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.
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…
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.
Cahall Racing is a team of brothers that race as part of SCCA Club Racing. The team came together over the years with Ted Cahall getting his regional and national license in 2009, followed by Larry Cahall getting his licenses in 2010. In 2011, brother Bob Cahall rounded out the team by obtaining his Novice Permit at Summit Point, WV. Not only did Bob receive both his regional and national competition licenses, but he was also the first Cahall brother to compete in a national race in his rookie year.
I had the pleasure of attending Rolling Thunder again this year. I staged at Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA with approximately 10,000 other motorcycle enthusiasts to honor our military’s: fallen, POWs, and MIAs. It is a wonderful event that culminates at our nation’s capital with numerous groups of riders crossing Constitution Avenue.
I filmed the opening police escort in addition to a few other groups as they made their way through the parade. It was an honor to again pay tribute to our nation’s heroes. Some photos of the event are on Webshots.
I know it sounds unbelievable. I truly doubt drivers illegally hit 200 mph that often. So when it does happen at all – it is a rare and unusual event.
Why? Well first off, there are very few cars that can actually hit 200 mph. I don’t own one and I own a 505HP Z06 Corvette and a 604HP sedan. Additionally, for the cars that can hit 200 mph, it is hard to find a stretch of road long enough and straight enough to attempt it. Of course there are banked tracks such as the Daimler test track in Unterturkheim or Volkswagen Group’s Ehra-Lessien test track – but those take far more skill than just driving in a straight line.
It takes over two miles for most of the modern stock exotic sports cars (Ferrari 599 GTB, Lamborghini LP560) to hit 200 mph. Finding two miles of straight, smooth pavement not is use by the U.S. highway system is a difficult task. That is where the pros at World Class Driving come into play. They have two locations that make this possible. One in Miami for folks in the eastern U.S. and one in the Mojave desert for the left coast.
I highly recommend this program put on by World Class Driving. It is run by professional race drivers and the cars are meticulously maintained. Drivers are given a choice of any of three vehicles that have all been proven to reach 200 mph: a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a Ferrari 599 GTB, and a Lamborghini LP560.
The day starts out with some driving skill drills to make sure each entrant is capable of handling the cars in corners and at speed. For the early part of the day, we were also able to drive a Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo, and a Maserati Granturismo. Those exercises were really enjoyable as well with hard acceleration and hard braking in some of the world’s fastest and most exotic cars. I must have done alright as they let me move onto the next segment of the training session.
In the next section, they test how well you will do out on the actual airstrip. The main issue in the Miami course is that the airstrip is approximately 2 miles long. Not quite long enough to hit 200 mph in a straight line and stop. The driver is required to build speed on an auxiliary runway and then turn through two turns to head out onto the main runway at about 60 mph for the 200 mph attempt. Even more interesting, after hitting maximum speed and entering the braking zone, the driver still does not have enough runway left to stop in a straight line – and must execute another turn back towards the auxiliary runway at about 50 mph! It is a lot to master for any rookies out there that have not experienced high speed turns under acceleration or braking. The Mojave runway is almost 3 miles long and does not have these issues. So folks that want to just smash the gas and see what 200 mph feels like may want to try that. Personally, I enjoyed the challenge that required some skill.
When we moved to the 200 mph attempts, we were told that we would be given four turns each. Two test turns to get used to the start zones and braking zones and then two attempts to reach 200 mph. It may sound simple, but most of the 16 participants did not hit 200 mph in any of the four attempts. I took the Mercedes SLR and hit 197 mph on my first test run. The SLR is an automatic (no paddle shifters that I saw) and was hard to keep in lower gears when coming out on to the airstrip. After hitting 196 mph in the SLR on my second attempt and noticing that no one was doing well with the car, I decided to switch to the Lamborghini LP560.
I jumped into the LP560 and mentally prepared myself for the turn out onto the airstrip. I knew this turn at 60 mph was critical to hitting 200 mph and made it the main focus of the launch. I lined the turn up well, tapped my brakes to load up the front end to improve the steering and accelerated evenly out to the widest end of the airstrip. It felt like an excellent launch. Much better than the downshift that had happened in the SLR. As I went up a few gears, I realized I was so focused on the turn onto the airstrip that I did not have my seatbelt buckled! I did not let this distract me. The car has airbags and I wasn’t planning on using them either…
As I raced through the braking zone and brought the car back to reasonable speeds, the instructor next to me exclaimed, “200 mph!” I was the first participant to hit 200 mph and the only one to do it in the first three runs.
All of the sudden all of the drivers started using the Lamborghini LP560 as I had done and a few more hit 200 mph on their 4th and final try. One of the drivers hit 201 mph! While I was the first, I was no longer the fastest. This was disappointing – but I did have my fourth and final attempt left.
This time as I prepared for the final run, I buckled my seatbelt. I was ready and again had an excellent launch out of the turn onto the airstrip. I took the LP560 through its gears and kept the gas pedal smashed to the floor as I roared through the braking zone. The instructor yelled, “202 mph”, as I turned off of the main airstrip.
What an incredible day. I was the first participant to hit 200 mph, I was the fastest participant at 202 mph and I was the only participant to hit 200 mph twice that day.
If speed fills your need. Then World Class Driving is the way to do it. The professionals there make sure you and all of the equipment are ready for the exercises – the rest is up to you. If you just want to try driving the world’s greatest exotic cars without going 200 mph, World Class Driving also has some other touring programs that may even be more local to your hometown. I took one of their tours in May of this year and really enjoyed it.
I had my best (solo) Spec Miata finish of the year on Saturday at the EMRA Sprints. The Sprints were held just before the EMRA Enduro race that afternoon/evening (where Bad Al Bell and I combined for a 3rd Place finish). I finished in 4th Place in a field of 9 SM Spec Miatas. This is also the first race where I finished in the top half of the pack.
The truth as shown in the videos below (unlike some fishing stories) is that I was in 3rd Place with a half lap to go when I blew a shift and the #72 Blue Miata slid past me. I was a half lap short of a dual trophy day.
The race was actually even more exciting than that (at least for me). I started out in 5th place and by turn 4 of the fist lap I had dropped down all the way to 9th (last) place. The race starts have the highest incidence of crashes and I see from my videos that I have a tendency to let the cars sort themselves out a bit (definitely a bit too much).
I have included the whole race as posted in three segments on YouTube. You can see by watching the first minute of part 1 how I drop off to last place when the red #14 car passes me.
Over the course of the 18 lap race, I pass all of the SM Miatas except those in 2nd and 1st place. I race in 3rd place ahead of the blue Miata for several laps after passing him. It is on lap 18 that the #72 blue Miata passes me back to take 3rd place back. This part can be seen towards the end of part 3 posted below.
Note, there are other race classes mixed in with my Spec Miata SM class. You can see the little yellow formula cars as well as an occasional Volvo! These are not in my class but still were in my way from time to time.
Part 1 – The Start of the race – where I immediately fall behind to 9th place.
Part 2 – Where I continue to chase down the Blue #72 Miata.
Part 3 – Where I finally catch Blue #72 Miata and move into 3rd place until missing a shift on the last lap.
The headline sounds nice, but I think my grandmother could have taken 3rd place with Bad Al Bell as a partner. The EMRA 4 hour Enduro race requires two drivers. I did my part by not leaving the car in a tree. Al did his part by passing all of the cars that I had let get in front of me. That is what I call teamwork! It was the longest race I have done in my short career. I was in the car just under 2 hours before I turned it over to Al. A huge thank you to Mike Collins and the Meathead Racing team for all of their help!
This is a quick video of Randy Ramos from Meathead Racing heading off into the gravel pit in Turn 1 at the practice session for the EMRA 4 Hour Enduro. Randy was being followed by Bad Al Bell in my car as we took some test laps. They both pass the white Miata before turn 10 and head down the straightaway towards turn 1. The only issue is that is was really wet and Randy decided to brake a little late… Nothing a little tow truck action could not sort out. It was a great day at the Enduro and the Sprints that preceded them.
You can see the red #14 car sneak up my right side in turn 5 as we stack up into a line of cars. He stays inside me for turn 6. Instead of falling in behind him, I keep my line off his left bumper – and run out of track. This is the old, “watch the track – and not the guy in front of you” lesson.