Just wanted to report that I had a blast serving as a concours judge at the Kumho Tires Presents the Grassroots Motorsports $2011 Challenge Powered by RacingJunk.com. The task was to build a car for $2011 that could compete in a concours judging, autocross and drag race. Great fun, and pretty spectacular DIY innovation. (See photos at bottom)
Here's an example: Andrew Nelson’s entry came in second overall, but it represents the 'go for it' approach by the 50 contestants. He installed a Volkswagen Beetle body on a Nova subframe, then jammed a Chevy 350 under the front hood. He ran 10:58 in the quarter mile, and placed second in the autocross. Pretty damn impressive. Nelson also competes in landspeed racing in the east, and dreams of running at Bonneville one day.
Tim Suddard, publisher of Grassroots Motorsports magazine, said he started the event in 1999, after he got tired of people complaining that auto racing had gotten too expensive.
As far as I'm concerned, it’s a terrific (and fun) presentation of real DIY innovation in getting the job done on such a tight budget. Because the budget limits the ability to just go out and buy racing parts, they have to prepare the cars for competition with a lot of time and a all of their automotive skills, from fabrication to engine building. In judging, each car had its own story, and some were amazing. It's hard to comprehend the man hours involved.
Bryce Nash came from Oregon with a beautiiful little 1972 Honda N600, which came in second in the concours, but won him Best Engineered. Talking to him during the reception, he said he has a friend who puts in "crazy hours" training for a triathlon. He compares his Challenge project to a triathlon when it comes to hours in.
The overall winner of the 2011 Grassroots Motorsports Challenge was the Vorshlag team, with its E30 BMW, picking up a lot of points with its autocross win.
Suddard says these low-buck events serve as very attractive ‘entry points’ into racing. A very high percentage of the entrants never competed in any kind of race event before. Many will go onto NASA, SCCA and other forms of racing. Mechanical engineering clubs from Georgia Tech and Texas A&M also fielded teams. “This is our future,” said Suddard.
Greg Voth, who races in other events, entered a 1982 Mazda RX-7, with a Mustang 8.8 rearend. He said these events serve to demonstrate to race fans that they, too, can get started racing right away. “Anybody can do it,” said Voth.
Watching the challenge, it's not hard to recall the old jalopy days of racing, when the critical transition from grandstands to racer on the track seemed so 'doable,' if you had the skills when it came to fabricating, welding and engine work. Make no mistake, this was a solid gathering of very talented, passionate gearheads. We salute them all.
As for the pure fun of the event, I'm leaving a lot of things out due to space, including the allowed bribing of judges (I got a can of Haggis), the tire heading to the race control trailer, remarks about the car named Uranus and much more. Lots of smiles and laughter in the course of the weekend.
I'd like to thank Tim and Andy Reid for inviting me. It was very cool to see the whole Grassroots team taking on different tasks over the weekend to make the event happen.
Interestingly, Grassroots Motorsports' connection with reader is more than the magazine and events. They'll gather together daily on message boards within the Grassroots Motorsports website. The magazine in all of its aspects is an integral part of many of their readers' lives. No wonder it's packed with ads, and regularly nears or goes over 200 pages as one of the largest monthly magazines out there in the automotive aftermarket. We also would like to congratulate Tim and his team for all they do to encourage folks to go racing. Tim's a real racer, and his genuine passion flows directly into the magazine and events.
For more information, go to www.grassrootsmotorsports.com.