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Old 09-25-2004, 01:42 PM   #1
cwarner
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Questions on preparing a car for track time

I want to sart attending driving school sessions with BMW CCA using my 2000 328Ci. I purchased it used this spring and realized at the time that it had a couple odd choices for equipment. First it was initially purchased with the sports package, but someone switched from the 17" rims back to the style 43 16" rims with 205-55/16 tires (decent Bridgestone RE750's). I was planning on the following upgrades to the car and wondered what people thought in terms of their merrit for use on the track, and when would you invest in them (ie hold off on 17" tires and rims until later?)

1) UUC Evo 3 short shift kit with DSSR ( I wil likely do this anyway as I do not like the long shift throws even for every day driving)

2) Front strut brace (UUC? or BMW M3 version)

3) 17" BBS RK rims with Michelin PS2's to be used predominantly for the track. I like the RK's as they are really light, plus I have had good experience with BBS rims in the past.

Thanks for the input.
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Old 09-25-2004, 02:26 PM   #2
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If this is your first driver's school on a track don't touch a thing with the exception of the short shifter.
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Old 09-25-2004, 03:09 PM   #3
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Hmmm, what about removing the CDV valve? That's something I would look into doing if I would be trying to shift often and quickly.
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Old 09-25-2004, 09:38 PM   #4
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Good questions! I don't think any of that stuff is necessary right away. I too have a 2000 328 (but I have a sedan) with sport package. You could probably do several driver's schools before you could really take advantage of any upgrades. At my first DE my instructor didn't want me to shift for the first session, and once I started shifting there were really only 2 shifts/lap (4->3 and 3->4). That doesn't mean you won't enjoy the SSK on the street, but it's not necessary for track use, at least initially.

A better upgrade that you haven't mentioned is brake pads and brake fluid - these things are pretty important since the brakes get really hot at the track. For just a couple hundred dollars you can make your brakes more fade resistant and significantly more durable, and in my opinion that's much more important than saving some weight on the wheels. My first upgrade was the brake pads, and I worried about other stuff much later.
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Old 09-26-2004, 07:47 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmsanders78
A better upgrade that you haven't mentioned is brake pads and brake fluid - these things are pretty important since the brakes get really hot at the track. For just a couple hundred dollars you can make your brakes more fade resistant and significantly more durable, and in my opinion that's much more important than saving some weight on the wheels. My first upgrade was the brake pads, and I worried about other stuff much later.
Thanks for the input. I have done a few things for maintenance, including new pads& rotors (old stuff was worn out), a total brake fluid exchange, swaping out rear differential fluid. I am planning on the SSK anyway as I drive on very windy country roads going to work. When I do the SSK I planned on swapping out the transmission fluid to Redline. I realize that some of that is overkill, but I am doing it to make everything last longer.

Back to brakes; I put stock pads and a new set of rotors on. What would you use for driver school?

As to tires, I might just wait until the 205-55/16 tires wear out, and then go to 225-50/16. Saves money on a new set of alloys.

One last Question: Where does everyone go for helmets? The only place I can think of is the motorcycle shops in the area, but they all seem to sell helmets with full face shields. Do you just take off the face shield?

Thanks again for the input!

Last edited by cwarner; 09-26-2004 at 07:52 AM.
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Old 09-26-2004, 10:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwarner
Thanks for the input. I have done a few things for maintenance, including new pads& rotors (old stuff was worn out), a total brake fluid exchange, swaping out rear differential fluid. I am planning on the SSK anyway as I drive on very windy country roads going to work. When I do the SSK I planned on swapping out the transmission fluid to Redline. I realize that some of that is overkill, but I am doing it to make everything last longer.

Back to brakes; I put stock pads and a new set of rotors on. What would you use for driver school?

As to tires, I might just wait until the 205-55/16 tires wear out, and then go to 225-50/16. Saves money on a new set of alloys.

One last Question: Where does everyone go for helmets? The only place I can think of is the motorcycle shops in the area, but they all seem to sell helmets with full face shields. Do you just take off the face shield?

Thanks again for the input!
If you intend to do any form of competition you require Snell SA designated helmets. Motorcycle helmets are designated Snell M. The difference between the two, Special Application vs. Motorcycle, is that they are designed for two different types of impacts. My understanding is that M-designated helmets are meant for a single big impact such as falling off a bike. SA-designated helmets are designed more for multiple smaller impacts (banging your head on a rollcage during a rollover for instance).

Anyway, when I bought my Bell helmet about 10 years ago I got it from Pegasus racing supplies (http://www.pegasusautoracing.com/home.asp).

What you should do is get the latest SA-designated helmet. I think the last one may be SA-2000 but I haven't shopped for a helmet in 3 years and stopped competing last year so I don't know the minimum requirements and what is available. You should check with the SCCA.

Now, the question of full-face vs. open-face is a question of comfort but also safety. Ten years ago I started rally-racing and spend some time co-driving which meant I had to look down. Full-faces are very impractical for that but at the same time I didn't like the idea of having an open-face in case something did happen. I compromised by finding an open-face with the biggest opening I can find. This helmet was unfortunately a fibreglass helmet so I found it to be pretty heavy.

Later when I started karting I decided to treat myself to nice Bieffe helmet. I think this one is made from Carbon Kevlar. This helmet would be very impractical for anything but open-wheel racing. For reference I'm attaching pictures of both helmets.


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Old 09-26-2004, 11:29 AM   #7
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I'm with Santiago. I got my first helmet at a motorcycle shop. I really didn't know much about the differences between M and SA, but I thought (and was told by the shop) that SA was only for competitive motorsports. Nope. The shop didn't know anything and they convinced me to by an M helmet. M helmets are OK (Oh - another difference is that SA offers fire protection and M does not, or only to a lesser extent) for BMWCCA drivers schools and some commercials schools, but if you're going to get serious and do a lot of DEs you should get the SA helmet initially, because you will eventually want to attend an event that requires SA helmets. I haven't had my SA for long, and only got it when I realized that I had mistakenly signed up for (paid for) an event requiring one. A lot of places online sell helmets, and I mail-ordered a G-Force with the understanding it could be returned if it didn't fit well.

New factory pads are OK, but they might fade. Since it's getting to be fall it may not be as much of a problem as it would in August - it depends where you are. My first event I had 50% of the original brake pads remaining (as measured by the dealer during the pre-inspection for the event). After 90 minutes of driving (over three sessions in a one-day school) there was no pad material remaining on the front pads at all, and the backs were mostly gone. Better pads offer you more longevity since they don't break down as much at higher temperatures, better fade resistance and more braque torque. I use Hawk HP+ pads for street and track use during the summer, and I switch to factory pads I haven't used up yet in the winter since the Hawk HP+ is really loud for street use. I typically only get two events out of a set of brake pads, so for me the Hawks last about twice as long as factory pads with track duty, and they feel much better, too.

As far as tires go, I'm with you. Abuse the no-cost tires you already have, while they still have some educational value, and delay the expense of biggers ones until you can really take advantage of them. Tires don't last long - I get about three events out of a set. Sometimes I wish I had an E30 just so I could save on tire and brake costs. 17" wheels are nice, but I never forget that I have them when it's time to call the Tire Rack again.
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Old 09-26-2004, 11:47 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Santiago
The difference between the two, Special Application vs. Motorcycle, is that they are designed for two different types of impacts. My understanding is that M-designated helmets are meant for a single big impact such as falling off a bike. SA-designated helmets are designed more for multiple smaller impacts (banging your head on a rollcage during a rollover for instance).
This is a common variation on the common thinking. It's not entirely accurate.

The other common thinking that gets spread around is that M helmets are designed for glancing (sliding) impacts.

If you read the testing procedures on the Snell Memorial Foundation web site (I'm a geek so I did), you will find that the only test that is different (besides testing the fire resistance of the lining) is that there is an extra anvil added for one extra impact to simulate a roll bar contact.

This is the only difference. In reality, until you get into the new CF F1 helmets and the very very top custom made Moto GP helmets I don't think you will find any noticeable difference in how they are designed and built. In fact it's not uncommon for the same shell to be used for an M helmet and an SA helmet.

Besides the additional anvil impact test, the other differences between SA and M is that the SA must have a fire resistant liner and the SA is allowed (italics mine) a narrower eye port than the M. That doesn't mean all SA helmets have a narrower eye port. In fact, the M2 is a good example of this.

A great buy in a helmet is the G-Force. They are less expensive than Bell, Simpson and others. I was always concerned that mean lower quality. That is not the case. I finally got my hands on one and fell in love it. I now own a G-Force and have owned 3 different Bells (one of which saved my life) and a Simpson. I'd take the G-Force over the others any day of the week and twice on Sundays. The G-Force is a really high quality helmet and it a Kevlar helmet to boot.
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Old 09-26-2004, 02:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geo31
. . .
This is the only difference. In reality, until you get into the new CF F1 helmets and the very very top custom made Moto GP helmets I don't think you will find any noticeable difference in how they are designed and built. In fact it's not uncommon for the same shell to be used for an M helmet and an SA helmet.
. . .
Good points, but you have to remember that what we are allowed to use in competition is determined by the governing bodies. If SA helmets are mandatory, the marshal/safety clerk will not care for anyone's arguments that an M-rated helmet likely comes from the same shell as an SA-designated one. Given that, I think the best "first helmet" is an SA-designated closed-face helmet with a large eyeport. This means that if someone who starts taking lessons chooses to compete can do so. A large eyeport works well from within a sedan. The fact that it's full face will not preclude you from using it in karting or any other open-wheeled vehicle.

That being said, I think your vote for the G-Force sounds like a great endorsement. You've gone through a lot of helmets and even used one to save your life so your opinion weighs a lot here. I did a quick Google and found the prices to be excellent. I liked my Bell M2 but found it heavy. I think I remember reading that a carbon kevlar version of the M2 now exists so that would solve the weight issue but would make it more expensive. I looooooooooove my Bieffe but it would be too impractical for what CWarner needs it for and it's on the pricey end.
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Old 09-26-2004, 06:46 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Santiago
Good points, but you have to remember that what we are allowed to use in competition is determined by the governing bodies. If SA helmets are mandatory, the marshal/safety clerk will not care for anyone's arguments that an M-rated helmet likely comes from the same shell as an SA-designated one. Given that, I think the best "first helmet" is an SA-designated closed-face helmet with a large eyeport. This means that if someone who starts taking lessons chooses to compete can do so. A large eyeport works well from within a sedan. The fact that it's full face will not preclude you from using it in karting or any other open-wheeled vehicle.
I agree with you 100%.

Fortunately more and more DE organizations are coming to their senses and are allowing M helmets. But, I agree that an SA fullface is the one to get if you can swing it in any way. Given the cost of the G-Force SA helmets there is far less reason to buy an M. All of the G-Force SA helmets are Kevlar/Fiberglass. The difference in weight is noticeable.

My first helmet was an M (for karting) and the rest have been SA. Thankfully. My first opportunity to get my comp license came sort of out of the blue and having a SA helmet already was a big plus.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Santiago
That being said, I think your vote for the G-Force sounds like a great endorsement. You've gone through a lot of helmets and even used one to save your life so your opinion weighs a lot here.
Yeah, that first helmet lasted just over a year and a half of karting. Then in one race someone decided to use the back of my head to slow down. I swear he didn't even hit the brakes. He hit me with probably 20-30 mph closure (at the slowest corner on the track). Hit me in the rear, climbed up the back and hit my head. Blacked out momentarily and came to with him and his kart resting on the top of my head (325 lbs). Thank God for the neck collars too because without it my neck would surely have been broken given the angle of the hit. I pushed him off me, only one other person got by. It was the last corner, last lap. I ended up finishing 3rd instead of 2nd. I was pissed about losing the position. The guy who passed me for 2nd had received two warnings the two previous laps which should have been an automatic DQ since they were for the same offense. I wrote the only protest I've ever written and the idiotic SOM rejected it. No appeals board. I was REALLY pissed.
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Old 09-26-2004, 06:47 PM   #11
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BTW, I see you run the "yellow fin" engine. I can't remember the name of the builder. I raced against them in a Can-Am series back in 89 (I'm originally from upstate NY).

Do you know if Goodwood is still holding events? That was a GREAT track.
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Old 09-26-2004, 07:04 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geo31
I agree with you 100%.

Fortunately more and more DE organizations are coming to their senses and are allowing M helmets. But, I agree that an SA fullface is the one to get if you can swing it in any way. Given the cost of the G-Force SA helmets there is far less reason to buy an M. All of the G-Force SA helmets are Kevlar/Fiberglass. The difference in weight is noticeable.

My first helmet was an M (for karting) and the rest have been SA. Thankfully. My first opportunity to get my comp license came sort of out of the blue and having a SA helmet already was a big plus.
I have been followign this with great interest! Thanks for all the info on helmets. I will look at the G-Force SA helmets and see about ordering one. Are they adjustable for fit, or do you need to take measurements to estimate fit and hope for the best when you order? I think I will go to a local motorcycle shop and try on a few helmets to get an idea as to what fits and then estimate fit from there.
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Old 09-26-2004, 07:08 PM   #13
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One last question:

I have been working with the dealer to understand why I have a 3/4" ride height difference between the right and left rear sides. I checked everything, and nothing is bent or broken. The dealer says it is the spring, and it could be changed, but is not a safety issue. I did not discuss with then that I intend to take it on the track for Drivers Schools. I am planning on fixing it, ie replacing the spring, as I am concerned about that spring on the track. What does everyone recommend, stay stock sports package or go to some other setup?

Thanks,
Cliff
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Old 09-26-2004, 07:21 PM   #14
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I can't comment about what you should do about uneven ride height on your car because I just don't know.

I made the change from sports package to Bilsteins + Eibach springs this year, and really like the change. It's noticeably firmer and it cured a lot of understeer. It may be worthwhile for you just to make a switch to some aftermarket parts if you have to have the suspension worked on anyways, but it's not a "must" for the first few DEs.
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Old 09-26-2004, 07:47 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geo31
Yeah, that first helmet lasted just over a year and a half of karting. Then in one race someone decided to use the back of my head to slow down. I swear he didn't even hit the brakes. He hit me with probably 20-30 mph closure (at the slowest corner on the track). Hit me in the rear, climbed up the back and hit my head. Blacked out momentarily and came to with him and his kart resting on the top of my head (325 lbs). Thank God for the neck collars too because without it my neck would surely have been broken given the angle of the hit. I pushed him off me, only one other person got by. It was the last corner, last lap. I ended up finishing 3rd instead of 2nd. I was pissed about losing the position. The guy who passed me for 2nd had received two warnings the two previous laps which should have been an automatic DQ since they were for the same offense. I wrote the only protest I've ever written and the idiotic SOM rejected it. No appeals board. I was REALLY pissed.
Wow, that sucks. Good to hear you're ok, though. What type of karting did you run? I ran/run a spec Yamaha KT-100 (two-stroke piston port) direct-drive. I had it blueprinted by Yellow Fin as you noticed. They were out of the Burlington, Ontario region but have since bought a big large karting distribution/retail center in Ohio and now call themselves PKP Karting. I've only ever raced here in Quebec so I can't comment on Goodwood.

I've never done any sedan road-racing and would love to do that. I've only done a few lapping days but nothing more. I would love to road-race but now just isn't the time. I really love rallying but found it too expensive and I got out before I could properly develop my driving skills in that. I tried my hand at co-driving since it was cheaper but being in the puke seat just wasn't for me.

cwarner, helmets are measured in hat-sizes. When I ordered my first helmet I used a tape measure around my head as per the Pegasus catalogue and got a great fit. I would avoid any helmets that use S-M-L sizing (if they even exist) as there may be too much play. We also never answered one of your original questions - get a full face and definitely take off the visor when inside the car.
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Old 09-26-2004, 08:03 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Santiago
cwarner, helmets are measured in hat-sizes. When I ordered my first helmet I used a tape measure around my head as per the Pegasus catalogue and got a great fit. I would avoid any helmets that use S-M-L sizing (if they even exist) as there may be too much play. We also never answered one of your original questions - get a full face and definitely take off the visor when inside the car.
If I only intend to do Autocross and Drivers School days at the track, what about something like the G-Force Hybrid? It is basically a full face without the visor. Any Thoughts?
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Old 09-26-2004, 08:18 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwarner
If I only intend to do Autocross and Drivers School days at the track, what about something like the G-Force Hybrid? It is basically a full face without the visor. Any Thoughts?
Those are very popular in rallying. However, if you ever get the karting bug, or get interested in taking a road-racing course in an open-wheel car, or even choose to do open-wheel racing you would be out of luck.

This is why I recommend finding a full-faced visor helmet with a large opening. The Bell M2 fit that bill for me and I recommend you look in the G-Force for one that might fit that bill.

However, after having said that I came across a good guide (http://www.soloracer.com/helmettech.html) that explained that the Snell SA2005 helmets are likely due in about a year's time. What that means is that in a couple of years time the sanctioning bodies are going to require SA2005. They tend to allow a couple of years of overlap so you should be okay for a while. So, what this means is that you can go with the $200 G-Force hybrid and in about 2-3 years time you may be forced to get another helmet. By then you can truly decide whether you will ever need a visored helmet.
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Old 09-26-2004, 09:08 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Santiago
owever, after having said that I came across a good guide (http://www.soloracer.com/helmettech.html) that explained that the Snell SA2005 helmets are likely due in about a year's time. What that means is that in a couple of years time the sanctioning bodies are going to require SA2005. They tend to allow a couple of years of overlap so you should be okay for a while. So, what this means is that you can go with the $200 G-Force hybrid and in about 2-3 years time you may be forced to get another helmet. By then you can truly decide whether you will ever need a visored helmet.
Actually, here in the states, typically the current plus the previous Snell rating is accepted. Therefore an SA00 would be good until the 2010 rating comes out. I found out with one of my helmets that they shouldn't be used that long anyway. My SA90 helmet didn't get a lot of use, but by the time I retired it a couple of years ago the interior was junk. It had about a season's worth of events over about 8 years.

I also meant to comment on the open face. Nobody who values their face the way it is should get one. Too many people have done face plants on the steering wheel, even in 6 point harnesses. I would say get the fullface instead of the hybrid and for sure on the track you should keep the shield down. I was thinking about a hybrid until I heard of too many people who had foreign objects hit them in the helmet or the face in a tin top race car.
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Old 09-26-2004, 09:15 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Santiago
Wow, that sucks. Good to hear you're ok, though. What type of karting did you run? I ran/run a spec Yamaha KT-100 (two-stroke piston port) direct-drive.
I ran the KT100 clutch/pipe class. Raced a few times in Canada and loved it. Once in Leamington, ONT (about 30-60 minutes from Windsor) and Goodwood (about an hour north of Toronto). Both good tracks but I just love Goodwood. I'd race there again in a heartbeat. If you get the opportunity to race there, GO. Lots of elevation changes and one corner is sort of a reverse corkscrew. You go up hill while turning and have to commit to the next apex before you can even see it. I can still run a lap there in my mind's eye.

I also did the Spenard-David Racing school at Shannonville in 89. David Empringham was my instructor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Santiago
I had it blueprinted by Yellow Fin as you noticed. They were out of the Burlington, Ontario region but have since bought a big large karting distribution/retail center in Ohio and now call themselves PKP Karting.
Oh cool! Good folks. They build really really good engines too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Santiago
I've never done any sedan road-racing and would love to do that.
I got my start after helping a friend (now business partner) with the same kind of race car as my road car. He also is a former karter. He convinced me to borrow/rent his car to get my comp license. There is a Santa Claus and his name is Grover Pickering. I raced his car for 3 years and now am finally trying to finish my own.
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Old 09-26-2004, 09:32 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geo31
I ran the KT100 clutch/pipe class. Raced a few times in Canada and loved it. Once in Leamington, ONT (about 30-60 minutes from Windsor) and Goodwood (about an hour north of Toronto). Both good tracks but I just love Goodwood. I'd race there again in a heartbeat. If you get the opportunity to race there, GO. Lots of elevation changes and one corner is sort of a reverse corkscrew. You go up hill while turning and have to commit to the next apex before you can even see it. I can still run a lap there in my mind's eye.
How long is Goodwood? From what I remember, the Ontario and U.S. tracks tended to be short (400 m). Here in Quebec we run classes and tracks that are more in line with European karting. My home track (SRA - St-Roch-de-l'Achigan) is something like 1.2km long. Not much in terms of elevation change but it's a good fast/slow track. Gearing it can be tricky since there's a really long straight but quite a few tight corners. Here's a picture of the track: http://srakarting.com/html/circuit.html

Quote:
I got my start after helping a friend (now business partner) with the same kind of race car as my road car. He also is a former karter. He convinced me to borrow/rent his car to get my comp license. There is a Santa Claus and his name is Grover Pickering. I raced his car for 3 years and now am finally trying to finish my own.
I need to find my own Grover Pickering!
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