Sport Car Motion, A Dominant Force in Time Attack

14 May

I was in San Diego this past week and had an opportunity to stop by the Sport Car Motion shop up in San Marcos. It was my first visit to their facility in the 6+ years I’ve known Loi and the crew there. Sport Car Motion is one of the few teams in the sport of time attack here in the United States that I feel comfortable saying they are dominant and the favorite to win any event they enter. Getting to know guys like Loi Song and working with teams like Sport Car Motion is certainly one of the perks I’ve had over the years. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Loi and the SCM crew in the near future!

Name: Sportcar Motion

Car: ‘98 Acura Integra Type-R
Sponsors: Skunk 2, Kraftwerks, Buddy Club, Toyo Tires, Tein, Rywire, Evasive, Church Automotive Testing. Competition Clutch, Golden Eagle, JE Pistons, Torco, RLC, Gearspeed, Hondata, K-tuned, Enkei, Hasport, RC, Godspeed
Tires: Toyo R-888

(Nikolas): SportCar Motion has been kicking ass and taking names in the time attack scene since the very beginning! The wall at your shop is full of awards from Redline Time Attack, Super Lap Battle and Global Time Attack.  What can you attribute the consistency of your teams performance to?

(Loi Song/SportCar Motion):  Our consistency comes from having a great support system between our own staff and our sponsors over the years. In the beginning there were no sponsors, just our team here at SCM. The hard work between the techs, and our drivers has truly been consistent due to learning what works and doesn’t work over the years. We have found the perfect recipe to winning races powered by Honda K series motors with true off the shelf products that are available to anyone. Trial and error is truly a big part of being successful. Tons of testing time away from the events was critical as well to our success. Also, not being afraid to think outside the box has been a huge help. From duct tape to dryer hosing at the track. When we have had issues mid race, thinking outside the box has truly won us races! Thank you Home Depot haha!


And this dominance has come from a range of vehicle platforms, most if not all of them Honda and Acura. Sure, they’ve been similar platforms, but not identical. Have there been any specific challenges that snuck up on you with each specific platform?

K-series motors are pretty straight forward regardless of the chassis really. The challenges we have seen mainly are with the Kraftwerks supercharged setup. That is a completely different ballgame then the N/A K-series engines we have been running. With the additional horsepower, comes cooling and braking concerns. We have spent close to 4 years running the Kraftwerks supercharger K-race kit on both our now retired EG and on the ITR. We have learned a lot about this unique setup, but also still have a ton to still learn about. Other then that, the big challenge has always been what tire to run on what chassis. As we have run both street and modified classes we have also learned a lot about what tires truly work and don’t on the many Honda platforms.

Surely the release and ready availability of the Honda K series of engines has helped from a power standpoint. I can’t recall if any of your 1st place finishes were with a car powered by a B series engine…  Have they all been K Series wins?

Truly, you can build a B-series motor with just as much power as a K-series motor honestly. But, our niche really is in K-series. We have stayed K-series as we have really put a lot of time into learning/perfecting K-series and all the great products available for them now. All of our time attack cars have been K-series. The only winning B-series motor in our history is in 2004-2005 in drag racing with our now retired SFWD EG. The old drag EG now calls Dubai home with its new owner.


Are you planning to step into the RWD classes of time attack competition? You’ve dominated FWD competition, especially in the Modified/Limited classes. As a fan, I’m curious to see if you’ll be building an S2000 to chase after Berk and their BMW 135 in Modified/Limited?

You can catch us making an entrance into RWD with an S2000 that we are sponsoring this year in the street class. I have a pretty good feeling that the car will outgrow the street class quickly with our help and be out there with the Modified/Limited guys soon. We’re not taking names yet, but looking forward to being apart of RWD class.


You’ve recently moved to a new facility, which I had the opportunity to come and visit you at just this past week. You have a huge following on Facebook, Twitter and forums.It’s great to see you guys doing so well!  You must be happy.

We have been here in San Marcos for 6 years now in this facility. We just recently did some remodeling and hosted an open house. Many people thought we moved. But, we have been here 6 years now. It has been years since the last open house, so we were excited to have everyone here a few weekends ago. We have a huge following in the social media world and also in the printed media world as a huge amount of our work is featured in the many magazines here in the US. Our business is solely based upon the media articles, social media world , and racing now. We do not advertise anywhere. We are very happy with the following around SCM!


And I think, besides the reputation that you have with the fans and your customers, you have a great reputation among your fellow shops, tuners and racers in the street performance and time attack circles. That speaks volumes about your company and your leadership of it.

The best thing you can do in this industry is work together and help one another when you can. It has been tough for everyone the past few years with the economy and everything that it has effected. We are always happy to lend a hand to their shops, businesses, etc in the industry. We truly own our demographic, none of the other shops do what we do. This isn’t a competition away from the track, so helping one another truly helps us stand apart from some of the others. Also, when it comes to racing we have always been happy to help other teams as needed. What we are doing is no secret. Wither it is borrowing tools, or needing advise on track setup we have always been happy to help.


While I was visiting your shop, we had a chance to speak about the tire situation in time attack these days. Fans will remember the drama over tires in the Unlimited Class going back to 2008-2009. (A situation that played heavily in the decision of mine to allow full race slicks in Unlimited Class) Now it appears there is going to be that ONE brand/model of tire to rule the Modified Class. What are your thoughts on this?

I think that the biggest issue will be sizing. It is very hard to accommodate everyone as there are so many different tire sizes needed between every car. Then if sizes aren’t available, you have to go back to the drawing board and find another size tire that will work and another set of wheels. It gets expensive!  I am fine with the ONE tire as long as it comes in the size we need! =)


We also spoke a little bit about rules. That’s a topic that I had to deal with VERY often while running Redline Time Attack. You can never make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time. But I think the biggest issue is consistency. As a team owner, I’m sure you’d appreciate if the rules as they were printed in the rule book were the rules that were applied at the race track.

As many say, rules are made to be broken. This will be a forever ongoing issue. You can not make every team happy, so finding a common ground is the best you can do, and hold the teams to it.

With Global Time Attack heading East for the summer and early Fall, what are your plans to keep the team busy in time attack out here on the West Coast?

We have our hands full here at SCM in the absence of time attack as we are debuting our new SFWD drag car in the next month. The car is just nearing completion, so there is a ton of seat time and testing needed as we have been out of drag racing since time attack took off in 2005-2006. We are very excited to get back out there and stay busy!

We also had a chance to speak briefly about the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Championships series. I would love to see an SCM prepped car come out and do battle with the other teams. What can you say about the odds of getting SCM involved in the MPTCC?

I think you may just catch SCM out there with the MPTCC as we have something up our sleeves with something fun, and it is not a Honda! =)

We also reminisced about the MASSIVE event that took place at California Speedway back in 2004. There really hasn’t been anything like it to happen since then. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the event, but you were there.

This event was by far the biggest event I’ve seen at California Speedway to date. I think we could see something like this again in the future if we could get some of the cars from Japan to return again. JGTC was successful because of the atmosphere as well. Having some big name cars out there, along with lots of booths and cars on display for the spectators are what made it so epic.


It’s our goal to turn the North American Championships of Speed into an event with that same spirit and enthusiasm. We’d love to have you and the team out there this Decembner taking part in the Time Attack Invitational and the Touring Car Challenge races. Hopefully our fans can look forward to seeing you at there at Auto Club Speedway.

We look forward to this event, and we would love to be apart of it! I think the spirit and enthusiasm will come along with the event when you bring that caliber of cars out there again.


I want to thank you for all of the support you’ve given me over the years. It’s truly been a pleasure getting to know you and having some good old fashioned fun at the race track!  Best of luck to you and the team in all of your endeavors this year!

No, thank you Nik. It is great to see that you are still here and doing big things. It is great to see the dedication you have with any events you put together, it has been a pleasure! Thanks again for visiting us here at SCM!!


Carl Rydquist, a Champion in both TA and W2W

4 May

I first had the pleasure of meeting Carl Rydquist in 2010 when he began competing in the Redline Time Attack series. He was driving a wicked-fast Porsche Turbo converted to RWD, and dominated his opponents in the Modified RWD Class at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Unfortunately for Carl and fans of TA, his Porsche was stolen shortly after the LVMS event.

We would see Carl later in 2010 driving the CityTire Online/Hankook Nissan 350z, a car that was used primarily for drifting events (including Formula Drift). Carl competed in the Modified RWD class with the 350z and continued to see success. In 2011, we saw Carl behind the wheel of the same 350z, competing in the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Championships (Tuner Over Class). One of the most entertaining on-track battles of the 2011 MPTCC season was between Carl and Mike Bonanni (Berk Technology 135i) at Auto Club Speedway.

Carl set some time aside to have a quick chat with me this week. Here’s how it went down:

Team: Berk Technology
Vehicle Make/Model: BMW 135i
Sponsors: AEM, APR Performance, GIAC, Hankook, KW Suspension, Macht Schnell, OS Giken, Performance Friction, SEIBON Carbon
VAC Motorsports, V-FIBER, VMR Wheels
Tires: Hankook Ventus TD

Nikolas: Congratulations are certainly in order after such a dominating performance at Global Time Attack round #1! Hats off to you and the team at Berk!

Carl – Thank you very much Nik!

Some have labeled your accomplishments at Buttonwillow as “something that had never happened before”. I’ve been around time attack in the United States since the beginning. I’d have to say the performance is certainly one to remember. Briefly, what could you chalk the success up to?

– I would say it came down to timing in this case. We happened to see the Hankook Ventus TD tire release onto the US market just two weeks ahead of this event. Before we knew that, we were just planning to go for the Street class record. Then our priorities changed all of a sudden. Honestly without the Ventus TD tires I think we’d still be looking back at our SuperLap battle record in November due to the extremely hot conditions at the GTA weekend. However, another huge factor is the Berk Technology car, which is already at the very front end of the Street class, where it’s so strong that when we entered it into the Limited class, we could still be competitive with only a tire swap. Obviously we made some compromises on spring rates and suspension to have a decent car for both tire types. If we strictly focused on one setup, I think we could squeeze out a touch more, but luckily we didn’t lose too much performance in either class.

For the Street Class, you were using the trusty Hankook RS3’s I believe.  Those tires have DOMINATED the Street Class in time attack here in the U.S. since they came onto the scene. And for Limited, you were running on the new Hankook TD’s. Another tire with great promise. How significant a role did these tires play in the team’s overall outcome?

– Well, winning in racing is all about using the full capacity of the tire, that way you can defeat cars with less weight or 200 more horsepower if you can optimize your package better than anyone else. It’s a philosophy of winning that gives benefits in reliability and consistency, which are other key factors to success in racing. Match that together with using the best tires on the market, which is the case with both Ventus RS3 and Ventus TD, and the outcome is an advantage that, so far, has been proven impossible to beat. You will have to bring a lot more power and reliability, and then consistency to keep it together to get a car on a different tire to have a realistic crack at our lap times. Or follow our trail, use the same tire, maybe squeeze out a little more power of the car and then try to do a little better. It could be done, just make the tires do the work for you.

I believe the GTA event at Buttonwillow was only the 2nd sanctioned event that you’ve been behind the wheel of the Berk Technology BMW 135i, is that correct?

That is correct. I got into the car last fall to maybe have a go at a Eurotuner Magazine road course shootout as well as the Super Lap Battle Limited record, and we hit it off right away on the first day of testing. As anyone can see from the team’s results, Bryan Min [owner of Berk Technology] is an extremely competent race engineer and he is meticulous about the handling of the car. What baffles me the most is where he learned his stuff because he has a level of vehicle dynamic understanding that’d make him competitive for a majority of the European GT racing teams. Almost everything we have discussed and tried in testing, have been “aligned”, no pun intended, and the car has gotten faster and faster with no money spent on expensive upgrades. The hardware on this car has seen no changes except fancier bodywork, we just got the car to use the tires better.

For those readers who aren’t as familiar with your time attack background, what are some other cars you’ve driven in sanctioned TA events here in the U.S.?

– Prior to racing the Berk Technology BMW 135i, I was using Redline Time Attack as a practice platform for myself to stay sharp and keep my competitive edge, I was running my personal 911 Turbo which I converted to RWD for a better similarity to the GT racing Porsches. Much similar to professional racing, session time is somewhat limited during the race weekends to get the car dialed in perfect for the weather conditions and the track, so you have to do a few laps, pinpoint what has to be changed on the setup, make the adjustments and then go out and nail it again. During Redline Time Attack 2010 I was also racing the City Tire Online Nissan 350Z, which is a Formula Drift car that I actually even ran on street tires in the Modified class just because it was too expensive to run R-comps (this was before the Ventus TD came out). That car had no chance to win on paper but remember what I said about optimizing the usage of the tires, staying reliable and consistent? Well I ended up as the 2010 Mod class Champion and also broke the class track record at the infamous Big Willow. Who would’ve thought!

It probably wouldn’t hurt to give a quick rundown on your history of motorsport involvement either, from endurance racing, sports-car racing and even drifting.

– This won’t be too quick of a rundown… but most significant win, the 2005 Zandvoort 500 in the Netherlands racing a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, first time for me on the international arena. 4 years before that I learned how pro racing works when I raced a Porsche in the Swedish Endurance series. I got this seat after I won a go-cart shootout put on by Eurosport, that lasted a week and saw 1100 drivers trying to win it. Yours truly being the winner of the shootout, got invited to the pro driver finals and won third place right behind DTM/Le Mans superstar Peter Dumbreck. So I got the momentum to jump into that Porsche, the team was operated by Le Mans champion Anders Olofsson, and they had such a fantastic atmosphere. The crew chief, Rob Gustafsson [highly respected for his personality and work in F1 for many years], barely had to say a word, the crew all knew their jobs and did them well. He was an amazing guy and him and the guys of that team are still role models to me, I’m so incredibly thankful for what they instilled in me. Of course I took leaps and bounds and we won the GT class that year. From here on, I ventured a bit into Touring Cars (spec racing) and Sports Racing cars (Radical) where I managed to podium in both categories to sort of prove myself outside endurance racing. Then I won another endurance championship (also Porsche) and got the big jump to start in the 24 Hour races at the Nürburgring in a Porsche 911 GT3. I finished top 10 in class my the first year, and every year after has been very promising, running stronger GT Porsches in the overall top 10, but ultimately the track has killed the cars, one time as close as 40 minutes from the finish. I have run that race 5 times and it’s wonderful, vicious, beautiful and brutal all at the same time. Recently I raced in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill teamed up with the very capable driver Paul Walker, to most people known as actor in the Fast and Furious movie franchise, I also won 2nd in class in the 24 Hours of Barcelona last year, racing a Porsche 997 GT3 with a German team .

We did see you race in the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Championships at Auto Club Speedway last year. I know I’m not the only fan out there who’d love to see you back in the MPTCC, even if only for a race or two. What do you think, can you talk Bryan at Berk Technology into racing the 135i (or another car) in the MPTCC this year? 🙂

– I love the format and if there’s a reliable car around I’m ready to go. I feel the classes could merge though and go to TO rules, that’d make it THE class to watch, alternatively hit the sweet spot in between, with not 8 or 12, but 10 lb/hp, and an even stricter limitation on the amounts of tires allowed in a weekend, possible spec tire of Hankook C51, they are fun, almost slick-like tires to race on, yet they last a long time. You could bring a ton of cars into a class like that, that wouldn’t need any expensive mods or power upgrades. As for Bryan, he’s a racer at heart and I’m sure if a MotoIQ PTCC business case aligns with Berk Technology’s overall goals, there’s a good chance the team will be back there again.

As far as what you’re at liberty to reveal, what are Berk’s plans for TA the rest of the season? Will the team be making the trek to Road Atlanta or any of the other non-California GTA events this season?

– In all honesty I don’t know the exact schedule and things may change depending on sponsor wishes etc, but we do plan to run one or two more west coast events at least.

And if you’re not going to be busy behind the wheel of the Berk 135i, what WILL you be busy racing this season? Any trips to Europe in your near future?

– This looks to be one of those odd years. A deal for a big European 24H race recently grinded to a halt and I was working really hard with a US based team during the off-season and found a lot of support, but fell just short of being able to launch that program this season. We got started very late and still made a lot of progress so I feel fairly optimistic though for next season, the plan is to proceed to work on a US pro racing program that is attractive to several businesses to partner with.

We’d love to see you and Berk Technology at this year’s North American Championships of Speed (Auto Club Speedway) in December. Maybe consider this a semi-official “invite” to you and the team! 🙂  No worries though, I’ll be sure to mail out the “official” invite as well!

– I’m fully with you on that one! Let me check my calendar, what else is there in December… Christmas?

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me Carl! I know your fans of TA here in the U.S. appreciate it! If you have any shout-out’s, let me know! Best of luck to you the rest of this season!

– Thank you very much, and I said it before, thank you for your passion! My shout-out this time goes to the motorsport fans and all the relentless team crews that put in so much heart into something they believe in!

Mike Bonanni, OG Attacker of Time

2 May

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Mike Bonanni for several years now. He’s definitely one of the guys that should be considered OG by anyone with any sort of sense for that type of judgement. He competed at some of the VERY earliest Redline Time Attack events.

Mike is one of the few guys involved in the sport of time attack who IS involved simply out of pure passion for what he’s doing. No ulterior motives, no drama, no involvement ONLY because he’s getting a paycheck every two weeks. He loves cars. He loves driving them FAST and at the absolute limit. And he’s a stand-up guy throughout!

Which is why I am as happy for Mike as I am to see that he is involved in time attack this year!  I had the chance to chat with Mike last night… Here’s what he had to say…


Team Name:  Descendant Racing
Car Make/Model: 
2011 Scion tC
Descendant Racing, WORLD Racing, KW Suspension, JE Pistons, Continental Tire
Continental Tire Extreme Contact DW

Nikolas:You’ve been involved in the time attack world since the very beginning, back to 2006, at least. If not earlier. But this first event of the 2012 season presented something new for you. A new team and a Street FWD Class car to compete with. What’s the short story on this?

Mike: Yeah I have in the game for a while as a privateer and have been fortunate the past few years to have been brought onto some awesome teams.  This year marked a new change for me in terms of what I am used to and that was a switch to FWD behind the wheel of Chris Rado’s personal street car.  The idea was very last minute and I just so happened to be available to drive so when Chris asked me I jumped on the chance to work alongside the WORLD Racing guys who are in my opinion one of the most top notch crews in all of time attack.

As a huge fan of time attack (I’d like to think I’m THE biggest fan…  🙂   I have to say that it’s great to see you involved this season. I was getting a bit worried there towards in January/February with no news on what you would be up to.

You and me both!  I have a tremendous passion for this sport as you know and I worked my ass off at the end of last season to try and get a ride.  At the beginning of this year I decided to go with plan B and start trying to get my daily driver 370Z track ready. Fortunately just two weeks before round #1 of GTA I got the call from Chris Rado to drive the tC which was a much better situation.


You may not want to talk about it, but last year you were the driver for Berk Technology in their BMW 135i. You had great success in that car in both time attack and the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Championships. I’d like for fans of time attack to not forget your successes last year! 🙂

I don’t mind talking about it at all, although it was a surprise to many, including me, that’s just part of racing.  Programs change, drivers move around, all is good.  Berk’s decision was not based off of hard feelings and I have no hard feelings toward them either.  We had a tremendous run with that car/team from getting them their first win with the BMW to earning back to back championships.  I have nothing but awesome memories from those two seasons.

Is the deal you have in place with Christian Rado at World Racing a season-long agreement? Can fans expect to see you down at Road Atlanta this month?

Originally Christian and I had talked about doing a full season with the street car, but unfortunately at Buttonwillow the FWING 2.0 race car had a catastrophic engine failure and small fire that did some damage.  In addition to that, the street car had its own set of issues and with the short time period before their hauler has to be on the road to Georgia for Round #2, they just simply don’t have the time to get the street car working again so it won’t be making the east coast swing.  There is some chance that it will make it out to the Texas event as well as the finals at Buttonwillow again in November.


You’re a busy guy when it comes to motorsports and cars. You’ve been helping out the guys at Hard Driving Motorsports for a little while. What exactly are you doing for them?

Yeah I tend to spread myself out as much as I can as you never know where it may lead.  Hard-Driving Motorsports is a small group of guys who want to build premium track day cars.  I have many roles within the company, but I was brought on originally to help conceptualize the builds and test and setup the cars when done.  We’ve recently completed a really cool R35 GT-R and we are working on a major full race car buildup of a Corvette Z06 for the Western Endurance Racing Series and 25 Hours of Thunderhill.  When that project is done, I will be one of the main drivers which I am stoked for.

And you recently participated at the Modified Magazine Tuner Shootout in your personal/daily-driver Nissan 370z. I’m not sure you can discuss the results just yet, but how does it feel to race your OWN car again? Just like it used to be back in the olden’ days of TA? 🙂

Yes unfortunately I can’t spill the beans on the results yet, but it was a fun time.  Racing my own car again is awesome in some ways and terrible in others.  It is very fun to be in complete control of what goes on with the car, how it looks, marketing it, etc.  It is also super fun to be able to implement some of the things I have learned from being around teams that work with professional engineers and aerodynamicists.  For that same reason, it sucks because I have almost no budget, no tow vehicle, and no trailer so I can’t even get close to doing everything I want to the car.  At least back in 2006-2009 when I was a privateer the first time, real estate was going well and I had money to burn.  Now I am a full time college student trying to get my degree so I can get another decent job to support this expensive passion of mine.  I am incredibly thankful though for the companies like BC Racing North America, Whiteline, Hawk Performance, Hankook, and more who all stand behind me as a driver and who are willing to support things like my 370Z when I am in need.


Besides time attack, are you working on any other motorsport efforts? Perhaps finding a way to get back into the MPTCC and defend your 2011 Tuner Over Class Championship? We’d love to see you back out at the MPTCC events!

I would love nothing more than to continue moving forward with wheel to wheel racing.  I had such an awesome time competing in the MPTCC series last year and I am still trying desperately to find another way in. Although I will always have a passion for time attack, wheel to wheel racing is where I want to go next.  I have been working every day on finding support to bring to a team and it is still very tough to find an open seat.  If anyone out there knows of some builds in progress or open seats, send them my way, I promise I won’t disappoint!

For everyone out there who may not be familiar with how to follow your motorsport efforts, where can folks find you online?

The two best ways are via my website,, and through my Facebook fan page which is Motorsports.  I also have a Twitter @MikeBonanni, and an Instagram @mbonanni.  Beware though, my Instagram is a much more personal look into my life…and I post food photos, but only of things I cook myself.

I want to be sure to thank you for all of the support you’ve given to me during the years I ran Redline Track Events and Redline Time Attack. I could not have had the success with Redline that I did, if it wasn’t for the support from folks like you! Thanks!

And a tremendous thank you to you for all of the work you put in really bringing time attack to the forefront and making it accessible to guys like me back in 2006 when I didn’t even own a driving suit!  A great deal of my success can be attributed to being able to ride on the coat tails of the success of the late great Redline Time Attack series.

Hopefully we’ll see you out at the North American Championships of Speed this December. We’d love to have you there, whether it be the time attack invitational or one of the wheel-to-wheel races.  Let’s keep each other posted.

I will certainly be doing everything in my power to get an MPTCC ride, or a big time attack seat, but one thing is certain and that is that I will be there, even if I have to enter my daily driver.

Thanks Again Mike, and best of luck to you this year!  

Thank you Nik and keep up the good work!


Michele Abbate – Time Attacker and Wheel 2 Wheel Racer

27 Apr

Ever since she came onto the scene a few years ago at Redline Time Attack events I’ve been a fan of Michele Abbate. I believe she is a perfect example of a true motorsport enthusiast applying her passion to an activity she absolutely loves. She has driven and raced a wide variety of cars at dozens of events over the last 5 years or so, and it does not appear she will be slowing down any time soon!

In my final post for this week, I had the chance to ask Michele a few questions about her racing background and her plans for this season and beyond:


Team Name:  Dynamic Autosports/Gruppe-S
Vehicle Model/Year: 2011 Scion tC
Sponsors: Scion Racing, Dynamic Autosports/Gruppe-S, Hankook, KW, Greddy, Weds Sport, Brian Crower, Seibon, Mishimoto, ACT, & TRD
Tires: Hankook RS3’s soon to Z214’s


Nikolas: You’ve been involved in organized motorsports for a number of years now. Where did you get your start?


Michele:  Initially it started with me begging to drive my brother’s go kart.  My dad let me take a stab at it a few times, but I didn’t get to fully indulge myself until I submersed myself in the regional SCCA Autocrosses.  My first event was in December of 2004, and I didn’t have my first track day until April 2009.  I developed most of my fundamentals of racing from watching my brother as I grew up.


Nikolas: I’d have to say that most people who know of your racing exploits, are most familiar with your participation in Time Attack events. You’ve driven your personal Mazda Speed Protege and a MINI. What other cars have you raced in time attack?


Michele:  I have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to drive several different cars in time attack events. One of my most favorite cars that I’ve driven is the world famous Crawford Performance STi, aka Tony (at Willow Springs).  In addition, I have also driven a few Miatas, Subarus, a Porsche Boxster, Jeff Abram’s turbo RX-8, and a Lotus Exige.   There might be a few others I’m forgetting…


Nikolas: Recently you began to dabble in wheel to wheel racing, including oval races at the Bullring @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Talk a little about that.



My very first wheel to wheel race was actually on Valentine’s Day in 2010.  At that time I was single and I decided renting a race car would be one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts for myself. haha  It was in a Legends car, and we raced at the outside road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  To my surprise I finished the race with 4 cars behind me, in a field of about 12 cars.  My second time racing the legends car was about 10 months later, December of 2010 right after I graduated from UNLV.  I finished 2nd overall and really started to develop a true addiction to wheel to wheel racing.  
In October of 2011, I competed in my first oval race ever, in a Thunder Roadster.  This was a totally different experience for me –  Oval racing is definitely a different beast all in itself!  Once I had a taste of the Thunder Roadster, I wanted to try it on the road course. So this January (2012) I put it to the test. Open wheel cars are significantly different to drive than any full size car.  The Legends are definitely my favorite, they will teach you everything you need to know about handling any kind of car!

It was February that I earned my NASA Provisional Race License which obviously allows me to compete in the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Challenge.  Earning my license has been one of my biggest accomplishments in my racing career.  It meant the world to me to finally reach the top of that ladder.  Fortunately I am very thankful to have a good friend, Donn Vickrey, who gave me the opportunity to run my first NASA race  in March with his Porsche Boxster Spec car.  Since then, I am now driving the Scion Racing tC prepared by Dynamic Autosports/Gruppe-S. Which brings us to our next question! 



Nikolas:  The opportunity to drive the GruppeS Scion tC came about recently, did it not?  They were working with Bucky Lasek last year if I remember correctly.


Michele:  Haha yes, I am more than fortunate to have the opportunity to be running this car.  It wasn’t too long ago I remember drooling over it when I saw it being built.  Bucky Lasek tested the car last year, but he had schedule conflict and decided to try his hand at rally instead.


Nikolas:  You had success this past weekend at Buttonwillow for the opening weekend of the MPTCC, landing on the podium in 3rd for both races. Next, the series moves to Auto Club Speedway. What are your thoughts about ACS, and what will you need to do to prepare for that track?


Michele:  Auto Club Speedway was never one of my favorites; though I have grown to like it more.  It is a unique track with two very very important turns… the one onto the oval, and off of the oval.  These two spots are absolutely key to consistency in fast lap times.  The tC has great power from the Greddy turbo, the KW V3 suspension is extremely stable, and the upgraded TRD brakes are exactly what I need to feel confident behind the wheel.  I am excited to get this car on this track.  I feel like with the proper setup it will have a good foundation for some impressive lap times.  I’m hoping to hit at least 135 going into turn 1 🙂



Nikolas: Did I understand you correctly when you said you were racing on DOT treaded tires at Buttonwillow?  If so, I can’t wait to see how the car will do running on some DOT slicks like the Hankook Z214 C51’s!


Michele:  Yes, DOT slicks will definitely turn the tables a bit from what we had seen at Buttonwillow 😉  The RS3’s are a great tire but the Z214 will make a world of a difference.


Nikolas: What are the teams plans for the rest of the season? Can we expect to see you racing in the remaining MPTCC events this year?


Michele:  If all goes well you will see is at the remaining MPTCC events.  Other events may pop up as the season continues, it’s best to just keep an eye on the Scion Racing facebook, or mine as well.


Nikolas:  As one of the only females involved in sport-compact-car racing, whether it be time attack or wheel to wheel, what do you have to say to encourage more young women to step forward and become active in racing? I’d love to see more women involved in racing!


Michele:  It’s always the same answer when I am asked this…. Ladies, just get out there and do it! That’s your first step.  You’ve got to put yourself out there and give it a try;  it’s a lot easier than what you think.  Where there’s a will there’s a way and if you’ve got a safe car there are local organizations with events that will help you get to where you want to be.  I always recommend checking out or to find your nearest region and get started!   For those who don’t have a car, there are plenty of racing/driving schools out there as well.  They are a bit pricey, but the experience and knowledge you gain is immeasurable.   Lastly, I am always making myself known to be available for any questions or advice. 🙂  Feel free to message me on facebook and I will be happy to reply!


Nikolas:  Have you set any goals for yourself when it comes to racing? Perhaps involvement in a specific series?



I always have one goal: Learn.  There is always something to be learned, especially with racing.  Every time I get on the track I want to learn something new by trying something different.  The only way to get better is by making an effort to change what you do.  This is very important for me and I try to focus on making the best decisions for what new things to try.  

Other than that, I want to be sure to get as much experience as I can through seat time.  I would love to race in world challenge, but I want to take my time and progress at a reasonable rate.  I feel like I have gotten to where I am pretty quick, and I want to be sure I do not rush into things too fast.  I want to take the time to learn and master and understand everything that I can, so that if and when I move up, I am properly “trained”.  Racing is more than just getting licensing and moving up, it’s about understanding all of the fundamentals and remembering them every time you are strapped in that seat.

This is something I was quick to realize with wheel to wheel.  You can read about incidents and situations all you want.  But there is nothing like being there and learning from it all first hand.  I watched my brother for almost 10 years compete in wheel to wheel, but the experience is absolutely incomparable to spectating.
Nikolas:  Where can fans go to stay up to speed with your racing? Do you have a blog or a Facebook fan page?

Facebook is always the quickest, most up to date postings about my racing.  I think I have almost every social network:

twitter:  MSPM1chele

As long as you spell my name right, you’ll find me somewhere. ;]
Nikolas:  Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Michele, we appreciate it! Do you have any parting comments for your fans and supporters?
Michele:  Thank you for the opportunity!  As always I want to thank everyone for their continued support and interest.  It is amazing to see and hear all of the support over the years.  This has been a phenomenal journey for me, and I never want it to end.  I am so fortunate to have such an amazing relationship and opportunity with Scion Racing and Dynamic Autosports/Gruppe-S.  I am more than ecstatic to see what this season brings! Special thanks to  Hankook, KW, Greddy, Weds Sport, Brian Crower, Seibon, Mishimoto, ACT, & TRD for their continued support and efforts to make our car one of the best on the field!

Chat with Edo Stepanyan

25 Apr

Edo Stepanyan is a racer with a history of success in sport compact road racing, having secured multiple championships in NASA Honda Challenge. One of the more exciting road races I’ve had the pleasure of watching and being involved with was the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Championships event at Willow Springs in July 2011. His battle during that race with Andy Hope was one that had fans talking for weeks following the checkered the flag!

Needless to say, I was SUPER stoked to learn that Edo planned to focus his racing efforts within the MPTCC for the 2012 season.  It speaks volumes about the MPTCC when a seasoned champion like Edo makes a concerted effort to increase his involvement with this series.

This past weekend at Buttonwillow, Edo was involved in some close battles with Andrie Hartanto in the Tuner Under class of the MPTCC. Edo was able to secure the victory on Saturday as well as a 2nd place finish on Sunday, putting him in a tie for 1st overall in the MPTCC Championship standings after the first event of the year.

Check out the chat I had with Edo below:


Team Name: Edo Motorsports
Vehicle Make & Model: 92 Acura Integra
Sponsors: Sav-on Driving & Traffic School, Mirage Auto Body, Hondata, Motul, 5zigen, JE Pistons, Joe’s Tuning, Speedvision Motorsports, Mfactoy
Tires: Hankook/Toyo – Depending on series and availability



Nikolas:  For those who may not be familiar with who you are, can you give us some background on how and when you began your racing career?

Edo:  I originally got into cars when I was 12 yrs old in Armenia and my dad would tought me how to drive his Russian made Lada 06. When I got my driver’s license I had an 86 300zx which I learned to wrench on and I did mostly drag racing with. A friend of mine introduced me to road racing when I took my Eclipse GSX to WIllow Springs in 2001 and was hooked off tha bat. That’s when I decided to build the Integra that I still have now. We started out in SCCA ITA but quickly moved to NASA Honda Challenge 4 as the car count was higher and the series had lots of potential. That’s were I grew the most as a driver as we won 3 consecutive championships.

Nikolas:  What are some of your accomplishments in racing that you are most proud of?

Edo:  I think our biggest accomplishment as a team was winning the Honda Challenge 4 Socal regional championship 3 years in a row from 2004, 2005,2006 and in 2008. Each year we beat someone different and it came down to the last weekend of racing in November at Buttonwillow race park.


Nikolas: You come out of this first weekend of races tied for the points lead in Tuner Under with Andrie Hartanto, with whom you had some very close racing with at Buttonwillow. For rounds #3 & #4, the series heads to Auto Club Speedway, a track that is vastly different than Buttonwillow. What is your strategy for adapting to Auto Club Speedway?


Edo:  The Buttonwillow race was a lot of fun racing with another great driver like Andrie. Our cars were pretty even overall since Buttonwillow does not have any long straightaways. My car is low on power compared to my weight and Andrie’s TSX has more horsepower but more weight. Since we’re on the same tires I was able to stay behind him on Saturday until his tires gave away towards the end of the race. Auto Club Speedway is a horsepower track and therefore we will need more power to keep up with the higher horsepower cars.



Nikolas:  We’ve seen you post on Facebook that you’ll be making some changes to the car that will make it closer in speed to Andrie’s TSX. Can you give us any hints as to what that might be? Or do you just want to keep it a surprise for all of the MPTCC fans? 🙂


Edo:  Based on the weight of the car, we have some room to increase the horsepower of the car which will definitely help at Auto Club Speedway. We’re going to weigh our options and make some modifications to help our chances.


Nikolas:  We’re expecting a field of up to 15 cars in the Tuner Under class at Auto Club Speedway, a huge increase over the Buttonwillow field. Does this change your approach to the next race?


Edo: That’s some great news and increased competition always makes it more fun. It’s good to see the series grow and evolve and have already seen the commitment and involvement from the guys running the show.


Nikolas:  Notably absent from the opening round was the defending series Champion, Dai Yoshihara. We know that he will be at Auto Club Speedway in July. The Nissan Sentra he secured the Championship with became notably faster by the end of the 2011 season. What are your thoughts on having to face him come July?


Edo:  It was great racing with him in July 2011 at Willow Springs and am glad he will be back for the next round. It’s always good to have more cars in the class.


Nikolas:  Is there anyone you’d like to give a special shout out to that may have helped you prepare for this past weekend?


Edo:  I’d like to thank my Brother and Dad who are always helping me prepare and the support I get from family members and friends.


Nikolas: I’m really excited to have you racing in the MPTCC this season! 🙂 I’m looking forward to watching you battle with Andrie, Dai and the other top drivers in the series! Is there anything you’d like to say about your involvement with the MPTCC in 2012?


Edo:  I’m excited to be a part of MPTCC in 2012 because I can see what the organizers are doing to promote the series and make it better along with the news of the car count increase for the next race. Thank You.


That wraps it up for my chat with Edo Stepanyan. Keep an eye out for an upcoming chat with Michele Abbate, driver of the GruppeS Scion tC in the MPTCC tomorrow or Friday. She was able to secure back to back 3rd place finishes this past weekend at Buttonwillow.  She is another driver I am very excited and happy to see involved with the MPTCC! 🙂


Quick Chat with Andrie Hartanto, MPTCC and GTA driver

24 Apr

As I posted on my blog yesterday, I am going to begin featuring interviews and behind the scenes commentary and info about two of my favorite racing series: the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Championships and Global Time Attack.

The first driver I’ve had the opportunity to ask a few questions of is Andrie Hartanto, driver of the Prima Racing/ Acura TSX (MPTCC Tuner Under).  I’ve been trying to get Andrie involved in events that I’ve been organizing for the last few years, but it never really worked out. He had been focusing much of his efforts on Honda Challenge, World Challenge and other race series. However, now that the MPTCC is beginning to gain traction under the leadership of Mike Kojima, it’s making more sense for a team like Prima Racing to give the series a serious look.

I sent Andrie an email the day after he had earned his first MPTCC class victory at Buttonwillow Raceway, and the following is our dialogue…













Team Name:  Prima Racing
Sponsors: Supertech Performance, Wicked Tuning, Carbotech Brakes, Rota Wheels, CT Engineering, Stitch Tech Designs,
Vehicle Make and Model:  Acura TSX
Tires:  Hankook Ventus C51

Nikolas: Congratulations on the strong showing this past weekend at Buttonwillow! Is there anyone in particular you want to give any thanks to, for helping you succeed?

Andrie: Thanks to all of my partners & sponsors for supporting me over the years.  My crew chief, and the rest of my team. Without them, none of this would be possible.

N: This was your first race in the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Championships, but certainly not your first race. Where did you get your start racing, and how long have you been racing?

A: I’ve always liked cars.  It was a natural progression. I used to drive too fast for the street so when I was introduced to High Performance Driving Events, I became hooked.  From then on I worked towards my racing license and raced in my first wheel to wheel event in an E30 BMW M3 back in the year 2000.


N: For many of the folks who may not be familiar with the various series you’ve raced in, what are some of your more memorable accomplishments in racing?

A:  My most memorable accomplishment is when I won NASA Honda Challenge Nationals in 2006.  We won it in a dominant fashion, clearing the field and simultaneously breaking the track record during our first weekend at Mid Ohio.  

Next to that was in 2007.  I finished inside the top ten during the Speed World Challenge race at Laguna Seca in the Touring Car class.  At that time, the series was in its heyday and consisted of many manufacturer teams. We finished ahead of some of the manufacturer-supported teams, and also as the highest placed privateer.  It was one of the toughest races I’ve ever competed in. I felt like David going up against Goliath.
N: After a strong qualifying for pole on Saturday, and leading nearly all of the race, can you explain what happened with the car that made it difficult to hold of Edo Stepanyan?
A:   We knew that we were racing a heavy car and the limiting factor were the tires, especially in the blistering heat. The rules for MPTCC is based on weight to power ratio.  Weight to power ratio works for Drag Racing, because it only accounts for acceleration.  In road racing we are involved in turning and braking where the lighter cars will always out maneuver the heavier cars – given the same tire size.  MPTCC limits the tires for TU regardless of the weight of the car to 245/40/17.

I was planning to get up front and maintain the pace to keep me securely in the lead and managing my tires. Unfortunately this plan backfired when my rear anti roll bar mount ripped out of the subframe just 3 laps in.  The car started to push heavily and it overworked the front tire even more.  The last 2 laps the car was so hard to control because I used up the front tires (they actually corded), and I couldn’t defend my position further and lost the lead on the last lap.  Such is racing though, and my hats off to Edo whom I’ve known for the longest time and consider to be a friend.
N: We understand the unseasonably warm weather and high ambient temps were creating trouble for many of the Global Time Attack competitors who were at Buttonwillow as well. Did the heat affect you and the car in any way you weren’t expecting?
A:  The heat definitely affected me more than the car.  I was pulling double duty (also driving our time attack S2000).  Oftentimes we had to sit inside the car for extended periods of time on the grid. It was easily 130 degrees when you are in your race suit, under the helmet, and in a car without any moving air.  It was torture and I think I lost about 10 lbs of weight that weekend.
N:  We know the field was fairly light on cars for this opening event. However, we’re expecting a field of up to 15 cars in Tuner Under at Auto Club Speedway, including the defending Series Champion, Dai Yoshihara. What will you and the team do to prepare for the extra competition?
A:  Right now our plan for the Auto Club Speedway event is still tentative.  We are short on funding and still soliciting funds. We are enthusiastic about our chances and showing people what our team can do though.
N:  Auto Club Speedway is a vastly different track compared to Buttonwillow. Is there anything that you need to change to the car to adjust to those differences?
A:  Auto Club Speedway is a track that rewards power.  That should not matter though, because of the MPTCC rules about power to weight ratio meaning that every car should have the same acceleration rate.  But then again, on the infield where there is lots of turning and braking, the lighter cars will prevail.  Given that our car is one of the heaviest cars in the field, we are a little concerned.  However, we are confident of our ability and we will come with strong game plan.
N: You and Edo come out of this weekend tied for the points lead in Tuner Under, having each secured a 1st and a 2nd place finish. With six races left in the year, is there a strategy that you and the team will follow? Will you play it conservative, or will you be aggressive?
A:I learned that I will have to be conservative with my equipment and aggressive with my attack. From now on I will build a sizable gap that will give me a cushion if something happens during the race.
N:  I know I’m not only speaking for myself when I say this, but I am very happy to see you involved in the MPTCC this year! I’m looking forward to the remaining races this year and the eventual battles between you and the other top drivers. Do you have any parting comments for fans yours and the MPTCC?

Thank you! The pleasure is all mine. Look for our team and keep up to date by visiting our website at and my Facebook page:
If you see us on the track, don’t hesitate to say hi or check out our cars.  We are car people first!

The MPTCC and GTA seasons have begun!

23 Apr

I’m super stoked that both the Pacific Tuner Car Championships (MPTCC) and Global Time Attack (GTA) seasons are under way! I was unable to make the event this past weekend at Buttonwillow, so I had to rely on tweets, Facebook updates and the GTA livestream for my info.

Something new that I will be doing this year is posting exclusive interviews with drivers from both the MPTCC and GTA to my blog. I figured that I can provide some insight and behind the scenes info on both series and the drivers involved, that many of the leading eZines and print pubs simply don’t have the time or space to feature.  AND considering I have a TON of free time on my hands, WHY NOT!!??  🙂

For this week, I’ll be featuring some Q&A’s with Andrie Hartanto (driver of the Wicked Tuning/ Acura TSX); Edo Stepanyan and Michele Abbate (GruppeS Scion tC).  These three drivers reached the podium in both the Saturday and Sunday races, with Edo and Andrie swapping 1st place positions between the days.

Next week I’ll follow up on interviews with Mike Bonanni, Carl Rydquist (Driver of the Berk Technology BMW 135i) and Loi Song (owner of Sport Car Motion).

As the Q&A’s are posted, be sure to leave feedback here on the blog so I can always be sure to improve the delivery of these blog posts!