Happy Boy at Laguna Seca

If you think that sitting behind the wheel of a Dyson Racing LeMans Prototype Porsche RS Spyder makes Jake Brown a “Happy Boy,” keep looking!











Just hanging with the Bunnies!


Superstars of Superkarts 2008 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

by Region Member Mark Brown

Wow, what a week!    I think the racing gods were trying to tell me something before I left for Laguna Seca.   I’m still glad I didn’t listen to them.

The week before we were supposed to leave, we had that huge snow storm.  You remember?  We had like 4 to 5 feet of snow.  It took me two days to plow the road just to get out to the highway and another day just to get the trailer shoveled out so I could move and load the trailer.  I had a friend of mine, Duane Kenaston, come along to help me out.  I’m sure glad he did, he was a huge help.  My plan was to have the trailer loaded and ready to go by Sunday night and leave early Monday morning.  We had to be at the track by Wednesday morning to set up our pit area.  Well, I loaded most of the trailer myself Sunday night.  Duane and I loaded the rest Monday morning.  We didn’t leave Red Lodge until 11:00 a.m.  I was a little concerned about the road conditions from Red Lodge to the Interstate at Rock Springs at first, but it was pretty clear most of the way.  It felt great to be on the road, finally heading to sunny California!  It always seems like it takes forever to get thru Nevada.  I don’t know why; well, I do, but that’s another story.  Anyway, we arrived in Seaside, CA, around 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night, and got a room for the night, wanting to already be at the track.

Wednesday morning we get prepped for the long weekend at the track.  We were told to go to a certain area of the track to wait for our turn to get in.  Pretty soon a lot of old racing friends are arriving behind us.  While we were in the hurry-up-and-wait mode, the bench racing started along with a few bottles of Bud to wash it all down.  It was great to see a lot of these guys.  I had not seen most of them since the ’06 running at Laguna. All during this time, the “big guys” are passing us.  Audi, Porsche, Corvette, Austin Martin, and Ferrari.

After what seemed like hours had passed, we moved into our respective assigned spots.  Our paddock space happened to be at the exit of turn 3.  We set up our pit space in short order and got right to work installing my new engine.  About this time, Denise and Jake had arrived.  They had flown in and were spending time with Denise’s sister, Christine, and brother-in-law, Buddy.  It was all going too smooth, I thought to myself.  It was well into the evening before the kart seemed to be ready to fire up for the first time, but we had to wait until morning–“quiet time” had come.

Thursday morning was a nice, warm, bright sunny day.  Things were looking great.  There was a paid practice today.  I opted out.  It was a little too pricey for me.  It worked out to be $24 per minute of track time.  Anyway, I still had stuff to do on my kart.  I filled the transmission with ATF and got ready to get her started.  I Looked down at the floor pan and noticed ATF dripping off the edge!   A closer inspection revealed a leak at the case halves.  Great, just what I needed!  There was only one thing to do.  Pull the engine, pull the cylinder, and split the cases.   Turns out the case gasket had shrunk and pulled through the bolts.  Well, off I went in search of parts.  Thank God for great competitors.  It took me all of 5 minutes to find what I needed to fix the problem.  A couple of my friends from the Dyson racing team stopped in to see me.  Boz and Daryl always manage to find me and check in to see if I need anything.  I have a lot of respect for the Dyson team.  They are a great bunch of guys.  By 7:00 p.m., we had the whole thing ready to go, but I still hadn’t fired it up yet.  I was getting nervous.  I knew we only had two 15 min. practice sessions on Friday.  I had a lot to figure out in those two short sessions before qualifying Saturday morning.

I keep a log of all my data for setups on the kart and engine.  That really helps get your tuning and setups close for a starting point.  Friday morning my setup and tuning where just about spot on.  I just needed a minor adjustment here and there.  I really wasn’t trying real hard anyway.  I had a fresh engine and it needed a little break-in time anyway.  Most of my lap times were in the high 1:37’s, which for me was pretty good.  This was the first time I had been in the kart since October of 2006.  I was happy and feeling very good about my goals for this race.  Oh yeah, my goals:  (1)  Finish the race;  (2) Post a lap time in the 1:35’s; and (3) Finish in the top 5.  In 2006, I qualified in 12th position and ended the race in 8th with a best lap time of 1:37.4.    It was the first time I had started AND finished the race.  Man, that felt good.  I was looking just to do a little better this time.  With two fifteen minute sessions out of the way, it was time to regroup and get ready for Saturday.

Qualifying: They really should just call it “drive for grid placement.”

Did I mention how nice the weather had been?  High 70’s and 80’s on Wed., Thurs., and Friday.  Well, that all changed Saturday morning.  It was 42 degrees at 6 a.m.  We qualified at 8:30 a.m.  It was COLD.  I had to tape off almost all of the radiator ducts just to keep enough heat in the engine so it wouldn’t cold-stick on me.  Plus, it was foggy.  That was a real problem.  The first couple of laps were OK, but then it really got thick.  It was real spooky not knowing who you were coming up on or how fast you were closing on them.  Our qualifying was cut short by 7 minutes.  I got 3 good laps in.  We were supposed to have 20 minutes, but due to conditions, they cut it short.  I was a full second off my best lap time from the day before.  Lap time = 1:38.8, which was good enough for 8th in class.

I was really happy with that.  Now we had a little time to relax and check the kart over before the big race on Sunday afternoon.  Duane and I went over the kart checking and rechecking everything.  We were very optimistic about the race.  I felt confident that I could still achieve my goals for the weekend.

It was Sunday afternoon already.  The week had gone by way too fast.   We had been checking the weather every 15 minutes and looking at the data to make our final jetting selection.  As crazy as the weather had been over the week, I didn’t want to take a chance by getting it wrong.  I was banking on the “A” types out there to push the limits just a bit too far and get it wrong.  It never seems to fail; they always, well almost always, jet just over the edge.  With the selections made and the kart ready to go, we warmed the engine up to running temp and pushed the kart to the grid.  I think Duane was just as nervous as I was.  The race director gave us the 5-minute-to-track-time, and we all piled in our karts.  Our out lap is a warm-up lap and when we hit turn 11, it’s “game on.”  We have two classes in the field, the twin cylinder class (FE) and the single cylinder class (ICE).  The FE class starts in front, followed by the ICE’s.  At the drop of the green, I was passed right away.  That’s ok I thought, I’ll get it back.  It’s always hairy going into turn two at the start of the race.  It seemed a lot more crowded down there this time.  As the lap played out, I had moved from 9th place to 6th place before the end of the first lap.  I had the guys I had passed close behind me looking for revenge.  One of those “A” types was ready to pass me at turn 5, but that jetting thing got him.  I gained another position when the polesitter was just a little too aggressive going around Rainey curve (turn 9).  He had to return to the pits to unload a truck load of kitty litter.  I was feeling really good now.  Up to 5th–YES!.  Everything was going pretty smooth.  However, I had a nagging problem with my helmet.  I don’t think I pulled on the strap enough to get it tight.  At high speeds, the air would get under it and would start lifting me out of the seat.  It was a little distracting.  By the end of lap 5, I had caught up to the slowest FE kart.    Leaving turn 2, and upshifting, the throttle stuck wide open with the transmission in between second and third.  Total surprise!  I was immediately passed by two karts while I pulled the lever back with my toes.  I tried to get on it again and it stuck again.  I nursed it back to the pits, trying to stay out of everyone’s way.    Back in the hot pits, we tried to free it up.  In hindsight, all we needed was just a shot of WD40.  The fog the day before had rusted the throttle shaft just enough to ruin my day.  Go figure.

All in all we had a great time.   I felt I drove well.  I didn’t meet my goals, but I was close.  I’ll do better next time.

Here’s a link to the track photographer.  You can’t download,  but they are great to look at. http://www.dmtimaging.com/superkarts2008/index.html

Here is a link to some onboard footage from my Aussie buddy, Sam. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2o–m0wsu0

I hooked up with some old friends and made some new friends too.   There’s something about Laguna Seca, even when the wheels are falling off, you can still have a smile on your face.

No worries.


Racing hones skills and offers thrills: Billings Gazette

LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff A driver races through a pylon course in the Skyview High parking lot during the Memorial Day w eekend autocross event. The Yellow stone Region Sports Car Club of America holds local events to hone drivers’ carhandling skills.

LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff
A driver races through a pylon course in the Skyview High parking lot during the Memorial Day weekend autocross event. The Yellow stone Region Sports Car Club of America holds local events to hone drivers’ carhandling skills.

DIANE COCHRAN Of  The Gazette Staff | Posted: Thursday, June 10, 2004 11:00 pm

Want to drive like a maniac, improve your road skills and have a blast? Check out the Yellowstone Region Sports Car Club of America. Members of the local autocross racing group meet almost every weekend to test the limits of cars and drivers. At a recent event in the Skyview High parking lot, almost 40 drivers in Corvettes, Corollas and Mini-Coopers zipped through obstacle courses in a race against time. “We’ve got everything from full-blown race cars to people who show up in mom’s grocery-getter,” said Ryan Coler, regional SCCA executive. At Skyview, drivers maneuvered through a quartermile course, marked with orange traffic cones, that tested their evasive driving skills. “It’s all the things they tell you not to do when you get a car – accelerate fast, slam on the brakes, turn as hard as you can,” said Coler, who races a Toyota Corolla. “I’ve been doing it long enough to know it’s not going to hurt the car.”

Coler described the SCAA as a grass-roots motor club that hosts low-speed, solo racing events in safe environments such as parking lots. Drivers race against themselves, trying to best their own times during several runs through the same course. “This group primarily encourages drivers to push themselves and their cars to their limits as far as skill and maneuverability of the car,” said club member Fred Magers. “The object is to maneuver through the course as fast as you can without any penalties.”

Penalties include knocking over cones.

Magers races a 1984 Porsche 944. Other vehicles at the Skyview event included Honda Accords, Ford Mustangs, Dodge Neons and Toyota Camrys. Race times ranged from 30 to 50 seconds. “You can take out those road-rage feelings we get on a daily basis,” Magers said. He said the races unfolded smoothly except for a minor wildlife interruption. “We had two antelope come across the field,” Magers said. “They didn’t actually go onto the course. We stopped the event long enough for them to proceed safely.” Also during the Skyview event, the Florida-based Evolution Performance Driving School hosted its first driving class in Montana. Instructors watched participants drive their cars and offered specific feedback, said Tammy McCollough, SCAA competition director. By the end of the class, participants had shaved three seconds off their driving times. Most racing vehicles in the Billings club are street-legal, although a few that have been modified are not. McCollough, one of a handful female drivers in the local club, races a highly-modified Honda CRX and a Formula Continental race car.
“This is not just a race,” she said. “This is honing your driving skills.” Racers learn to look several maneuvers ahead – a skill that comes in handy in heavy traffic – and to react quickly.
“You can almost consider it a driver’s ed class because you learn a lot about your car doing this,” Coler said. “It really improves your daily driving.” Coler compared maneuvers on the course to driving defensively on a busy Billings street. “We all want to be better drivers because, quite frankly, we all have to drive out there together,” McCollough said. Local SCCA members encourage spectators and potential drivers to attend their events. Folks can don a helmet and ride the course with any driver, and those who want to try it themselves will be tucked under the
wing of an experienced driver. “New people get a buddy,” McCollough said. “Their first run doesn’t count. They go through it with a buddy. There’s never anybody who laughs at your or makes fun of you.”

SCAA is open to anyone with a valid driver’s license, a street-legal car and a helmet. Diane Cochran may be reached at 657-1287 or Diane.Cochran@lee.net. More racing on tap The Yellowstone Region Sports Car Club of America will host its next racing event in Billings on June 20, in the West High parking lot. Spectators are welcome and can ride along with any driver for free. The club meets the first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the Heights Fuddrucker’s. For more information, visit on the Web at www.yellowstonescca.com and www.scca.com.

Taking to the Track: Billings Gazette 2001

MARY PICKETT Of The Gazette staff | Posted: Saturday, August 18, 2001 11:00 pm

Anyway you look at it, the parking lot of Lockwood School is a long way from Indianapolis, Le Mans or Daytona. But on one recent Sunday, it was close enough to give a couple of dozen amateur racers a taste of far bigger racing venues. One by one, racers — men and women, the young and the less young — took off with tires screeching and engines roaring around a course marked by orange traffic cones.

Navigating through a course strewn with turns and slalom and figure-eight patterns, many racers topped speeds of 40 to 45 miles an hour and made it around the parking-lot track twice in a minute or less. If, to the uninitiated, parking-lot auto racing seems improbable, the thrills are genuine, aficionados say. It“ s a tremendous adrenaline rush,“ said Dennis McCollough, who ran the Lockwood course in 48.745 seconds, the second-best time for the day of all racers.

Called auto cross, it“ s the most basic, grassroots form of organized car racing. This type of auto cross is Solo II, in which vehicles run one at a time against the clock. Any type of vehicle can be used as long as it meets safety requirements. Entry fees are low, and drivers don“ t need previous experience or training. The vehicles lining up for their turn on the track formed an odd parade. Everything from a go-kart powered by a lawnmower engine to regular street cars to bona fide race cars was represented. Firebirds, Hondas, Mustangs, Corvettes, Datsuns, Camaros, MG midgets, VW Rabbits and Subaru Story Discussion Font Size: find out more The Yellowstone Region of the Sports Car Club of America has about 100 members, most of whom live in Billings Bozeman and Idaho.

For information type of auto cross is Solo II, in which vehicles run one at a time against the clock. Any type of vehicle can be used as long as it meets safety requirements. Entry fees are low, and drivers don“ t need previous experience or training. The vehicles lining up for their turn on the track formed an odd parade. Everything from a go-kart powered by a lawnmower engine to regular street cars to bona fide race cars was represented.

Firebirds, Hondas, Mustangs, Corvettes, Datsuns, Camaros, MG midgets, VW Rabbits and Subaru Imprezas all have raced. We even had a pickup truck one time because the driver didn“ t have any other vehicle to race,“ said Char Schulz, who along with her husband, Kurt, helped found the Yellowstone Region of the Sports Car Club of America in 1986. The group sponsors Solo II races from April into September, with events every two to three weeks in Billings or Bozeman.

Char used to race, and Kurt still does in a bright yellow Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible. SCCA racing vehicles fall into classifications based on how much they have been modified from the way they rolled off the assembly line. Others have been built from the ground up as race cars. A wide range of drivers complements the variety of racing vehicles. Mark Brown of Red Lodge was a novice racer when he brought his 125cc shifter racing kart to the Lockwood School. He had purchased his kart on the Internet a few months before and had driven it only in a few test runs before coming to the race. The vehicle has a 6-speed transmission and can go from zero to 60 miles an hour in 3 seconds, with a top speed of 120 miles an hour. Dressed in red helmet, red racing jumpsuit and red shoes, Brown cut a distinctive figure as he zipped around the course in his open-aired kart.

Billings resident Dwight Gilliland is at the other end of the spectrum with more than 30 years of racing experience. He had the top time — 46.699 seconds — of the day at Lockwood with his Formula 1-style race car that he built. His wife, Kristi, had the third-best time, with 48.820 seconds. Dwight Gilliland has been racing or working on cars since he was 13. For several years, he managed or was a member of pit crews and built race cars in several professional racing series including the Indy 500. He has won the Black Otter Hillclimb several years, including last year. Gilliland“ s car has the potential to be one of the fastest auto-cross vehicles in the country, Kurt Schulz said.

At 16, Alexandra Brelje is one of the youngest local Solo II racers. Her parents, Dale and Margie Brelje, started parking-lot racing to tune up for the Black Otter Hillclimb. We“ re big NASCAR fans, and this is as close as we can get,“ Dale said. Just before her turn on the Lockwood course, Alexander, wisps of red hair escaping from her racing helmet, climbed into the low-slung bucket seat of her 1-speed, 5-horsepower racing kart. As she adjusted her black driving gloves, her father pulled a lawnmower-like cord to start the engine. She“ s shy and timid around people, but this gives her a way to express herself,“ Dale said. It also should give her a sense of accomplishment. Alexandra“ s best time for the Lockwood race was 1 minute, 1.556 seconds.

Children as young as 8 are allowed to race 5-horsepower go-karts in Solo II events. Many racers blend work and play in the automotive field.

Kurt Schulz owns Billings Foreign Car Service, and Dennis McCollough has Mini Motors. Others pursue professions as far from a combustible engine as possible. Ken Decker, who started racing with the club three years ago, makes oboes and repairs wind instruments. The maroon Mustang GT that he races is his every-day car. The only modification he has made is strengthening the suspension. Before a race, he also changes the tires to a softer racing tire and adjusts the car“ s alignment.

Solo II is one of the safest ways to race, participants said. The time-trial form of racing means only one car is on the course at a time, which eliminates dangerous vehicle-to-vehicle crashes. Usually, the only thing that gets hit during races is a plastic pylon. Far less frequently, every few seasons or so, the concrete base of a parking-lot light is bumped. Racers could only recall one time in recent years that someone turned a car on its side. Cars are checked before each race to make certain vehicles are working properly. You can show up in an old beater as long as it“ s safe,“ Kurt Schulz said. Racers also must wear helmets and have seatbelts fastened. Races have several safety stewards who have gone through training and supervise the race. In each race, drivers divide into two groups. One group spreads out over the course to spot gates, reset tipped cones (for each pylon tipped over, drivers receive a 2-second penalty) and supervise electronic timing. After one set of drivers has raced three times, they assume track duties, and the other set of drivers races.

Marty Westland of Bozeman, who has been racing for seven years, thinks Solo II racing is more than an afternoon of fun. Drivers take the skill of handling a car in tight situations with them when they return to public streets and highways.  You learn something here you don“ t learn in driver“ s ed,“ Westland said. “ You learn how to handle a car at the limit.“

Solo II races take place at both smaller and larger courses than the Lockwood School. Skyview High School“ s lot is much bigger and will be used for the last Billings race this summer, on Sept. 3. Albertson“ s parking lot in Billings Heights is smaller. The group also has raced at Billings West High School, Rimrock Mall, Lowe“ s and Wal-Mart.

“ We go anywhere we can get pavement to play. The group also has raced at Billings West High School, Rimrock Mall, Lowe“ s and Wal-Mart. We go anywhere we can get pavement to play on,“ Kurt Schulz said.Mary Pickett can be reached at 657-1262 or at mpickett@billingsgazette.com.