Maintaining Work/Race Balance

Now that I am the co-founder of a new start-up, WolkeWerks, I have the challenge of maintaining that delicate work / race balance.  Some people may ask, so you mean work / life balance?  Of course, if you are the co-founder of a start-up and spend your spare time flying across the country to race cars, you have no “life” left to balance. But I digress.

A number of years ago I wrote a blog post about maintaining work / race balance.  I was in DC just starting as an executive for AOL.  Starting a new job can be overwhelming with the learning curve and wanting to make a great impression.  This is especially hard when one is learning an intense new hobby such as auto racing at the same time.

The Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

Mostly I am still amazed almost ten years later than the common terrible driver can take their car out to a PDX on a real race track! Yes, that pimple-faced teenager that cut you off on the way to the grocery store is bombing around some race track in his mom’s station wagon. Quite soon they become a common reasonable driver.  Some go on to be rookie and then an accomplished race car driver.  Hey – this is America!

I must admit, back in 2009 when I decided I was going to get my racing license and go compete, I had no idea what I was doing.  I thought I was going to race my 2001 Z06 Corvette that I had used at a couple of PDX events.  Not so much.  A PDX allows street cars (which now kind of scares me).  But real race cars have roll cages and safety equipment.  The fact that “instructors” for the novice and intermediate PDX drivers get into cars with no safety equipment and unskilled drivers makes them very BRAVE. Or something else.  But I do not want to discourage them or be negative in this blog…

Mike Collins to the rescue

Balancing my work / race world was really only made possible at that time by a guy named Mike Collins.  Mike explained what I needed to do, rented me a car for the “driver’s school”, and helped convince the instructors to pass me even though I made some material mistakes.

Mike Collins runs Meathead Racing.  He also is an SCCA rules expert and has appeared on RacingTV and other outlets.  He is a long-time, experienced, SCCA racer.  He is also one of the early SM class competitors.

I still race with Meathead Racing to this day and still get track support and great advice from my fellow “Meathead” racers.  Mike Collins won both the Saturday and Sunday races last weekend.  He also set the track record.  So it makes sense to continue to listen to his advice.

Cahall Racing Work / Race in 2018

The plan is for Ted Cahall and Cahall Racing to make it to all of the MARRS events in 2018.  That means VIR and a couple of events at NJMP.  Meathead Racing will be there to help make that possible. They will allow me to maintain that delicate work / race balance.

Now back to the start-up, I’m burning daylight!

Ted Cahall

Ted Cahall Attends MARRS 1 2018

Ted Cahall and Cahall Racing kicked off the 2018 MARRS racing season with the MARRS 1 2018 weekend.

Getting to the Track

Flights were delayed coming out of MN due to mechanical issues with Delta.  An hour and 45 minutes later than planned, I was on my way.  Normally this would not be such an issue, but I had a dinner planned with a long time friend and his wife.  So it was good the delay did not completely cancel that portion of the trip.

I had a really nice dinner when I landed in the DC area with U.S. Army General (Ret) David Cole and his wife Connie at Morton’s Steakhouse in Reston.  A great couple and a man of great service to our country.  I highly recommend the Wagu Filet.  We all enjoyed the company, the food and catching up.  Here is an honorary card the people in Iowa made for one of their favorite military sons.

General David L Cole (Ret)

Friday Practice Session

We started the track sessions around 8:30AM and focused on selecting the best of my three cars for the race this weekend.  It has been a year since I was behind the wheel, so the first session was about getting back into the groove without breaking the car or myself.  I chose my blue #80 car.  The car’s steering felt like new bushings had been put in the front end and there was too much caster.  After Ed York went out in a major wreck, we were black flagged off the course.  I checked my tire pressure, and determined I was basically driving on flat tires.  Not uncommon for some checks to get missed as many cars are being readied for the first session of the season. 

The second session was great.  The #80 car handled much better and the “caster” issue has gone away.  I turned a 1:27.2 – which would have been fantastic for me especially after a year without racing.  Except the track had just been completely redone and was now by all accounts “faster”.

The third session I switched cars to my #79 backup.  It needs to have the heel plate moved and caused me to not be as comfortable as the #80 car.  I was working my way through the session and noted it was “looser” than the #80.  Unfortunately, coming into turn 1, the engine started to make a noise.  By turn 2 I realized the engine was blown and drove off the track so as not oil it down for the drivers behind me.  That just made the car selection process a bit easier (and unfortunately long term costlier).

The fourth session was interesting.  Ted was back in the #80 while Nick Bruni tried to shake out the #78 VVT model.  Unfortunately the radiator hose came off the #78.  Nick brought the car back in to protect the motor.  The cars were winterized and this should have been caught.  It could have been a very costly error had Nick not been so perceptive.

The fifth and final session of the day produced 7 laps in the 1:27 s with the best lap at 1:27.3.  This was not too shabby since the temperature was hotter which usually implies slower lap times. 

Amazing – a Friday the 13th practice day with only one blown engine and no totaled cars!

I expect the track record for the SM class to fall tomorrow morning.  Some of the drivers ran a 1:25.9.  It will be an interesting weekend!

MARRS 1 2018 Begins!

Saturday Qualifying and Race 1

The day started with a bit of chaos as it was the first day of bracket racing with marrspoint.com.  Once I had the race ID and the race-monitor.com relay was restarted, we were good to go and the folks in timing and scoring were able to watch the brackets develop.  Success!  Congrats to Chuck Edmondson.

Qualifying was interesting.  I started 14th of 31 cars on the grid based upon running one event last year.  I was running faster and faster laps with my last lap a 1:27.156.  My predictive lap timer let me know my current lap was a 1:26.8.  The holy grail!  The first lap in the 1:26 range for me in at least 3 years.  In turn 7, I see the black flag come out.   That means the lap is over and all drivers must pull into the pits.  Foiled again!  It turns out I qualified 8th of 31 drivers.  Hitting that 1:26.8 would have only put me in 7th place. Upon stopping in the pits, I was informed the driver sitting on his roof that caused the black flag was a very close relative of mine.  Well, I hope the car is OK! ūüôā

I jut got word from the home front in Minnesota.  Here is what the weather is like this morning.  Good thing I am racing in DC in the 70s.

Cahall Home April 14, 2018

My relative survived rolling his car over on its roof (really slowed his lap down).  However, chasing him down in “medical” caused me to miss the driver’s meeting.

The race was less enjoyable, I was hit by another driver that was passing me in a two car freight train in turn 1 of lap 2.   It impacted my concentration and caused my Traqmate to turn off (which I use for my shift lights and predictive lap timer).  I then missed a shift in turn 8 and dropped cars at both of these points.  I ended up finishing 12th after starting 8th.  That is considered a bad day at the track.  I was waiting for the driver that hit me to come and discuss (and hopefully apologize).  Instead,  I was notified that I was being called to talk to the officials as he posted an official protest saying I hit him.  This is really a good part of why I did not race much last year.  It really takes the fun out of racing.  At Meathead Racing, it is called “Man Drama”.  I talked to the officials, filled out my mandatory paperwork and handed them my video.  Final ruling TBD.  By the way, the officials were super professional and polite – even the ones from New Jersey (that was a polite dig on New Jersey – could not resist).  All of the officials are volunteers and the last thing they need is a bunch of man drama.  They have real racing issues to handle.

To top it off, the weather in MN had the airport closed all day, and my flight home Sunday night has already been cancelled.  You can’t make this up.

Sunday “Man Drama” Resolution

Word from the home front is that it is snowing hard again today.  Yes, it is April 15th and it is snowing hard.  Maybe I won’t even get home Monday morning.

I got called back to meet my friendly local officials this morning.  They ruled that I was not in the wrong and the other driver’s protest was ruled invalid and dropped.  It does turn out that the driver’s meeting I missed yesterday when I was at medical with my relative “the car flipper”, stated that any car to car contact required both drivers to come to impound.  I did not go to impound as that was not the rule in previous years.  Possibly this issue could have been resolved there without paperwork.  But this is not the first time this driver has behaved like this towards me.  This type of behavior can be why racing is less fun than it should be. In the end, other than wasting my time, the right answer was reached.  Truly I feel he should have been penalized as he was the overtaking car and I left him racing room.  The rules state the the car in front must leave racing room, and the overtaking car must complete the pass safely.  I did my part, he did not do his part.  Why he filed a protest is beyond me.  I did not bother with a protest. 

Sunday Feature Race

The Sunday race was 20 laps.  There was a delay in group 5 and it seemed like the race might never start.  The temperature had dropped at least 15 degrees in the last couple of hours and it looked like rain was imminent.  Lower temperatures mean more horsepower for the cars and more comfort for some of us “less slim” drivers.  But rain is really not a great addition to the sport.  Frankly, I am a terrible rain driver.

I started in grid position 8 as I had on Saturday.  The start was mostly uneventful and I was able to hang with the grid leaders through turn 5.  By the end of Turn 2 I had started to gap the cars behind me.  That was a good feeling.  I hoped they all started to battle it out among themselves back there as it slows them down compared to my times running without contention.  By turn 10 it was clear the gap was getting larger.  I was hopeful I could maintain that gap and would be completely satisfied with an 8th place finish in this field of 31 cars.  Then my Traqmate gave out again.  No data.  No shift lights.  No problem.  Unlike yesterday, I did not consider turning it back on.  I put it out of my mind and shifted by the sound of the engine.

Then the light rain started – and we were in slicks.  I was praying that it would blow over.  I know John Hotz is an amazing rain racer, and I expected to see him in my rear-view mirror very soon.  The rain never really materialized.  It was just going to mist a bit and give up.

I bump drafted Ryan Heishman whenever I could make it up to him, but I did not even consider passing him.  I wanted to keep taking that draft and making the gap behind me larger and larger.  I chased Ryan for about 18 laps until we lapped a car.  He squeaked by the lapped car and I was blocked for several turns which allowed him to pull away for good.  No problem – I was still in the position I started and no one had passed me all race.  I was happy to see the 1 lap remaining sign at start / finish.  I knew I just had to keep the car on the track and I was in at least 8th place.  I finished and heard that Rob Hines had pulled off with car problems.  I took 7th place and had run a fast lap of 1:26.710.  That is not the fastest lap I have ever had, but the fastest in 3-4 years.  The track was faster and the temps were conducive to records.  I was feeling great until I noticed Mike Collins (Meathead) had set the new lap record with a 1:24.886!  Holy smokes.

It was a good weekend after all.  7th place, six laps in the 1:26s (and two more at 1:27.004) was not a bad day.  No on track incidents aside from a minor bump when a lap car stepped on his brakes in front of me (we cleared that up with video – no officials required).

Looking forward to MARRS 2/3 at VIR!!!

Ted Cahall

MARRS Bracket Racing in 2018

Last year, Chuck Edmondson did a great amount of work to get Bracket Racing off the ground at Summit Point.  Bracket Racing let’s cars of all makes and models go out and compete in time “brackets” instead of classes.  In 2018, each of the “home” events at Summit Point will feature a bracket race – starting with MARRS 1 next week!

I am pleased to announce that marrspoints.com now supports Bracket Racing online!  Watch the bracket race in the browser on your phone, PC or iPad while you are at home or at the track.

You can also watch other races as they progress as well – but there is no need for that as Race-Monitor already does that well – and the data all comes from Race-Monitor anyway (aside from the bracket boundaries).

In general, the bracket racing system will not update unless it is a MARRS race weekend.  Today, I have it monitoring the Road Atlanta Porsche Club event that is going on so people can see it live.  I adjusted the brackets to fit the Road Atlanta times a little better. 

Thank you to Chuck for the bracket racing idea, and for asking me to see if I could build it into marrspoints.com for spectators (and mostly the announcers) to see who was winning each bracket.  I hope the software helps, it was fun figuring out how to build it.

Ted Cahall

Revving up for MARRS 1

It looks like my bother Bob and I will be at MARRS 1.  I am pretty psyched to get back in the car after a year off.

In absence of the real thing, I have spent some of my time making changes to marrspoints.com.  I made a ton of SEO improvements as well as some features to allow tracking the bracket racing live.  I also worked on the WDCR Bill Scott Championship points tracking.  However, I just learned that the rules now include the Feature Race of MARRS 8 (but with Qualifying points).  If you want to see a sneak peek at what the 2017 leaders would have been for this series – sans the MARRS 8 race, you can see it here (without the SEO improvements to the URLs at this point).  I guess I have until MARRS 8 to get that race included in the point totals!

I am looking forward to seeing the folks at the track.  Especially Lin Toland who recently tangled with a robot and won.  I hope you can make it out to the track Lin!

Ted Cahall

Racing into 2018…

Now that I have moved cahallracing.com to a proper blog and updated my SCCA profile, it is time for me to think of actually racing in a car.   It has been almost a year since I last raced – at MARRS 1 in April of 2017.

I checked with my two esteemed male siblings about their plans for MARRS racing this year.  Unfortunately, due to work issues, Larry will not make it out this year aside from a possible PDX.

My younger brother Bob is all for it, if he can only get around to renewing his SCCA license and the likes.

So the official plan for “Cahall Racing” this year is to try to race all of the 2018 MARRS series – both the Summit Point races and “away” races.  This may be very tricky without Larry’s motor home support and Meathead Racing relocating out to Chantilly temporarily.  

Maybe – if the MARRS series goes well and the cars hang in there, I will be able to do an SCCA Majors race at the ARRC down in Atlanta in November.

Let the adventure begin!

Ted Cahall

Ted Cahall SCCA Profile

The SCCA now let’s you claim your profile URL on SCCA.com.  Not sure how long that has been there – but I finally claimed mine at ted-cahall.  So crafty of me.  While I was there I added some photos that are also up on my cahall.com front page.  It needed something as I had not logged in for two years and never thought it would end up public facing.  Maybe Steve Sturm will make one too since he is such a beast!

Mike Collins – you should make an SCCA profile and link it to your blogs as well.

Ted Cahall

New marrspoints.com site

Ted Cahall of Cahall Racing has been hard at work on the MARRS Points tracking application for the Washington DC Region’s, Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Series (MARRS). Updates to this site have been delayed by that work. There are many new cars and most of the cars shown here have been sold, retired, or died an untimely death. Currently the Cahall Racing Stable contains four (4) 1999 Spec Miata (SM) cars, one (1) 2003 Spec Miata (SM) car, and a 2006 MX-5 that can be driven in the STL or SM5 classes. The motorhome is still chugging along as well.

Ted Cahall

Cahall Brothers Racing Grows 50 Percent!

Larry and Ted Cahall will welcome a new addition to the racing family this weekend. ¬†No Larry is not pregnant. ¬†Their younger brother Bob Cahall will join them this year for a few races after spending the weekend of March 19th in SCCA Club Racing Driver’s School. ¬†That rounds out all of the Cahall brothers for the team. ¬†It is doubtful any of their five sisters or numerous nephews, nieces, etc. will join them on the track in the future – although niece Katie is a strong¬†possibly¬†when she finishes her computer science degree…

Larry Cahall got his Regional and then National SCCA Club Racing licenses last year and competed in the Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Series (MARRS) with Ted.  Ted has been racing competitively (or not so competitively depending on who you ask) for two years now and raced in the SCCA Club Racing National Championships last September.  Ted also finished 10th in net points and 8th in raw points for the MARRS series last year.

If shear lack of fear and injury make a great racer, Bob will be beating Ted fairly soon.  Since skill matters, it may take a few races.  This is why Ted will not lend Bob one of his cars. Lack of fear plus lack of skill often equals bent metal.  Judging from his childhood, Bob can take a good hit though and still keep ticking.

More to come as Bob completes racing school and the Cahall Brothers Racing team joins the field in April for MARRS 1.  My parents are likely rolling in their graves (very near the Nelson Ledges track in Ohio btw).  At least we are getting along and working as a team now.

Ted Cahall

Do real men race Miatas?

The reason real men race Spec Miatas: best competition, extremely reasonable cost structure, and great racing support from Mazda.

When I started driver’s school in Washington state back in 2005, I had planned to race my 2001 Z06 Corvette once I got my competition license.  Not an 800HP purpose built racing machine, but good enough to feel like I was racing a real machine.  So I thought.

By the time I was really ready to begin racing with the SCCA in early 2009, I had moved to “the other” Washington – DC – and still had not modified my Z06 to meet the SCCA Club Racing requirements.  Therefore, I needed to rent a car for the drivers school required to get my license.  It was a reasonable idea, I thought, since I was not sure just how terrible I really would be at this “sport”.  Also the thought of destroying a perfectly good Z06 Corvette by welding a roll cage to the frame, etc. seemed wasteful if my adventure ended up being short lived.

In checking with some really nice folks at the SCCA office, I determined that I basically had two choices to rent for driver’s school: a Mazda Miata or a Ford Pinto. The Pinto had the bigger engine – but those rear-end fire death lawsuits of the 70’s and 80’s brought back a few grim memories.  Plus, whoever thought a Pinto was a race car?  At least the Miata was the Japanese version of the MG or the Triumph or something…
Ted and an umbrella girl before the race
I knew some future teasing was coming when even the Miata drivers referred to their cars as “a woman’s commuter car”.  Actually, the term was a little more colorful, but I try to keep this blog as PC as possible…  Oh, and BTW, almost every guy I race with wishes more women would join the sport.  Just men being men to say something “cute” with low HP belongs to a woman…  But I digress…

I rented three different Spec Miatas from Meathead Racing over the next few weeks.  I finished driver school and some non-competition driving events and decided to buy a Miata from them.  It was fairly cheap ($8k-$15k for a fairly good setup) and it meant I did not need to commit my Z06 to the welding machine just yet.

Well it has been two years of racing Miatas now and I am totally committed to them and the sport.  There is a very simple reason: GREAT competition.  In Summit Point, WV where I race, there are about 80 Miatas split into two major groups of 40 each race weekend.  That is a lot of cars on the track – and a lot of wheel-to-wheel competition.  When I raced in the SCCA National Championship for Spec Miatas this past September, there were 63 cars in the race!  That was really intense competition.

To put it into better perspective, if I had converted my Z06 Corvette into a T-1 race car, most weekends I would have been one of only 2-3 cars in my class.  Not a lot of competition.  Sure I would get a trophy each weekend – but would it really mean anything?  Would I really be learning and getting better?  There were only 16 T-1 cars at the National Championships – and only 9 finished the race.  A pittance!

Looking at the bigger picture, for the SCCA, the Spec Miata (SM) class is the largest class with the most participants in 7 out of 9 regions for National races and 8 out of 9 regions for Regional races.  Only the “Spec Racer Ford” (SRF) group even comes close to the participation of the Miatas, and those are purpose built cars that are really closer to go-carts than real cars (just my opinion). For SCCA Regional races, 3043 Spec Miatas raced in 2010 while in the second largest class, SRF, only 2006 cars entered the same amount of races.

The Spec Miata is one of the least expensive automobiles available for organized racing.  Mazda still manufactures most of the engines and parts – for cars that are over 10 years old. There are more Miatas racing every weekend in the United States than any other type of car – period.

So if you want some good, cheap, high-intensity fun, rent a Spec Miata and head out to the track for a high speed driving instruction lesson.  You will be in some great company – and you may even decide to race them competitively.  You can see some photos of many of the Meathead Racing drivers in the last regional race of the year as well as the SCCA National Championships on Facebook thanks to Karen Dildei’s expert photography!

Ted Cahall