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Rolex 24 at Daytona Summary

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go see the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Yes, I took the opportunity. I traveled to the race, on a very tight budget, with my friend David. David is the owner of this business, and someone whom I met through sportscar racing (Sebring 2016, to be exact). I proposed the offer, and we both have nothing better to do, so we went. 600 miles round trip, 4 days, 54 cans of beer. What could go wrong?

Well, a lot, actually. We were quite under-packed for the weather, and the raceway was confusing to get into, at best. The temperature was around 45, degrees without the wind chill. With the wind chill, it felt like it was around -45. To add to this, we were kipping the whole race in David’s Tahoe. Now, I’m not a dumb Florida boy. I like the cold. It’s a welcome change from the usually satanic weather we have down here, but this was cold. At one point during the night, I actually woke Dave up with my shivering. The cold never bothered me anyway.

I’m lying, it was awful. It was cold, it was windy, and I’m not going to start on the rain yet. I said at one point that if it was any colder, I would have been looking for Germans over the next hill. My dad called it the “24 Hours of Bastogne”.

Away from that, the track was confusing. We bought the wrong parking pass, so we kipped the first night in the parking lot until we could exchange our passes. The track staff wasn’t the most helpful, save for Wayne, the attendant in Lot 40. Wayne was cool. We like Wayne. Wayne didn’t talk to us like children. Thank you, Wayne. [Wayne is the best. -Ed]

Stewart looks upon his creation, a job well done.

 

I’m going to stop rambling and talk about the race now.

The race. Ah, yes. The race. Let’s start with the BMW Endurance Challenge on Friday afternoon. Fantastic racing for four solid hours. You see, I like the Michelin Challenge, this funny little series nobody talks about. The drivers are world class, the cars are stuff you can buy tomorrow if you wanted to, and the racing is fantastically close. A few teams had problems, which is normal, but there were very few full course yellows. One incident I recall vividly was HART racing’s fuel problem. I got to have a chat with Ryan Eversley (top bloke, might I mention) and he described it to me this way:

“Ah, yes, the fuel issue. Well, during the race, we got shoved into Penske’s pit box, as is normal. When you call your fuel supplier and tell them you’re in box 47 and need a barrel, they bring you box 47’s barrel. Well, they gave us Penske’s DPi fuel. DPi fuel has more ethanol than TCR fuel, so we couldn’t change the params to match. What was irritating was that they crossed out ‘PENSKE’ and wrote ‘HART’ on the barrel! To add to the frustration, then I ran into someone. Bad day. I feel awful because the team worked so hard.”

Disappointing to see that. I really like HART, they’re a cool team. I had noticed that they were about 5-6 MPH down on the field, But Ryan was hauling massive amounts of ass. I’m talking a truckload here. He also was the bigger man and publicly issued an apology and statement before the team did.

The race was fairly steady for the remaining session time, and everyone seemed to find a groove that worked for them. I must say, the GT350 GT4? Absolutely fantastic noise. It almost hurts! At session end, Compass Racing had won over everyone, their McLaren running smoothly and incident free for the entire race, which is no small feat in endurance racing. Congrats to Compass racing for taking the win in their Mclaren 570 GT4. They put on a show and a half.

On to the main event. This year was the 57th edition of the Rolex 24. It is also IMSA’s 50th anniversary, so everyone is decked out in awesome vintage liveries. Acura is using their Realtime livery, Ford their Castrol livery, CORE Autosport ran a neat vintage Nissan livery on their NISMO DPi cars, and Porsche had an awesome Brumos livery. Everyone was in top form and ready to compete for the next 24 hours.

Mazda had smashed the track record in their #55 DPi, Oliver Jarvis reeling in a 1:33.3(!), putting them on pole, with the two Acura cars close behind. The sister #55 was fourth, and the #31 Whelen Cadillac rounded out the top five. The #81 Oreca was pole for LMP2, #911 Porsche for GTLM, and #13 Ferrari 488 for GTD. The race started without a hitch, and we were down in the kink for the start. You can check that video out on our YouTube channel, and hear the music of our people. We tended to wander for the start while the action was slow. We quickly learned not to do that.

The #3 Corvette made quick work of the #911 911RSR, passing him in the first few laps. The ‘Vettes were quick, when they were running. The Acura Dpi cars were blindingly quick from the start, but later seemed plagued by tire issues. The Cadillacs were reliable and fast, as always.

Around 9pm, the drama started. The #55 Mazda broke down, and shortly after, the #77 could not generate any fuel pressure. They brought the car in and shut the garage. Retired. The night was generally drama free, with the notable exception of a few yellows and the #3 Corvette running out of fuel under a full course yellow. My first comment was, “Really???”. Come on, I thought we were better than this, guys. Get it together, Binky. Around 10ish, Dave went to bed, and I started to head back into the grandstands to watch the race unfold.

At 4:30am, the rain began. Light, at first, before turning into a deluge. Sebring 1965, anyone? The rain was awful to the point the race was red flagged twice, the last one cutting the race short by 10 minutes, declaring Wayne Taylor Racing, and Fernando Alonso the winner. The 24 Hours of Daytona quickly turned into the 24 Hours of Lake Okeechobee. To add to that, it was frighteningly cold.

We got soaked. Cold and soaked. We left an hour before they called the race, and didn’t regret it. We were miserable. However, while the race was green, it was absolutely incredible racing. World class, really. If you ever have the chance to go to the Rolex 24, please do. We left satisfied and with ringing ears, content with the weekend. Congratulations to WTR, Dragonspeed, RLL BMW, and Grasser Racing. A big surprise was PerformanceTech, a local team to us, for second place in LMP2 with a Bronze/Silver team. Everyone put on a great show, and I wont forget it quickly.

Maybe I’ll pack better next time.

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Rambling Man: Y2K Conundrum

I’m at a point in my life where I can afford a sports car, moreover, I’m at a point where I want a sports car, mainly for track days and for something to wrench on that isn’t a 2006 Scion Shitbox Release Edition Mega Thruster 3.14159 with factory Pioneer BarelyHearIt Audio. Mostly, I want something a bit more… friendly to drive daily. Yes, a sports car will do that. Let me explain: I have a 2006 Scion xA that is my daily driver. It does a 50 mile round trip everyday from my home in Lake Worth, to my office in Pompano. Straight shot, Turnpike driving the whole way at [technically illegal, redacted] miles per hour. Not a bad drive, but there is a major problem with the car.

You see, the problem is the owner (me). I love all types of cars, including stanced hotboi cars. I have many friends with stanced cars. My stanced car friends convinced me to absolutely dump my car [I told you not to do it -Ed.]. Total 7.5 inch drop on sketchy springs and blown shocks, so it’s stiff and it bounces, which isn’t too good for my back or the car. The frame clearance is 1.75 inches, it scrapes on anything and the suspension makes noise. Also, it’s straight piped, so it’s very loud, which brings me to the core of this column. I like my stanced cars, so I want to build the Scion to be crazy low and loud, but I want a new daily that I can track. It’s kind of hard to track an automatic hatchback.

So I’ve come between two cars at this point. The 996 chassis Porsche 911, and the C5 chassis Corvette Z06. Both under $25,000, both excellent early 2000’s performance cars, both have large aftermarket support. The conundrum is this: Which one do I get?

At first, I was leaning towards the Porsche. It has the prestige, the power, that perfectly balanced chassis, and the fantastic noise. It is a perfectly analog car with 3.4 liters of raw, snarling power. People hate the 996. I think it has matured very well. It has a handsome shape, an excellent interior, and fantastic ergonomics. There’s something magical about a 911. Something romantic about them, it’s hard to explain. If the 911 was an album, it would be deadmau5’s ‘Random Album Title’. Feel-good, intricate, timeless, influential. A benchmark.

Then there is the Corvette. The Corvette is Rings Of Saturn’s ‘Ultu Ulla’, raw, brutal, loud, and painfully irresistible. The noise assaults your ears and influences your brain into wanting more. Next track, change gear, mash your foot into the carpet and through the firewall. The Corvette is a timeless shape, too. Pop-up headlights, that wedge shape, the sleek front end. It was a car that challenged the world, that showed them the Americans could make a real sports car. It had that sweet Small Block Chevy with 405 BHP and that lightweight body. It had active handling! Active handling, in the early 2000’s! Practically nobody had that! I have Chevrolet in my blood. I can tell you the firing order of an LS engine. I grew up in a Chevy family. My dad had an IROC-Z and a Z/28, which was quite loud. We have countless Corvette racing memorabilia in our home. Die-casts, posters, lego sets, etc. I am a Corvette Racing fanboy. I always have been. But I have a problem to consider, other than the fact it’s going to squeak and rattle itself apart in a few years.

The problem comes in modifying these cars.

The Corvette is fantastically expensive to modify. It would cost me twice to modify a Z06 the same way I would a 996. They are incredibly expensive. There is a fatal error here, too. Let’s forget about IMS and oil pressure issues. Let us refer to the tortured album metaphor from earlier. deadmau5 and Rings Of Saturn are two different entities. So are the cars. The Z06 is practically a muscle car, nowhere near as refined as the Porsche. The 996 is so refined, it’d probably wear a monocle, if it had eyes. The 911 is a pure sports car, in the truest sense of the word.

But the Corvette is such a jaw-dropping chassis, it really is fantastic to drive. I’ve always been drawn to the noise and the power of that car. There is something about it that makes me feel unconquerably American, like I should be a mullet-wearing, Bud Light-drinking, flag-saluting maniac when I drive it. Its lack of class and “brand” is what puts it a step above the 996 for me. There is a feeling that the C5 gives you that a 911 can’t. It makes you feel elated to drive it, knowing that you somehow can conquer the world in the underdog. The Chevy is Pescarolo at Le Mans in the early 2000’s: it’s not quite there, but you’d be damned if it isn’t giving the big boys a run for their money and making them sweat a bit. The 911 is Audi in the same era, too confident. The car knows it has it in the bag. That almost makes the money spent worth it, just to trouble modern exotics on the track.

Maybe I’ll get the 911 and become a PCA member, wearing my branded vest to events and worshiping Gijs Von Lennep and Hurley Haywood. Maybe I’ll come over all Cleetus McFarland and do it for Dale, ripping fat burnouts in a Z06 and doing 60 rolls on I-95 at 2AM.

Maybe I’ll save up another $10,000 and buy an NSX instead. [Better hurry up, they’re appreciating -Ed.]

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Introduction

Hello, My name is Stewart. I’m a new addition to the Finish Line Factory family, but I’ve been one of David’s friends for a few years now. We met at Sebring in 2016 at the Mazda boost, and we’ve been buddies ever since. I’ve helped Dave quite a bit over the years, helping behind the scenes on the #FLF240 (RIP) and contributing a little elbow grease to the new projects.

I started out as a Friend and supporter of the business, and I’m really excited to now become a contributing member of the FLF team. I’m an avid Motorsports fan, and an all-around car nut. I’m going to be contributing some articles, a podcast, and I hope to have a weekly column going on here. You’re gonna see me in more FLF vlogs, particularly at motorsports events! If you see us, come over and say hi! I’m the big dude with the ginger beard.

In my spare time, I enjoy reading motorsports and automobile literature, making music, wrenching, and hanging out with my friends. I’ve been dubbed the “Walking Encyclopedia” by Dave, and that will be apparent in the videos being posted to YouTube.

I hope that you will enjoy my contributions to FLF! See you soon!