We get asked a lot of questions but the one that has been sticking in my head lately is: What does it take to get into racing.
It’s actually a complicated question, because really you have to hash out what the person is asking. Racing what? Where? You can race your daily driver for $40 in a parking lot, or you can race a 2 million dollar car on a course for $30,000 entry. Even just with our car, you can race for $150 one hour from our shop or race for $4000 2000 miles from our shop. There is a lot of range… So the answer is typically: Lots of time or lots of money… or both.
Time is the ultimate factor. Without time you don’t race. Racing simply takes time, you need time to travel, to race, time to plan, time to maintain and time to repair. The more involved you are, the more time it takes to maintain a car. A vehicle like our bug is the ultimate in time use. A very limited car is going to get beat up and the limited components are going to break so therefore you are going to spend time fixing it, again and again. It’s the nature of the beast. It is the reason the number of race car projects that have started are not equal to the number of race car projects that are completed…
We spend a lot of time at the shop. In preparation for The Mint 400, Matt Wilson alone spent easily 150 hours on the car. Repairs are time consuming, especially when they aren’t a simple bolt on replacement. Inspecting every element of the car and the insane number of hours it takes to do so still doesn’t guarantee a win, or even a finish! There are so many unexpected and seemingly impossible things that can go wrong. It can be frustrating and it can be exhausting, but wow, the reward is the race and the speed and seeing the little car go like crazy through impossible terrain!
Time can be made up with Money of course. If you have enough money you can pay for other peoples time. Repair shops, personal mechanics, complete race programs, the sky is the limit! Anything can be accomplished if you throw enough money and brains at it. But the ultimate is when Lots of time AND money can be thrown at a race car. Why? You can then create a complete plan, follow through with the plan, develop the car to its ultimate level and have no compromise in time and money.
For Project Baja, time is more affordable than money. We often take the time to make parts that we don’t need to buy, we don’t cut corners, but we do look at things from a standpoint of fiscal responsibility. If we can make it in an hour or buy it for $80, we’ll probably make it. Our parts may not look as pro as the nice parts on the shelf, but they work the same and they hold up at least as well. We spend at least one day a week at our shop working on the car and we spend nearly every available hour with some problem from the car in our minds, trying to figure out a solution that will make it so we don’t have to deal with this problem again. Our shop floor is littered with failed ideas and our email inboxes are overflowing with quick notes and thoughts on how we can fix this, or make this better. Don’t get me wrong, we struggle with time just like anyone else. Our team is made up of individuals all who have a life of their own outside of the team and everyone of us has had things that have gotten in our way. We all rely on each other, because no one of us can do it entirely on our own, when someone falls down on the job, it there is no more time to take on that burden, but the only way this car will make it to a race is time.
Here’s the thing. Racing inadvertently teaches you patience and assuming you are on a team, it teaches you that there are things in this world bigger than just you. In an effort to go fast, you will experience some of the highest highs and lowest lows. These extremes develop your character and anytime I see any car at a start line I know that person has drive and determination. Get out and race, it will teach you more than you would possible expect!