We made our annual pilgrimage to the LA Auto Show earlier this week, and as in year’s past, there is a lot to see and a little bit of something for everyone. Bring the family, bring the kids, bring your significant other, bring your car- loving friends, but hurry since the last day of the show this year is Sunday, December 9th.
Here’s a video snippet of a sampling of some of the many cars on display at the Los Angeles Convention Center, home of the LA Auto Show.
Virtually every major car company is at the show, showcasing new cars and models. Some companies offered world debuts of their new cars, or US debuts, or auto show debuts. There were a few specific brands we always visit, and we made a point to stop in those booths. We did wander the entire show floor for a glance at everything. You could be there all day – we spent a good four hours wandering the show floor – which covers both major halls in the LA Convention Center – and still didn’t see everything.
My advice, look online at the show website in advance, to see if there is a particular car you would like to see. Check to see if you would like to test drive a car – several companies are offering this, but only until 5:00 pm. If you are bringing kids, look for kid-friendly displays, and let your kids sit inside the vehicles, they might have fun sitting behind the steering wheel for a photo! Then, be sure to wander and stop by some booths that are new to you. Be sure to visit the Galpin Auto display (in a room in between the two convention halls) and the Porsche exhibit (also off in its own area), and the “garage” down below for some custom cars and after-market suppliers.
The Ford booth had some netting overhead – an obstacle course for climbing through – great for kids. They also had a make your own Lego figure display – and then you could pose the figures in Ford Lego landscapes.
Lego figures I created in the Ford booth – and then posed in a Lego runway
Lego figures I created in the Ford booth – and then posed in a Lego race car garage
Mitsubishi’s area was in front of the Ford area – and you can see Honda on the left.
Climbing net above the Ford booth – fun for kids (and adults) to climb through during the show.
I liked the look – especially the interior – of this Hyundai concept car, Le Fil Rouge.
Le Fil Rouge concept car in the Hyundai booth
It was fun seeing the new Lexus UX – I drove this car for the A Girls Guide to Cars conference two weeks ago.
I love the trident on the Maserati grill.
Beautiful styling on the Acura NSX
Rivian is a new company that aims to make rugged off-road electric SUVs.
A new electric off-road SUV company, Rivian
I gravitated towards the Subaru booth this year. I am most familiar with their WRX, but the Outbacks really looked interesting, and then I posed in the new Ascent for a #SharetheLoveSelfie – Subaru is donating money to one of four charities for every selfie posted.
The Subaru Outback – I really liked it in black, and would love to test drive it someday.
Posing for a #SharetheloveSelfie, and Subaru will donate to a charity.
All the cars in the Mercedes Booth were stylish, but this one in particular stood out.
Ahh, had to stop by the Mercedes Benz booth, where all the cars are beautiful, but especially this 2020 GTR Pro
In the Volvo booth, the company said that it plans that 25% of plastic in its cars produced after 2025 will be recycled plastic. This seems very in keeping with the Volvo brand.
Volvo is committing to have 25% of all plastic in their cars produced after 2025 come from recycled plastic. Seems very on-brand for them.
Downstairs in the garage were custom autos and after-market vendors like Al & Ed’s Audio Sound and West Coast Customs.
West Coast Customs in the “garage” downstairs modified this Ferrari 488 GTB
West Coast Customs modified this 1965 Porsche 356
In addition to seeing all the models in the VW booth, they had this fun screen that mirrored the movements of anyone standing in front of this. I imagine kids would find this endlessly entertaining. I sure did.
Galpin Autos had a large room to display their cars. This 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera made me swoon. And how about this fun throwback pain scheme on this van and mini-wagon?
The Galpin display had this beautiful 2019 Aston Martin DBS SuperLeggera.
Galpin had many cars on display including this van and mini-wagon in fun 70’s era paint.
In the Jaguar booth, we spent a lot of time learning about the I-pace, Jaguar’s electric SUV. If you sign up to take a 90-second tour to learn more about the vehicle, you get a really nice Jaguar baseball cap. On the right pictured below is an interactive screen in the Jaguar booth, kids might find this entertaining.
The Jaguar I-pace electric SUV.
This interactive screen lets you follow the Jaguar with your movements
I liked the look of this all-new Mazda 3 (and since I drive a Mazda, I am partial to them). The hatchback was on a raised stage, but there was a sedan version in their booth that you could sit inside.
The all new Mazda 3.
In the BMW booth, I stopped by to see the M3 and M4. The M4 in a convertible, which sounds like a brilliant idea!
The BMW booth with a race car upstairs
Not wild about the color, but wild about the M3
A Convertible M4 !
In the Audi booth, they had a station where you could push pedals and hear the engine notes for different models.
The Grand Tour Game, related to the Amazon show, The Grand Tour, had an area outside on of the halls set-up with stations to play the game. And take a photo with a Porsche 918 Spyder.
The Grand Tour had a display outside of one of the halls – and you could have your picture taken with this Porsche 918 Spyder.
There were also game stations set so you could play the game.
As usual, Porsche had its own booth…and you saw the just-announced Porsche
The Porsched 911 GT2 RS Clubsport – front and center when you enter the Porsche room.
These photos only represent a sampling of what I took the other night. There are many cars to see and learn more about, and there are fun activities sprinkled throughout the show that hopefully will delight the little ones.
The LA Auto Show runs through Sunday, Decmeber 9. The show is open from 9:00 AM through 10:00 PM on Saturday, and 9:00 AM through 7:00 PM on Sunday. Check the LA Auto Show website for a list of cars at the show and events or drive-around schedule.
As car racing fan, and aficionado of classic racing cars, it’s a bit surprising that I do not own a fast car nor have I raced on a track or attended a driving school. I’ve been a passenger in a race car on a track, and I love watching racing drivers push their car to the limits on a track, but doing that myself? Not yet.
When A Girls Guide to Cars invited me to their Drive2Learn conference in Palm Springs recently, I was excited to attend and test drive the various vehicles made available to our group, but my eyes got big when I read that we’d be visiting the BMW Performance Driving Center in Thermal, CA.
BMW Performance Driving Center in Thermal, California. Photo courtesy of BMW Performance Driving Center
The half-day experience we had at the school is a mash-up of the different courses and classes BMW offers. While you will not be able to replicate our exact experience (and we didn’t do everything they offer), you can read what we did, and then determine what class might be the best fit for you.
View of the shorter track from the second level of the BMW Performance Center. This track was marked with cones and split into three smaller sections during our class.
Having attended a class at the BMW Performance Driving Center, I cannot wait to return. Here’s why I loved my experience there, and why I recommend you make plans to attend a class there soon.
After a buffet breakfast upstairs overlooking the track, our group gathered downstairs in a classroom where Adam, the lead instructor, introduced the other driving instructors. All of the instructors have racing experience and have been teaching at BMW for some time.
Love the humor on the coffee cups.
Can’t believe I’m at the BMW Performance Driving Center to drive BMWs!
Adam led a shortened course on driving basics – how to adjust your seat and steering wheel, where to place your hands (surprise it’s not 10:00 and 2:00 as many of us were taught in driver’s ed, but 9:00 and 3:00), and where to look when you are driving (look where you want to go).
Lead instructor Adam highlights the paddle shift levers on the steering wheel – you could use these if you wanted while driving, and I did!
Our short lesson complete, we were divided into groups and sent out to start driving.
The first rotation for my group was on the track with M4s, with two of us in each vehicle with the instructor in the lead vehicle. I paired up with Myra and drove first. Instructor Dave used a walkie talkie to communicate with us while we were driving. He led us in a caravan to the track and then explained that we would drive a lap following him, one car behind the other. As we drove in formation around the track, he noted braking points, apexes, straightaways where we could floor it, and curves where we needed to be looking out the side windows as we steered (use the side windows as you turn to see where you want the car to go). We were given the option to drive the car in automatic, or we could use the paddle shifts for manual mode. I tried that since I drive a manual transmission car.
With each successive lap, we went faster and faster. He coached us, and calmly led us around the track, encouraging us to go increase our speed with each lap. The car was quite simply a joy to drive. It was smooth and fast and stopped on a dime. At various points on the track Dave encouraged us to floor it, and I did. I know I hit over 100 mph, maybe even 115, and it was exhilarating. I know the car could go faster, but for my first drive I was being a bit timid. We did about four laps of driving and then switched passenger and driver. As we completed additional laps, my confidence grew in knowing what was coming next, where to push the car to go faster, when to lift off and brake, and where to steer to use make most effective use of the racing line (how’s that for a race term I learned watching Formula 1?).
Me and the M4 I drove around the track.
Caution though – riding along as a passenger caused some in our group to feel a bit of motion sickness. If that was an issue, the instructors encouraged those individuals to drive first, and then when we swapped driver and passenger, they could step out of the car instead of riding along and getting sick.
Here’s video of me at the end of the drive – thank you Myra for recording this!
Our next stop was to a smaller track layout where we would drive several different BMW models. We were handed off to a different instructor who led us around the track in a caravan of different BMWs – an M2, M4, 5550i, X5, and X6. Once we learned the braking points and apexes on the short track, we drove two laps in each vehicle, switched passenger to driver for two laps, and then moved to the next car. In quick succession, we were able to experience the performance and handling of each different model. To experience the difference between an M2 and M4, between an X5 and and X6, was illuminating. Sure the M4 felt like it was powered with a huge awesome engine, but the M2 was smaller and felt nimbler, easier to zip around corners and perfect for short – but fun – trips around town. The 550i felt like a solid car – large and roomy, with solid handling. The SUVs were surprisingly quick with good pick-up and were easy to manipulate around the short track. If you are thinking about purchasing a BMW, this is the thing to do – drive each model in quick succession and see which vehicle suits your driving style best. The best part – you can go fast and feel like you are really driving and feel the performance of each vehicle – not taking a slow loop around the block at a dealership.
Here’s a clip of us driving around the shortened track in the various cars by Peyton’s Momma.
We moved on to another small track for timed laps. Here we were paired again and drove in formation around this short track in 3 series BMWs. After noting the brake points and apexes, we were sent out to do timed practice laps. We had to drive the course as fast as we could and then stop within the stop box for our time to count. After two practice laps, we were sent on the track one by one to complete two timed laps. As we did our laps, it was quickly apparent who the two fastest drivers were in our group (and I was not one of them). Although I wasn’t the fastest, I concentrated on improving my time for each lap (which I did), taking the corners tighter, braking later, and trying to determine how to use the entire track to my advantage.
M3s and M4s lined up at the larger track for instruction laps and hot laps.
Our last stop was back at the big track for a hot lap with the instructors. As I sat in the back seat with two others from our group, David whipped around the track, braking, accelerating and drifting to give us the ride of our lives. It was so fun, I couldn’t stop laughing and squealing. What a thrill to experience the car being pushed to its limit while in the control of an experience driver.
Here’s what the hot lap looks like from outside the car (video clip courtesy of BMW Performance Center West):
Here’s the video I took while in the back seat during the hot lap – there’s a lot of laughing and squealing (also watch Jess Doll’s hair in the front seat as the car turns). It was a rush!
A BMW M3 speeds off on a hot lap.
Did I Say It’s Educational?
A word about the instructors
Yes, the BMW is the “ultimate driving machine,” but simply sitting behind the wheel of a BMW doesn’t necessarily provide the ultimate driving experience. The instructors were without fail engaging, calm, reassuring, and funny. I never felt pushed to do anything I was uncomfortable with, and they encouraged us to push the car, go faster, and enjoy it. It was seamless and fun, yet I walked away feeling like I learned how to drive better – whether I was in a BMW or not. If the thought of driving fast or doing laps on a track is scary, you can come here to learn in a no-pressure, non-intimidating environment and progress at your level. That is not always the case when you’re taking a class to learn something new, and the instructors here really impressed me.
Our half day of “class” done, we returned upstairs where Adam presented us with BMW Performance Driving School goodies – the best being the BMW Performance Driving school hat – with a California bear on the side (distinguishing it from BMW’s other Performance Driving School in South Carolina). The winners of the timed lap were announced and congratulated (not surprisingly I was not one of them), and then it was over. It went by so quickly – probably because we were all having so much fun!
I think I look good behind the wheel of the M4! What a thrill it was driving this at top speeds around the track.
There is something for everyone at the BMW Performance Driving Center. Whether you want to learn tips for better driving, how to extract the maximum performance out of a car, optimal racing lines on a track, what it feels like to ride a hot lap, or test various BMW models, there is a class for you.
There’s a wonderful selection of BMW branded merchandise at the store.
There are many classes to select: Car Control, M School, BMW Performance Drive, M Track Drive, Mini Driving Experience, and a BMW Track Meet event. Pricing starts at $299 for a half-day M-track drive or BMW Performance Center drive and goes up to $3,999 for a two-day M school package.
Enter to Win a BMW Driver Experience!
Enter to win A Girls Guide to Cars Grand Prize Giveaway that includes a drive experience at BMW Performance Center West, a stay at the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa and more! Click this link to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Contest rules: Entries must be completed by 11:59PM Pacific December 31st, 2018. No purchase necessary; contest open only to US residents 18 years old or older and subject to the laws of the state of California. Winner will be chosen by random drawing from qualified entires and verified by A Girls Guide to Cars; winner will be notified by email no later than January 7th, 2019. Prize will be delivered by USPS to a valid US address; prizes cannot be shipped to a P.O. box. Winners may be asked to provide identification to receive their prize. Prize valued at $1,200, not exchangeable for cash or other items. Prize is limited to one (1) night accommodations at Miramonte Resort, Indian Wells, CA with date of accommodation subject to approval by Miramonte management; one (1) breakfast for two at Miramonte Resort; one (1) half day driving instruction and hot lap package for one person at BMW Performance Center West, Thermal, CA. Travel and additional accommodations are the responsibility of the winner. Contest is administered by and prizes awarded by A Girls Guide to Cars, which assumes no liability for the administration of this contest. Miramonte Indian Wells Resort, BMW Performance Center, Visit Greater Palm Springs Area, and all other event partners assume no responsibility or liability for the administration of this contest. A total of 1 grand prize will be awarded.
Disclosure: I was a guest of A Girls’ Guide to Cars, BMW Performance Driving School, and Visit Greater Palm Springs for this trip in exchange for my honest opinion of my experience. All the opinions here are my own.
Two weeks ago, thirty female bloggers and journalists gathered at the Aloft Hotel in El Segundo, less than a mile from LAX Airport. We were there to meet for the inaugural A Girls Guide to Cars #Drive2Learn conference. In the parking lot eight different cars of varying makes and models awaited us to explore the drive from LA to Greater Palm Springs, the location for our two and a half day conference.
The mission of A Girls Guide to Cars is to empower women to be smarter, happier car owners, and that’s something I can support, especially since women buy or influence the purchase of 85% of cars.
While at the conference, we had the opportunity to drive the cars in groups to lunch, to scenic spots around Greater Palm Springs, and to and from Los Angeles.
This small, sporty car comfortably fit three women, and would be perfect for quick trips around town. While I am not normally a fan of red leather interiors, the red interior on this car grew on me – paired with the white exterior, the red really pops.
Front passenger side of the Acura ILX with red leather interior
Back seating in the Acura ILX
Here’s a close-up of the interior from the passenger side of the car.
Passenger side of the Acura ILX showing the center console
Looking for a quick bite to eat, we found IW Coffee coffee a short drive away. After lunch we decided to drive around town, and given our short time-frame, decided to cruise along El Paseo, a popular shopping district/street in Palm Desert. The Acura ILX was perfect for zipping around and parking, making it a perfect option for running errands, joining friends for lunch, or commuting to work. This small but sporty car is boasts a luxurious interior, so it’s luxury in a small but mighty package.
The Acura ILX parked across from IW Coffee
Small to fit into cramped parking spaces at shopping centers.
Dani cruising El Paseo in the Acura ILX.
Our time with the Acura was short, but my first impression was a good one. Since I drive a compact-sized car at home, this would be the perfect entry for me into the Acura line-up. I’m not looking for a big SUV, but I want something that has a bit of zip, and a luxurious feel, and on first glance the Acura ILX seems to fit the bill.
Me and the Acura ILX
Would it be a visit to Greater Palm Springs without a picture of any palms?
Palm trees in Palm Springs
The Acura ILX is described by Acura as being, “Savvy, sporty, and bold, it’s the ride for your life.” With a starting price of $25,900, this premium sports sedan an affordable luxury. Learn more on the Acura website.
Disclosure: I was a guest of A Girls’ Guide to Cars and Visit Greater Palm Springs for this trip in exchange for my honest opinion of my experience. All the opinions here are my own.
Enter A Girls Guide to Cars Grand Prize Giveaway
Enter to Win the A Girls Guide to Cars Grand Prize giveaway, and you could win a BMW Drive Experience and a night stay at the Miramonte Resort. Enter using this link: a Rafflecopter giveaway Contest rules: Entries must be completed by 11:59PM Pacific December 31st, 2018. No purchase necessary; contest open only to US residents 18 years old or older and subject to the laws of the state of California. Winner will be chosen by random drawing from qualified entires and verified by A Girls Guide to Cars; winner will be notified by email no later than January 7th, 2019. Prize will be delivered by USPS to a valid US address; prizes cannot be shipped to a P.O. box. Winners may be asked to provide identification to receive their prize. Prize valued at $1,200, not exchangeable for cash or other items. Prize is limited to one (1) night accommodations at Miramonte Resort, Indian Wells, CA with date of accommodation subject to approval by Miramonte management; one (1) breakfast for two at Miramonte Resort; one (1) half day driving instruction and hot lap package for one person at BMW Performance Center West, Thermal, CA. Travel and additional accommodations are the responsibility of the winner. Contest is administered by and prizes awarded by A Girls Guide to Cars, which assumes no liability for the administration of this contest. Miramonte Indian Wells Resort, BMW Performance Center, Visit Greater Palm Springs Area, and all other event partners assume no responsibility or liability for the administration of this contest. A total of 1 grand prize will be awarded.
Inspired by a Twitter discussion of Bugattis, group co-leader Mara picked a date in February for us to gather and tour the museum. I had not visited the museum since it re-opened in December, 2015, after a $125 million restoration, so I was excited to see the museum with fellow car racing fans. Not sure how many people would attend an event that did not involve watching Formula 1, Mara was pleasantly surprised when over twenty people pre-paid so that our group received a discounted ticket rate.
Meeting in the museum lobby, Mara checked everyone in and purchased additional tickets while we mingled and discussed the latest developments in Formula 1 (the hot topic was Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement, Valtteri Bottas’ signing with Mercedes AMG Petronas to replace him, and Felipe Massa’s un-retiring to drive this year with Williams).
Everyone gathered to pose for a photo in the lobby before we entered the museum.
LA F1 Fans in our first non-race viewing event at the Petersen Automotive Museum
After trying to squeeze all of us in the elevator, and bouncing a few times, our group split and made our way to the third floor to begin exploring the museum. The top floor featured early cars, such as this replica of the first practical car, an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, as well as General Motor’s 1996 EV1, the world’s first mass-produced electric powered vehicle.
The first practical car – an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen (replica). One prototype was built and 25 replicas.
General Motors’ 1996 EV1, the first modern, mass-produced electric vehicle.
This being Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood and the film industry, there are several cars featured in movies on display.
1963 Volkswagen Beetle, “Herbie” driving in the 2005 film, “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”
We wandered the exhibits on our own pace chatting with fellow F1 fans.
LA F1 Fans discuss car design in front of this 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37
This 1953 Nash-Healy was particularly beautiful.
1953 Nash-Healey designed by Pinin Farina
For those more interested in race cars, this 1997 Porsche 911 Gt1 was a special treat to see.
1997 Porsche 911 GT1
1997 Porsche 911 GT1
The McLaren P1 on display showcases the production vehicles developed by the other side of the McLaren F1 team parent company.
2015 McLaren P1
An exhibit on American racing legend Dan Gurney opened January 28th. “The Eagles Have Landed: Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers,” features 11 AAR cars, memorabilia and short films on the walls of the display about Dan Gurney’s racing career.
Dan Gurney exhibit featured several of his race cars including the 1967 AAR Eagle Gurney-Weslake V-12 #36 F1 Grand Prix Car
Dan Gurney memorabilia on display includes the original magnum of Moet & Chandon champagne he sprayed from the podium when he and A.J. Foyt won the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The ground floor of the museum featured a large exhibit on the Bugatti. Most of the cars are from the Mullin Auto Museum (perhaps one day we can organize a group visit there).
1931 Bugatti Type 50 S
The 1925 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix
Mara suggested that we meet at Tom Bergin’s (the second oldest bar in Los Angeles) down the street from the museum once we were finished touring the museum. I was part of the last of our group that was in the museum, and there was a small remaining group in Tom Bergin’s by the time I arrived that enjoyed beer, Irish coffee and lunch together.
The last of the LA F1 Fans at Tom Bergin’s after touring the Petersen
Yvette, Mara, Mike and Eric enjoying lunch and Tom Bergin’s famous Irish Coffee
Anmol and Alen enjoying lunch at Tom Bergin’s
John, Dave and Kiera enjoying Irish coffee at the bar at Tom Bergin’s
In all, the first LA F1 Fans non-race meetup activity was a success. Everyone seemed to enjoy the museum and the opportunity to visit with other Formula 1 fans.
Based on the success of this gathering, Mara already scheduled our next meetup on March 12th to visit the Malibu Cars and Coffee gathering.
The 2017 Formula 1 season opens on March 26th with the Australian Grand Prix. Join the Los Angeles Formula 1 fans meetup group to see where we will gather to watch the race.
On Sunday we drove down to San Diego and Coronado Island for the 19th Annual Coronado Speed Festival. Hosted by Naval Base Coronado on Naval Air Station North Island, the “Race at the Base” features a car corral, ten different car class races on an active runway, and the opportunity to tour the Naval base and ships and explore some of the aircraft on display.
We left Riverside around 7:30 AM (after a friend’s wedding the night before) and arrived shortly before 9:00 AM. Traffic was light so we were able to drive through Coronado Island onto the base and park with no waiting. After parking, we walked to security screening, much like at an airport, except that no large bags or backpacks were allowed. I was turned around with my small backpack as it was deemed too large. Luckily I brought my fanny pack along so I stuffed that with my wallet, cell phone, extra battery and ear plugs, and I hand carried a can of spray sunscreen. The marine layer was still overhead when we arrived, but we knew it would burn off and we would need sun protection.
The Coronado Speed Festival runs all day Saturday and Sunday and is part of Fleet Week San Diego. Tickets for each day were $25 for adults, but we had a coupon from Reader City for $15 each (Active duty military personnel are admitted free and children under 12 are free; a weekend pass is $35). While we missed some of the early races, each group of cars raced in the afternoon as well, and we were able to watch all the different groups race later in the day.
We walked around the paddock where each car was getting race prepped. There was a wide variety of cars to enjoy; I always enjoy the older cars, especially the pre-war racers.
A beautiful Morgan automobile.
A vintage Porsche
The 1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang. When we peaked inside the back, there was gravel all over the car floor, picked up from the track.
The back of the1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang exposed.
Three cars in the paddock.
Comedian, podcaster, documentary filmmaker and vintage car racer Adam Carolla, who was racing in Group 8 with his Bob Sharp Datsun 610, posed for a picture with us. He said that the first two races on Saturday seemed to go well, but there was something not right with the car, and they were not sure if they had it fixed. He advised that if we saw his car moving slowly on the track, it was the car and not the driver. Sadly when we watched his group race, we knew that his car problems continued, and he did not participate in the afternoon race for his group.
Dave and I chatted with Adam Carolla before his group raced.
Many of the cars had signs that described their provenance and race history.
1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Trans-AM / IMSA GTO – this car would be in a heated battle for first place in the last race of the day.
The 1952 Allard K2
Watching the Races
We walked over to one of two spectator stands, and when we climbed to the top, we could peer over and see the cars lining up in advance of each race. It was fun to watch the cars drive in and be directed to their place in the grid.
Group 8 cars – mass produced cars and sedans built prior to 1973 – line up on the race grid.
Looking down on the Group 8 grid from the stands. In the distance on the left is the short course for the Jaguar test drives.
Group 10 – NASCAR Cup and Nationwide Stock Cars – line up on the grid
The Pre-War race cars line up in the grid as the NASCAR group exits the track
The pre-war race cars lined up in the grid (the San Diego skyline is in the back on the right)
From this perch we could see almost all of the 1.7 mile race track. Facing north, sailboats sailed by on San Diego bay and flights departed from the airport as the marine layer hugged San Diego in the morning.
Group 9 – “Wings & Slicks” open-wheel race cars as raced from 1973 – 2008 – on the grid with San Diego Bay and San Diego to the north in the background.
Heading from the grid
Heading from the grid for Group 7
Other Activities at the Base
Unfortunately while we were watching groups 8 and 10 race, we missed the pit crew challenge. Active duty military personnel competed in a pit crew time trial with NASCAR cars and equipment.
We were treated to some of the Naval Seahawk helicopters flying over the racetrack while we were in the stands, and we also saw some F-18s take off (they were a bit too fast to take a picture).
Naval Seakhawk helicopters flew over the track during the races
During the noon lunch break, I was fortunate to take a selfie with actor Gary Sinise. Gary and his Lt. Dan Band performed on Saturday at the fest. He was the Grand Marshall for the races. I thanked him for all that he does to support our military with the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Meeting Actor and Coronado Speed Festival Grand Marshall Gary Sinise (note my hand-carried can of sunscreen!)
I realized too late that while the racing paused for a lunch time breaks that hot laps were offered – spectators were being driven around as passengers in some of the cars. By the time I realized this and got in line, it was too late. Something I definitely would like to do next year!
After grabbing lunch, we stood in line to test drive Jaguars. Jaguar is a sponsor of the event and had professional drivers there to tell us about their vehicles. We had the option of either being driven around the short course on the field or driving the cars ourselves. The line to test drive the Jaguars was long, not surprising, and I wish we stood in line for the test drive when we first arrived – the line was shorter and the sun was still hiding behind the marine layer. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the drive and accelerating these beautiful vehicles on the track. I first drove the XE and then after getting a feel for the track switched to the F-type, with much more horse power and sportier styling. Both beautiful cars, and I liked their power!
The groups all raced again in the afternoon, and while we planned to leave early, we ended up staying to watch my favorite group, the pre-war cars. Since there was only one race after that, we decided to remain for that as well, Group 10b, and I’m glad we did. The 1998 Ford/Penske Taurus Stock Car and 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Winston Cup traded places the entire race, and as we could see all of the track from near the start/finish line, it was fun to watch them battle on track for position with one car being better in the turns while another caught up on the straights. All of the cars that raced by group are listed on the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association website, as are the results from each of the qualifying sessions (from Saturday) and races.
Pre-war cars race at Coronado Speed Festival
The Pre-War race featured this National with two drivers.
The last race of the day proved to be quite exciting.
These two cars traded positions the entire race. Eventually the white car barely edged out the black car at the finish line.
This Ford/Penske Taurus Stock car and Oldsmobile Cutlass Winston fought for first place the entire race.
In this photo, the Oldsmobile is in the lead.
Learning About Naval Helicopters
Once the racing concluded, we walked out past the helicopters that lined the entrance to the event. The pilots allowed us to peak inside and tell us about their aircraft. We saw MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters with different configurations depending on the mission of each. It was amazing to see these machines up close, and even more amazing that they are able to leave the ground and fly.
MH-60 Seahawk Helicopters parked at Naval Air Station North Island
MH-60 Seahawk Helicopters parked at Naval Air Station North Island
The cockpit of one of the MH-60 Seahawks on display
MH-60 Seahawk Naval Helicopter on display for the Coronado Speed Festival
While we didn’t beat the traffic leaving the base, the delays were not onerous as we sat in some traffic on Coronado Island heading to the Coronado Bay Bridge.
Overall, it was a fun day. While there are a good number of cars to see, there weren’t so many that it was exhausting. We were able to walk up and down each of the paddock lanes a few times each and see everything. Because we were only there on the one day though, we didn’t allow time for touring of the ships that were open or for touring the base.
The Race at the Base is a fun weekend event, something the entire family can enjoy. Where else can you see classic cars racing on a live naval runway with the beautiful waters of San Diego Bay surrounding you and the skyline of San Diego to the east?
View of downtown San Diego from Naval Air Station North Island and the Coronado Speed Festival
For more information on the other activities during Fleet Week San Diego, visit their website.
Me and Nelson Piquet, Jr. in Long Beach, California.
In advance of the Long Beach ePrix in April, I won a FoxSports twitter contest to have dinner with driver Nelson Piquet, Jr. I could not quite believe it when it happened, and remember telling Dave, “I think I’m having dinner with Nelson Piquet, Jr. on Thursday night!”
What do you do when you have dinner with a race car driver? Ask them questions, lots of questions. Nelson currently races in the Formula E series for NextEV TCR – electric car racing through the streets of many of the top cities in the world – and as a driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Rebellion Racing. In the past he’s raced in GP2, Formula 1, Global Rallycross and the NASCAR trucks series. He’s also the son of three time Formula 1 world champion Nelson Piquet.
As you might imagine, I had no shortage of questions!
We met at Gladstone’s in Long Beach – right across the street from his hotel for the race weekend. Josh Skolfield was another contest winner, and Rebecca Banks and Emma Stoner from Nelson’s PR team joined the dinner as well. I thought there would be a huge group, but it was simply the five of us.
Dinner with Nelson! L-R: Emma, Rebecca, Josh and me at Gladstone’s right after we ordered.
I started asking Nelson questions after we ordered, and I continued peppering him with questions as we ate our dinner. I wanted to be sure I did not forget to ask anything. Nelson was very gracious and open, and he was willing to answer all of my questions – even the ones about the infamous incident at the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix in 2008.
There’s a photographer that takes pictures of your table at Gladstone’s and then sells you this montage.
It was interesting to hear about the life of a race car driver – never staying in one place for too long as there’s always a promotional appearance, another race, or testing to attend. He said home is his suitcase. I asked Nelson which series he enjoyed racing the most, and was surprised that he enjoyed the NASCAR trucks series so much.
Nelson poses with me and Josh after dinner. Credit: Rebecca Banks.
Some of the more interesting things that he shared with us include his regret that he didn’t continue racing in GP2 while he was a reserve driver for F1 in 2007. Since he was a reserve driver, he was sitting at the race tracks, not racing and it was a bit boring. He also regrets not remaining in Nascar Trucks for a third year as he instead jumped to the Nationwide series. He enjoyed Nascar and working with a radio spotter throughout the race. He said you need to have total trust with the spotter because they can see what is happening on the track, so when they tell you to make a move, you need to move.
I asked him about this favorite tracks, and he immediately mentioned Macau, Silverstone and Monaco, saying that the more challenging the track, the more fun it is to race. He hopes to continue racing for as long as he is able and will consider his next steps once his racing career is finished.
Nelson signed the Long Beach ePrix program for us.
Nelson was not particularly optimistic about his chances in the Formula E season this year, and after winning the series first title last year, it has been a disappointment. Still though, I am following the series, and enjoyed attending the race in Long Beach (the cars make high pitch sounds but are very quiet – it’s a bit odd to see the open wheel cars zoom by without much sound!).
Supporting Nelson at the Long Beach ePrix
I was excited to hear about his racing with the Rebellion team in the World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His team mates are drivers Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost.
We attended Le Mans this year, and I managed to capture a quick selfie with Nelson during Scrutineering. He remembered meeting me in California and wondered what I was doing in France – watching Le Mans!
Nelson being interviewed with his Rebellion Racing team mates during Le Mans scrutineering.
It was raining quite a bit during the interviews.
There was quite a large crowd for the two days of Scrutineering. After the cars were inspected, the team – drivers and crew – posed for an official team photo.
I stood on my tip toes to capture this photo. It was very crowded!
After posing for the photo, the crew pushed the car along the pathway, and the drivers stopped for photos and to sign autographs. That is when I was able to say hello to Nelson again and take a selfie!
Nelson signs autographs for the fans at Le Mans.
A selfie with Nelson during Le Mans scrutineering.
The Rebellion team was the top private team in the LMP1 class at the race, and Nelson and his team mates were on the podium.
The Le Mans 2016 podium. Nelson and his Rebellion Racing team mates Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost are pictured on the podium at the far right for being the top private LMP1 team in the race.
This weekend, he races for NextEV TCR in the last race of this year’s Formal E season, the London ePrix. You can help Nelson’s car receive an extra “boost” in the race by tweeting or tagging your Instagram photos with #NelsonPiquet, #Fanboost and #LondonePrix – once a day until race day (although since Nelson is not in a position to win the championship this year, he would probably would not mind if you gave your boost to another driver).
Thank you for dinner Nelson. It was a pleasure meeting you, and I hope to see you again soon at a racetrack!
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the most prestigious endurance car race in the world. Held in mid-June each year, to make the most of long summer days, the race draws hundreds of thousands of spectators to watch cars race around a track that in sections includes local streets in Le Mans, France, for a continuous 24 hours.
We attended the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2010 with a UK car club. The group stayed in a hotel north of Le Mans, and we used that as our home base for the days leading up to the race. We would car pool or taxi into town or the track to take part in that day’s pre-race activities, then return to our hotel for a multi-course gourmet French dinner. For the race itself, we watched the start and several hours of racing before returning to the hotel for dinner and a shortened night’s sleep. We awoke early on Sunday morning to make our way back to the track for the conclusion of the race.
It was a fun experience, but we also knew that many people say the only way to experience Le Mans is to camp at the track so you can catch all of the action, moving around to different viewing points and watching the cars race as day turns to night and then back to day again.
We decided to return to Le Mans this year when we heard that Ford was returning to Le Mans, marking the 50th Anniversary of when Ford raced at Le Mans and won. We not only decided to return to Le Mans, but we decided to return to Le Mans and camp.
Knowing that it often rains during the race weekend and that the temperatures are cool (50 degrees Fahrenheit at night and in the mid 60s during the day), we were hesitant to commit to camping at the track. Dave’s friend suggested we join the camping area with the Audi Club of North America and Audi Club International. Since Dave is an ACNA member, we decided to try the camping experience, and we sent in a reservation for a camp spot.
How do you camp at a race? Many people traveling from the UK, France and the rest of Europe bring supplies in their cars, or campers and RVs. We were traveling from the US, so we had to bring our gear in our checked luggage and that limited our options.
We already own a small tent from the one time we camped at Sears Point (now Sonoma Raceway) in Northern California. But we didn’t have sleeping bags, sleeping mattresses, rain gear or any of the many other supplies that were recommended. While I was researching what to bring and what to expect, I discovered the Beer Mountain site which bills itself as the, “Home of the Le Mans Survival Guide.” A forum specifically for those traveling to camp at Le Mans, it has ratings on the various camping areas around the track as well as forums where all manner of questions and discussion threads are ongoing about what to bring, how to travel there, where to sit at the start, etc. I registered in order to participate in the forums and found the members very welcoming and knowledgeable. I also searched for blogs or articles written by those that had traveled to Le Mans and camped, and I started a Pinterest board to keep track of the sites I discovered.
As we prepared to travel to France, we set up our tent, rolled out our new sleeping bags and “tested” them both outside and in the house. While I found a more compact sleeping bag, we decided to keep the Marmot bags we purchased on sale at REI that are rated for 45ºF. We opted for a basic sleeping mattress, and we are bringing painters plastic sheets to use as a tent footprint and also inside the tent in case there is a rain deluge.
Taking photos to compare the sizes of the sleeping bags.
This bag was much more compact but not rated as warm.
The tent set up – it stands! We’re not sure how waterproof it is though.
The sleeping bag in the tent. The tent will fit our two bags and not much else.
I kept scouring the Beer Mountain site, visiting local sporting goods stores, searching on Amazon.com and talking to Dave’s friend Dave (who is also traveling to Le Mans and will camp with ACNA too) for the best supplies to purchase. Part of our dilemma is that we are not campers, so we had to weigh purchasing top quality gear that we might only use once versus the high cost of the gear versus keeping warm and dry and comfortable while camping for four nights.
Dave testing the mummy-style sleeping bag by zipping it all the way to his head.
While I was testing the sleeping bag, Koa and Lau Lau were very interested in what I was doing on the floor.
Our friend Dave sent me the list of the gear he purchased, and I was especially interested in a small chair he found for $39.99. I ordered two; they are very light weight and are packed in a small carry bag. This will be nice to have at our campsite and also if we wander around to other viewing areas on the track during the race.
This chair, once folded, fits into the small bag pictured here. It is very light weight.
As I brought items home from the store, or as they arrived from shipping, we put them into my large suitcase, testing to see how everything would all fit together.
Here you can see the two Thermarest sleeping pads, tent and two Marmot sleeping bags.
This view shows one of the chair bags.
In addition to the camping gear, I also purchased a rain jacket (on sale at Sports Chalet which is going out of business), rain pants, and waterproof hiking shoes.
For our flight to Paris, we packed all the camping gear in my large suitcase and checked it as baggage. We each had a roller-bag to bring on the plane that contained our clothes and toiletries, and we each had a backpack, mainly for wallets, electronics and our camera.
We arrived yesterday (Sunday) in Paris, picked up our rental car and drove straight to Le Mans for scrutineering (the cars are inspected for technical requirements for the race). The weather was alternating between pouring rain and gray skies with brief periods of sunshine. It provided a good idea for what to expect as the weather report for the remainder of the week is similar – temperature highs in the 60ºs F to lows in the 50ºs F with rain showers on and off all day. We are staying in hotels this week until Thursday when the campsites open for the race, and then we will see if we made the right decisions in what to bring with us!
To follow along as we capture the race activities in Le Mans this week, you can see my social media posts with the hashtag #KRLeMans on Twitter and Instagram. The official hashtag for the race itself is #LeMans24.
If you have attended the 24 Hours of Le Mans before, or have tips on what to bring for camping trips, please let me know in the comments below.
We are heading to the track today, and I found some old photos of previous weekends at the race. Fridays are less crowded, with open seating, and the ability to walk around some of the pits and take part in an autograph session with the drivers.
On Saturday there is World Challenge and Indy Car practice, the Pro/Celebrity race, Stadium Super Trucks race, IndyCar qualifying and the IMSA race. In addition to the IndyCar race on Sunday there is the Pirelli World Challenge race, Mothers Exotic Car Parade, and the Stadium Super Trucks race.
Throughout the weekend, the Long Beach Convention Center is open with pit areas for some of the support races, cars and automotive displays. There is a lot to see, and with bright sunny days in the forecast, it will be a beautiful weekend for racing!
Here are some of my photos from previous race weekends.
K-PAX car in the Convention Center, 2014
Nissan GTR in the Convention Center, 2014
Racing Ford GT and a Corvette, 2008 (If only that guy was sitting!)
Autograph session in 2012 with Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen
Flying Lizard Motorsports Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long, 2012
The Wayne Taylor Racing car in 2014
Lots of skid marks on the streets of Long Beach, 2008
Walking around, you can see the cars being worked on before the races – here Flying Lizard Motorsports in 2008
There are screens throughout the course – here during the Indy Race in 2012
Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and crew members by the car in 2008
Racing in 2011
Indy Car race in 2011
Indy Car race 2011
Indy Car race 2011
Have you ever been to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach or another IndyCar race? Let me know in the comments below.
It was a quick weekend trip to Daytona Beach for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway. Here is a quick re-cap of the weekend based on my social media posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook via Storify.
Has anyone attended a long endurance race – either 24 or 12 hours? Let me know what you thought about the experience!
The LA Auto Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center (South Hall entrance).
Last weekend, Dave and I visited the LA Auto Show on Saturday. Through Dave’s membership in the Audi Club, we were able to enter the show an hour before it opened to the general public. What a treat to see and take photos of the different car manufacturers displays without crowds of people!
The LA Auto Show is at the Los Angeles Convention Center and is open through Sunday, November 29th, and show hours are 9:00 am – 10:00 pm daily. There are cars to suit everyone’s interest, an aftermarket hall, and opportunities to test drive some vehicles too.
Here are some photos of the cool cars we saw.
We first explored the Audi booth, or rather, we made a beeline to see the new Audi R8 in the Audi booth.
I event sat inside for a little bit – there’s a surprising amount of head room (not an issue for me, but for those with taller builds, I imagine it would be quite comfortable).
Here are the displays.
The new Acura NSX was on display with a screen above showing the overhead view.
When I walked by the Alfa Romeo area, most of the cars were still covered, but this 1968 33 Stradale was unwrapped and gorgeous.
The 1965 TZ2 was also uncovered and looking fantastic.
Alfa Romeo 1965 TZ2
The Maseratis were also still under wraps but slowly emerging. I love the look of the Maserati front grill, and their trident logo is iconic.
We briefly ran through the Mercedes booth, stopping to take photos of this.
And the SLS
We left the South Hall and rushed over to West Hall, hoping to see the Ford booth before the show opened. We wanted to be able to ogle the new Ford GT before the crowds came. It did not disappoint in person!
Both the race car and the street car were on rotating stages so you could see the car from every angle.
It was really interesting to see the back and look under the car to see how the air flows beneath it. We can’t wait to see this race!
Although I am not crazy about the yellow color on display, the lines of the street model of the Ford GT are beautiful.
After staring at the two Ford GTs for a long time, we looked at some of the other Fords on display, like this Mustang GT 350r which Dave declared is, “my next car.”
We went outside to test drive the Fords. Ford had an Explorer, Edge, CMax, Focus and Mustang to test, but in order to test the Mustang, you had to drive another car first. Dave tried the Explorer and I drove the Edge. Both were nice comfortable rides and handled well on the short drive around Los Angeles’ city streets.
We both drove the Mustang – it has eco boost which makes it not as front heavy as usual. There was also a paddle shift option on the car, which I tried for a small section but it didn’t have the same feel as the manual transmission I am used too, so the Ford representative switched it off.
After our test drives, we went back into the hall to see the Fiat booth – I love the Fiat 500s, and was also interested to see new Fiat Spiders on display.
We took a quick glance at the Dodge Viper.
We left the south hall and went to see the Porsche display, which was in its own contained area in Petree Hall. Not surprisingly, it was very crowded.
It was nice to see the race 919 Hybrid FIA World Endurance Champion car on display.
While I was adding money to our parking meter Dave visited the Galpin Hall and saw the Aston Martin from Spectre…and didn’t take any pictures of it, or tell me about it. I love the beauty of Aston Martins and am bummed I didn’t see any.
In the After Market Hall, there were some modified Lamborghinis and Corvettes on display.
Of course I spotted some original Abarths – modified by Madness Autoworks in Signal Hill (Long Beach). They are so tiny compared to the modern versions!
This is only some of what is on display at the show. There are literally hundreds of cars to see, to sit in, and to test drive! It is fun to see the new cars the manufacturers are showing, and also to compare different makes and models of cars if you are in the market for a new one.
It is the last weekend of the LA Auto Show, so head downtown and check it out!