Where would you like your racing to take you?
Realistically, I’d like to be an SCCA National Champion. It’s going to take a lot of work, but that’s what my goal is.
Do you want to keep it as a hobby or would you like it to become your profession?
I’d love to be involved in any type of racing professionally, even if I’m just a pit crew member, but the chances of this happening are very small. I am, however, working Flagging and Communications for SCCA Club Racing events in hopes that I’ll be able to volunteer to work the track for Formula 1 when they come to American soil again.
At Carlisle, you did a lot of instructing. What do you like best about instructing other people?
I always like it when I have receptive students. I can look at them, see the wheels turning in their head and then witness the product of them improving in their times.
What is the biggest mistake people make on the track?
Coasting or not looking far enough ahead. At Carlisle, you dont have to really look too far ahead as the course is very simple and constrained, so the biggest mistake folks were making there was coasting. When you look at the telemetry data from professional drivers, you see their pedal inputs are very precise and they spend little to no time between throttle and braking.
Do you have any bad habits left that you still struggle with when you get on the track?
TONS. My main problem is trying to play catchup too badly. At a normal four run autocross, if I dont get a clean 2nd run, I usually mess up my whole day by trying too hard my 3rd run and then being too timid my 4th.
If you could have any professional driver as your instructor for the day, who would you choose and why?
The Professor himself, four-time Formula 1 World Champion, Alain Prost. Aside from the fact that he and Senna were arguably the two best drivers ever, Alain had a way of getting the most he needed from a car to win and nothing more, allowing him to be more gentle on a vehicle than most drivers. When you fund your own vehicle like I do, this is extremely important.
What is your favorite track to drive?
Spa Francorchamps, Belgium. Nothing quite compares to coming out of the La Source hairpin and charging down to Eau Rouge.
What is one track that you want to drive but haven’t yet?
Monaco, but I dont think they’ll close the streets for me. Everyone who loves racing wants to drive Monaco.
You have lived and raced overseas. What are some of the biggest differences between driving there and the United States?
Both have advantages and disadvantages.
Driving Overseas (Germany):
-Track time is dirt cheap. I can get 20 minutes on Hockenheimring for below 30 euro ($37 USD). A lap on the Nordschleife is around 20 euro ($25 USD).
-Traffic is very light on public roads and there are more traffic circles and less stop lights.
-No emissions testing.
-Legendary, world famous tracks within driving distance.
Driving in the States:
-Amateur racing is FAR more abundant and much better than overseas. You dont find anything like the SCCA or NASA over there.
-Everyone speaks your language, so picking brains at the track is much easier.
-Parts are much easier to come by. In Europe, it was a pain to get something as simple as vacuum line.
For someone who is new to the racing scene, how do you suggest they start out? Better suspension? Beefier tires? More HP? Or something else?
(Disclaimer: This does not apply to folks building cars because it’s their hobby, this just applies to folks who want to get serious about motorsports.)
Above all, ALWAYS read the rule book for your governing body before doing anything to you car. If you’re interested in autocross, you can find the rule book here: SCCA Rulebook.
DO NOT swap your motor, DO NOT turbo your car, ignore everyone telling you to put an SR/RB/CA/LS/ABCDEFG in your vehicle. A motorswap is the gateway to making yourself the slowest person in your class. For the price of an SR swap, you could have built a relatively good ST class vehicle, but instead you created a very poor SM class car. If later on down the road, you think you want to spend $20-30,000 on building an SM vehicle, that’s your choice, but if you start off that way, you’re not going to have much fun at all getting stomped each weekend.
Leave the car stock. Go find a spare set of wheels that are the same size/dimensions as yours (stock class rule) and put some R-compounds on them (Hoosier A6/Kumho V710). Compete in one of the many stock autocross classes for a year or two. After that, you’ll have a working knowledge of what your car can do and what it may need if you want to move up a class, or just stay in stock (absolutely nothing wrong with that and something I contemplate quite often).
Ask questions if you’re unsure about anything. Don’t do anything you’re not completely positive about. Something as simple as removing your sun visors can throw you into a higher class where unless you have a TON of cash invested in your car, you’re going to get crushed. You have resources here at NICO (myself, PEZi720, Bubba1, etc) – USE them.
Thanks, Jim – Any “parting advice” for the readers?
Motorsports is as expensive as YOU make it. Read the rules and figure out what works for you.
Once again I want to thank Jim for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. I hope you have enjoyed this little adventure down the road less travelled. Even though he is driving a car made by ‘that other company’ I think we can all agree that the car we drive doesn’t matter as much as the people who drive them. The fact that Jim has remained an active member of NICO long after the Nissan went away speaks volumes. Many thanks for staying with the family, hope to see you next year at Carlisle.
Becky (nissangirl74) is NICOclub’s Business Manager and Contributing Editor.