This article is overdue; we're already a month past the event. The time and focus needed to prep the E90 earlier this year have swung in the other direction. I've needed to return my attention to my business and family life. 

In April, I realized a long-term dream when I competed in my first Gridlife Touring Cup race event. Thanks to the support of my friends, family, and sponsors, the event went off without a hitch. The competition, friendliness, and atmosphere were everything I hoped they would be. Let's dive into the details.

Race starts with almost 50 cars were... stressful.

Day -1: Travel

Carolina Motorsports Park is nearby, but unfortunately, the travel day wasn't without drama. I had been so busy leading up to the event that I left my final bolt and safety checks for the day I left. To my surprise, I found a few issues that required attention. I also got the call that my custom ear molds were ready, conveniently timed so that a friend who lives nearby was able to pick them up on his way to the track.

I arrived at the track on Wednesday evening, about 3 hours later than I had hoped. Still, I had made it, tired and emotionally drained from the months of work I'd put in to prepare the car.

The CMP paddock fills up quickly, especially for an event as large as Gridlife, so getting there a day earlier than the rest of the crowd was worth the price of entry to the test day.

Day 0: Testing

The weather forecast leading up to the event looked poor: three straight days of rain. At the last minute, Mother Nature decided to dump all the rain on the Thursday test day. While it was good that the two days of competition with Gridlife were going to be clear, it wasn't good that the track was soaked throughout most of the test day.

After sleeping in and spending the wet morning at our Airbnb, we got to the track around lunchtime on Thursday. The track was pretty dry when we arrived, but it started pouring again right before the next test session went out.

Undeterred, Carlos and I still went out in that session to do a final systems test on both cars. I went out in standing water using shaved Kumh0 V730s, which performed surprisingly well once they got some heat in them. I did not notice any issues with my car during the test session.

Unfortunately, Carlos found that his car shut off twice during that session. The data logs showed that a recent change to how his fuel pumps were wired caused the circuit to trip on his PDM. Thankfully, it was easy to undo the change to ensure the fuel pump circuit wouldn't trip again.

Even though the rain had stopped by the end of the day, the winds were howling, and the strong winds would remain for the next two days.

Thursday was swampy.

Day 1: Competition

Friday brought us clear skies, strong winds, and stiff competition. The day began with a practice session, followed by qualifying and Race 1. The practice session was cut short because multiple cars needed to be towed. 

After practice, I was able to make it onto the dyno, which allowed me to adjust my competition weight slightly. I needed to run 80lbs of ballast for my claim of 236whp.

Adam Jabaay, one of Gridlife's founders, works like a madman. He's involved in almost every aspect of each event.

Qualifying was supposed to be upwards of 40 minutes, but they only gave us about 25 minutes. In the middle of the session, I entered the hot pits to gather my composure and let the car and tires cool down. On my second outing, the track was much more empty than earlier. I was on a flyer when I noticed the checkered flag being displayed in turn 8, which was odd because I've only ever seen black flags flown from that station. I figured that was an early warning that I'd take the checkered flag at the end of the lap.

As it turned out, there was a miscommunication between race control and the flag workers. That checker was the only checker, and I had blown it by finishing my lap. I was not the only driver to do so. Thankfully, race control was very understanding and even apologetic, as the flag team misunderstood the whole situation. No harm, no foul.

I qualified 29th out of 49 cars. Carlos qualified 19th.

Race 1

My very first official race in GLTC was uneventful. I was focused on being clean, safe, and aware of my surroundings. The pacing of the start was difficult. Cars accelerated quickly out of the last corner, only to slam on the brakes again as the accordion bunched back up. A gap had formed in the field, and many drivers weren't even on the front straight when the green flag flew. In typical fashion for my short race career, I got passed by several cars within the first few corners.

After making a few passes back and some attrition in the field, I finished up four spots to P25.

Qualifying for Saturday's Race 2 was based on the best lap times from Race 1, and coincidentally, I was back to P29 again, the same as for Race 1.

Carlos finished P17 in Race 1, and his time was also good for P17 in the next race.

That's me in the back, trying unsuccessfully to keep up with Carlos during practice.

Day 2: Competition

Saturday brought loads of spectators to the track to watch everything a Gridlife festival offers: racing, time attack, drifting, a car show, vendors, food trucks, and a concert. There really is something for everyone.

Race 2

Our first race on Saturday was essentially the same as Race 1. I moved up 5 spots this time, finishing P24. The subsequent racers would all be gridded based on finishing position, so I was successfully moving up the field. Carlos also moved up in Race 2, reaching the top 15.

Race 3

Unfortunately, this race was truncated due to an accident that left two cars immobile in turn 4, one right in the middle of the track. This race ended under full course yellow after just 2.5 green laps. Due to the accident, attrition, and some DQ's (multiple passes under yellow), I had my best finish of P18 in this race. Carlos finished P10, which proved crucial for his next race.

Race 4

GLTC typically has a random invert of the field in Race 4, which is determined this year by the Race 3 winner rolling dice. The top 11 cars were inverted this time, so Carlos's P10 finish put him P2 at the start of Race 4. After the self-described "worst race of his life," Carlos finished in a respectable P8, his best weekend finish. 

Though I started P18 and finished P19, I considered Race 4 my best effort of the weekend. The racing was close and competitive, and despite getting passed more than my share of times, I also contested several passes and made a few of them back. I also made a decisive pass with just 2 corners left in the race and finished only 2/10ths behind the car ahead.

I was very happy with this final performance of the weekend, and it left me proud of my efforts in achieving two top-20 (and in-the-points) finishes.

Overall Results

GLTC assigns overall finishing positions for the weekend based on points accrued. I finished P26 overall, and Carlos finished strongly in P12 for the weekend (out of 49 drivers). We were very happy with the result for our first GLTC weekend with our new cars (only my 3rd weekend driving mine, and 4th for Carlos!).

Expectations & Reality

Driving cleanly and safely was my top priority, especially as a rookie Gridlife racer. Even so, it was hard not to have some expectations. I had hoped to be in the top 25—basically, just ahead of "average." Thankfully, I was able to accomplish just that.

I felt competitive and really enjoyed racing around the mid-pack cars. I built a rapport with several racers with whom I had good, clean battles.

Despite having ample experience driving at Carolina Motorsports Park, I was admittedly disappointed with my race pace. My excuses include re-adjusting to driving on 200tw "street" tires, having limited experience driving my new-to-me E90, and finding it hard to execute the pace I know I am capable of in a hectic door-to-door racing environment. These are all things that I can improve on.

While my car felt good, and I had no specific complaints about it, I found myself wanting to blame "it," though I knew that was unfair. It is a highly capable car that can deliver performance far beyond what I can extract from it.

It's Not About The Car

Throughout the weekend I was racing against and around the Corvette that won the GLTC championship in 2023. The car had changed ownership between seasons. Running against this car that dominated last season but was now squarely in the mid-pack reminded me that it's not about the car but the driver.

While I would normally have been tempted to throw a slew of upgrades at the car after this race, I'm sticking to basic maintenance and "free" things, such as re-adjusting the alignment and corner balance of the car.

...It's About The People

The weekend was delightful. Getting time to spend with my closest friends and family and meeting new racer buddies was the icing on the cake. The racing was great; it lived up to my dream of courteous single-class racing with competition at every level. 

Next Up

We'll be back for Gridlife Midwest Festival at Gingerman Raceway on June 7-9. You can catch all the action in person or via Gridlife's excellent live streams on their Twitch and YouTube channels.

Special Thanks

I would not be racing without the support of my wife and family. I appreciate each of my racing buddies for helping wrench and helping me improve. Thank you to HRE Wheels for believing in the Condor Racing program. Crucially, thank you, Condor Speed Shop, for your enduring support and for providing the logistics for me to race in a national series.