The Highs and Lows of Racing
By Seth Burgett, CEO of Gateway Bronco
Car Racing is a sport I love. Even the best drivers and teams in the world realize that 9 times out of 10, you will not win. That means it can be filled with disappointment 90% of the time.
Ross Bentley, former sports car ace, IndyCar driver and noted driving coach, recently touched on that subject in one of his Speed Secrets columns. “Racing can be a brutally difficult sport, full of all sorts of things that are not fun at all,” Bentley related. He gave the example of Roger Penske, likely the winningest race team owner in history, with multiple championships in multiple series, 19 Indy 500 wins and an F1 victory, yet his cars still lose something like 90 percent of the races entered.
There are so many variables that can affect the outcome of a race — the crew, the car, the weather, the track conditions, fellow participants, the organization running the event, etc. Did the driver get a good night’s sleep? Everything adds up, and all those things must align to ensure a particular driver can do well that day.
The smallest details can derail a weekend’s performance. For us, that happened at the SVRA Speedtour race at Sebring this year. Our 1967 Shelby Mustang was prepared to be at the front of the pack. As a driver, I prepared to be at the front. We know that we can run well there, but an alternator self-destructed during qualifying on Turn 17, a high-risk corner while passing a Porsche 911. Luckily the incident enabled a quick exit with lots of smoke. Later when the car returned to the pits, we discovered that the alternator shorted the wiring harness. The crew had to rewire and patch it together to start the first race of the weekend.
During our first race of the weekend, we were leading our class in Group 6 but ended up losing the rear-end on Turn 7. We were a DNF (Did Not Finish) which put us at the back of the pack for the Feature Race on Sunday. From there we had to dig our way out of a hole and ended up going from the back of the pack to 3rd place.
That’s the kind of challenges that occur in racing. We would have very likely been in the 1st or 2nd spot if we had started at the front but could not make it to the front because we had to drive through the entire field.
This lead-in may seem gloomy, but it’s all to set the table for how fantastic it feels to win. When everything in a race goes right, it feels like being on top of the world.
We got a taste of victory at the SVRA Gateway Speedtour at World Wide Technology Raceway in September. As SVRA celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Corvette, we raced three back-to-back races in our 1967 Shelby Mustang and won them all. A clean sweep, out pacing the entire field.
We could not have asked for a better race. The Shelby ran like an unstoppable freight train thanks to the engine build and car preparation by Ray Bonthron and team at R&R Motorsports in Benton, Illinois. The weather was beautiful, and the track remained in good condition following the T/A2 races that were held there. It was a great weekend, a once-in-a-lifetime type situation where everything fell into place. The other Mustangs, Corvettes, and Jaguars could not compete at the same level, so we held a dominant position the entire weekend.
Since we were in St. Louis, close to our Hamel, Illinois, headquarters, we had a hometown crowd in attendance. One of our team members participated in the car show and his Terlingua tribute Mustang also won top honors. It was doubly exciting that we were all able to do so well on our home turf.
It was a nice build-up to our next major race, the Velocity Invitational at Sonoma Raceway. The Velocity bills itself as a luxury motorsports festival, and it certainly delivers. The entire weekend will be packed with vintage sports cars and legendary historic race cars competing against each other. It is a prestigious race, and we consider it an honor to be invited.
The Velocity Invitational will be a major event for us. In preparation for this race, I took the opportunity to polish my car control experience with Drift 101, the premiere drift school in the country. I spent two days drifting behind the wheel of a Nissan 240SX at historic Willow Springs Raceway in California..
I built a strong connection with my instructor, Naoki, a former professional drift racer. “Seth, you are a very enthusiastic participant and a unique student,” he told me. “My tires normally last two weeks, and they lasted for a day and half for you.”
The preparation at Drift 101 was an exceptional experience. I may have broken my right hand in a steering wheel incident, but other than that it was a near flawless opportunity to gain car control experience, which I look forward to putting into use at the Velocity Invitational.
We are participating in the Mini vs Mustang enduro races. This event should be extraordinarily fun for the drivers, and a blast for spectators. Each car has strengths and weaknesses, but on that track, without long straightaways, the Mini Cooper will have several advantages. We can’t wait to mix it up with the nimble British cars.
This has been a racing season where we enjoyed the highs and endured the lows. As the end of the year nears, we feel a sense of anticipation for a new event in a different environment. Racing always breeds strong emotions, and we’re hoping to end the year on a high note.
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Stay up to date with our latest builds, For Sale Inventory and more.