Racing For The Fun Of It!
We Strap In For GBC Tires Stadium Short Course Series
Photos by: Savannah Rose
Tip to tail, 2 cars wide, we follow the pace car around the famed Glen Helen Short Course track. One last wiggle of the steering wheel to get the feel of the car and the grip of the track, cinch down the belts, and flip down the visor as the pace car pulls off the track. Ready to hammer the throttle, trying to anticipate the start, the green flag drops. From partial throttle to wide open in an instant. The pack of cars scream over the start line jump and hurl into a sweeping left hander. For the racers at the front, clean air, for me, a complete black out. Wiping the mud on my visor with my glove nets me a small window to see through as we sail off the second jump and set up for the first big bowl turn.
How did I find myself in this mess? A middle aged, out of shape man racing with some of Southern California’s best racers. Well that’s a long story… within the UTV Sports office, Brandon Bunch and I have talked about racing since our first conversation together. He, an ex ATV racer, and myself, a guy that will race anything with a throttle. We often bicker back and forth on who is a better driver, who is more consistent, easier on parts, and more, but have never had a chance to put our money where our mouths are. That is, until GBC Tires started putting on a grassroots style, short course race at Glen Helen Raceway. We had a BITD Rally Class built car sitting in the shop, but the logistics and cost of a big time race were just a bit much with our work load. Knowing the bulk of the prep and logistics would fall on me, and the fact that it would be hard for Brandon to shoot the race he was driving in, we were committed to racing, but not that committed.
Following the GBC SCS series through the year, we knew this was a one day, in and out race. I chose to drive the Polaris RZR Turbo S Velocity. Brandon, though, was chomping at the bit to get more seat time in the Honda Talon. Finally, we could actually go head to head and see who was the better racer. And the bonus is this whole event would cost less money than you would spend on a night out. So we picked a race date, and began our prep. For me, it was clutching, new tires, some new Cognito Motorsports lower control arms in addition to the standard tune up. For Brandon and the Talon, it was going from a trail-ready car to a racecar, which meant shedding weight, throwing on new tires, and bolting in a PRP Alpha seat and 5 point harness. Oh, he also spent ample time washing his car, typical photographer, he wanted it shiny. Either way, it was a fun day in the shop!
The rules at the GBC race are similar to most other grassroots beginner style races. At minimum, you need the basics, like a harness, window nets, a fire extinguisher and well.. that’s about it for car safety. Number plates are also a requirement. Sticking with the “grassroots” theme, instead of attempting to make some nice aluminium plates (with tools we don’t have) or buying bolt-ons (but those cost money) we came up with a DIY solution. That solution? Custom “built” number plates out of a plastic container lid. I even got fancy and painted them black to make them look (almost) as good as their aluminium counterparts would. Some Home Depot mailbox numbers would be the finishing touch.
Next was making sure our safety gear was packed. Going against everything I believe in, I would be doing this on the cheap, with just long pants, long sleeve shirt, closed toed shoes, gloves and a helmet are the minimum requirements. I do highly, and I mean highly recommend a firesuit, the proper shoes, gloves, neck restraint and quality helmet. Either way, we loaded the bare necessities and headed west.
Entering the gates of Glen Helen Raceway on a crisp morning knowing you will be behind the wheel, the excitement begins to build. I have been a part of a lot of racing from the crew side, but there is a new level of energy when you go to strap into the driver’s seat. Through registration and the drivers meeting we were sizing up the competition. It was easy to differentiate the experienced racers from the average Joes like us, but we all mingled and knew the day was more about fun and seat time. Being a SoCal native, my family came out to watch and support us. It was a blast to watch my 4 year old nephew’s eyes light up when we sat him in the racecar. My cousin Vance and I would switch roles for the day, normally I am his wrench at the boat races, and now it was his turn to be the pit crew. Meanwhile, Brandon took the more one-man-band approach to the day, even though girlfriend Elizabeth was there for emotional support.
The track team and scoring officials did a fantastic job of moving through the races quickly and efficiently. All the proper equipment was on hand to make sure the track was the best it could be throughout the day, although it was impressive to see how badly a short course track gets chewed up heat after heat.
We were both getting a feel for the cars, the track, and this style of racing. From previous road racing experiences, I was comfortable with door to door racing but the open wheel aspect added a bit of fun to it. Too soon, it came time for the last race. I then saw Brandon take his place at the start, just one spot in front of me. He, in an N/A car and me with a turbo, it seems like a no brainer who would win. But there were some equalizers, the RZR loses more power through the drive belt than the Talon, and I carried a lot more weight, not only in the car but as a human, and I missed on the clutching. When I say missed, I mean, I missed badly! Set that all aside, it was time to go racing, we both wanted to beat the other.
Racing through the first few corners, Brandon made a poor line choice and got held up in traffic, I was able to dive to the inside, apply the power and get around him pretty quickly. I was desperate to put some space between Brandon and myself. Standing in the way was a tiny young lady that seemingly made her car 4 lanes wide. Pacing for 3 laps, I finally found my spot and made the move, giving me a little breathing room as the laps left to the checkered dwindled. As the race came to a close, we hopped out of the cars, exhilarated, and laughing. Brandon and I talked about the pass, and what we could have done differently while the other racers collected their awards. As we loaded the trailer back up to head home, we figured out that we are both decent drivers, not the best but can hold our own against some of the best. The ride home was spent thinking about what could have gone differently for a better result. More seat time, car set up, pit supplies to bring next time. Yes, I said next time…
GBC and Glen Helen Raceway came together to put on a fun, grassroots style race to get more people on the track. Often, in the bigger organizations, the fun can be lost, because the investment is so great. This is a cheap and easy way to get some good track time and refine your skills. The lessons we learned at Glen Helen can be carried on to many other things in life, whether that is work, play or driving technique. Racing drives a lot of us to keep pushing to get to the next race to get that next fix, and we thank GBC Tires for putting on these events to give us a chance to get out on the dirt track.