Topic: Race Sponsor, but...
Hi, haven't been on the forums in a while but this seemed to a better place than Facebook for this post.
Last year an acquaintance from the Opel world helped underwrite our Thunderhill race, which made all the difference because I was broke. Anyway, the deal was I run the engine he built, and if it worked out then he'd sell kits so people could build their own. The engine was a bored out Opel CIH 1.9L block with a crank from a diesel Opel, custom rods, and fancy-ass pistons. Displacement was up around 2.5L, compression at just over 200 psi, and it pulled and revved nicely.
This year someone gave him a 3D printer for Christmas to use to make D&D figures or little Yodas or whatever. Instead he designed a totally new fuel injection system and distributor. He wants me to run it at Thunderhill this May. What I'd do is get the Tinyvette ready to race, then he'd show up and we'd swap parts in an afternoon, then go racing. I'm willing to give it a shot, and I have a normal 2.0 motor ready as a spare if we need it.
So far so good.
And he wants to drive the car, the world famous Bonneville/Cannonball Opel GT. [Joking about famous.] He's never raced before, which is not the main issue here. We have a 20 year old women racing with us now (in the Opel wagon) and she had never raced before. We've had several total rookies in the past as well. So what's the problem?
Sometimes when talking to a person about driving for us they immediately start saying all the wrong things. Like the guy who looked at me all serious while telling me "I can win it for you." Totally the wrong thing to say, had obviously no clue what Lemons race was like, didn't even seem to understand that he'd be one of four drivers, and winning was not important to us. Well, this new guy, the potential sponsor, kept telling me how he drives aggressively in DC traffic, about the speeds he runs on the beltway and how he gets past slower cars, etc. He seemed pretty impressed with himself. He kept using the word "aggressive" and eventually I asked him if he was driving as if fighting? Maybe he meant "assertive". He sort of agreed that was a better word, but he kept coming back to his DC beltway antics. I kept trying to tell him that above all we need clean, fast, driving, with no drama and no incidents. There are three other drivers who are expecting to drive that day, and a big part of his job is to bring the car back in for the next driver. I could almost hear him nodding his head over the phone, while looking for a way to reassert his own idea of how racing was done. I could tell he was resisting as I told him he'd go out there and get passed a dozen times a lap and might pass 3-4 cars, and it was his job to make sure those went well, the art of being passed and all. Once in a while he might catch a car to dice with, and that is really fun, but aggressiveness is totally out of bounds and will guarantee he'd get himself into trouble. Then somewhere along the line he said something to the effect of, it's a race car so if I wreck it it is no big deal. At that point I'm sure he was thinking more about his EFI system, but WTF? Some people watch way too much TV.
I don't think I was getting through to him that this was not beating and banging, not Days of Thunder, not anything he had seen in the movies. This was about good, clean, fast, and competent driving. It wasn't a bar fight. All those other drivers out there on track with him, they are his friends. He'll be hanging out with and partying with them later that night.
Once I had a young driver, someone I knew from around town, who had repeatedly dismissed Lemons racing as not being real racing, not like the SCCA, etc, which he did a bit of. Then I got a call and he asked to drive in the true-24 at Reno-Fernley, promising to drive in whatever manner I called for. Well, our spotter told me he was out there driving as if he thought he was Aryton Senna, but without the skill. Soon after he BF'ed. He had attempted to dive bomb another car and knew he screwed up, backed off and went off the inside of the turn and hit the curbing hard coming back on, doing a fair amount of damage to the air dam and suspension. Later, during his second stint, he BF'ed again, I forget why. Those were our only BFs all weekend, 2 of maybe the a total of 6 we've had in over 10 years of racing. The lesson for me was a driver will drive "their way" regardless of what they tell you and regardless of what they say, even if they were sincere. Once they are out on track again they are going to revert to their own nature and driving style.
So now I have DC Beltway guy talking about driving. I'm thinking of putting a sign in the car that is constantly in his field of view, saying "Clean, consistent, safe, and bring the car back for the next driver." I'm thinking of asking for a sizable deposit from him, refundable if he does not have contact with another car. And I am thinking of taking a pass on the whole sponsorship thing and staying home that weekend.