All too often we hear stories of exotic or tuned-up sports car owners taking part in road rallies, and the resulting carnage that occurs because the person behind the wheel doesn’t really know what they are doing. These events are supposed to be fun, and they can be if more people understood that they’re not hammering down a WRC asphalt section trying to get to the next checkpoint. These events take place on public roads, which means a bit of civility is required.
Some of the folks who organize these events are looking to provide a bit of education to the folks that take part. That’s where Meet.Rally.Race.Party. (MRRP) comes into play, and we got an all-access pass to the 2nd annual get together held in Southern California.
Keep reading to see how the MRRP organizers are injecting a healthy dose of responsibility into the speed racer mindset.
My invitation came by way of Nicole Brown, who is the driving publicity force behind the California exotic car dealership DC Motors. Besides being a nut for cars (and guns!), Nicole has a desire to see her favorite driving events improve their images. There are a handful of folks who attend road rallies that seek to run and gun down public pathways, but those aren’t the only folks attending, and Nicole wants to highlight the better side of these events while also offering up a time and place where owners can completely (and safely) cut their machines loose.
And what a gathering of machines it was…
We all met early in the morning at DC Motors. Beautiful cars from all over the world were already filling up the lot when I arrived, and more were waiting to get in. Once everyone was there, we climbed back into our cars and formed an expensive procession that took a nice twisty route to the now-defunct El Toro Marine Air Station. The base is used for all sorts of automotive events these days, and currently serves as HQ for Top Gear USA. We were treading on American Stig’s test track.
Examples from Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini were all in attendance. Others brought out tuned Nissan GT-Rs, Ford Mustangs, and Mitsubishi Evos, which would had no problem keeping up with the high dollar stuff. A Caterham and Ariel Atom were on hand to show the heavy vehicles how it’s done, and the owner of DC Motors trailered in his own Radical SR3, which typically sees action out at the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Nevada.
Nicole had arranged for some transportation for yours truly as well, which appeared in the form of a yellow Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport that DC Motors had recently obtained. In its former life, the Vette served to teach students at a performance driving school. On this day, it would teach me that you can’t defeat Active Handling if the system detects a TPMS fault. My first slalom run was punctuated by the WHOMP-WHOMP-WHOMP of the Active Handling system going crazy as it tried to keep the Corvette in check. I mentioned this to Nicole and Doug (owner of DC motors), and Doug flipped me the keys to a GT-R instead.
That… will do nicely.
Now that I had a properly working machine, I was free to roam between the three tracks that MRRP had setup for attendees. First was a straight line braking challenge. Stopped at your standard red-yellow-green tree, you time the lights before blasting down a cone-lined straight. At a certain point you better hit the brakes, because you have to stop within a box outlined by the same cones. You’re either going to set a great time or introduce your front bumper to orange rubber.
Next up, MRRP had a large slalom course that brought you out away from the timing station before turning a wide loop and coming back in. Early in the day there were a few spin outs, but everyone seemed to get smoother and faster as the marine layer melted away and sunlight poured across the asphalt.
The slalom was fun, but it was the road course that ended up grabbing all of the attention towards the end of the day. Most drivers were running the well-laid course with times between 1:03 and 1:10. I made my first loop in the GT-R, and came in with a time of 1:05. I only took one run in the car because I wanted to get photos of the action, and watch as times from some of the faster cars started to drop.
The top battle came down to a Dodge Viper and a tuned Nissan GT-R. Each car was pushing its time down to :56, then :55 and eventually the GT-R tripped the finish line with a time of :54. The gathered crowd cheered and the driver was ecstatic. Of course, DC Motors Doug couldn’t let those guys have all the fun. He went out in his Radical and ran a time in the high 40s, all without being able to properly warm up his tires.
These owners got to experience their cars in ways that the engineers originally intended. They were able to do so, however, legally and safely on a track that had lots of room. After completing a run, you could jump right back in line and do it all again. Knowledgeable instructors were on hand to answer driving related questions, while representatives from HRE Wheels and Brembo brakes were happy to answer technical ones. Rockstar drinks donated enough liquid energy to keep everyone wide awake, and the founder of Targa Trophy served up time and money as one of the main sponsors of Meet.Rally.Race.Party. 2011. The event is a joint effort between dedicated folks that want to provide sports car owners with the right place and perfect amount of time to learn more about their automobiles. These are folks who might not regularly attend track day events, but are enthusiasts all the same.
After the meeting, rallying, and racing are all done, it’s time to enjoy the last part, which is partying. This part of the equation was held at BBI Autosport in Huntington Beach, and the Porsche tuner’s shop was transformed into the perfect spot to reflect on the events of teh day. Car keys are put away and replaced with cold drinks and tasty grub from from a catered food truck. As a DJ puts out some background music, a video replays itself on the large projector screen. We’re now partying, but we’re still thinking about what we accomplished on the track. Times, proper lines, setups, and more are all being discussed.
Nicole enters the room and looks out upon the group she’s brought together. She’s happy. Everyone is safe and having a good time, and Meet.Rally.Race.Party. is what brought them together today. Already, she is planning more MRRPs for 2012. That means more chances for someone to learn more about their machine, and more chances for them learn how to handle it safely.
(Full disclosure: DC Motors invited me to attend MRRP 2011, paid for my entry fee and supplied me with a car to drive while at the track. I also had three Rockstars, because I love caffeine. Also, stay tuned for video grabbed from riding shotgun in the Atom)