any research recently on purchasing a new or used vehicle, you’ll quickly discover that now is a terrible time to purchase a car. I’ve found this out in spades while investigating some of the sports cars that I’m interested in.

Recently took a test drive in a like-new 2021 Honda Civic Type R. This one was located at my local Acura dealer, so I arranged to take a look at it and see if I had any complaints with it. Unfortunately for me, I loved it. The car has great power, rides reasonably well, and I fit in it just fine. However, the huge drawback to a Civic Type R these days are the outrageous markups that dealers put on them. This car had a window decal out the factory for around $39,000. Current price? $47,205. These types of markups are insulting at best, and I refuse to participate. Besides, a gentleman I met while selling off some of my motorsports tires has warned me that the current FK8 generation of the Type R needs some modifications to address heat (hood vents, oil cooler) in order to make it truly trackworthy.

To avoid the ridiculous Honda markups, I’ve also turned some attention to a gently used BMW M2 Competition coupe. These cars are another magnitude of expense – roughly in the low to mid $60,000 range – but their pricing is much more in line with their value, at least from a percentage perspective. Sure, you can find the odd M2C out there that has some dealer believing someone will drop $71,000 on one, but there are some M2s that are priced much more reasonably and appear ready to sell. I’ve entertained the idea of placing an order for a ’23 M2 Competition, but the advice of my One Lap buddy Christo keeps ringing in my head: “Never buy the first year of production of a BMW”.

Toyota has released their pricing for another contestant: the 2023 Toyota Supra 3.0 w/ a manual transmission: $53,595. That’s a bit lower than the M2 Competition, but still is considerable. I’m thinking I should find one to sit in so that perhaps I can rule it out from an ergonomic standpoint, but even if I do like it, I’m curious as to whether Toyota dealers will play the same games as Honda dealers do. I’m hoping I can get some clarity on what I want in the next month or two.

Evo is sold!

I decided to keep reducing the price to where it would garner attention from serious buyers, and that happened once the price dropped into the low $20k range. To expand the reach of my ad, I submitted the car to Bring A Trailer, but they declined to list it. I finally settled on posting it on RacingJunk.com, and then decided since I was posting in multiple places I may as well post it on EvolutionM.net, too. My initial post for the car wasn’t as comprehensive as Facebook Marketplace or Racing Junk, so I updated it on EvolutionM and it started to get attention.

Ever wonder what a 9,000 plus pound, $100k plus electric SUV looked like?

As it turned out, I ended up with a prospect buyer from each platform: an Evo tuner from Iowa working on the East Coast for a YouTuber (FB Marketplace), an SCCA Hillclimber from PA (Racing Junk), and finally a GM engineer from Michigan (EvoM). When the dust settled, the GM engineer came through with the best offer, and ended up taking the car. As a bonus, he showed up at my house several times in a pre-production Hummer EV SUV, complete with manufacturer Michigan plate, beta infotainment software warnings on its huge dash screen, and other unique features.

The Evo is loaded up for a journey to NJ. Goodbye old friend of 18+ years…
18 plus years of parts accumulation looks a lot less intimidating when it’s not spread out over your basement. Did I mention we couldn’t fit all of this in the Hummer? The Evo’s trunk and interior were stuffed, too. Not pictured is a lot of stock stuff that went with it.

What’s next? I have no idea. I’ve toyed with several ideas as far as sports cars, but nothing presses all my buttons: a Camaro SS, a Honda Civic Type-R (current gen and next gen), Corolla GR, Supra GR, Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, Pricing right now is insane on the Hondas and the Cadillac – I’m going to see a used ’21 Civic Type-R that’s listed $10k *OVER* MSRP, which is apparently typical pricing. That kind of extortion doesn’t sit well with me, so I’m hoping I dislike the car and can forget the insult that Honda dealers have foisted on consumers.

Evo 4 Sale, but no one’s buying

They say everything sells if it has the right price, and by ‘everyone’, I mean I say that, so I was recently surprised to find that my Evo didn’t sell after pricing it initially at $31,500, and then having lowered it to $28,900. I decided to list it on Facebook Marketplace, and while it garnered over 2100 views and several conversations with prospective buyers, I never got what I’d consider a serious offer. Given the current car market, I thought it might be a good time to step out from the Evo and perhaps buy something a bit more streetable, and newer. I considered Chevy Camaro SS 1LE, Honda Civic Type-R (current or next gen), Toyota Supra, Toyota GR86, Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, and some used options like a BMW M2 Competition. Problem was, as good as a time as it seems to sell, it’s also a lousy time to buy a car.

With no one biting on the car, I think I’ll refocus on the Evo and look forward to some more track events and time trials with it.

I’m still planning my motorsports schedule, and other than another trip to the SCCA Runoffs this September @ ViR, I’m still on the fence about most of it.

2021 SCCA Runoffs – Indy Motor Speedway, September 28th – October 3rd, 2021

Another flagging adventure is in the books as I spent 6 days flagging at the SCCA Runoffs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was a different event from my first Runoffs I attended back in 2017 at this same facility. I’m assuming it should be chocked up mostly to the ongoing pandemic, but flagger staffing was way down for the event. It picked up for the races on the weekend, but practice and qualifying earlier in the week had some short staffing.

A smaller but mighty crew – 2021 F&C crew @ SCCA Runoffs. The author is in back against the grey/yellow wall divide.
Arriving in time for the start of the F&C meeting each morning means you arrive sooner than most of the participants do.

My first day of flagging had three of us at stations 2 & 3. We had a shared station captain, which meant one of the stations would be a single flagger. Blue flagging from Station 3 was near impossible because there is no visibility up track, so I offered to work 3 myself and handle both yellow flag and comms. Comms are pretty good at IMS as they are land line-based, not radio based. You just have the challenge of keeping the cord to your comms box out of the way of your feet, and not wander too far from where it plugs in. The other flagger who worked 2? Famed motorsports announcer Greg Creamer, who is a really good guy and loves to come out and flag. During lunch we were chatting, and he said if he could make a living flagging, he’d do it full time. Cool guy.

The view from Station 3 as you yellow flag

Next day I was assigned to Station 12, a return to the scene of getting bonked in the head by a golf ball-sized chunk of tire rubber back during the 2017 Runoffs. You are crazy close to the cars as they hug the wall coming into the braking zone for the right hander, literally able to tap some cars on the roof with your flag stick. Combined with being paired with a station captain that liked chatting rather than setting up station, and I felt like I was the station captain as I took charge and set up the station with flags and comms.

Still have the mark on my hat where I got nailed by a chunk of race rubber back in 2017 at Station 12.
Leaning on the wall to blue flag puts a flagger at risk from debris.

Wednesday evening, they offered a track walk for anyone participating. I decided to get my steps in and become more familiar with the track as I hadn’t see it in its entirety, so I set my exercise app to record the effort.

I walked the entire road course, which is outlined above.

Next day, I was assigned to Station 7, basically at the midpoint on the Hullman Straight. This was another station that posed some challenges for flagging. I suggested to my captain that as blue flagging would be very challenging with the head-on view of vehicles, we’d make better use of our small opening by just yellow flagging out of it, and putting the Comms person on the platform to better watch the large amount of track we were responsible. The station captain was agreeable to that, and it seemed to work well.

The small opening to the right of the platform provided little room for flagging, so we prioritized yellow flags and abandoned the blue. Paddock traffic was busy behind us, and we ended up taking on responsibility for keeping spectators off the fence as it was a hot zone and not open for spectating. The traffic behind us reminded me of the traffic threatening flaggers as Station 11 at Sebring, but was actually much safer than the Sebring set up. At least the provided cones to stake out some room for us when we walked behind the platform.

For race days – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – I was assigned to Station 1 (very busy!), Station 5A, and then Station 14. It was nice to be on 14 for Sunday as with weather expected we had some shelter to put our gear out of the way and protect it.

The event was very warm for late September/early October and while I was able to deal with it in my attire, standing for hours each day caused my legs to swell up for the race days. Gotta remember to bring along my support socks next time. Some racers complained about seeing flaggers sitting at times, but perhaps they should come out for a few days and stand all day. I think they’d get it.

Station 14, located in the front of the grandstand at Indy turn 1. Blue flagging can be tough here. I found a hack during the Formula X race: use binoculars to identify cars entering the turn at Station 12, and project if the leaders would catch back markers by the time the came out of the turn in front of us.

NER Night Races, Thompson Speedway, August 21, 2021

Once again this year, I discovered two of my favorite events were scheduled in conflict: my Patroon Chapter’s August track outing at Lime Rock Park, and NER’s Night Race @ Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. I skipped the night racing last year and chose to do a track day, but with my car “in the shop” and getting some much needed attention, I decided to sign up for the flagging opportunity at Thompson.

The view from my station at 10, coming off the oval portion of Thompson’s road course.

I’m used to flagging at night; I’ve done it several times as part of the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring event. It’s fun, challenging, and ultimately exhausting. However, I was curious to see how an SCCA region would do things, and rather than have high budget professional race rigs screaming around a course, I was intrigued to see how some low budget amateur racers would do it.

Most interesting aspect of this is racers were NOT allowed to use their headlights. Well, if I understood the rules correctly, they could use their headlights, as long as they were covered and only gave off enough lumens to simulate a running marker. In other words, you can see the light, but the light can’t be strong enough to illuminate anything. Some cars had some very trick LED strip lights to mark their front corners – those cars that normally would not have any operative lights in their class, for example. Others simply ran their running/parking lights. And interestingly enough, some chose to forgo any lights, at least on the front. Aside: everyone was required to have a functional rear lamp, be it a rain light on formula cars, or tail/brake lights on closed wheel cars, but even their brightness was subject to light output limits.

The track itself was pretty well lighted, with a bunch of portable lights stationed around the track. Unfortunately at our flag station, we had lights stationed across track from us and up on a hill, so racers could see us and our flags (a very important feature), but we didn’t have the advantage of any lighting on cars from our side of the track that would help us see their numbers, classing, or sometimes even their color. Fortunately for us we had no incidents in our section during the night time portion of the event, so it didn’t impede our calls. Blue flagging was a huge challenge under the circumstances.

Earlier in the day, we found a ground hornet nest in the middle of our tire wall. Didn’t impact us, but if a driver got stuck in the wall at that nest, I’m guessing they’d be none to happy. Reported to track personnel.

I liked the later-than-normal start to the event, allowing me to get up a little later and take my time getting to the track, but the finish of the event at about 11:30pm was the latest I’ve ever flagged. It kind of underscored my lack of enthusiasm for ever flagging at the Daytona 24 event. The racers who attended seemed to love it, so I’d come back and work it again if I have the chance.

Next event on my calendar, an autocross in September to close out my driving season, and then flagging at the SCCA Runoffs @ Indy Motor Speedway in September/October….

NER Thompson Majors, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, July 9-10, 2021

My very first day of flagging ever happened to fall on a day when the remnants of a hurricane blew through Lime Rock Park. The gentleman who was training me asked me at the end of the day what I thought of flagging, and I told him I loved it. He laughed, and said “If you loved in this conditions, you’re really going to love it under normal circumstances”.

I thought of this on Friday of the Thompson Majors event, as hurricane Elsa was due to come up the coast and overspread Thompson with heavy rains. And heavy rains it had in spades, as the track quickly was overcome with standing water. By the second session of Friday morning’s practice and qualifying, a lake formed at the station just before mine, and we watched in amazement as cars would come through on their first laps, not knowing the lake was there, only to dive for the apex and cause splashes towering 8ft in the air, and the race car visibly slowing down as they hit a wall of water. Action was suspended, and a waiting game then played out as we tried to wish the rain away. As us flaggers sat in the garages, deadlines of 11am, noon, and 1pm came and went. Finally at 2pm, they decided that there were too many spots on track that would not drain in time even if the rain stopped (which it did), so a consolidated schedule focused on Saturday were put in place. When we took advantage of the rain stopping, our visuals on the track revealed Pit In lane had about 6-8″ of standing water in it, a small river of about 3-4″ of water was flowing across the front straight just up from the starter stand, the lake at Turn 3 that was very deep, and smaller rivers running across the track before and after the hairpin at Turn 4 (my station).

Saturday dawned cloudy but rain-free. However, there was a lot of water still draining from the area surrounding the track. Track services at Thompson was out trying to dig some minor trenches in the grass to help reroute water drainage at the braking zone just before the bridge at turn 5. Cars handled the wet spots on track with pretty good strategies, but we still had some cars running off track due to water in key braking and turning zones. One Spec Miata entrant put down 3 of 4 pairs of skid marks that led directly at the armcom on driver’s right at the turn under the bridge. Some more trench digging by track services finally allowed that spot to dry up, and drivers didn’t have many issues in any of the wet spots after that.



NER has a great write-up with spectacular pics and video of the challenges from that event.

Gator driving thru lake on track
The water was a bit deep in the corners. Turn 3. Photo courtesy NER members.