Motivation, and lack thereof

What motivates you when it comes to cars/racing?

I have been contemplating this a lot lately, because in the wake of some major life events, including losing my father to cancer, I have struggled with finding any motivation to work on my cars. Thinking back, it was interesting to identify how my motivation has changed quite a bit over the years.

10 years ago: I had a renewed interest in cars, having stepped outside of the BMW realm for the first time (with a Subaru). I met a lot of great friends at that time, many of which I'm still very close with (and most of which drive BMWs on-track now, go figure).

5/6 years ago: I was getting back into E30s for the first time in about 8 years, and getting heavily addicted to track days and performance driving. I started building my #74 E30 in 2016, and it was really important to me how the car looked and presented, almost as important as how it performed. I worked on, tweaked, and modified the car in between every event.

2/3 years ago: The car was in a great place, and I was motivated to excel as a driver. Changing the car became less of a priority. Studying video, data, and learning from others became my focus.

1 year ago: I was dead-set on getting my competition license, as well as doing as many events as possible during the year. I wanted to try out endurance racing as well, in addition to sprint/club racing.

Today: The main thing getting me to the track is the people. The camaraderie of racing, and getting to spend time with friends, is the main motivating factor. Coming second is the enjoyment I get driving the car and honing my skills.

The Subaru that fostered many lasting friendships.

Looking back, I would say that I was pretty successful in achieving the goals I had set for myself, although I have yet to get my competition license or do any wheel to wheel racing. The thing that really stands out to me, though, is how my journey has become less about the cars, and more about the people. The people always mattered, but for a long time I still thought I had something to prove when it came to the car itself.

Proving oneself

Speaking of having something to prove, I think that plays into my desire to get a competition license and see how I stack up with other drivers (outside of Time Trials). My E30 has always been a bit more modified and a bit more powerful than a Spec E30, but it always seemed to get shrugged off when I'd achieve a fast time in the car, as if the car was only reason, and the driver didn't matter.

Simpler, cleaner times.

In general, I think that wheel to wheel racers tend to look down on Time Trial drivers, unjustly so. Sure, the barrier to entry for Time Trials is lower than wheel to wheel, and there are some pretty average to below-average Time Trial drivers, but the reality is there are some pretty bad race group drivers as well. While race craft is a thing unto itself, setting a flying lap is still a noble pursuit in my opinion, and it takes a skill set that is not dissimilar to being a fast wheel to wheel racer.

There are a lot of highly skilled Time Trialers out there that I am confident could be competitive racers. I can't speak for others, but for myself, it's not as simple as just getting my comp license and showing up in race group instead of TT. I don't take lightly that what we do, at any level, is dangerous. I think that that stakes go up quite a bit in wheel to wheel racing, and I struggle with that when I have so many people that rely on me.

I also know that a wheel to wheel race car frequently demands much more attention than any other type of track car, due to the increased possibility of accidents and body contact. In the absence of time or motivation to work on and prep the car myself, I unfortunately don't yet have the network of race shop, engine builder, body shop, alignment shop... to know that doing some rubbing on the race track won't result in a bunch of frustration as I scramble to fix the car myself before the next event.

A double national-title winning effort by Carlos took a lot of effort, but it was so much fun. Left to right: Matt Lopez, Thomas Lathrop (author), Carlos Mendez, Christina Mendez, Raul Iriarte: The Condor Speed Shop race team for the 2021 NASA Championships.

Racing with friends

Coming back to the idea of doing some endurance racing: it's not something I ever seriously pursued, and it really comes back to the people. Sure, on any given race weekend it's not very difficult to find an open seat with a ChampCar or WRL race team. The thing is, I'd be doing it with strangers, and while I don't discount the possibility of making friends or even falling into a great group of people, I want to do it with my friends. Since that possibility hasn't presented itself, I have not pursued the endurance racing idea any further.

I guess that for now, my motivation will continue to come from simply wanting to be at the track, driving cars with my friends. I don't feel that I have much of anything left to prove with the car itself, but I still get a ton of enjoyment from driving on the track. To do so, I'll need a safe and functional car. So, I guess it's time to head back out to the garage to finish up corner balancing my E30 before NASA SE @ Carolina Motorsport Park this weekend. The car needs to be safe and prepared, after all.

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