Want to get on track? The first step is just taking that first step.

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Jun 1, 2024 | Endurance Racing, Autocross, Motorsports, track day, Column | Posted in Columns | From the Aug. 2022 issue | Never miss an article

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All water has a past and all sewage has a future.”

Those deep thoughts–and we’ll get back to them in a minute–came from a commencement speech this past spring. Picture proud parents, nervous students, and the usual pomp and circumstance. For all those involved, the joy of a task completed met an uncertain horizon. 

The speaker, though, wasn’t one of the usual suspects. It wasn’t an astronaut who overcame a health issue to score a seat in a shuttle, a CEO who grew a mom and pop into a Fortune 500 company, or a sportsball hero born on the wrong side of the tracks.

Not quite. Those words came from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. And it was a virtual address delivered by a viral (semiviral?) tweet, since the public works wasn’t invited to speak anywhere in person. 

As usual, though, don’t discount the source of the wisdom. When Taco Bell tweeted that Mexican Pizzas would return once supplies were replenished, the Ohio utility was there with a quick reply: We’ll be ready. 

I like that dedication to the task at hand. And yes, everyone poops. My dog excels at it, and I’m actually a little jealous of her regularity. 

But back to that line at the top of the page: We’re all works in progress, and we all have a future. (Well, positive thoughts, okay?)

We hear a lot of questions involving the future. How to become a professional race car driver. How to get more involved in the sport. Or, God forbid, how to become a magazine editor.

The short answer: Do it. 

That advice comes from a dude who’s way more engaging and charismatic than I’ll ever be and has been “living the dream” for decades, and I put that in quotes because I once got to tour a band’s bus–never meet your heroes. 

But that “do it” comes from Angelo Moore, singer, saxophonist, poet, artist and frontman for ska/punk/funk/reggae/etc. institution Fishbone. If you’re of a certain age, you might remember them from back in the day. 

I recently met him during an art gallery opening an hour north of us in beautiful Jacksonville Beach. It was his first exhibition. After nearly four decades in the music biz, about six years ago he branched out into mixed media on canvas. As he explained to plebs like me, he decided to just do it. 

Go be that rock star, be that artist, be that race car driver. And if the Garden, the Guggenheim or the Indy 500 is out of the cards, find a local karaoke bar, a smaller gallery or an SCCA autocross. (Angelo still does karaoke, he says, to keep himself grounded.)

Just. Go. Do. It. 

You want to get behind the wheel? Start taking those steps. Back in the day, you had to know the secret handshake. Today, pick your entry point: autocross, track day, low-buck enduro, whatever. Already know the drill but have a friend who’s interested? Take them along. 

I might never be as good a mechanic as some other names on the masthead, but I can almost fake it okay because, again, the first step is just taking that first step. After nearly 20 years of service, the carburetor on our mower recently threw in the towel. I considered just dumping the mower but realized that it had zero value in INOP condition. So I spent $20 for a new carb; after surgery, the mower fired up on the first pull. 

The last Monday of the month, I usually make the hourlong drive to downtown Orlando for the Orlando Roadsters get-together at Ace Cafe. Picture a few dozen Miatas and their owners just hanging out in a parking lot, with the evening’s passage marked by the sun’s setting behind I-4.

The cars cover all the usual food groups: forced induction, Honda swaps, autocross regulars, full-on drift cars. Influences come from Japan to traditional low-riders. You’ll see new fusions of a longtime favorite–and perhaps an old-school Jackson Racing supercharger in the mix. A lot of cars have a bit of work in them–time and money, sweat and tears. 

Parked in the middle of last month’s field was a red, bone-stock early car. It still wore its factory air bag steering wheel and Daisy alloys. The owner sat upon the trunk lid. 

At least for that evening, she was the rock star. Her car has a past, and I got a vibe that together they’ll have a good future.

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Tom1200 UltraDork
7/11/22 4:02 p.m.


What does that Italian on the side of the car say?

"it's faster than a set of bleachers"  (thanks to Alex Gelsomino for translating into Italian)

In the early 90s a spectator / local autocrosser told me he'd never race anything that slow; to which I replied "it's faster than a set of bleachers". I'm on my 38th year with the car and my 33rd season of racing it. I've never done better than 5th overall with the car and it's usually mid pack but it doesn't matter.

Just get get out there; I've autocrossed, rallycrossed, organized a stage rally, road raced, flagged corners,  worked tech, wrote some articles and it's all fun as hell with loads of great people.

kb58 SuperDork
7/11/22 4:48 p.m.

And never track something that you can't afford to break or damage, and an old Miata is just about the perfect "gateway drug."

GTI_2032 GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/14/22 1:16 a.m.

Sign up with a group that provides instructors for novices/first timers.   It'll push you up the learning curve more quickly, it will take a lot of guess work out of what to do,  and overall the event will go more smoothly for you.  My first track day was with Hooked on Driving and I think it was perfect for that first experience.  

Olemiss540 HalfDork
12/14/22 8:21 a.m.

Please just don't be like me. Do NOT get immediately hooked and start heavily modifying vehicles between every dang event. You WILL spend more time learning how to fix broken E36 M3 than driving. Reliability is #1 since this hobby is no fun when your car is broke down. Driving a slow car slow is MUCH more fun than fixing a fast car in the paddock. Sadly after 14 years I still haven't learned my lesson (exhibit A:https://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?2470075-Olemiss540-s-WAR-Machine-LS1-E36) but that is mostly due to the group of enablers I call best friends that I have met through this cursed hobby of ours.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/21/23 9:27 a.m.

Oh, yeah, there’s something to be said for following the KISS approach here.

Know how much downtime I’ve had in autocrossing my Miata the past three years? Like just the time spent swapping tires and doing the occasional oil change. 

ddavidv UltimaDork
11/21/23 5:28 p.m.

As an instructor, I loved teaching noobs. Especially with lower powered cars. We aren't impressed by your 'mods' list or how often you play Forza.  Show up in your Focus wagon with Cooper tires and let's have a fun day. smiley

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/21/23 6:07 p.m.

In reply to ddavidv :

Yup. I also enjoying working with the novices. Let’s concentrate on the basics: being safe, having fun, not getting lost, making friends and learning something new. 

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