I recently had the pleasure of meeting the founders of GoodSport Racing, Dave Bongiovanni and Dave Brown. For those of you who don't follow touring car racing, Dave Brown is the points leader in the USTCC
(US Touring Car Championship), the National Auto Sport Association's highest form of touring car racing. Brown drives the GoodSport Racing #8 2004 Evo VIII RS. Both Dave and Dave are good guys who have an obvious passion for racing and competition. They're down to earth and get excited discussing techniques and racing in general. I had a great time hanging out with them at Infineon.
We sent Dave Brown a list of questions that we felt many Evo owners would want to ask themselves. Dave was nice enough to answer them in great detail. Hope you enjoy the interview:
EVOtuners: First of all, tell us how you got to where you are now - racing for a team with several sponsors.
: Aside from all the driving experience, practice and hard work, you have to have an understanding of what racing means to sponsors. It means business. Bottom line, motor sports and racing are forms of entertainment, advertising and marketing. In order to gain sponsor support you have to be able to help your sponsorsí business. There are countless ways of doing this and it is really dependent upon what the target businessí needs are. The race team must understand these needs, and offer solutions to them utilizing racing and motor sports. Oh yeah,... you should also make sure your sponsors are having fun and are proud to be part of the team.
Goodsport Racing Corporation was formed between two good friends and experienced racers, (myself & David Bongiovanni), that share the same goals in the racing business. Each of us brought many assets to the business including talented team members, equipment, experience and contacts in the industry.
EVOtuners: Do you race full time or do you work full time and race on the side?
: I work full time for Seagate Technology and race on the side. Iím always working toward a full time racing career, but like any other professional sport, many things have to be in place in order for that to happen.
EVOtuners: Walk us through the average race weekend.
: The average race weekend starts about 15 minutes after the end of the previous race. After every on track session, the crew and I discuss the car, the adjustments weíve made and their affect on the car, the data collected from the session and what the next steps will be to improve the car. Weíll usually review and discuss the information a lot during the time period between events and make the necessary changes while doing any preventative maintenance and general equipment prep for the next event.
Starting the week before the event we take final inventory of what we are bringing to the track, organize all of it and get loaded up in the truck and trailer. Usually a couple of us will drive the ďrigĒ to the track and arrive the day before the event to get set up in the paddock. 90% of the time we will run the test day at the track on Friday. The test day is used to increase my familiarity with the track as well as make adjustments to the car. Test days are usually longer and harder work then a race day. There are more on-track sessions and we are constantly changing things on the car. Even if the car is ďgoodĒ we will make dramatic changes on test day in order to learn more about our car and our options.
Race weekends start with about a 5am wake up, usual morning stuff, then arrival at the track by 7am. We will put the car up on stands and ďnut & boltĒ the entire car. Essentially, you go over, under and around the entire car and put a wrench on every nut, bolt and fastener you can see, (& even some you canít if you know theyíre there). Things tend to shake loose on race cars and the last thing you want is to be passed by a piece of your own car! We will make adjustments, check fluids, inspect tires, install new brakes, etc, etc until weíre satisfied that weíre set to go.
On race weekends you really donít get a lot of track time, especially at pro events. A 15 minute warm up, 20-30 minute qualifying session on Saturday and a 20 minute qualifying and then the race on Sunday is typical. All the more reason to test on Friday, you need to be really close before Saturday morning.
At the end of Saturday will do all the major work on the car thatís needed, (chassis changes, repairs, etc), so that Sunday morning is only final prep again and weíre ready to go.
EVOtuners: Name a few important keys to getting into racing that most people might not think about.
Key #1 - You can do it! Itís not cheap, itís not easy, but just about anyone can go racing and/or performance driving on the track. You donít have to get your racing license overnight. Sign up for a local track day with your beat up old GTI and go drive Ė you will learn some things and you will have fun. This is the most important thing; start learning and gaining experience as soon as you can. Itís all about ďseat timeĒ.
Key #2 Ė Donít concern yourself with trying to go fast. Learn the skills and techniques to drive correctly and the speed will come for free. Be patient. Performance driving and racing are learned skills. You are not born a racer, you have to learn how to do it properly at that takes time.
Key #3 Ė Go to race or track day events even if you canít drive yourself that weekend. Make friends, ask questions, ask if you can help out on a team, or help the officials that are running the event. Thereís a lot to be learned about what makes a track weekend work, both from the participantís and officialís sides.
EVOtuners: How much instruction did you have before you started competing? Any idea on how many track events you attended for instruction?
: I attended both the National Auto Sport Association, (NASA), and Sports Car Club or America, (SCCA), driving schools before I started competing. To this day I still attend NASA school sessions nearly every time Iím at one of their events, (which is a lot). I also instruct for NASA and I continue to learn every time I attend a school session or instruct a student.
EVOtuners: What suggestions do you have for beginners with no experience?
What's the best path to learn?
: Iíd have to give the nod to the NASA instruction program. With the NASA program you can go at your own pace. You can sign up when you have the time and the funds. NASA runs schools all over the country, year round. With NASA, the licensing program is not rushed. You will have the time to develop not only your basic driving skills, but you will also gain the experience of running with other drivers in a controlled environment. This program can take several months to several years depending on your participation level and skills development.
EVOtuners: How much would you say it would cost the average person to get into a low level competition series?
: Iíll run through some rough numbers to get started, (bear in mind that year #2 will be cheaper):
School & licensing - $2,000, (really depends on you)
Personal safety equipment - $1000
Used race car - $4,000, (GTI, RX-7, older Civic, etc)
Used truck & trailer - $5,000
Yearly maintenance - $1,500
Entry fees - $2,500, (10 races @ $250each)
Consumables - $4,000, (gas, tires, oil, brakes, etc)
EVOtuners: What are the average yearly costs (ball park) for USTCC racing? How much does sponsorship cover?
: Not including the cost of the equipment, (race car, truck trailer, etc): average is probably around $80,000. It can be done for less, top teams will need more to stay up front. You can re-coup some of this in contingency prizes and winnings also.
If youíre doing a good job of marketing your team there is no reason that sponsorship canít cover all of it. That really takes a lot of work though! Nobody just wants to throw money at you. You have to provide a considerable return on investment to your sponsor.
EVOtuners: Who owns and maintains the race car? Do you do any work on the car yourself?
: GoodSport Racing Corporation owns the race car.
Yes, I do work on the car, although Iím not a very good mechanic. I spent a lot of time studying chassis and suspension systems, so thatís where I do most of my wrenching. Iíll do the alignments, ride heights, corner weights, toe, camber, caster settings, etc. Iíll occasionally conduct other menial jobs when the crew gives me something that I canít screw up too bad like oil changes, waxing, stickers stuff like that.
EVOtuners: Who decides on the performance upgrades? Who does the installation and tuning?
: The team decides together on the performance upgrades, installs the equipment and tunes the car at the track. The tough part is that the upgrades can continue forever if youíre not careful. We all want the coolest, best stuff on the car, but it has to make business sense as well. We may not be able to afford the carbon fiber splitter, so weíll figure out how to get the benefit without the cost. There are plenty of components on our car that are fabricated in house due to cost or lack of availability on the market.
Our sponsors of course provide us with products as well. K&N Engineering provides filters, WORKS provides powertrain components, brakes, exhaust, ECU tuning and more. Robispec provides suspension systems, (springs, dampers, bushings, etc). APR provides aero components. We choose our sponsors as much as they choose us. We have to have quality products on our race car that give us a performance and reliability advantage over our competition. This ensures that we will give our sponsors the most exposure possible on race day.
EVOtuners: How often do you go through tires and other "wear" parts?
Tires Ė 1 set per weekend. The USTCC rules require you to race on the same set of tires you qualify on. Therefore, we will practice on the previous weekendsí race tires then use a new set for qualifying and racing.
Brakes Ė we can usually get a couple of events out of a set of front pads and 3-4 events out of the rears. Rotors will last half the season. This all really depends on the tracks though. Laguna Seca or San Jose will consume a set of brakes in a day. You also have to have your brake ducting done well in order to make brakes last like this.
EVOtuners: Which track is your favorite and why? Which track do you least enjoy?
: Infineon Raceway is my favorite. Probably because itís the first racetrack I got to drive on. Infineon is extremely difficult to learn, hard to pass, has a wide variety of corners, huge elevation changes, high speeds, and it will bite you real hard if youíre not on your game. The new Miller Motor Sports Park in Utah is right up there as well Ė 4.5 miles long, 23 turns. Very technical and fast.
Portland International would be one I donít enjoy much. I think the track really needs to be re-surfaced. It really lacks grip. It also really only has a couple of exciting, technical corners.
EVOtuners: What do you like most about racing the Evo? What are the challenges?
: What I really enjoy about the Evo is that it demands some interesting driving techniques. The AWD lends itself to several different driving interpretations. The chassis can be set up in wildly different ways to accommodate the type of event and the driverís preferences. The turbo system also demands driving techniques that normally aspirated engines do not require in order to achieve peak performance on the track. I love this stuff! Understanding, developing and optimizing these techniques and set up conditions is a big piece of the fun for me.
EVOtuners: Are there any suggestions you'd give for driving the Evo on a track? Anything to be careful of?
: Right from the factory the Evo is a great track car. Standard alignment will get you around the track very well. If youíve modified the suspension at all, (coil-overs, etc), I would highly recommend you get the car set up by a professional, including corner weights.
The Evo can be hard on front tires. Pay attention to them and try to minimize how hard you slide them around.
Make sure you have high temp brake fluid and pads, (HAWK and Motul 600 are examples).
If your Evo starts getting sideways, DONíT SUDDENLY LIFT OFF THE THROTTLE! This is what wrecks the most Evos. If you lift off hard, the weight will transfer to the nose, the front end will get lots of traction and the car will snap back around in the opposite direction of the initial slide. Instead, hang in there with partial throttle and counter-steering input. The Evo can tend to slide the rear end out on entry, but only a foot or so then it will stabilize and come back to you. It will not typically go into snap oversteer unless something is really wrong with the set up or youíve tossed it into a corner ridiculously hard.
EVOtuners: What other series do you see yourself racing in in the future?
: I want to get into World Challenge, Grand Am and ALMS racing. The cars are awesome, the competition fierce, and these series all provide great venues for marketing. My skills and experience level as a driver and team contributor are at the point that will enable me to be competitive in these venues.
EVOtuners: If you could start over what would you do different?
: I would start sooner. I followed and enjoyed watching racing when I was younger, but thought that it was out of reach. It really wasnít.
EVOtuners: For all those people out there who would like to go racing but think they can't, what message would send to them?
: You can go racing anytime, anywhere you want to. You just have to get after it, work hard and commit to doing it. It also helps to have a mentor. Go out to track events and hang out. Get to know some of us. We all got started the same way that you are, and most of us love to help new people get started. Itís very likely that we can save you time, money and frustration if youíll ask for the help.
EVOtuners: Is there anything else you think EVOtuners.net can do to help get the Evo community more involved in racing and encourage legalized track events/racing events?
: I think itís really important to continue to promote track events. Most folks donít realize how amazing driving on the track really is. I used to try hot rod around in the street before I new that I could do it on the track. It cost me a few cars, and a lot of money in tickets. Once I started going to the track I found out that itís so much more fun on the track that playing around in the street was really kinda dumb. You can only get crazy on the street for a few seconds at a time before you have to chill because of other cars, cops or the like. On the track you get to drive your ^*#$^%& off for 20-30 minutes at a time, all day long. Thatís what itís all about. The street is just no comparison.
EVOtuners: Anything else you'd like to say to the Evo community?
: The Evo is an incredible car. Less then 10 years ago you would have to pay $60,000-$90,000 to get this level of performance. Itís just amazing that we can get a car like this today for this kind of price. The Evo was meant to be performance driven. This is evident in the design of every component on the car. From the chassis strengthening, to the power train, to the gears in the transmission, to the brakes - this is a car built to have fun with. Bring your Evo out to the track and experience what this car is really all about.
See you at the track!
USTCC #8 2004 Evo VIII RS
We'd like to thank Dave for taking time away from his busy schedule to answer these questions and we'd also like to thank his sponsors for helping an Evo driver succeed in an arena where the Evo has yet to compete. We feel the Evo belongs on the track and the following businesses are helping make it happen: