Getting Your Life on Track

by Frank Ewald

Hot Rod. Road & Track. Car and Driver. MotoIQ. You have read them all and you have just dreamed about it … but now you are ready. It is time to head to the track yourself and drive the track, not just read about some journalist who has taken your dream car for a couple of days of track experience on the Nürburgring. But how?

It takes nerve to decide to head to the track and it also takes proximity. After all, everyone in the lunch room at work will warn you that your tires will be destroyed at the very least, and that’s only if you avoid hitting the wall or

You will get to know people from all walks of life at the track.  The common denominator - a love of racing.  

blowing up your engine. Plus not everyone lives near a racetrack and a two-day drive to a track can certainly spoil the frequency of your driving fun. Very few North Americans will have the opportunity to drive the Nürburgring, but there are many tracks across the U.S.A. and Canada that will help meet the need.

The typical track experience involves taking your own car and using it. Other opportunities involve driving a full-fledged racecar, like a Formula Ford, at a driving school. This article is going to focus on taking your own car out to the track. My own experience involved getting permission from my wife, who eventually and with encouragement of my children, as a Father’s Day gift gave me permission to head out to the track. Like some of you, I had very little knowledge of what was involved. I just wanted to go out and have fun squealing tires around corners without worrying about getting tickets.

  Camping at Mosport prior to a lapping day!  Sunset, nature and waking up to the sound of revving engines and aroma of rubber!

My first lapping day involved a 1.5 mile road course with a group of guys from New York who rented the course at Toronto Motorsports Park. Checked up all of the fluids, had my helmet, and off I went. Dreaming of driving like Gilles Villeneuve and the fame, fun and fortune that I would experience. Of course, there is the frequently spoken quote about racing that indicates you can only have two of these three attributes in racing at any one time: fast, reliable and cheap. My car is reliable. (I actually think that the quote should be revised that you can only have one attribute at a time, as my car is still not really considered fast and it certainly has not been cheap!).

Learning to maintain momentum through the corners allows my 1.6 liter Nissan to maintain a very respectable pace.

My experience started with cheap in 2003. I took my street car, which was a 1992 Nissan NX1600 that I had already modified with a suspension and an exhaust system.  As I pulled up into the lot with 350Zs, Evo’s and BMWs I wondered if I was in the right place. I mean, I knew that I was at the race track but I also knew that my car could not compete against the powerhouses that I saw. Especially when I saw a turbo under the hood of the Z car. It may have been that day in which I kept up with some of these powerhouses that started me on my quest to beat the big guys with my “no” horsepower momentum car. Or perhaps it is the fact that I am putting two kids through University, that my fortune in stocks crashed along with everyone else’s when the market nosedived, or perhaps it was my quest to learn to be a momentum driver before I step into a big horsepower car. Whatever it is, I am continuing to fine tune and improve upon what Nissan marketed as a sport-cute car. And I enjoy it!

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010 10:22 AM
i would have been ecstatic if my parents had any sort of respect for motorsports.
when i told them i was spending almost 200 dollars a weekend at the track every so often they thought i was brash and careless.
"what about the reliability of your car afterwards?"
"what about your safety?"

these are all questions i wish i could have averted as a youth, i am glad more parents are seeing the unique bonding experience racing encompasses.
your daughter should be proud, and vice versa.

also: how did the cosmetic damage fare, nothing structural i hope...?
Wednesday, June 02, 2010 11:35 AM
If you need 2 brand new NX front fenders they are yours minus whatever the shipping would be to you. The car is long gone and the fenders are collecting dust in my rafters. Send me a PM if your interested.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010 1:53 PM
Structurally the car was fine. Cosmetically - needed work from the front headlight to the rear tail light. I drove it like that for half a season and then fixed it over the winter.

Average speed at Mosport - 2.459 mile track with ten corners - 83.xx mph. My wife still questions the reliability of the car (original motor now with over 200 000 kilometres), our safety (hence no problem getting the roll bar, DefNder neck restraint, great helmets), and doesn't want to know how fast we're going!

Aaron - PM sent.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010 8:01 PM
Great article - thanks for that! I've been wanting to do something like this for years but still haven't had a chance to. I hope that when my kids grow up to their teenage/university years, I bond as well with them as it seems like you have with your daughter.

Now to ask my wife...
Thursday, June 03, 2010 2:55 PM
The bonding is a work in progress. The track is a hobby that has worked for us - but we've had our share of intense discussions over the years. My oldest daughter has little interest in driving on the track - yet enjoys helping wrench when she can.

I'm a firm believer in being there for your kids, being firm yet fair, and raising them to follow the golden rule. And lots of praying that we're (my wife and I) doing the right thing!
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