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Weekend Recap: Do-It-Yourself?

posted Dec 21, 2017, 5:28 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club

Article by: Brad N; 12/20/2017

D . I . Y. -- Do It Yourself, solo, alone, by yourself, without any help… apparently a few GTM members didn’t fully understand that that’s what DIY stands for because a few of us embarked on Casa de Monterastelli last weekend to do some DIY projects on a few unsuspecting GTIs.



The Gus (2002 GTI 1.8T), Eddie (2003 GTI 1.8T), and the Yuri (2003 GTI VR6; a new addition to the MKIV Mafia) were all undergoing some major surgery. The plan was to take apart the Gus and remove all the parts that would make it less desirable as a street-car, then take all those more street-friendly parts off Eddie and the Yuri and essentially turn 3 track cars into one good street-car. The road map was simply laid out on a piece of paper taped to the Gus’ windshield and some items were already crossed off the list (thanks to Eric getting a head start on the project). I arrived at about 9:30am Saturday morning with Eddie in tow. After unloading Eddie and pulling into the garage it was just about time to get to work. Except, it wasn’t. First I had to check out the new shop that was built and shoot the shit a little. Around 10:30am club friend Travis Dixon from SCCA showed up to pick up some firewood, this tore up my back (as I would later find out) but we loaded up his trailer. Still, no work on the cars just yet. Then around 11:15am GTM member Kerwin W. showed up and we decided it was finally time to get started.


Day one was spent on the exterior and engine compartments. We swapped the front-mount intercooler, front bumper, front fenders, hood, headlights, and rear hatch all from the Gus and moved them to Eddie. Eric also did some extra work on Eddie replacing the snorkel piping and the emissions delete kit. It was quite the project, but thanks to Kerwin’s help and expertise (did you know he is a certified mechanic???) everything was able to happen quite smoothly and without much incident. This DIY weekend started off great. While we all worked on the cars in various stages, The Fast and The Furious franchise movies played in the background, Chili, Paula Dean mac-n-cheese, and mulled apple cider all simmered in the crockpots, and Travis spent time diagnosing the electrical issues hampering Eric’s portable lift (turns out it was a bad relay). By dinner time Eddie was put back together and all the goals for day one were met. Kerwin and Travis went home and Eric and I cleaned ourselves up and celebrated by taking GTM junior member Clio to see Star Wars Episode VIII.


Day two started with pancakes. Delicious and fluffy pancakes. But after breakfast the car work would start. The plan for today was to pull Eddie out of the garage, pull the Yuri in, and swap the entire interior from the Yuri to the Gus. However, this was put on hold for a bit because GTM members Mike and Chrissy C. came by to lend a helping hand. While they were there though, Mike took advantage of the empty garage space to quickly change their oil in their VW Camry (Passat). Once that was done however, the work had begun. Mike and Chrissy got to work removing all the stickers and decals from the Gus while I got started on the door cards. After the door cards and a break to ease the pain I was feeling in my back, I started on the seats. While I worked on removing interior pieces from the Yuri, Eric and Mike spent time finishing up the exterior pieces on the Gus (hood and fender install and alignment). Pretty soon it was lunch time so we ordered some pizzas and took a quick break. It was around this time that Chrissy and I took a trip to Wal-Mart to get a tupperware container to mount to the hood of Eddie. Let me explain, see now Eddie has hood louvers that, while they work really well at circulating air and providing some downforce to the front end, they do absolutely nothing to protect the engine from the elements, and Eddie sits outside 24/7. So we got the hood cover (AKA tupperware tub) and went back home. By the time we returned, Mike and Eric had most of the stickers removed and the hood lined up on the Gus. I went back to work on the interior of the Yuri and Mike and Eric went to work on the rear hatch interior panels. Fast Forward a few hours and Chrissy and Mike went home, the interior of the Yuri was successfully transplanted from the Yuri to the Gus, and the Yuri was ready for a carpet removal and roll cage install (once the race seats were installed). To the naked eye you wouldn’t even be able to tell the Gus was ever a track car except for the hood pins from Eddie’s hood that were unavoidable.



All in all the weekend was a huge success, everything that needed to be accomplished was basically accomplished, and everything happened basically without incident (except for my back, which still hurts a bit even today). Special thanks to Kerwin, Chrissy, Mike, and Travis for coming out, hanging out, and getting their hands dirty. We couldn’t have gotten through this “DIY” weekend without you guys.


We hope to see more of you at the next GTM get together. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun.



Weekend Recap: Helmets off to Heroes 2017

posted Nov 15, 2017, 6:46 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club

Article by: Harry B; 11/15/2017


It was a cold sunless morning as I rose hours before the sun had even given it a thought. Quickly gathering my things, I threw them into my backpack ...we had little time to waste, the forest is dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. We arrived at Summit Point Motorsports Park just as the beams had crossed the tree line and began to thaw the gelid Jefferson Circuit from its nightly slumber.


Eric M sashayed into the main classroom to check in and I hesitantly followed. This event was unlike others. As several papers were handed to me I could feel the importance of the act I was about to engage in. It is rare to be able to thank those who have given you so much whether they knew it our not. This is a thought that recurred throughout the day.


The event was a cacophony of chaos... People screaming, vehicles idling, the sound of even the stickiest of race rubber squealing in the frigid temperatures. As is tradition, the event was delayed for no reason but someone's failure to do their job, and yet even with the delay we found time for a group prayer, to whom each person was praying, I don’t know and it wasn’t my place to ask.


Eric and I meet up with some of our other members: Kerwin W, Ron S and Shane “The Stain” Seace. It’s times like these, when you are faced with an unfamiliar task, you find comfort in those you know and those you trust.


The lot of us were broken down into 3 groups: A slalom group, braking group and the people not smart enough to avoid the skidpad, the fools. Each of the Veterans would cycle through our stations and we would try to impart on them as much driving knowledge as we could in 20 minutes, in our given task. I for one spent most of my time getting to know as many people as I could and asked them to share their life with me, however, I found most people just wanted to talk about their cars.



The cars at this event were unlike other events, these were not the tools of motorsport that you see at other track events but instead were expressions of their owners. Each car has a personality that their owner had personally crafted - every one an extension of their owner. One of the highlights was a 1962 Porsche 356 B driven by the 82 year old - orginal owner. This was my car for the day and it was a blast, with its 65 hp and 4 wheel drum brakes.


The sun never really came out that day, the frost never truly melted, but there was warmth. The warmth that happens when people get together and share something that they love. It might have been cold outside but I never felt it. Days like this you don’t have that chance to feel the cold there is too much for us to do, too much to be repaid, to be stopped by a slight chill.


I felt really good about Helmets Off to Heroes. There was an odd moment when one of the veterans had thanked me for volunteering, I didn’t know how to respond ... how does giving up a Saturday to sit in a car at a race track eating free pizza equate to the risks and sacrifices that our veterans endured for us?


THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!!!!



Weekend Recap: VIR + Fellowship in Racing

posted Nov 6, 2017, 5:40 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Nov 6, 2017, 5:43 PM ]

Article by: Eric M, Brad N & Chrissy C; 11/7/2017


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Merriam-Websters dictionary defines Fellowship as “a community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience … a company of equals or friends” -- We are proud to say that GTM as a whole epitomizes this sentiment. Over the years we have definitely banded together in times of need. We wanted to take a moment to recap some of the more memorable adventures:


  • Member Eric M suffers a major brake failure at Summit Point when a brake line ruptures in Turn 5 with his newly installed Boxster brakes. Matt Y and Mike C come to help out.

  • Member Rob L, goes off backwards in Turn 10 at an ACNA event at Watkins Glen; crew members come to his rescue.

  • Member Eric M suffers a blown engine at NJMP Lightning; members help get the car loaded up; and a year later (and a new engine) back on track.

  • Spending time helping Mike C to resolve various ailments with his E36 BMWs. Brad N lends “fast eddie” to the Crutchfields so they can attend the NCM annual. A couple of engine swaps later for the BMW and the rest is history.

  • Member Brad N, has a mechanical failure at Turn 6 of VIR; car is repaired and back on track. Member Kerwin W suffers a power steering failure at the same event; crew members lend their time and tools to help get the car going again.

  • Member Shane S suffers a catastrophic transmission failure which caused his 911 to violently spin off track at NJMP Thunderbolt; members help him get home and get back on the saddle the next season!

  • After a brake booster failure and rear-end collision with a Landscape truck, members Brad N and Eric M spend the weekend repairing Dan S’ Jetta TDI with parts from a donor Jetta (which happened to be the same color) provided by Matt Y.

  • Members Brad N, Dan S and Eric M spend a summer day helping “Uncle Sparky” Ron S get his MG-B running again.

  • Brad N’s GTI suffers another drivetrain breakdown at the GTM Summer Bash 2016 at Shenandoah; Member Bruce S comes to the rescue to retrieve parts and Eric M gets the GTI back on track for Sunday.

  • Spending long hours over New Years Eve 2017 with crew members dismantling Matt Y’s Ford Bronco. Brad N later takes a trip to Matt Y’s house to help with a front brake install on a Ford F250.

  • Member John C suffers a water pump failure at NJMP Thunderbolt in this E36 M3 crew members knowledgeable in BMWs came to his aid, meanwhile Member Kenny E suffers a complete engine failure of his newly acquired 2.5L Ford  Fusion engine for this NC Miata. A few weeks later crew members get together at John C’s garage to swap out the engine for a newer 2.0L just in time for LimeRock!

  • Member Jasper N has a mechanical failure at SCCA event on SP Main, Mike C. aids in trailering Jasper’s car home for the eventual engine rebuild.

  • Member Sam H goes off in Turn 7 at Lime Rock, crew members comes to his aid. A hacksaw and a new tie rod and Sam was back on track for the next day.

  • Member Steve W’s power steering cooler sets his Mini Cooper S ablaze and Shenandoah; member Eric M delivers Steve and his car home.

  • Member Erin K, goes off in Turn 5 at Shenandoah - GTM crew quickly comes to her aid, and with the heroic help of Matt Y (a 5 hr round trip to Harrisburg and back) and the quick mechanical expertise of Shane S - the Ecoboost Mustang was ready for track duty the next day.

  • Member Brad N suffers from recurring axle failure, resulting in 3 axle changes in 2 hours at a Corvette Club AutoCross.

  • Member Kerwin W goes off in T1 at VIR resulting in some minor body damage; members come to his aid in getting the car track ready for the next day.


Now, picture it: November 2017, the place: VIR....


To bring the 2017 season to a close, many of the group visited VIRginia International Raceway with Audi Club of North America, Potomac/Chesapeake Area (ACNA) 4-5 November.


Eric M. made garage suite reservations for Brad N, Ken E, Mike and Chrissy C, Kerwin W, Doug T,  and Region-3 Chief Tania M. reserving what would end up being three very much needed garages. Later, they were joined by members: Parker H and his wife Kris, Jason D and his wife Chrissy, Al S, Judd G, Sam H, Gus A, Ryan C and his wife Marcy, Nick C and more! The ACNA VIR Fall events always seems to bring the GTM members together, new + old!


Once the VIR gate attendants released the group into the campus, they needed to be fed…and it was getting dark, and cold. Since they couldn’t get their track feed on quite yet, 11 of us visited the Oak Tree Tavern only to receive less than the expected “southern hospitality” -- That was okay though because Parker quickly made a reservation at the Outback Steakhouse in Danville.


Once the group was fed, they headed out to their respective accommodations. The hardcore track junkies staying up into the evening hours joined in garage activities which included a few rounds of Forza Motorsports on the club Xbox One.


Saturday offered less than favorable weather conditions: cold, rainy, grey ...YUCK... In addition to some spins and four-offs, there seemed to be mechanical issues all over. As per usual, club members came to Kerwin and Doug’s assistance to repair their respective cars so they would see more track time. Eric’s GTI “the Gus” spent some quality time with NGP during the weekend … we were told it was for a photo opp ;-)


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Rather than attending the ACNA banquet, and in keeping with tradition, we enjoyed some pizza from Aunt Milly’s in Milton, NC, some great selections of adult beverages, radical tunes, and war stories. A note, when asking for extra cheese on your pizza Aunt Milly is more than obliged to remind you that there is two pounds of cheese on every pizza - so it’s fair to say that no one ever needs extra cheese on those pizzas. YUM!


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After dinner, most members engaged in playing Forza trying to beat Eric M (2:07.5). and Brad N.’s (2:08.3) base times in a GTM Forza League prepared Turbo NC-Miata on VIR Full. In keeping with a EOY tradition it was documented on the inside of a pizza box and left on display for people to update their times throughout the night. 1st place went to Tania M with a 2:11, followed very closely by Mike C and Judd G. Nice driving! When not waiting in line to put down hot laps there was also corn-hole and beverages enjoyed by all.


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Overall, Sunday’s weather was better than the start to Saturday. It wound up being warmer and very little rain to speak of. There were some lingering car issues amongst club members, and there were two catastrophic vehicle failures (“car-b-cues” to be exact) of a couple of non-members who Brad N. and Mike C. were able to help by getting their vehicles to where they needed to go for much needed care. These acts of random kindness and fellowship is how GTM has made a name for itself across the local HPDE circuits -- Jokingly Doug T says our new motto is becoming "GTM, we'll get ya home."


More pictures from VIR are available here

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I think it goes without saying (but we’re going to say it anyway) -- stuff goes wrong in racing, the cars, as strong and reliable as they may be, are prone to failure. The difference however, is that in this club you’re never alone. And the most important part of the vehicle - the meat behind the wheel - is always taken care of at GTM. “...Don’t worry about them, they’re track guys, they’ll have the engine rebuilt between sessions…” - Pat Roney from CCA re: the GTM Crew. Member Erin K summarizes it well “This is an awesome group to be apart of - you all really rally around each other, especially in times of such mishaps :)” -- at the end of the day, it’s not about the cars, it’s about the people.


“Friends are the Family you choose” -- The Crew Chiefs.


Weekend Recap: The (Do)minions

posted Oct 29, 2017, 7:14 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Oct 29, 2017, 7:28 PM ]

Article by: Eric M, 10/29/2017

IMG_0915 (1).JPGMember John C (left) with Mike & Mona Arrigo of HookedOnDriving NE.Another year is in the books for our friends at HookedOnDriving NorthEast. 12 GTM members were in attendance for their season finale and inaugural event at Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, VA. We had a few cameo appearances from members we hadn’t seen in awhile (Pat SRon SDave S, etc), and combined we made up 90% of the coaches working with students this weekend. 
(More pictures from this event and others are available at our Shutterfly Share Site).

There are high and low points to each track season, but ironically this weekend the fates managed to compress the entire season into a 2-day reader’s digest version: We laughed, cried, partied, strategized over a challenging new track, broke down, had every type of student use case imaginable and to make things even more interesting... let’s tack on variable weather conditions just for that extra bit of flair.


Saving you from the boring details about the event itself, I do want to “send out some mad props” and thank members Harry B and Justine B for putting together a great menu for the weekend. It’s not an easy job, but you can tell that Harry is as much, if not more, passionate about cooking as he is driving. Special thanks to Mike C for doing an excellent job as A-group classroom instructor and lead… really awesome work! And another round of applause for the graduating class of 2017 instructors (Sam H, Bruce S and John R) for completing and stellar and albeit stressful season.


So onto the highlights…


First we need to address Dominion (DR)… for many folks it was their first time to this newborn track. DR has only been completed for about 2 years now, and sits immediately off exit 118 on Route 95 South… Make a left at the end of the ramp, and the next immediate left as you cross over 95… BOOM! -- you might have just hit a pothole or random cinder block in the paddock with your tow rig on the way in -- but you’re at DR. I point this out, as many GPS’s still don’t know where the track is.


DR has 4 tracks compressed into a small space: The Oval, The Road Course, the Kart Track and the Drag Strip; it’s an interesting complex and we are all anxious to see how things evolve in the next couple of years. The main building is a very cool spot to be, especially the view from the 3rd floor, where you can see almost all of the road course from above.


The track - Everyone is going to have a different reaction when going to a new track. I personally enjoy the challenge of learning new courses, analyzing the corners and cambers, scrubbing the data, and pushing myself as a driver. Every track is an acquired taste: Some you love immediately, some you loathe, others take time to grow on you.


I can’t speak for others, but I will say this with respect to Dominion … do you remember that time you were out with your friends at a bar and one of your friends walks up to you with a shot glass full of an unidentifiable liquid and says “here, drink this!” … you give it a questioning stare and ask “what’s in it?!?” and that same friend says “don’t ask, just drink” -- not to be entirely impolite you oblige and take the shot. That first shot doesn’t go down so well, burns a little and your breath smells a little like Robitussin… but after about 2 or 3, it’s all good, and you’re asking for a 4th.


Moving on…


It’s been awhile since HOD has hosted a “themed” Saturday night after party. With our original DR date (early March with threat of snow) being moved to Halloween weekend, it only made sense for folks to come dressed up for the occasion. One-zees are definitely in this year, from Minions to Super Heroes and everything in between. Some of my favorites include: Harry B as the Swedish Chef, and Mike B touting his name sake.



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But more importantly, the after-after party -- a GTM mainstay -- we began our awards night by thoroughly embarrassing Crew Chief Brad N on his birthday (several times). But most would agree the best moment of this relentless torment was courtesy of the wait staff of a local eatery where Brad was asked to play the part of a chicken and dance while the ladies serenaded him. The moment was captured by Mike B and is available on Facebook, YouTube and your local news station for your (re)viewing pleasure -- #mustseeTV


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In keeping with our awards from 2016 (VIR), Brad N had put together what he more affectionately calls “the Montys” for the 2017 season. Each person received an award/trophy and those recipients were (and in the following categories): #steveharvey_missamerica


"Viking Offroad Adventure" Award

Harry B

"Master Recruiter" Award

Sam H

Endurance Award

Ken E

Attendance Award

Rob L

Instructor Candidate of the Year Award

John R

Pit Crew Award

Chrissy C



Sponsor of the Year

HOD

Rookie of the Year Award

Erin K

Fellowship Award

Matt Y

DE Champion

Bruce S

A special thanks to ALL of our award winners this year, without you folks, none of this would be possible. Awesome work and Congratulations! We hope to continue this tradition and see more names on the board next year.  


And an extra special thanks to Mike & Mona Arrigo of HOD (our Sponsor of the Year) for being such gracious hosts throughout this season and really allowing GTM to blossom. We look forward to working with HOD more in the future and can’t wait to see what the 2018 season has in store for their team.


We have a couple more events and important announcements coming before the 2017 season is over so stay tuned for more information on:

  • GTM EOY event at VIRginia International Raceway

  • Forza Motorsport 7 (XBOX) Virtual Racing League

  • GTM End of Year Survey & Membership Renewal

  • GTM v HOD Karting Event


Until next time, Merry Motoring, E.

Weekend Recap: GTM goes to Formula-1

posted Oct 25, 2017, 11:17 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Oct 25, 2017, 11:18 AM ]

Article by: Brad N, 10/24/2017

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(More pictures from this event and others are available at our Shutterfly Share Site).


Texas

The heat, the politics, the guns, the “Everything’s Bigger and Better” mentality, all of these are punchlines for some of us “Yankees”. But alas, they weren’t enough to keep a few members of GTM away from attending this year’s USGP race at Circuit of the Americas (a very Texas name for a race track, by the way). That’s right, GTM went to F1!


Travel

Oh yes, the best way to get to Texas from the northeast is to fly, unless you want to drive 24 hours, but really, who has that kind of time? So on Thursday before the race weekend Eric M. and Brad N. left BWI airport in the A.M. for their long flight to Houston (by way of Atlanta).


Thankfully the boys were able to travel in style as they used a combination of Eric’s companion points and cold hard cash to upgrade to First Class. That’s right, we were sippin’ champagne and looking down on lesser folks as they boarded --- just as every First Class passenger had done to me previously ;) Oh the sweet satisfaction of being better than everyone else, if only for a few hours. Other than pretending to be important, the only other notable tidbit about the flight was the multiplayer Mario Kart tournament we had in silence. I am sure the other passengers wondered what was wrong with these two grown-ass men playing with kid’s electronics and giggling like school children. For the record, I lost, badly.


Arriving in Houston we picked up our sweet-sweet rental car, a newish Nissan Murano Platinum Midnight Edition. Of course, the original plan was for a Tahoe or some other full size SUV but Enterprise didn’t seem to have any left. After deliberating over whether to take the Murano or the Dodge Grand Caravan, we opted for the Murano. In retrospect, this was a mistake.


Food

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Rudy’s BBQ, located off Exit 70-A on I-45 North, Spring TX

Once out of the airport - stylin’ and profilin’ in our awesome rental car - we needed food. If you travel anywhere with Eric M. you will learn one thing, it all revolves around food. He has a particular restaurant you must visit whenever you visit XYZ city. In Houston, it was obvious we needed barbeque, and there was a charming little place Eric knew called Rudy’s. This place can be described in one word… DELICIOUS! If you ever find yourself in Houston I highly suggest visiting this place. Get the (moist) Brisket and the jalapeno sausage.


Later that evening, after we arrived at Tania M.’s house, by which time our BBQ lunch had finished digesting, it was time for dinner. I was in the mood for burritos so we headed out to Torchy’s Tacos. This place… omg, yum. You walk up to the counter and order whatever tacos you want, ranging from $3.50 - $6.50 per taco, and then you sit down with your sweet tea and wait for your food. I wanted a burrito, they were out of burritos, so I opted for 3 tacos; a fish taco, a breaded chicken taco, and a jerk chicken taco. All were tasty but the star of the show was the breaded chicken taco, playfully named the “Trailer Park” taco, we opted to make them “Trashy.” The jerk chicken taco however, was hot... like the fire of a thousand suns all burning through my tongue and throat ...hot. It was good, but if you don’t have a fire hydrant near by then I wouldn’t recommend this taco for any amateur. Breakfast, we ate breakfast. We stopped and had these little Polish pastries called kolaches (“Coh-lah-chee”). They were amazing. Little balls of dough filled with whatever the hell you want. I had 4, pizza (with pepperoni and cheese), cheesesteak (with philly steak and cheese), rancheros (with eggs and peppers), and chicken enchalada (with chicken and what can only be described as love in a bun). As soon as I got home I started looking up recipes for these things. Even now I am thinking about them and my mouth is watering… Must. Have. More!  IMG_7885.HEIC.jpg 

Torchy’s Taco’s -- OMG, Yum!



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Kimi Raikkonen #7 @ Whataburger

We did eat at a few other places on this trip as well but they weren’t really as memorable, except for Whataburger. I heard stories, tales and fables of Whataburger but I had never had a chance to experience it, until this weekend. Despite all the rave reviews, the myths and legends, Whataburger was just good, not great, not amazing, just good. Granted it was much better than any McDonald’s I’ve ever been to, but Wendy’s and Burger King have stepped their game up to the point where the quality gap has shrunk in recent years.

And on the way home, during a longer than anticipated layover in Atlanta for a delayed flight, we made our way to arguably the best tasting and least greasy Popeye’s Chicken in all the land. While we stood in line a gentleman asked if we were dining in (note that all the tables were occupied) and took our drink orders. We chuckled and joked about how he couldn’t possibly find us a table by the time we ordered… but sure enough as we grabbed our food a table was free and we sat down. THAT’s customer service! The chicken itself was excellent for fast food chicken. It was crispy and not greasy at all (as Eric pointed out, it doesn’t get a chance to sit around long enough). Airport Popeye’s is best Popeye’s. 



The F1 Experience

IMG_0840.JPGIMG_7893.PNG.jpg Oh yeah, the actual reason we went to Texas. Friday morning we woke up early and hit the road from Houston to Austin, home of the USGP. when we arrived, we parked and made our way to the track entrance. Circuit of the Americas, or “COTA” (“Koh-tah”) for short, is a huge facility. You can see the tower from miles away and the parking lots around the facility added many thousands of steps to our daily step counters. Once inside, the facility is clean and well groomed. They have a soccer field and amphitheater as well as a separate main stage for larger shows that the amphitheater cannot accommodate (like Justin Timberlake & Stevie Wonder).

We had General admission tickets which meant we were able to go where we wanted and had many different views of the track. We spent a good portion of the weekend just walking around and checking out the different turns and sections as the machines practiced and took their qualifying laps. I say machines and not cars because these things are closer to aircrafts and spaceships than they are modern automobiles.


Sadly, our general admission passes did not grant us access to the race paddock so we could not get a closer look at the cars themselves, nor the drivers or the race crews. For that set-up you needed to drop a few thousand dollars for special passes.


And let’s talk about that for a minute. The tickets we purchased were about $160.00 per person (not including service charges imposed by ticketmaster). Plus we bought 3 parking passes at roughly $42.00 each. This was not a very cheap event to get into. Once inside the costs just went up from there. Remember Torchy’s Tacos, the wonderful place I mentioned earlier that sold tacos individually for a few bucks… they had a taco truck at the event… $8.00 per taco. I know it was because COTA was charging them a healthy sum to be there but we could not in good conscience spend that much for a taco that we paid half that price for the night before. Food costs and admission costs aside, everything at this event was expensive! They were charging $70 for a baseball cap, $100+ for a team jersey, and so on. I bought a t-shirt, it was for RedBull Racing and it was last year’s shirt -- I paid $20.00. That’s how much that shirt actually should have cost for this year’s event. So long story short, the event was expensive and I didn’t get access to all of the things I would have liked to have seen.


As far as the total F1 experience itself. It was a little disappointing. The track was cold for longer periods of time than it was hot. Other than a go-kart track and racing simulator there really wasn’t much to see or do other than sit around and wait for cars to be on track again. Out of the entire time we were there we were fully engaged in what was happening for about 4 hours, of which 2 hours was the actual race itself on Sunday.

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Max Verstappen #33 - Red Bull F1 Team


A few ways the event could improve moving forward, invite other series there to share the track that weekend. Have more things going on during the day. Also make the paddocks available to the fans. Let us walk around and see the cars up close and personal, let us talk to the engineers that designed and created those machines. And of course, make things cheaper and more accessible to people. There is no reason why a hat should cost $70.00 (when it’s $40.00 on the website) and a taco should not cost $8.00 for one.


In The Rearview

 IMG_7920.HEIC.jpgSince the F1 activities weren’t that enticing to see on Saturday, we took a side trip to Austin and walked down South Congress Street and even took in a famed city-wide garbage sale (correction: garage sale) at the local expo center. Austin was pretty neat, for those that haven’t been there before think San Diego meets Colorado. We also visited a few comic book stores and a really cool toy store called Terra Toys.


During the race, we made our way in front of the stands at turn 10-11 and ended up in a giant mud pit, created from the Sunday morning rains, that seemingly ate my shoes. I had to throw them out (I was going to anyway).


Buc-Ees… heard of it? Let me describe it. Think Wawa + Cracker Barrel + Wal-Mart + Target + Bass Pro Shops + Home Depot = Buc-Ees. This place was one of the more interesting things we saw on our journey. Tania randomly mentioned it during our commute from Houston to Austin and just as she was finished explaining it we saw one and had to stop. I really can’t say anything more about it except you have to visit one if you get the chance. Also, the bathrooms were super clean. Like, award winning clean. Mr. Clean would be impressed!   IMG_7892.JPGIMG_0790.JPG


I would like to thank Mike & Mona Arrigo from HookedonDriving Northeast for their hospitality. They drove their motor home all the way down from PA (apparently they are the only people who DO have the time to drive 24 hours to Texas) and fed us and allowed us to use their motor home as our base of operations during the day. I would also like to thank Tania M. for putting us up for a few days at her house and taking me for a ride in her sweet vintage Audi.


Onwards and Upwards for GTM, next stop: The Rolex-24hrs at DAYTONA!


Weekend Recap: WGI Fall

posted Oct 23, 2017, 5:50 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Oct 23, 2017, 5:54 PM ]

Article By: Mike C; 10/22/2017


With the track season nearing its conclusion (at least in the northeast region) a large contingent of GTM made their way to the 3-day HookedOnDriving (HOD) event at Watkins Glen International raceway.  Including non-member spouses, we were 21 strong at The Glen with 17 cars seeing track time.

(More pictures from this event and others are available at our Shutterfly Share Site).

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Given that we were in the finger lakes region of New York, four of us drove up a day early to enjoy the region.  Thursday morning started with a boat tour of Seneca Lake where Erin K, John R, Chrissy C and I learned all the wonders of how salt is mined in the region and had a nice view of a bunch of wineries up the lake.  We then met up with Harry B and Justine B for to visit a couple of wineries (including Wagner’s which also happens to be a micro-brewery.) We unloaded at the track and then enjoyed a group meal at the AirBnB that we had rented.


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Friday, the first day at the track, ended up being an interesting one indeed.  Many of us who are coaches within GTM enrolled in the first ever Motorsports Safety Foundation Level 2 Instructor Certification Program class.  All but one person in the class was an existing coach, but we were participating so that we could start populating the ranks of certified instructors.  Ross Bentley taught the class that consisted mostly of classroom instruction, and open discussion among instructors with some on-track role-playing exercises (done during other run groups sessions).

 

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Being the first ever offering, with a room full of mostly seasoned instructors, it is hard to judge how the class actually went, but as a group we made suggestions on how to move things forward for next year.  Once all the paperwork is filed, GTM should have 10 members who are level 2 certified with MSF from that first class.  Friday night included another group dinner at the Gamma Tau Mu Party AirBnB prepared by Harry B.


Saturday was one of the busiest track days I have done at WGI with around 50 intermediate students on track at once (and even more advanced). One of our newly certified coaches had their first real right-seat experience in a VW Golf R, and almost all of us coaches were in at least one right seat during the day.  We started to suffer some serious vehicular attrition through the day though, as “Eddie”, “The Gus”, “Fast Beddie”, “Evil Kermit”, and “Cadzilla” all suffered issues (Although “Fast Beddie” and “Evil Kermit” are the only two that didn’t make a return to the track on Sunday). While the track was rather busy, everyone had a great time. Once the track went cold, Harry B took on his normal grill master duties while I took care of some graphics work.


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Sunday was a much lighter day as many people wanted to start their long rides home.  All of us coaches with broken cars still had our work to do though, with all but two of us having a student on Sunday.  Many GTM members had planned on skipping Sunday on track and were trickling out through the day, but a bunch of us were in for the long haul because we had students. Fellow GTM Member Erin K got her check-ride for B group and was given the thumbs up for advancement. Chrissy C got a chance to drive “The Gus” and experience some power, and Brad N, Chrissy C and I were able to grab a bite to eat at Fry Brother’s Turkey Ranch on the way home.


“The Gus” and “Fast Beddie” were dropped off at New German Performance on Monday after the event and we learned what caused “Fast Beddie” to fail on track.  The wheel hub split in two  and the wheel was only being held on by the brake caliper. “Fast Beddie” is now back on the road and ready for the HOD finale at Dominion. “The Gus” should have it’s exhaust leak all sealed up in time for VIR.


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All-in-all it was a good trip and lots of fun.  We learned some things about coordinating meals and housing for such a large group and we welcomed a new coach into the fold.  Here’s to more events as successful as this!


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2017 GTM "Drives for Charity" Golf Tournament

posted Oct 3, 2017, 3:09 PM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Oct 4, 2017, 12:22 PM ]

Article By: Brad N; 9/30/2017

Golf, it’s a sport that separates the men (and women) from the boys (and girls). It’s frustrating and infuriating most of the time and yet people still manage to come back day in and day out to chase a little white ball around a sequence of fields and obstacles. Why do people play this sport? I asked myself this question and the only reason I could come up with was because they are masochists. And now, time for the review of our first ever GTM Drives for Charity Golf Tournament and BBQ.

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It was a beautiful day for golf, albeit a little chilly and overcast, but that didn’t deter the 15 brave souls (10 golfers) who managed to trek all the way to Mount Airy Maryland for the event. Around 9:00-9:15 the charities were set, the teams were assigned, and it was off to the races. We were broken in to 5 duos, each playing for one of 3 charities, The National Kidney Foundation, The Wounded Warriors Project, and The American Cancer Society. The winning team would get to decide which charity would take home the donation money. The teams were broken down as follows; Sam H. and Matt Y., Brad N. and Andrew B., John R. and Andrew M., Erin K. and Michael C., and lastly Shane S. and Chrissy C.

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I can’t speak for everyone else regarding the actual golf itself but I can say that I had a ton of fun with my grouping. There were quite a few “golf shots”, as Sam would put it, amongst the group, and one that even netted Sam the title of “Closest to the Pin”.  The Best Ball style play really allowed for some competitive scoring and helped cut down on the frustration that golf usually brings. When one player would hit a worm burner or a shot so far off course it landed on another hole (to be found later *Ahem* Sam *Ahem*) the other teammate would pick them up with a solid shot. It felt like every member in a group was a core contributor to their team’s success. Where Sam was able to produce decent drives to get his team close, Matt was a master with the putter, nearly single and two-putting every hole. Andrew and I took turns hitting the green with great approach shots. Best Ball really brought out the teamwork and collaborative spirit that GTM is known for at the track. At the end of the round, both my team and the other duo shot within two strokes of each other (an 84 and 86 respectively). However, it still wasn’t enough to take down the best score of the day. That honor went to John R. and Andrew M. (long time listener, first time caller) who shot a very impressive 69 to win the grand prize, a free round of golf and the selection of the charity to receive the donation. There was a communal agreement for the charity for this year and all proceeds are going to the National Kidney Foundation.

After everyone was finished there was a delicious spread of BBQ meats and sides provided by Mission BBQ coordinated and set up by Jessica M. with help from future racers Clio (Chips) and Liana (Dobby). By this point the weather had cooled down further and the festivities were moved indoors but the food was still warm by the time the last (and slowest) group finally made their way back to the clubhouse. During the lunch, contest and door prizes were awarded as such:

DescriptionPrizeWinner(s)
Lowest Score Free Round of Golf John R & Andrew M 
Second Place Team Free Round of Golf Erin K & Mike C 
Closest to the Pin NGP Gear Sam H 
Longest Drive *in the fairway* OGRacing Prize Pack Shane S 
Radial Tire Raffle buy 2, get 2 (Toyo R888R) Sam H 
HOD Raffle #1 Free Track Day Andrew M 
HOD Raffle #2 Free Track Day     Andrew B 
Commemorative Golf Ball HopeValley Golf Course Ball All Participants 
 WINNING CHARITYTotal donation: $700 National Kidney Foundation 

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A few other tidbits, it was great to finally get Andrew M. (blue shirt, pictured above) out to an event. Family and work obligation always make it hard to find time to go out and play but he made some time and finally got to meet some of the more regular GTM members. Also it was wonderful to have our very own special guest Tania M., all the way in from Texas, to drive the beverage cart and shoot the fantastic photos you see throughout this post (Now Available on Shutterfly). Eric M. spent a majority of the day riding around, checking on guests, and overseeing the festivities.

Lastly I would like to thank our hosts, Ed Hutchins and Hope Valley Golf Course, and our sponsors Radial Tire Co., OG Racing, Hooked on Driving, and New German Performance, for helping make this a remarkable event. Though golf might not be a thing for the majority of GTM, it was a great time and I foresee other golf outings in the future (though maybe not quite as elaborate as this tournament).

Thank you all that could make it out and to those that couldn’t, we hope you can make it to another GTM non-track event in the future!  

Weekend Recap: NCM - One Hundred Ten Percent

posted Sep 2, 2017, 7:47 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Sep 2, 2017, 9:53 AM ]

Article by: Eric M; 9/2/2017


There are so many variables that go into making a successful track weekend: making sure your vehicle(s) are in tip-top shape, your personal health is up-to-par; trailer and tow rig are in good working order, student enthusiasm, last minute work projects on Friday afternoon, impending weather conditions… all great reasons for NOT going to the track.


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"Right Seat Time" -- Photo courtesy of the friendly folks at ABI Photography


I was faced with the perfect storm for all of these variables to come into alignment for this years annual National Corvette Gathering at the National Corvette Museum (NCM) in Bowling Green, Kentucky. For those unfamiliar with NCM, it is less than 5 miles from the assembly line exit door of the Corvette Factory and is the official factory test track for both production cars and GTLM’s alike. The track has been influenced by some legendary GM names like: Andy Pilgrim and John Heinricy. Much like learning to play tennis, NCM is a easy to pick up, but difficult to master. It has a rhythm - arguably its 3+ tracks in 1 - unlike anything else you’ve probably driven. It’s not designed to be a road racing circuit like WGI or Mid-O, it’s a factory test-track and therefore earns a different kind of respect.


So let’s set the stage for the weekend… Both the Terrible Toad (TT) and The Gus (GTI) were at New German Performance under intensive care for some exhaust/heat related issues which were not able to be fixed until after the event. My co-driver Tania M was stranded in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey. I had already engaged my students via email for the weekend and was looking forward to working with them. And more importantly, GTM member and veteran coach Pat Sullivan is the co-CI for NCM. If you know Pat, you know the level of performance he expects from his coaches. So that left me with a 700 mile drive and plenty of time to put things into perspective.


I packed up the least amount of items I think I’ve ever taken to a track weekend in my diesel Grand Cherokee and set out to see what kinds of MPG it could muster on its first unladen long distance trip with it’s new Tune (ECU). By now, most of you are probably saying something more colorful than “why the heck didn’t you just ‘come up with a reason not to go’ ?!?” -- and admittedly around mile marker 550 I did start to wonder why I was schlepping all the way out to KY without a car to just coach.


Now, you’re probably saying “dummy, you should have stayed home!” (it was your wife’s birthday weekend, after all) -- so, why did I continue?


My reasoning (or lack thereof) comes from an event two weeks earlier: I was filling in for Chris Liou (HOD) as Chief Instructor at their summer VIR event. Outnumbered - faced with 6 instructors and 15 students in the novice group - we rolled up our sleeves and got creative on how to handle the situation. A special thanks to GTM members: Mike C, John R and Brad N for showing the tenacity necessary to make this event a success. Without you guys we wouldn’t have made it. The effort that these folks and others who came to our rescue that weekend is why I couldn’t leave the NCM team a man down. Summing it up in one word “dependability.” As coaches we have to remain consistent and dependable.


That got me thinking about the current state of coaches (at least in the Mid-Atlantic). You see a lot of familiar faces at each event and it feels “weird” when you don’t see them as regularly as before... Coaches come and go, interests and budgets ebb and flow, family situations change, but at the end of the day, if the available population of coaches shrinks up this sport will inevitably go on life support. I relate this in the same way as AutoCross has been dying in the DMV for the last 5 years. Not entirely for lack of participants as events are packed, but a lot can be said for “new age parking lots” and businesses being open 7 days a week - it’s an issue of availability - but you can see how you can metaphorically equate those “parking lots” to coaches, right?  


Playing devil’s advocate, I often wonder if the new techniques for getting coaches out of the right seat aren’t more centered around the lack of available coaches than the danger/risk of being in the right seat -- or maybe it’s a combination of the two. I’ve heard people make the argument that HPDE is suffering or in decline, but i’d like to think it’s just the opposite. What we have is an over-saturation of the market. There are so many organizations running events now (and more coming online each year) that you have smaller gatherings but more frequent events. The one facet that remains the same is the “instructor corps” -- time and commitments being what they are, there are only so many available bodies on any given weekend and we are always looking for more help.


Meanwhile, back at NCM: I took the extra time I had available to work with some fantastic drivers and advanced students -- remember to take every opportunity you can to jump into the right seat, as there is always a chance to see things from a new perspective. I don’t always get the chance to work with Corvettes so I viewed this as an experience to get more intimate with these very capable vehicles.


There could be worse things… Special thanks to my student Matt Williams for letting me get behind the wheel of his AMG-63 Black Series. #germanmuscle for the win.

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I could probably go on preaching, but simply put ... I love this sport, I’m 110% invested. Coaches would not do what we do, be it for: the sacrifice, stresses, risk, physical exhaustion, etc., that is required every weekend if we didn’t love what we do. Challenge yourself and never stop learning. I have to admit, even without a ride of my own, there was never a point where I was bored during the weekend and I look forward to returning to NCM.


If you’re interested in becoming a Coach (Instructor Candidate) please reach out to myself or Mike C as we head up another season-long training program for HOD (outside of the new Motorsport Safety Foundation (MSF) courses.) We are looking for new recruits for the class of 2018.


A special congratulations to our class of 2017 as they near graduation. Great Work: Sam H, Bruce S and John R!


Weekend Recap: GTM Summer Bash 2017 @ Shenny

posted Aug 30, 2017, 8:23 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Jan 9, 2018, 7:01 AM ]

Article by: Matt Y; 8/1/2017


I wanted to chime in that it was GREAT to spend time with the GTM folks this past weekend.  While I've seen your names or have met you in passing, it was good to finally have more than a few minutes to sit and talk.  In my case, it was great to get some seat time that I want in order to build up my stamina. Fortunately the weather wasn't incredibly hot or humid but still, for me, it was a good challenge.  

 

Many thanks to those of you who offered to let me drive your cars - you clearly don't know me well or you'd have been hiding your keys and disconnecting your batteries.  I was impressed with the drivers I encountered on-track - very courteous and willing to back-pedal to let a torqueless Honduh pass despite their far superior power.  The C group has some pretty damn fast stuff out there - mega-HP cars to say the least!!

 

Kudos to Shane for being foolish enough to think that I'd be a good "rabbit" for his student in the 700HP Shelby Mustang convertible.  It was more than amusing to get a point-by from the driver in odd places like the Karousel and even more fun to out-run that MONSTER in the turns.  To say the least, I was working hard to keep pace but it was quite a fun challenge.  

The GTM-only sessions were a blast - I only made it out for the Sunday afternoon session and photo-op but had tremendous fun in that session.  After all the times we've collectively talked trash, it's even more fun to "take it to the track".  The most memorable impression is the speed and agility of the Ecoboost Mustangs - they're deceptively FAST and handle quite well considering their size and weight.  

 

Last but not least, I was thankful for the opportunity to be more than just GTM's RA (resident asshole) and to show at least a few folks that I can drive around a track, albeit slowly.  I'll try to make more of your future events but I'm also trying to get back into racing - time and money, the two biggest challenges!!!


Matthew

Weekend Recap: VIR South- Coaches, Forza, and Ferraris, oh-my!

posted Aug 30, 2017, 8:22 AM by Gran Touring Motorsports Club   [ updated Aug 30, 2017, 8:22 AM ]

Article by: Erin K. & John R.; 8/13/2017


It was a long and exciting weekend for coaches at HOD’s return to VIR.  Due to competition from other racing and HPDE events along the east coast, we initially had a shortage of coaches.  Despite this, GTM made a strong showing of support to HOD and our fearless leader, Eric M., was able roundup a few extra coaches and have instructors lined up for every student on each day.  As a growing leader and dedicated GTM member, John R. took the reigns as B-group lead and coached in a gamut of cars challenging his motorsports knowledge and driving abilities.  This workload was common for most coaches throughout the weekend, but it was a great and fun weekend for all.

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Image Courtesy of Mike C.


Coming off the heels of a head spinning and extremely wet introduction to the cement barrier lining the Stone House Straight at Summit Point Shenandoah less than 7 days before, Erin (the Common-Law) made a stunning comeback at VIR: South, duct-taped car and all. Focusing on improving her time and taking advantage of the experience of Eric M. in the right seat, Erin pushed herself and worked consistently on her biggest pain point: shifting. By the end of Day 1, she had been soloed, and on Day 2 she was creeping closer and closer to the 1:26 mark. On her last session out, and finally shifting both before turn 10 and twice on the long straight, she hit 1:25.65, beating not only Brad N. in the GTI but also John R. in the same car! She proved herself determined to not let a literal run-in with a wall impact her beyond some duct tape and scratches.

VIR: South Lap Times

1.65 Miles

Eric M.

GTI

83.0

The “Tic-Tac” (Miata)

89.9

Erin K.

EcoBoost Mustang

85.65

John R.

EcoBoost Mustang

85.80

Kerwin W.

M3

77.48

Brad N.

GTI

85.96

Pete B.

F12

73.9



One of the most unique students we’ve come across through GTM’s years of DE experience joined us on Sunday: a sixteen year-old girl named Izzy. Her father, a B-group driver in his Porsche Carrera 4S, brought his daughter, with her freshly-minted driver’s license, and her Mini Cooper S to learn the ways of the track. With only 40 hours of driving experience, but years of go-karting under her belt, Izzy took to the track like a natural. She quickly picked up the racing line and ran some respectable times around the short 1.65 mile course. Most importantly, she kept a keen eye on her mirrors and gave deliberate and well-timed point bys to her other A-group drivers. Izzy showed a penchant for the sport not typical among other “never-nevers”, and even more unlikely from a 16 year old. We hope to see her and her father at future events!


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Image Courtesy of Erin K.

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Image Courtesy of Eric M.


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Image Courtesy of Brad N.
The fun didn’t stop after the track went cold. Eric M., Mike C. and Chrissy C. had somehow wrangled an entire unit in the Villas, securing an awesome location for some post-track fun. While watching the sun set over VIR, a few of us struck up a conversation with what ended up being one of the track’s owners. He graciously gifted a few medallions made out of the old Oak Tree from the infamous Oak Tree Turn. A while later, Brad N. and Kerwin W. returned with the “GTM XBox” and began an arduous setup journey. After Mike Arrigo from HOD and Chrissy C. arrived with what was some excellent pizza, people were fed and Forza could begin! Pete B. set a respectable first time, his best of four laps around Road Atlanta in a Miata, but Eric M took home first place finishing two and a half seconds faster.

2017 VIR South Forza Challenge Results

Track: Road Atlanta

Car: NC Miata Cup

Eric M.

1:45:7

Brad N.

1:46:1

Pete B.

1:48:2

John R.

1:49:6

Mike C.

1:52:0

Kerwin W.

1:53:6


F12-1_PeteBank.jpgF12_PeteBank.jpg Images Courtesy of Pete B. Other highlights from the weekend included Eric’s engine bay revealing that it definitely belonged to him, as it smoked its way back to the paddock. GTM’s token Viking and track scientist, Brad N., attempted to validate his ABS hypothesis, discovering that the fastest line through the infield was to cut off all the turns, thus dubbed “the Viking line”. And we can’t forget (mostly because Pete B. won’t let us), Pete’s opportunity to drive a brand-new Ferrari F12 around the track at a blistering speed of 73.9 seconds, shaming the rest of us and our much-less-than-$300K cars. As the hustle and bustle of the track slowly died down, those left were comforted by the familiar sound of a miata taking a ridiculous number of final laps around an otherwise empty track. In the distance you could hear radio chatter of flaggers teasing the lone driver. And no, it wasn’t Oleg.





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