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Mazda Raceway Diary:
Day One
Don't Stop Me Now

Monterey, Calif., May 21 — They make me say that. No "Laguna Seca" which is what everyone with a pulse calls this awesomely beautiful natural terrain road course carved out of the other side of Fort Ord. No, its legal name, as signs proclaim, is Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Further, if one must shorten the name, implying that doing so would be like farting in church, one should call it Mazda Raceway. Well toot toot, or as they say around here at Mazda Seca, zoom zoom. It’s a very sparse crowd on Friday, both in the grand stands and in the Media Center. And, if you don't believe that the Internet is killing journalism as we once knew it, friends, just take a good look at the Media Center.

If there are more than 20 sportswriters here, I'm racing at Indy in May. But the photographer’s room in the Media Center is jammed, there was no room as of 7:15 AM on the first day of this three day racing event. None. So the overflow is in the second Deadline Media’s Room, which is funny because our room is also handling overflow for the PR reps. Oh, and we still have plenty of room here on the second floor. Why, one may ask? Well, let’s put it this way – the future Gordon Kirby, a.k.a. the dean of motorsports writers, will of necessity have to be a photographer who also does some writing. Why? Print media is disappearing faster than we can report it – magazines, newspapers, and books are all fast becoming artifacts. The Last Writer Standing will have to be a photographer, because right now, it’s the only part of the media that can be commercial. And, he'll be a shooter for a website, you watch.

And if you think I'm overstating the case, consider this. When was the last time you stayed up late to get the score of a game or the results of a race? Technology has made it possible for us to actually write better news stories from home about auto races than it is from being here live at the track. With webcams, live timing and scoring, and live television coverage, it’s pretty easy to gather one's information and with a little discipline, you, too, can whip out good news stories that will be overlooked for the photo content of the website for which you write. Ouch.

That’s the rub. I've been doing this gig for over a decade. Our original plan was to get good enough at sports writing and motorsports photography, respectively, me and the hubby, so that these could be retirement careers for us. You know, work, only funner. But, because of technology and the decline of writing for a living, we will probably have to do what we do now for livings as retirees if we want to continue to work during our so called golden years. I think there will be many more people, for example, who screw up their accounting records with Quick Books and will need to hire me to clean up the mess than there will be editors desirous of paying me obscene amounts of money to write for them. Seriously. And, even though Jeff’s photography is often brilliant, since it's published on the Internet, anyone who wants one of his pictures can steal it, even though it’s copyright protected. So, he’s more likely to make money fixing up someone’s malware-riddled laptop than he is likely to sell lots of pictures. Bummer. Don't stop me now, in the famed words of Freddie Mercury.

What I can do today is tell you that it feels much colder than it looks, with temperatures in the 50s and frequent gusts of wind. The writer sitting next to me is saying it’s hot in England. Is there a rip in the space/time continuum? There are a lot of development series running this weekend that no one seems very interested in watching. There are series running here who cannot cough up an entry list any faster than my cat, Lucky, can cough up a fur ball. Oh, and I can explain a little more about the four car classes running this weekend in the American Le Mans Series final race before they pack up to go to June's 24 Hours of Le Mans. (Icelandic volcano smoke plumes pending.)

At the front of the pack, there are half a dozen Le Mans prototype cars that look kind of flat and squished when compared to other open wheel cars, such as Indy Cars. The overall race winner will most likely be one of these six cars, although in an endurance race, if the Prototypes cannot hold up, there is always the chance that one or two of the slightly slower Prototype Challenge cars might sneak into the top six. The bulk of the field, the GT class, follow the PC cars in qualifying pace. All the GT cars look much like the sport scars you might see running on the streets where you live. Of course, they don't drive like those cars – and that's a good thing for both. At the rear of the field are the slightly less powerful GT Challenge cars. All told, there will be 35 cars starting Saturday’s race. The question is, how many will finish?

ALMS is a most diverse series – there are multiple engine, tire, and chassis manufacturers, and multiple combinations of these. Competing in 2010 are Michelin, Dunlop, and Falken – tire manufacturers; chassis builders Honda (HPD), Lola, and Porsche; AER, HPD, Judd, Mazda, and Porsche engine manufacturers; and GT class auto makers BMW, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Ford, Jaguar, and Porsche. All are vying for their own championships in addition to the drivers and the teams. The presence of these manufacturers bodes well for the series. In the words of Bobby Rahal, "Manufacturers means more competition, which brings more money." Money is what is often scarce in US auto racing outside of NASCAR. (Duh, she said.)

Many of the drivers and names in the ALMS series are familiar to fans of open wheel. CART/Champ Car/Atlantic drivers running in the series include points leader Ryan Dalziel, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Sharp, and OWRS owner Paul Gentilozzi. They are joined by many familiar sports car racers, such as Guy Smith (the pole winner today), Emanuele Pirro, Johnny O’Connell, Terry Borcheller, Patrick Long, Joerg Bergmeister, and Andy Wallace.

Friday seemed like a very long day, but compared to Saturday, it’s nothing. Until then, I'm off to the races!

Copyright © 2010 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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