As I briefly mentioned in a previous post, I participated in my first wheel-to-wheel race last month. I signed up for the ChumpCar World Series and joined The Old Lompoc Special team in their Mazda RX7 for the race. The official name of the race was “Fast Times at Ridge-Mo-Park”, held at The Ridge Motorsports Park of course.
The ChumpCar World Series, for those not familiar with it, is a self described “crap can” endurance racing series designed to make road racing accessible and affordable. In a nutshell, you buy a car valued at under $500, fix it up with some safety equipment, put together a team of about 4 drivers and go racing together. No racing school requirement, no SCCA license needed, and tons of seat time. I’m oversimplifying things a bit but that is the idea at the core. You can learn more about ChumpCar on their website and forums.
For me, this was a very exciting opportunity and a great way to end the season by getting a taste of road racing. I wasn’t looking to build a car for this series myself so I browsed the ChumpCar forums and responded to someone looking for a driver at the 14-hour endurance race at The Ridge. I emailed back and forth with Mike, the team owner, a few times and I agreed to join their team as an “arrive and drive” paying driver. They were the most expensive team to join from the ones I’d inquired with but they also seemed to be the most well organized and professional outfits out there. They offered what I was looking for, a well-put together and tested car, arrive and drive arrangement, and all expenses included in the price.
Preparing for the event I looked over the ChumpCar rules including the necessary safety gear. I’d need to pick up a helmet, race suit and other fire-proof gear. Since I wasn’t ready to buy these outright I searched online for rentals. I found a place online called RaceSuitRental that rents race suit packages specifically for ChumpCar. They provide a great service at a reasonable price and that’s where I got my helmet, suit, shoes, and gloves.
I picked up fireproof under layers locally at 425 Motorsports. I did a good amount of reading on safety equipment and the types of gear needed and learned about the importance of these items as well as a neck restraint system. I added a Hans device to my rental and everything came delivered neatly packed in a Bell duffle bag.
A few things I’d like to point out about race gear for those that haven’t tried some on. It gets HOT in there real quick. Once you’re suited up you’re wearing fireproof underwear, socks, balaclava, suit, gloves, shoes, Hans device, and helmet. That’s part of the challenge of driving a racecar, particularly in an endurance race, and something you may have thought about but it’s just not the same until you put on the gear yourself. It certainly makes me appreciate the guys who do this professionally, it’s not as easy as it looks.
Arriving at the event it was quite a site to behold. Although I’d been to The Ridge several times prior, the atmosphere was certainly different from what I was used to. This is one of the first things I came across walking to the ChumpCar registration tent:
The registration tent itself was in the spirit of ChumpCar, nothing fancy but they did have some very nice and cleverly designed trophies made out of car parts on display:
I have to show of the second place trophy up close as it’s hard to tell the detail work that went into these otherwise. This was one of my favorites:
After I got myself registered which included having the ChumpCar officials inspect my safety gear, I got a chance to walk around while I waited for my team to arrive (they were driving a big rig from Portland).
I took a chance to take some pictures of the various themed cars I saw around the paddock:
After the truck arrived I met the rest of the team and got the car unloaded:
Once the car was out and gear was starting to get organized for the race the next morning I had a chance to sit in the car and check it out. The first thing I noticed was the drivers seat was too far back for me to comfortably reach the pedals (drawback of being short). We’d have to make some adjustments the next morning before the race.