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LIFE WITH CARS

Global Tuner GP Special issue on the 1st GTGP at Laguna Seca


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elcome to this special issue of ROAD... a whole magazine dedicated to the exciting new Global Tuner Grand Prix (www.globaltunergp.com). The only event of its kind in North America gathered some of the best tuners, cars and racers in the world at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California, for some serious ‘lapping’ – as those stateside like to call blitzing around a circuit. We heard about the GTGP through ROAD’s first lady, Ashley Van Dyke (www.ashleyvandyke.com), who played a big part in the organisation, promotion and the event itself. Laguna Seca’s 2.238-mile circuit is the only track in North America where lap times for production car laps are recognised globally, and used as a measuring stick for a vehicle’s performance – making it the ideal venue for this global Grand Prix, set to become a massive event over forthcoming years. Held over three days, 60+ top manufacturers, tuners and racers from across the globe gathered to race in three separate classes – Street, Tuner & Unlimited (split into AWD, RWD and FWD) – bringing an awesome array of hot wheels to California, and some seriously close racing. Yeeeey-haaaaaw!!!


WORDS: ANDY PILGRIM IMAGES: GLOBALTUNERGP.COM

global tuner gp


Andy Pilgrim takes us through three exciting days at Laguna Seca for the inaugural Global Tuner GP, from the wheel of his hardcore K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 racer. Hold on tight!


“Hey, we’re in California, it’s bound to be nice tomorrow... right?”


O

ctober 22-24th, 2010 and I was at the inaugural Global Tuner Grand Prix (GTGP) held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California. The K-Pax Racing team decided just a couple of weeks before to support and compete in the GTGP.  Our regular World Challenge season finished some weeks earlier in Salt Lake, Utah at Miller Motorsports Park. And the team figured this event would be a lot of fun, and who doesn’t want

to be in beautiful California in the fall? Sadly, it seemed Mother Nature needed a good dose of Comtrex or Claritin-D. It was a real tester on the weather front. We had a nice morning on Friday, but rain in the afternoon almost shut things down as nobody wanted to waste time trying to set up for a wet track. Hey, we’re in California, it’s bound to be nice tomorrow right? The K-Pax team had brought three of our Volvo roadmagazine.co.uk


“It’s all out, on the edge, total focus stuff – really good eh?” S60 race cars to the threeday event and I was going to drive all three over the course of the weekend. The schedule called for two 50 minute GT Challenge races, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I would use my 2009 K-Pax race car for the GT Challenge events. For those of you who may not know, I switched to my 2009 race car for the final two World Challenge races this year. The K-Pax team switched me into the old car because they determined my new race car for 2010 had some kind of problem they could not fix, even after 10 races trying. I used my team mate Randy Pobst’s 2010 car for Sunday’s Time Trials – which was the big event of the GTGP weekend. The K-Pax team had also brought along a third car – my 2010 race car; now relegated to media car status and set up with two seats. We use it to give media and

VIP rides around tracks. Unfortunately, my K-Pax team mate Randy Pobst wasn’t at the event, as he was racing in Illinois. The GTGP was such a late addition to the 2010 calendar, Randy could not back out of his other deal, which meant more fun for me! So, we had two races

which were very similar to World Challenge race formats and then the main GTGP Event in a Time Trial format on Sunday. The Time Trial has three main classes: Unlimited, Tuner and Street. And, within these classes we had sub-classes for all-wheeldrive, front-wheel-drive and


rear-wheel-drive. And our Volvo was in the Unlimited all-wheel-drive class. The idea of Time Trials is not new. There are many groups, organizations and clubs within the US who specialize in this form of motorsports competition. There are some very big events around the world

that also run Time Trial format and have become really big annual professional competitions, like the Tuner GP at Hockenheim in Germany, the Super Lap Battle event at Suzuka in Japan & UK’s Time Attack.. But the GTGP at Laguna Seca was the first pro/amateur event for the USA. The

organizers (and ROAD!) are hoping that this inaugural event is the first of many.   The idea of the GTGP Time Trial event is to appeal to all automotive competition junkies: From Professional tuners and racers to people who just want to run their street cars around the race track flat out.


The format for the Time Trials would be practice Friday and Saturday, then qualify Sunday morning for the big afternoon finale. For the Time Trial finale, each car has a five lap window to get the best time possible one lap time around Laguna Seca’s testing 2.238-mile track, including 11 turns, the infamous ‘Corkscrew’ and a 300-foot elevation change. The five lap window involves a warm-up lap and three ‘flying laps’ to get your very best time, then a cool down before re-entering the pits. And running only three timed laps puts

tremendous pressure on the driver to get it all correct and perfect: There’s no chance for mistakes, no chance to park for 10 minutes to cool the tyres and try again if you mess up. It’s all out, on the edge, total focus stuff – really good eh? Saturday activities started with some more practice sessions and then onto the lunch time media rides, which are always a blast and we gave quite a few on Saturday; prior to the rain. Laguna is a fabulous place to do media rides as the track has major topography changes, a lot of blind entries to turns and of course

the magical corkscrew section, where you feel like you drop off a cliff. Yes, it really is fun: If you like dropping off cliffs that is, which I do! Doesn’t everybody?! As my crew guys load in the poor unsuspecting VIP or media person, I wait until they are strapped in and effectively trapped before saying “hi.” I then proceed to mention: “I’m not sure if I can take turn six flat out, but we’re going to give it a go right now” – just to make them feel more comfortable! If you can’t have fun in life, what’s the point? After the media rides, I changed cars again and got


ready for the Saturday GT race. As we did the parade laps it was a little damp, but not so bad that you couldn’t use slick racing tyres. James Sofronas in his World Challenge GMG Porsche 911 GT3 was starting from pole and I had qualified second.   Most of the field for the GT races were Porsches for this first GTGP event. Hat’s off to GMG for bringing customers and friends and a bunch of great looking Porsche 911 RSR’s. I know from talking to the organizer’s that next year there will be a lot more Vipers, Ferraris and other exotic race cars to add into the mix, which will be awesome. Meanwhile, back in the race, things were turning ugly. After about six laps or so, the rain was falling a lot harder and after my second mini heart attack due to full steering lock slides down the track, it was time for the wets. This was supposed to be a low pressure, fun race weekend right?! After the normal chaos and confusion of cars coming in for wet tyres on different laps we were in 3rd


“What a great event. Thanks to Ashley & Fabyce for organising it”


place. It turned out that sly World Challenge competitor Rob Morgan in the TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 had come in on the very first lap and changed to wets. He had caught us all napping. Great job to Rob and the TruSpeed team for the win. James Sofronas and I rounded out the top three.

it looked like the rain was going to hold off for an hour, we hoped. Trying to get heat into cold slicks in the wet is not a lot of fun. On the start I was quickly passed by several Porsches on rain rubber. I just told myself to run my own deal and wait for the track to dry up a little; which it started to do after about five or six laps.   Things became much more fun after 10 laps and I started to catch the cars that had started on wets, as they struggled on the drying track. Rain tyres are just too soft for a damp track and really need a lot of water to Sunday arrived with anoth- stay cool. As they heat up er dose of heavy clouds and they start to lose grip, a lot! the ground still wet from James Sofronas took first the night before, but we did and I came home second: have a dry track for qualify- Not too bad. I had some ing, which was great. James real fun during the race with Sofronas got me again for John Trefethan in his Porpole in his GMG Porsche sche 996 GT3 Cup car and and I started second. Mark Anderson in his PorAs race time came, we got sche 928GTR, I think at one another major dose of rain, point, all three of us came drenching the track and into the very tight turn 11 spectators again – lovely!   hairpin and had a side-byMy team and I debated side drag race up the front wets or slicks, right up unstraight. Nice! til we left the grid. We deThe race was a really good cided to use the slicks, as test for us with the new

Pirelli slicks that the World Challenge series will use next year. Most of the Porsches were on Michelins for the weekend, the tyre of choice. I know James Sofronas and Rob Morgan had tried to get some Pirellis for their Porsches to do some testing for next year also, but Pirelli did not have the size they needed. We, on the other hand, had tried to get the Michelins for the Volvo once we knew what we were up against, but unfortunately the Michelins wouldn’t fit under the Volvo body work, so we ran the Pirellis. Finally, we come to the big event of the weekend –the GTGP Time Trial. Almost two hours were allocated to run all the classes. As had happened all weekend, weather became an issue. As we waited to run, the rain started to dribble again. Maybe I should give the Governor a call about his California weather program, oh wait, elections are here! Well whoever wins can work on it for next year. I had qualified fastest in the Unlimited class and had


Ward in his GT Garage Subaru STi rounded out the top three. Fierce competition. The starter tried to space cars out far enough that we were not supposed to catch another car during our runs.  Unfortunately, I did manage to catch a couple of cars that were being a little more careful in the slippery conditions than the nutty Volvo guy: that would be me.   One incident of note was the HorsepowerFreaks BMW M3 of Eddie Nakato.  I was catching Eddie coming into the last corner and the dubious honour of going qualifying time with only a knew I had to get him on first, as the light drizzle fell. couple of lurid power slides.  the front straight because I I approached turn two with It was all over very quickly was starting my hot lap runs serious intent, determined for me and then I had to and didn’t want either of us to warm the tyres up as fast wait to see if my time would to be held up.   as I could, and almost slid hold up – it’s a very exciting I held back into turn 11 as off the track as the track competition format.    I knew I had more speed was damper than I realized.   My time did hold up and through that corner due to Crashing in the first turn we won the Unlimited four- my race tyres and I had a would have been deeply wheel-drive class of the in- great run up to the back embarrassing! augural GTGP in our K-Pax of Eddy’s car. As he came I got it all gathered up and Racing Volvo S60. My time out the last turn and hit the cranked off into qualifying (1:28.051) ended up as the power on his BMW it just lit land. The track was not wet, fastest time for the event in up the tyres and effectively but a little damp in a couall classes, which we were stopped accelerating.   ple of turns under the light very pleased about. I had a massive run on him misty drizzle. I had decided I just nudged Christian and had to yank the wheel to run as if the track was Miller into 2nd place in his really hard left to stop from dry and managed to get frighteningly fast 034 Mothitting the back of his car.  within one second of my orsport Audi A4 and Patrick I swear that HorsePower-


Freaks BMW has to have 1,000 horsepower. I’m glad I didn’t hit you Eddie, the car still looks, sounds and goes awesome. K-Pax Racing is obviously a professional race team and we were one of several pro road race teams to compete. IMSA hot shoe Jonny Cocker and long time endurance pro Cort Wagner were also there. There were many great teams from other areas of racing and automotive high performance: Professional Tuner’s who specialize in high horsepower, modifications and accessories. There were also amateur tuners and amateur track day/time trial enthusiasts who specialize in fastest one lap events all over the country. I met a bunch of new people, from racers to fans, all having fun, playing in the rain and in the occasional dry bits. One point I do want to highlight: I can honestly say, the on-track respect and discipline of the drivers at this event was some of the best I have ever seen. The K-Pax Volvo was a

lot faster than most of the cars there, so mirror use by the slower guys was so important during practice, qualifying sessions and the GT races. I have never seen better use of mirrors by so many drivers; it was pleasure to drive in this event.   Now I did hear something quite interesting from one driver after thanking him for his courtesy and mirror use on the track: He asked me if I had ever seen the Volvo, coming up behind me, at a 50 mph closing speed? I answered “no, I hadn’t!”  He continued: “Well, I saw it for the first time yesterday and I thought he was coming through my back window and then suddenly he was in front of me. It scared the living garbage out of me, that car is amazing. Since then, I told my crew to tell me if the Volvo was within 30 seconds of me, so I could prepare myself! I’m not sure which is more fun; driving the track or being passed by that Volvo, I think it sucked the paint off my car!” Classic stuff! We were both laughing, especially when he found out it was me in the Volvo!

The other thing I was really happy to see was a great turn out of fans. I have been to many races this year with less fans and it sure looks to me like the GTGP event formula has hit the right notes with spectators, racers and tuners alike. I was really amazed to see this many fans with the very un-California weather conditions we had. There were people in the stands and ton’s of people at the corkscrew, even during monsoon conditions, which was really great to see.   I think the GTGP will only get bigger and better with more action and more cars for the fans to see next year. Well done GTGP! What a great event. Many thanks to Ashley Van Dyke and Fabryce Kutyba for organizing the whole thing. Also thank you guys for helping K-Pax Racing get there and for looking after our team at the track. I am sure we’ll be back to defend the title next year. For more information, a complete list of all of the results and information on the 2011 event, go to www.GlobaltunerGP.com.


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