Car racing is awesome. It's not too expensive and you don't need a dozen karting championships to get started. Here are five reasons you should seriously check out American Endurance Racing if you want to go racing...
Full disclosure. I went to the AER race at The Glen and shot some video and drove a race car as hard as I could until it ran out of gas. It was a dream come true.]
Reason #1: The Cars
All of your favorite performance street cars from decades past are here ready to race. Old RX-7's and VW Rabbit's. Plenty of BMW E30's. A Mustang Cobra. Audi Quattro. Miata's. What's great about this series is that it allows you to take these cars you see everyday at the used car lot and turn them into the best versions of themselves. Mean, loud, stripped out, screwed down versions with all the cool racing shit in them like detachable steering wheels and 5 point harnesses. AER accepts almost any spec road racing car and that keeps the racing close, fun, and cost effective.
Reason #2: The People
Pro drivers Mike Skeen and Randy Pobst were there all weekend happy to chat strategy, tell stories, and turn ridiculously fast laps. I spent time warming up between stints in someones X5 with famed car builder Speedy Cop - proud creator the Upside Down Camaro and several other WTF race cars you might have seen around the block. I got to share back to back stints with Jalopnik's own Travis Okulski, who hung my lap times out to dry each day. The best part is that everyone at the race is approachable. From the organizers, to the teams, to the fans, everyone is here to race and have a good time doing it. This is not Formula 1. This is not Nascar. If you show up you can get as close as you want to the action.
Reason #3: The Tracks
Watkins Glen International hosted Formula 1 Races throughout the 1970's. Let that sink in. The greatest drivers from the most bad ass decade of F1 raced here. And now you get a chance to literally experience the same corners? NASCAR also still races here, and the drivers are always quoted saying how much they love this road course. For 2014, AER is also set to race at Lime Rock Park in a few weeks. Another storied track with some serious american road racing history that you'll get to experience.
Reason #4: The Racing
There are a lot of cars on the grid and once the green flag drops, there is a lot of close competitive classes mixing it up out there. Thanks to the open rules it's quite a bit like Le Mans, so expect plenty of passing going on. Expect hot pits with drive changes and refuelling. Expect the weather to change throughout the weekend, or even throughout your stint. From my experience the drivers on track were all very professional, happy to race, but also respectful enough know when to move over and let a faster car pass. An endurance race is not won in an instant, but everyone knows it can be lost in one.
Reason #5: The Podium
Yes there are trophies and pride to be won. You'll stand on the same podium as Jimmy Johnson, or whoever won the NASCAR race this year. Travis and I even won our class on Sunday in our little white #1 AER BMW E30. You take home bragging rights and a laser cut trophy that one team decided to literally weld to their rear deck of their car so everyone could see it. Yes, it's cool to win, but it's more cool to get to race for three long days without stopping. My hat is off to all the hard working people who put this race on without a hitch. And to all the hard working gearheads that somehow keep these old, awesome road cars running to the redline relentlessly for three days straight.
Reason #6: (BONUS) The Driving
Yes, you can get behind the wheel of these race cars. The entire series is designed to be as approachable as possible. And that includes getting plenty of seat time. There's a video below of me driving one lap of my one and a half hour stint. And because its an endurance race, everybody gets stints like this. Drive the wheels off a race car until you basically run out of gas? Yes please. There are plenty of teams looking to fill seats, so go check out the AER forum on facebook to get involved. Want to see AER for yourself? Then come out to Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, CT on Nov 21-22, 2014.