Story and photo by Vickie Miller
This last article of 2014 brings you up to speed with an old friend and researches the idea of â€œwho is the average fanâ€.Â First is my trip to the Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) 24 race at Daytona in November where I caught up with a new team entering the Rolex 24 in 2015.
PART ONE: Under the category of â€œwhere are they nowâ€ add the old Daytona Prototype (DP) number 6 to that list. Â In mid-year 2014 RG Racing acquired the Gen 3 Riley DP from Michael Shank Racing (MSR) and started preparations to compete in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup series for the 2015 TUDOR season. Â The old number 6 was given new life and upgraded to the current IMSA specifications, including a 5-liter Dinan BMW engine. The car was last seen in 2013 racing in the GrandAm series.
RG Racing is a new team formed by Robert Gewirtz, who is a Neurosurgeon from Columbus Ohio by day and race car driver in heart. Robert raced in the 2014 Tudor 24 race at Daytona in the Muehlner Motorsports Porsche 911 finishing 45th overall and 20th in the GTD class. For the Historic race, Robert was paired with Pro-Am driver, Mark Kvamme, who also raced in the Muehlner Porsche car for the Rolex 24.
How do you start a new race team? Â First, Robert started by buying equipment, including pit gear, from the GAINSCO Bob Stallings team. Â Robert also purchased DP tires from Team Sahlen, which they arenâ€™t using anymore. Â Second, you buy a race car, which the choice was easy for Robert since he was in Columbus close to MSR, and Robert has always loved the DP car. Â Third, Robert picked a great driver, Shane Lewis, for testing the DP at Putnam Park on October 12. And last, but not least, you have got to want it more than anything else in your life!
For the HSR Historic race at Daytona, RG Racing entered the Gen 1 Southard Motorsports DP car raced as number 31. At the time of this article, number 6 has been reserved for another team and RG Racing had not announced the car number for the BMW Gen 3. The next biggest obstacle is fitting a BMW engine in a car which handled the Ford package.
Then comes the â€œlittleâ€ items like sponsors, insurance, catering and logistics but Robert is eager and anxious to see it all come together. Â During a break of the HSR weekend, I had the pleasure to meet and chat with Robert Gewirtz and Mark Kvammeâ€¦.here is our Q&A!
Where is the RG Racing shop located? Â Powell, Ohio
Why BMW motor? Â Basically, itâ€™s what was available.
Why DP and not a GT3 or Porsche team? The Porsche is harder to drive, and the DP is more balanced. Robert wants to be part of and lead the â€œPrototype Expressâ€ where during race day, the Prototypes zoom past the other class cars. Â According to Robert, â€œItâ€™s tough to drive a while looking in your mirrors.â€
The Gen 3 car is easier to drive then Gen 1. When racing the Gen 1 car in a night race at the Autobahn Sports Club in Joliet, IL the car raced over a culvert hump in the track and went airborne. Â Lap after lap, nothing brokeâ€¦.the car is like a TANK!
How has Southard Motorsports helped you with this process? Robert bought the number 31 DP which raced at Daytona Historic from Southard Motorsports, also based in Powell, Ohio, well known in GrandAm racing and no stranger to Shane Lewis. Southard Motorsports not only got Robert started with a car, but provided support all along the way. Itâ€™s wonderful to see Southard spirit live on. I remember in 2006 the Southard DP car was driven by Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton, two of the nicest drivers a fan would ever want to meet.
What track are you looking forward to racing on the most? Of course, Daytona Rolex 24 and secondly, Watkins Glen International for the 6 hour race.
Would you consider a full season in 2016 with the number 6 or even a two car team? Â With wide eyes, Robert replied, â€œLetâ€™s first get through 2014!â€ Fair enough.
Big thank you to Robert Gewirtz and Mark Kvamme!
Race fans can follow the RG Racing team on Twitter: Â RG Racing @rgracingllc
Facebook: Â RG Racing LLCÂ https://www.facebook.com/rgracingllc
Website: Â Â Â http://www.rgracing.us/
PART TWO: Â Who is the â€œaverageâ€ car racing fan? Â Recently, I emailed a fan questionnaire to over 40 race fans, where 90% were picked totally at random and some were picked because they lived outside the United States. Â Â I have seen and met many race fans at the track or via social media, I wanted to learn more about the person walking around the paddock. So what did I learn from this experiment? Â These responses were received in early November.
The average age of the race fans is 37 with the youngest 15 and most experienced was 68 years young. Â I did pick an equal number of males and females. Â I did not inquire as to marital status.
Occupations range from teacher, information technology, human resources, and financial consultant to disgruntled factory worker.
Where is home? Â Responses came from 12 different countries, 11 different states in the USA
Hobbies besides racing? Â Over 70% are very active with sports such as water aerobics, snow skiing, mountain biking, hockey, football, baseball, golf, fishing, while one fan drag races a 1968 Camaro!
With the rest split between skilled hobbies: Â shooting, mechanic, designing electronics, woodworking, silver-smith, cooking, video games, photography; and relaxing hobbies: Â reading, and watching movies.
While I am very proud to know several enjoy volunteering for charity organizations, I was not surprised. Â Over the years, I have noticed generosity of race fans helping others when links are posted and donations are being asked to help raise money for various charities or to support a driver in his efforts to realize a dream.
Besides IMSA/GrandAm/ALMS, what other race series do you follow? (in order from majority answer to fewer responses): F1, Indy, NASCAR, Pirelli World Challenge, FIA WEC, NHRA, Moto GP, and V8 Supercars.
The following questions were only in the context of IMSA/GrandAm/ALMS
What is your favorite track whether attended or watched a race on television? Many picked the track closest to their home, which is understandable. Â Other popular responses included Sebring International Raceway, Daytona International Speedway, Watkins Glen or Road Atlanta for historical reasons.
Which racetrack would you like to see IMSA return to the race schedule? Fans again picked their â€œlocalâ€ track, which is no longer on the schedule, such as Portland, Mid-Ohio, or Miller Motorsports Park. These responses were not a surprise, however, I did receive the occasional reply where a favorite track is across the country from where the person lived! While I live in Jacksonville FL, I love Laguna Seca. Â Yes, itâ€™s a long plane ride and I lose a travel day flying home, but I really enjoy the track and the corkscrew makes it worth the trip.
I found it very interesting many European race fans would rather travel to America to see an IMSA race then stay within their continent to see another series. Â Racing, just like anything else, people seem to want what they canâ€™t haveâ€¦..I want to travel to Europe for a race, and my friends in Europe want to come to Daytona International Speedway, which is an hour from my house!
I think this comes from a strong desire to follow their favorite team or driver where they race. Â It was heart-warming to see the lengths in which a race fan will go to support their favorite team or driverâ€¦.wake up early, watch online, and save every penny or Euro, for race event travel.
How do fans around the globe â€œinteractâ€ with race teams? Â While there are â€œabusersâ€ of the social media networks, when used for good Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are available for race fans around the globe to keep up with their teams. I follow many teams on the social media platforms and notice some teams do a good job at the public relations forum, but many could do better. Â Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are FREE! Â If a team has an account and does post occasionally, why not encourage more fan interaction? Â It doesnâ€™t take much to keep fans informed with a daily or weekly team update. Or if there is no update, post that too. Â Many fans mentioned frustration as to not knowing what is going on with their team. Â Even if the team has no news to report, maybe a #ThrowBackThursday type photograph from a past race, just something to keep fans involved during the off-season and let race fans know they are not forgotten.
This brings us to the question â€œWho is your favorite team and why?â€ As you can imagine the responses were all over the board, but there was a common theme. Fans tend to support teams either based on manufacture loyalty or fan interaction, which leads the topic back to social media.
Several responses mentioned following because a team â€œresponds to tweetsâ€ and provide updates during the race event, giving the fan a sense of belonging and â€œbeing thereâ€, or the drivers were very fan friendly. It was very interesting to read many fans have a favorite driver from one team, but their favorite team is another car.
Who is the favorite driver and teamâ€¦..drum roll pleaseâ€¦.Favorite Driver: Â Andy Lally received the most votes with Dion von Moltke, Â the Taylor brothers, Patrick Dempsey and Ryan Eversley each receiving many mentions. Â Favorite Team: tied with Flying Lizard and Dempsey Racing. Â I was sad to read favorite teams included Dyson and Muscle Milk.
So where do YOU go to read the latest racing news? Â The number one form to get quick updates is TWITTER with Facebook providing a close second, followed by individual team websites. Â The most read â€œtweetsâ€ (in order) are from @Sportscar365, @Racer, and @Motorsport
Here is a direct quote from one fan, â€œWhile I do read articles posted by most if not all of the media outlets, I give the most credibility to Sportscar365. The articles are well researched and do not participate in sensationalism, rumor mill, click bait, etcâ€.
Another fan favorite is RACER magazine, which is a favorite source of mine too. Â One fan even mentioned their source was ME! What pressure! I am fortunate enough to be able to attend many races. I get many requests for photographs of certain drivers and cars, and I try to accommodate as many requests as possible.
Now to the heavy hitter questionâ€¦.What is the number one issue you want IMSA to fix and how can they fix it? The responses to this question proved to be the most interesting. Â The top issues included (excerpt comments) driver rankings (fix by elimination) television coverage (with fans in Europe strongly voicing their desire for streaming online coverage), homologation of the GT cars with one spec across the board for the GT class, single prototype style, budget since it costs nearly the same amount to run a GTD car for a full season as it does to run GTE-Am in FIA WEC, consistency with penalties and promoting a series that is full of drivers who respect one another on track and off, and improved safety including barriers to catch fences need a total overhaul.
The strongest topic was cautions and safety car periods with fans stating, â€œcaution period lengths with a maximum of 2 yellow laps for very minor situationsâ€, and â€œentirely too much racing time is spent behind a safety car.â€ This fan offers the suggestion of Race Control looking into â€œslow zonesâ€ as used in European races, with IMSA watching it work in action, take training on the subject to be better informed on the process, and engage in a driver discussion. Â â€œWe watch races to watch RACING, not hours of follow the leader.â€
A big THANK YOU for all who completed the survey and shared their information. Â I will keep it all confidential and appreciate your trust in responding honestly. Â This was a very delightful exercise, which I hope people enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed reporting the results!
Also a big THANK YOU to all the racing fans who have read, shared, and commented on my articles this past year. Â I have enjoyed recapping each race I attended and love meeting many of you! Â Please let me know if you have any suggestions for topics in 2015. Â I welcome your ideas and feel free to contact me @viclovesracing
Wishing you a very safe and blessed Holiday season and see you in 2015.