Seed 9 Rally

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Surrounded by the flashing lights and omnipresent din of casino games in Las Vegas, it’s easy to forget that the city is smack dab in the middle of nowhere. In a week filled with the spectacle of SEMA along with NHRA Toyota Nationals, SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road Presented by TRAXXAS, and Red Bull Global Rallycross season finals, it’s easy to not seek life – or motorsports – outside of The Strip. About 35 miles out into the nowhere around Las Vegas is a essentially a crossroads called Jean, Nevada, with a casino, a gas station, women’s prison, and a small town whose entrance is choked by a rather formidable biker bar. Everything else is desert, dirt roads, and rattle snake holes. Lots and lots of rattle snake holes.

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It is out on these Joshua tree and rock-lined gravel roads of Wilson Pass where the Seed 9 Rally took place on Saturday, November 9, 2014, the weekend after SEMA and its associated events. The regional stage rally and the last race of 2014 in the Bilstein Southwest RallyCup Series drew 22 teams from Arizona, Colorado, California, Ecuador, and even China with a wide range of experience. The rally cars ran the gamut as well, ranging from a 1971 Datsun 240Z, a 1994 Ford Ranger, to a 2013 Toyota GT86. Not the most inviting terrain for spectators, the course wound uphill to a turnaround, dotted with the occasional race official, volunteer, and photographer. Total mileage for is 35 with all stages completed. The first stage began around 2:30 in the afternoon.

Once the two safety cars drove past, the first team of David Sterckx and John Reed barreled by in a 2011 Subaru WRX STI. Billows of dust undulated behind each car as the teams came through one by one, snaking along the course, adding layers of dust between the road and the setting sun. Early on in the course was a deep gully – some teams slowed down to navigate, but a couple teams were caught by surprise and hit it too fast; all cars made it past, but a few cars were worse for wear. As in all stage rallies, time is of the essence – teams were looking to beat course bests as well as other driver’s personal bests.

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The sun finished setting as the racers looped back down the course for the service break. The Gold Strike Casino lot was lit up with work lights under tarps as team mechanics worked feverishly on the cars, adjusting here, welding there. The informal atmosphere of the parking lot paddock, drivers and supporters alike friendly and chatty, is one of the many positive aspects of regional and grassroots racing. Pro Tip – the best grilled chicken ever tasted can be found in the paddocks at Seed 9. While some lamented the challenges of competing with heavily funded teams, it was agreed that all in all it was fun.

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At this point, my friend Lecia and I had to leave. Exhausted from SEMA, needing another layer of fleece, still rattled from narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with an either tweaked out, suicidal, psychopathic (or all of the above) Harley rider driving the wrong way in our lane, and not really able to shoot much at night amongst rattle snakes anyway, we hit the highway back to Las Vegas. The rally continued on in the dark desert, and David Sterckx scored the best time of 29:08, George Plsek second with 33:17, and Doug Chernis in third with a time of 35:37.

Next year’s date has been announced – November 25, 2015. One more Pro Tip: If you drive a Prius, rent a Jeep for the day.

Red Bull Global Rallycross Heads to Las Vegas

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2014 SEMA in Las Vegas is coming up quickly – the first week of November – and at the same time, so are the Red Bull Global Rallycross season finals. It has been an interesting year for GRC, between new series sponsors, a slightly less global schedule taking place almost exclusively in North America, and a less diverse Ford-heavy grid shared with Hyundai, Subaru, Volkswagen, and random appearances by others.

Of the four top competitors looking at the championship, three drive Ford Fiesta STs – Ken Block, Nelson Piquet Jr., and Joni Wiman. Scott Speed – by no means the odd man out, having won three races in 2014 – drives a Volkswagen Polo.

Piquet Jr. had a pretty impressive streak going on with four podium finishes in the Supercar division until the Los Angeles double-header this past September. Still, an extremely tough competitor to watch out for, along with Ken Block, who won in Las Vegas in 2013 and had an impressive five podium finishes in 2014 – two of them in LA. The competitive Wiman also brags four podiums in 2014.
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The truth comes out following the Wahta Springs 300

Alex Tagliani's car slides backwards down the track following contact on a late race restart, but contact with whom?

Alex Tagliani’s car slides backwards down the track following contact on a late race restart, but contact with whom?

As the second last event of the year for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, the Barrie Speedway round is always exciting and there is always a lot of bumping and banging. There is usually some off track excitement following the race as well as tempers run hot. Occasionally, competitors who are eager to find someone to blame end up running off at the mouth, only to end up with egg on their face when they are proven wrong later.

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In the closing stages of the Wahta Springs 300, the #95 of Anthony Simone appeared to be holding up the #25 of Joey McColm, as the pair battled for lap after lap. Simone experienced a drivetrain failure, which left oil on the track, causing McColm into the back of the 95, spinning him into the wall. Simone didn’t see it that way, and blamed the failure to be a result of the hit.

As expected, the restart following the clean up of that incident proved to be hard fought. Moments later, as the pack continued to battle, the #18 of Indycar and NASCAR regular Alex Tagliani got very loose and bounced around between the #25 and the wall, before spinning backwards down the front straight. If I recall correctly, there were 6 laps left at this point.

That mess was cleaned up and the green, white, checkers dash to the finish took place, with Jason Hathaway taking the win following a clean and fast race.
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Car Life makes these racers HAPPY

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I am a firm believer that those of us who work in and around the motorsport world have the best jobs on the planet, and yet I have never seen so many people having as much fun at the track as they are in this video.

Shot at a recent Formula Drift/Motor Games event at Fuji Speedway, the video features competitors, crew and even media getting their groove on to Pharrell Williams “Happy”. Popular Super GT racer Max Orido even gets in on the action.

I think we need more smiles in North American paddocks.

NHRA offers up some explosive action in super slow-mo

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Just in case there was ever any question as to what form of motorsport comes the closest to a full on apocalypse, the NHRA has released this compilation of super high frame rate videos that show just how bad it can be when it all goes wrong.

Stay In, Stay Safe – The Kevin Ward Jr. Rule

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By now you no doubt already know that there was an incident at a dirt track in up-state New York over the weekend that resulted in the death of 20 year old Kevin Ward Jr. when he was struck by a competitor’s car. That car happened to be driven by NASCAR star Tony Stewart.

Unlike seemingly every other media outlet, The Garage Blog will not be displaying the sole video of the incident out of respect to Ward’s family and good taste in general. Viewing the video does nobody any good, especially not those who know nothing about motorsports or more specifically, sprint car racing.

Likewise, I have never seen winged sprint cars race in person, nor have I driven one of the very specialized machines, so I can’t comment on things like visibility and lack of control at low speeds. Nor should you, or any of these other mainstream media talking heads.

What I will say is that the testosterone fueled displays of anger that have become common place at race tracks across the planet have gotten out of hand and have to stop.

There was a time when oval track racers with a beef would beat the tar out of each other in the paddock, pit lane or even the winner’s circle, after a race. At some point that was outlawed and driver’s began showing their displeasure trackside, as the driver they were angry with passed by under yellow. Usually the display includes a shaken fist, a flipped bird or even a thrown helmet. Childish behaviour at best, tragic at worst as we have learned this weekend.

In road racing, it is a very common rule that the driver of a car which is stopped on track must remain in their car, with safety equipment intact, until given the all clear to exit the car by safety workers. The exception to this is when the car is on fire. The reasons for this are many, not the least of which is that inside the car is the safest place for a driver to be while the track is still hot. From an attitudinal standpoint, the combination of rage, adrenaline and possibly even disorientation following a crash is not a good one when it comes to walking around a live track.

Tragedy in motorsport often leads to innovation and the creation of new rules designed to protect those involved in the sport. To that end, musician and oval track racer Derick Hamrick has started a petition to vote for the creation of The Kevin Ward Jr. Rule, with the tagline Stay In, Stay Safe which puts a name to what the road racing crowd has done for years.

I think it is a great idea. If you agree, please click on the link below and sign the petition.

Stay In, Stay Safe – The Kevin Ward Jr. Rule Petition

Ride along with James Hinchcliffe during crazy Mid-Ohio start

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I hate to admit it, but I rarely get the chance to sit down and watch a race on television, even though motorsports is my lifelong passion. The reality is that I spend so much of my week immersed in auto racing news and happenings, that when I am not actually at the track, I’m not likely to sit down to watch. I don’t even PVR most races now, because I just won’t watch them. It would really suck for me when cool stuff happens, but there is the internet and I don’t miss any of the cool stuff my friends do.

Long time friend of The Garage Blog, James Hinchcliffe, is one of the coolest guys on the IndyCar circuit, but he also has the worst racer’s luck of just about anyone. I have my fingers crossed that this epic march through traffic at this weekend’s race at Mid-Ohio is the beginning of some great luck.

The Mayor of Hinchtown stayed calm and had some wicked good luck on his side during this one.

Watch Don Garlits break the 200 MPH barrier 50 years ago today!

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Fifty years ago today, a guy they used to call The Floridian, set off down the 1/4 mile strip at Island Dragway in Great Meadows, New Jersey. When he tripped the finish lights, Don Garlits became the first man to hit 200 MPH in the quarter. Fifty years ago! 201.34 MPH in Swamp Rat VI.

That record was not without controversy however, as Chris “The Greek” Karamesines, reportedly topped out at 204.54 in Illinois on April 4, 1960.

Garlits was and remains no stranger to breaking records, having been the first to break 170, 180, 200, 240, 250, and 270. Now, at 84 years young, Garlits is working to be the first to break 200 in an electric dragster.
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Learn your way around Daytona with Jochen Mass and Jim Pace

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The HSR folks posted this on YouTube about a month ago, and I somehow missed it. 24 Hours of Daytona winner Jim Pace narrates as Jochen Mass hauls butt around Daytona in the rain, aboard a classic Porsche 911 from the IROC series. You couldn’t have a pair of better instructors than these two.

BMW M3 driver attacks Lebanese hill climb

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There are those who think they can drive, those who can drive and then there are those who are fast. You could say that Garo Haroutiounian falls into the latter category.

Watch in awe as this dude tears up the Falougha hill climb in Lebanon.

Source: YouTube via Jalopnik