“The Lost Spyder” – a Mystery Novel by Sean Michael

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hiya Pat,

Wonder where this weekend will find you? Hmm. I could go check! Well anyway now that you are driving in the WC series, I need to go check their schedule. Is there a WC race in conjunction with the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, mayhaps? Ooh I will hate it if you are right here and I don’t get to see you! Alas, I will be away for that weekend.

So in my last note, I alluded to this post, in which I want to tell you about my friend Sean Michael’s first mystery novel called The Lost Spyder.

So there I was, walking across the parking lot of the Cantina restaurant from where I’d just parked my 1988 911. It was the night of our monthly club social with my local PCA. As I approached the restaurant, I saw a couple of men and a woman standing at the open trunk of a speed yellow Boxster. One of the men was getting out a box, and taking something out of the box, and handing it to the other man. I overheard as I passed, “Yeah, it’s my first novel….” So me being me, I walked up on the conversation.

You see, we needed a speaker for our next club meeting. And his book, a mystery involving a search for a long lost Porsche 550 Spyder, sounded like a great feature. I listened to him talk about the book, and he’s just a great guy. His wife Kristy was equally engaging. So that’s how I learned of Sean’s book. We hatched a plan to have him be the guest speaker at our next meeting.

IMAG0463Then the club gang decided we needed a special venue, since Sean was willing to actually bring his 550 replica which is just gorgeous (and sounds great!). So we chose Ted’s Garage in downtown Birmingham, which we learned had just been taken over by a team including John Copeland of TRG fame. John is a fantastic supporter of our local club and I was so happy to get to see him and get a little caught up with him. Awesome guy. We got the details worked out. I was standing in the venue chatting away when I heard the 550 motor fire in the distance. My head whipped around in the direction it came from, and I saw it coming across the street from where they’d off-loaded it. What a beautiful piece of work, a really nice replica. Yes, I know you’ve driven the real thing!

IMAG0469The evening was almost magical in feeling. The space just has this great feeling with fantastic cars stacked floor to ceiling, historic endurance race posters everywhere, along with other memorabilia. It was one of the first great warm spring-ish evenings, and they threw the actual garage door wide open, giving us this huge indoor/outdoor space to mix and mingle. Sean had prepared a presentation with some history of the 550 Spyder, and some backstory on the writing of the book.

IMAG0470He’s a great speaker, and it made for a wonderful night. He brought a box of books and stuck around to sign them for folks. He sold the whole box and could have sold two! All good things must come to an end – and I managed to capture a little snippet of him driving the car back out of the venue to load up for the ride home

Our friend Dede has posted her review, and links to some of Sean’s short videos about the book. I need to figure out how to put a copy into your hands. If you enjoy a good, quick mystery, you’ll love it. I loved that part of it was set in Birmingham, and got a kick out of recognizing touches of several local characters and places.

Here you go, please click thru to Dede’s write-up, and have a look at Sean and his book. Watch your mail, I’ll find a way to get one off to you before…um, before, well. I will tell you about that next time!

Porsche 550 CLICK HERE for more on “The Lost Spyder” – a Mystery Novel by Sean Michael.



Pat Long: From Behind

Posted in Pat's Races on March 30, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

You must still be reeling from your balls-to-the-wall racing weekend. I re-watched both races uninterrupted online last night, at least the footage they have out there. The TV broadcasts will air around April 8, I think (bad fan!). I’ll have to miss that. But I’ve been watching all the in-car video Mike Skeen has posted. In the second race, he started from the back (engine change from the bang-up in race 1). He finished in 3rd. And he gained most of that ground in the last 10 minutes of the race, which makes for some great watching!!

Big congrats again on your weekend sweep, too! The more I watch the race footage, the more amazed I am at the depth of your skill. And Mike is a real talent, too! He has posted video from the first race, and he spent a little chunk of time at the end there nipping your heels. Wanna see what you look like from behind? Here ya go, he catches up to you around 5:20:

You really are at a place in your development as a driver where you can drop in and master whatever is before you. Any car, any track, any format. I’m sure part of the reason you are so successful at everything you do is that you choose your opportunities well. And dayum you are just gooood! Such a joy to watch at work. I know you know what I mean, because I know you get that same joy watching others do well, on the track and otherwise. The talent. You’ve got it good. Just awesome. And very entertaining. So allow me to thank you for that, and for being so great about keeping your followers so entertained with all the social media and stuff.

Anyway enough about you. Snort!

IMAG0544Parting shot: My friend Tom from Denver, the SCCA corner worker who related my best wishes to you in the autograph line on Saturday at St. Pete, well he needed a place to crash on his drive back to Denver. In his Honda Civic that has about 350,000 miles on it. Seriously! Last time I saw Tom was when he was down to work Petit le Mans in 2008. It was sooooo great to have him here at our home, even for just a little while. He got here late and left early, but we got lots of catching up done in our short visit.

Alrighty then, lots going on, lots to do. I’m already working on my next note to you – it involves the 550 Spyder. Stay tuned!


Double Whammy! Way to Go!!

Posted in Pat's Races on March 28, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

OK OK well you showed me, didn’t you? Ha! You know I was over-the-moon thrilled to see you take home the trophies this weekend, back to back victories in St. Pete! Yes, I really wanted it for Mike Skeen, but if it wasn’t to be for him, I’m glad it was you with all the booty at the end of the weekend.

And what a weekend it was! That course looked super challenging. And given that it was a real street course, passing opportunities were scarce. Add to that the challenge of multi-class traffic and oh my stars, it was some wild and crazy racing! You are so at the top of your game, too, to drop into a format like that and dominate. Incroyable!

Mike had a mixed weekend. He was so close on your tail in the first race but that S2000 incident took him out. Then on Sunday, he was in the back and worked his way all the way up to P5, and ahead of him, you were dogging Sofronas for the lead. My jaw just dropped watching some of those passes. The live feed, which was available for replay soon after the race, was not a real production, and while they had several cameras in use, it wasn’t..well, produced. I am hoping that the final broadcast version will be much better in terms of showing the real action.

For example, on the live feed/replay, you are doggong Sofronas one lap, then the next time you come around, you’re in the lead! But the announcers fail to notice until about 2 laps later, and there’s no information about how that happened. Same with Mike Skeen. He worked from the back to P5, and by the last lap he was P3, but I have no idea how that happened either. He’s going to be posting some in-car video and I cannot wait to see that. He said it was some of the wildest, craziest racing he’s ever experienced. He loves it, and I’m so happy for him to have a decent ride for the whole season.

So in Pat Long Fan Club news, you must really be thinking I’m a stalker by now. First Eddie from Redline with his phone call during Daytona 24. Then my corner worker friend from Denver tells me he stopped by the autograph table and told you, “VroomGrrl wishes you all the best this weekend,” (using my real name) and he swears you seemed to know whom he was talking about. I know you probably recognize me as one of your many fans when you see me out 2-3 times a year. And I do keep this blog and all. But I promise you, I am not going all stalkery on you! I have some great friends who love to look out for me.

So you’re not mad at me for rooting against you, are you? I hope not. I have never claimed to be the PERFECT fan, but you know I’m almost always rooting for you, right? Except when you run up against Skeen. I may have to split my loyalties, depending on how often that happens as we go forward, or maybe there’s a way to be all Zen about it and root for you both and let the Universe sort it out. Which is what happens anyway. This weekend proves that the Universe does not necessarily take my preferences into account when choosing race winners. LUCKY FOR YOU, BUDDY.

OK OK OK really I’m done with that for now. Until the next WC race, anyway.

Again, heartfelt congratulations to you and your team for the back-to-back victories in St. Pete this weekend.

Life calls…back soon.

Your First Pirelli World Challenge Victory! CONGRATS!!!

Posted in Pat's Races on March 26, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

I trust you are taking all my teasing and taunting in the good spirit which it’s intended. I hope you are. Because…it continues until the checkered flag tomorrow! Muuuhahahahahaah!

IMAG0523 The race was streamed live at www.world-challengetv.com and you know I had that baby up and running today! I was secretly glad to have been sidelined from autocross today by my tire that won’t hold air. Because I was able to watch you guys go at it. What a crazy race! Early and looong caution, and then a real 5-minute sprint to the end. That was what, 3 laps??

So there you were, leading the charge! And right on your heels, MIKE SKEEN! You got some space between you a couple of times, but once you caught up to the back of the pack, the traffic got dicey. I understand how this works. Traffic can either create your opportunities in a race like this, or it can be your undoing. I not-so-secretly hoped that you would get caught up behind a slow car and that Skeen would get his chance to get out front! Well, here’s how you described what happened next as reported at http://www.racer.com:

“Mike was running very strong and certainly keeping me honest,” Long said. “As we came into the back of the traffic on the last lap, the black S2000 lost it just coming out of the first of the double rights in the back session. I missed him narrowly, literally by inches, and unfortunately that left Mike with a blocked racetrack and I was able to just slither through. It was unfortunate for him, good for us, and that’s what it’s all about with multiple classes.”

pat long 45 truspeed wc st peteAlas, you got right around that little incident that caught up Mike. Dammit! Heartbreak!!! He got the car fired and took off with bits and pieces of his front end left behind on the track, and timing & scoring shows he finished 9th. He just emailed me to let me know that the car is going to be good to go tomorrow. Maybe you two will end up splitting the weekend! Hopefully it will not be quite as messy.

That course is absolutely breathtaking. I doubt you have time to enjoy it as you’re driving it, but the aerial views and panoramic shots with the water behind yall are just gorgeous. Looks like nice weather, too.

So the autocross I had to miss today? The mayor of the small town where it took place came down to the civic center lot where the event was going on, and WALKED OUT ONTO THE HOT COURSE, ignoring the safety stewards who yelled at him and ran at him to stop him. They had to red flag the driver on course and deal with this buffoon, who made the club give up half of their space. That they paid to use. THE RENTAL OF WHICH HE HAD PREVIOUSLY APPROVED. Unbelievable. They got the course redesigned and had an abbreviated day of it, as it turned out. I’m guessing the club will be looking for a new venue!

Crap. Tornado siren? Eegads. Bye for now!

P1 – Long, P2 – Skeen: What’s a Girl to Do?

Posted in Pat's Races on March 25, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Dear Pat,

Wow I had no clue this was brewing! My friend, Mike Skeen, about whom I have raved to you in previous notes, is in the No. 2 CRP Racing Crager Wheels Corvette in the World Challenge races at St. Pete this weekend. I’ve had my head up my own ass the past week, heavily involved in my work and trying to get my own car out on the track this weekend (AL SCCA Solo Points #1!). I have two friends working corners at this race in Florida, one who’s flown in from Denver at Turns 10-11, and my other buddy from here in Birmimngham, I’ll find out where he is.

AN. Y. WAY. One of them posted the standings in qualifying to Facebook and it came up on my new, smarter-than-me-phone, and wow, I was so psyched! I read up a little. I’ve confessed to not following you as closely as perhaps your Ultimate Platinum Level Fan might do, but if you had said anything about this in any of your press before this week, I think I’d remember. Looks like it came together rather last-minute….

Long’s journey to the front of the grid for Saturday’s opening round at the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit was an eventful one. Signed just this week to drive the No. 45 TruSpeed./Privacy Star/Entrust Porsche 911 GT3, Long arrived from another commitment in Germany in time for Friday’s on track activities. Quickest in the opening practice during the morning, Long set out during the 20-minute qualifying knowing he had a shot at pole position.

I kind of love that you guys are competing against each other! Did you set a lap record? I think you did. Awesome! Now, while the title of this note would suggest that I am in a quandary about who I should root for, I am really not at all concerned or divided in my loyalties. Not a bit. ONE of you has my absolute 100% support in this race. And only one of you. The other of you…MUST GO DOWN! Please don’t be mad at me, Pat, but I am rooting for my buddy Mike Skeen to kick your ass this weekend!!!!

Are you surprised? OK, look. This is how it is. In ALMS? In Le Mans? In NASCAR Camping World East AND West? Zuhai in the Hybrid? Australian V8 Supercars? Daytona 24 in a DP Porsche? I’m your girl. The last time you and Skeen met up, perhaps the first time? Was Daytona 24 this past January. And while I supported Mike’s efforts at Daytona, I was your girl there as well. You are my number one man. But my buddy and real-life kinda-coach, Mike Skeen, is just getting a foothold, long-deserved, in pro racing, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s just gotta get out there and kick you to the curb and do his thing. And by the way, his thing happens to be being the underdog and kicking the ass of the rock star. (It’s not lost on me that that has, at times, been YOUR thing as well….go figger!) Look ouuuuuut! SKEEEEEEN IS COMING FOR YOU!!

OK OK sorry I don’t want to be mean to you. You know I’m crazy about you. You know I’m a HUGE fan, probably, literally, your biggest fan. I have been your faithful one-way correspondent here on this website for over two years now. It’s not called “Dear Mike Skeen,” is it? No. You are my main man MOST of the time. But right now, I’ve gotta root for my awesome friend in his awesome Corvette!

Being a racer and a gentleman, I know you understand.

I do wish you well! And I absolutely do not want you or your car to get hurt in any way whatsoever (I know you had an off earlier behind a slow car and then a flat, and even then you kicked ass!). But this time? Look out, my friend. My OTHER friend Mike Skeen is COMING FOR YOU!!!!!!

Tons of love,

PS I just stole the tiny mini air compressor out of the PCA door prize box in the back of my car and am using it to pump up the right rear tire of my 911 which has gone down to 10 lbs. WISH ME LUCK getting to, and hopefully competing in, autocross tomorrow!!

Photographic Evidence

Posted in Me, Track Days on March 14, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

I still don’t have the CD of photos from last weekend, but I have a couple of shots to share. Nothing flashy, just me and my little 911 at Barber.

Here we are braving the rain down the front straight:

And here, coming over the tunnel turn on my first solo run:

It’s a big day here in Birmingham. Indy cars have been arriving all weekend for today’s testing at Barber, and I just got a Tweet about one of the cars having just arrived at the airport, waiting for a lift to the track. It’s threatening to rain but so far it’s holding off.

You have either been at Sebring testing in Florida, or at Le Mans testing in France. Bad, bad fan, I’m not sure where you are! I’m really curious to see what kind of NASCAR fun you may be having this year after your brilliant showing at Miller in the Camping World series last year. What DO you have in store for us??

Back to the grindstone…

And the Angels Sang!

Posted in Me, Track Days on March 7, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

For such a big event in my motorsports endeavors, the moment passed without much fanfare – no flashbulbs, no video – just me, my 911, and Barber Motorsports Park. Well, and about 20 other cars! But that just made it more fun! I guess I really have come along. I used to say that I loved driving on the track…except for all the other cars! My head is now in a totally different place about that, to say the least. So finally it’s behind me, my first solo outing at Barber.

I was super extremely nervous sitting in grid. I thought about how relaxed I was about all the things that used to practically keep me up the night before a driver’s ed weekend – everything from what shoes to wear, to how the seatbelt fit over my boobs. You would not believe how much I worried about the damned seat belt and my boobs. As I yanked the thing into place today, I had to smile. Over the 3 years I’ve been doing this stuff, all the goofy crap has fallen away, and my focus was on the driving.

The funny thing is, leading up to this event, I joked with my club guys about who would be my instructor. I think more than anything, they were just flat tired of pairing me up after three years! I think I did my first DE back in 2008 just after I first got my car. 2009 was a busy year, but as you know if you’ve followed my notes here, I was sidelined for most of 2010. So this weekend, they were all, “What? You don’t need an instructor!” and I was all, “OK then, hook me up for a check ride, please!”

In the end, I sort of rounded up my own instructor, an awesome friend I know from NASA-SE, who is now starting up the new NASA-Midsouth. Matt bravely rode with me in the rain yesterday (and may I just add again here…OH. MY. GAWD. THE RAIN!). And this morning, my first session was my check ride, and I was pushed out of the nest!

vroomgrrlblueballsOf course, me being me, it couldn’t just be a normal thing. Normally one would be “checked out” of the novice group, and advance to the next group. But today, the next group was sooooo full, and I was still the slowest thing in my own group, still. So I ended up in my own little category, a group 1.5 or 1.75, Solo Novice? They just called the grid and told them I was going out alone. And then some of the guys put this on my glass to mark the occasion. Yes, that’s right, a pair of blue balls. Gotta love it!

So..all this yackity yack and nothing about the driving. Well it’s hard to know where to even start! My weakest point right now is still braking. Street braking and track braking are so totally opposite, and I really had to get a feel for that again on the racetrack. And I don’t think I really got where I want to be either, not consistently. Yet. I did improve, and got much MORE consistent, but I have a ways to go. I did not lift in the Esses/Kinks, and I did not brake around the back of the track AT ALL until I got to the turn-in at the last turn that leads onto the front straight. Someday when I am going faster I will need some brakes around those turns, but at my speed, I just did not. And NOT braking where I was so accustomed to at least a tap? Woo I earned those balls!

But then once I got used to it, it was awesome! I really got into feeling the momentum of my car, the weight transfers, the changing sensations from different levels of tire adhesion. So much to think about. Traffic management was not nearly as distracting to me today as it had been in the past. One time, I found myself following a car that had passed me – bad idea! There are some people driving some strange lines out there. MY line is where I need to be. I can change it any time I want or need to, but where I am on the track has to be by MY intention, not the result of mindless following.

I only nailed the hairpin maybe twice the way I really wanted to. Early with the braking. I just have such a hard time staying in the gas going down that little hill into the bowl! I worked so hard on this on a previous weekend, and I reaped the benefits of late brakes and late turn-in there, just never quite got back into that groove completely. Where I did feel much better was the Museum turn. Wow that thing is fun! Hard brakes, then hard turn-in, then back on the gas down the blind hill, then a quick hard jab, hard turn and when done right, you basically get kind of flung out of that thing by momentum. LOVE!

Ok well once again it is late, and I am tired. Back to the grindstone tomorrow, must grab a few winks. I’ll be back with some photos soon.

And I am going to go look at your schedule right now and see what you are up to!

Be well, drive purrrrrty!