Category Archives: The Torque Tube

The Torque Tube: Synaptic3 Performance

Synaptic3 Performance is a prime example of what this website was started for. Located in an out-of-the-way, unassuming business park in the fully unassuming town of Candia, NH, brothers Ron and Dana Salb have created a world-class performance shop that is turning out some of the most complete builds to be found on either road or track. Simply pulling into the shop’s parking lot is proof enough that Ron and Dana are for real. A handful of Synaptic3 tuned and customized Mazda RX-7s, RX-8s, and Subaru STIs effortlessly shatter the cloudy, dull gray that permeates this late fall day—deep paint hues, pearlescent carbon fiber hoods, and lithe, aggressive stances make for a striking welcome party.

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The seeds of Synaptic3 Performance have been taking root for years. Ron and Dana starting tinkering with friends’ cars as well as their own, using their parent’s garage as an impromptu shop. Both Ron and Dana have kept their lives and careers woven around the automotive industry and have continued to build Synaptic3 even while pursuing school or other interests. The brother’s diverse skill sets, along with their infectious enthusiasm, is the driving force behind Synaptic3 and its growing success.

The Synaptic3 that exists today began in large part because of the rally scene. The ability of Ron and Dana to fabricate FIA-spec IFrollcages really helped jumpstart the company. The result has been Synaptic3 tuned cars that have not only competed in Rally America, but have won rally championships as well.

“While we have a fair amount of exposure in Rally, it’s actually a pretty small sport and community,” said Dana in an email interview. “We’ve worked on a half a dozen full blown rally cars. Some started out as virgin chassis, other were revamps of previous rally cars that were gutted and rebuilt to bring up to current class specs. We’ve covered everything from building FIA spec roll cages and chassis preparation… to doing motors builds, setting up suspensions, building wiring harnesses, fuel systems, and safety systems, etc.”

Two things are readily apparent immediately after stepping into Synaptic3’s crowded, but clean, shop. #1, the market for customization is as unique diverse and the people who enjoy it—a customer’s race-prepped Porsche awaits its turn on the lift, several Mazda RX-7s sit in various stages of completion and manage to look fast even while motionless, and a Nissan Sentra Spec-V is getting finishing touches on its crazy custom turbocharger setup. And #2, the guys here are really good at what they do.

“We’re currently working on a forced induction application for a brand new Nissan Sentra Spec-V. The customer is very contentious about the details. It’s going to be quite the sleeper. We have a number of big turbo Subaru’s being built and a host of third generation RX-7s for street, track, and show all leading into the winter.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the things that makes this shop so special is the level of engineering and attention to detail that even the smallest parts receive. Case in point—Ron and Dana stick their heads under the hood of the turbo Spec-V to explain in detail all the time and effort that went into designing a single bracket used to move a part out of the way of the new turbo piping. Beautifully fabricated and covered in crackle finish, it’s a small but perfect example of their work.

“We can build you a tube chassis frame, an award winning stereo system, install and dial-in your track suspension, or turbocharge and tune your daily driver,” said Dana. “Two members of our staff have Bachelor’s degrees in Industrial Design (product design), so we can come up with solutions and execute them in a unique and effective manner.

A range of cars find their way under the wrenches at Synaptic3, but Ron and Dana’s specialty is tuning Japanese cars. They have found that Japanese cars are a preferable platform to work from because they begin life at the factory with a superior level of quality and allow for higher levels of tuning and customization.  This mirrors their own quasi-obsessive standards.

“We adhere to our own best practices that we’ve developed over the years. We sweat the details, and will not cut corners to get a job done quickly. Many customers have told us it is that reputation that has brought them to us. We take the time to make sure aftermarket components not only fit but allow for service in the field should it be necessary.”

IFWhen a car comes into the shop, Ron and Dana’s first mission is to figure out what exactly a customer is looking for. Instead of getting right to work, they start with questions—Do you know what you’re looking for? Are you going racing with the car? What kind of racing? What is the purpose for upgrading? A concerted effort  is made to clearly define what the customer is looking for, and then working to build a solution that meets or exceeds the customer’s end goals.

One of the significant customer service elements that Ron and Dana employ is to take meticulously detailed photos the car in its various build stages. Synaptic3’s website has literally thousands of such photos and they provide a unique glimpse into the kind of work Ron and Dana are capable of.

Next to Synaptic3’s main building is an unassuming steel shed that serves as the company’s dedicated dynamometer room. Inside it has to  2010-09-17_00001be one of the most thorough dyno setups ever put together. Instead of being installed into the floor, the all-wheel-drive Mustang 500SE unit sits above the floor, allowing for easier access to  car’s underside and the dyno’s moving parts. Built directly into the wall facing the dyno are four giant fans capable of pushing 40,000 cfm through the room, while a dedicated exhaust fan sucks fumes out from the back of the building. Like anything Ron and Dana do, this facility was heavily researched and designed to meet their exacting standards, and it’s clear the guys are proud of the setup.

When asked if he could describe what Synaptic3 was all about in one word, Dana paused, let out a deep breath, and thought for a moment. He then looked up and said, “Dedication.” And, after seeing the inner workings of the shop and spending several hours with Ron and Dana, there couldn’t be a better word to describe Synaptic3. To learn more about the company and how they can help you on your next project, be sure to visit the Synaptic3 website at www.Synaptic3.com, and ‘Like’ the Facebook page.

Welcome, Synaptic3 Performance, to The Torque Tube.

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Many thanks and much respect to Dana and Ron for their time and energy for this piece, and for allowing me to poke around their shop.

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The Torque Tube: Scott McIver and Kaizen Tuning

Contrary to popular belief, forward progress isn’t achieved in one quantum leap; success isn’t born overnight. Our society is obsessed with the idea that some people simply get lucky, that successful people were at the right place at the right time and that circumstances swept them up and away to success. But, in reality, that’s not how it works.

Author and Success magazine editor Darren Hardy’s book The Compound Effect talks about how small positive actions compounded over time lead to massive results. “It’s the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. Success is earned in the moment to moment decisions that in themselves make no visible difference whatsoever, but the accumulated compounding effect is profound.” Success isn’t like flipping on a light switch, it’s built over time on the backs of these small, smart choices.

Massachusetts-based aftermarket tuning shop Kaizen Tuning believes so much in this idea that it’s at the core of who they are—’kaizen’ is actually Japanese for ‘improvement’ and represents and entire philosophy based around continually improving processes and the ongoing refinement of a business’s functions.

Kaizen Tuning was started two-and-a-half years ago by owner Scott McIver whose has a background in manufacturing, with the ideal of creating a shop that could fill a sorely neglected market in New England: high end aftermarket tuning. “New England is worthy of the investment of a high end shop, and we are looking to fill that,” said McIver. Kaizen can do everything from oil changes to dyno testing, full engine builds to getting your race car prepped for the track. Kaizen’s partnerships with other performance companies allows it to provide a wide range of tuning services and performance parts to meet any enthusiast’s go-fast goals.

What McIver set out to create is probably best summarized by this description on the company’s website: “Kaizen Tuning was born out of the need for a true enthusiast destination shop in the Northeast… After seeing first hand the mistreatment of many of our own cars… Kaizen Tuning was formed to offer a different voice. Operated and owned by car fanatics, Kaizen Tuning offers customer service for an enthusiast, by enthusiasts… Kaizen Tuning was started so that we could bring improvement not only to the performance of our customer’s vehicles, but to the customer experience in the Northeast.”

The car most closely associated with Kaizen Tuning is the sensational Nissan GT-R—a car with staggering levels of performance at a price that undercuts nearly every performance car on the market. And the GT-R represents more than just a platform for Kaizen to work on—McIver actually drew inspiration for starting Kaizen after seeing the incredible level of service that Japanese GT-R customers would receive when he visited Japan. And, after seeing how desperately that level of customer service was lacking back home, McIver set out to create a tuning shop that provided levels of customer service not seen anywhere else.

After Kaizen established a market tuning the GT-R—check out one of Kaizen’s finest GT-Rs HERE—McIver turned his attention to tuning the Mitsubishi Evolution—a formidable all-wheel-drive turbocharged sedan that was born on the dusty, sinewy roads of the world’s rally stages. To see just what Kaizen is capable of, be sure to check out the race-prepped Evo nicknamed ‘Mothra’ that Kaizen runs in the Real Timeattack series HERE. Over the last six months or so, McIver has been expanding Kaizen’s reach into the Subaru market which, like the market for Mitsubishi, has a distinctly dedicated following and is flush with enthusiasts looking to wring more performance from their car. Even more recently, Kaizen has begun tuning European cars, specifically VW, Audi, and Porsche.

Because of its fastidious adherence to the idea of continuous improvement and its core values, Kaizen Tuning has established itself as something of a destination shop for some of the best technicians in the area. Learning the backgrounds of the guys in the shop reveals the truth behind the Kaizen’s mission—each member of the Kaizen staff is an enthusiast to the core and brings a wealth of experience and specialized knowledge to the table.

As Kaizen Tuning has continued to grow and expand, the need for a new shop arose. McIver spent over a year looking for the correct location, and he found what he was looking for with a site not far from Kaizen’s current location in Acton. When it is completed in early August this year, the new shop will feature eight lifts, a showroom, on site manufacturing facilities, full tuning and dyno facilities, and the ability to store plenty of inventory on site.

At the heart of it all, Kaizen Tuning is about providing enthusiasts with top quality customized tuning and helping fulfill their performance goals, whatever those may be. From the Kaizen website: “Wheels and body kits fade into obscurity one year to the next, but speed never goes out of style. Talk to us today about how we can move you forward.”

Welcome, Kaizen Tuning, to The Torque Tube.

Many thanks and much respect to Scott McIver for his time, and to everyone at Kaizen Tuning for letting me poke around the shop. Be sure to to check out Kaizen Tuning’s website at www.KaizenTuning.com, as well as their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kaizen.tuning.

The Torque Tube: Peter Ladas and Yuppie Racing

Peter Ladas from Yuppie Racing is a self-proclaimed gearhead of the highest order—a diehard fan of the mad vehicles created by  Mercedes-Benz’s AMG tuning division and owner of brilliant cars like the BMW E46 M3 and Toyota Supra. Ladas’ mission with Yuppie Racing was to create a close knit automotive community and re-create the public’s  perception of car enthusiasts in a positive way by raising money for different charities. Ladas spent some time talking to TDC about Yuppie Racing and the upcoming Yuppie Rally.

What is Yuppie Racing?

“Yuppie Racing was founded about 10 years ago by two guys who weren’t able to find a car community in New England to fit their lifestyles… it evolved into an online car enthusiast community of similar minded individuals but from very different backgrounds.”

Yuppie’s website is dominated by forums with thousands of threads on everything from drag strip events to fine cigars to detailing and car care.

“We have members who are just getting their licenses and other members who have been national champion club racers, we have Ferrari owners, and we have Prius owners. We are a very diverse group… it’s not uncommon to see members grabbing a bite to eat, hitting up a car show, going for a drive near the coast or buzzing around a track. In 2009 when I took over, I wanted to make it a point to change public opinion of car enthusiasts.  In 2011, we made just over $10k in donations to various charities through our events as a way to give back. It’s amazing to see how the car community rallies when it comes time to help a worthy cause.”

Last year marked the first year of the Yuppie Rally, an epic road trip involving over a dozen high performance cars and some sensational driving. This year’s Rally promises to be even bigger and better, and all for a good cause—part of the money raised will benefit Bruce and Linda Ledoux over at Guardian Angel Motorsports.

What is the Yuppie Rally? How did it start and what was the inspiration behind it?

“Yuppie Rally was the next logical step for Yuppie Racing… I presented the idea of a multi-day rally to a small group of folks back in 2009, but never really had time to put it together. Finally in October of 2010, [we] looked at the route I had and we started retooling it. I think the only things that were left from the original route were the destination and the starting point.”

How many cars took part in last year’s Rally? What cars where there?

“Last year we had just under 20 cars… It’s tough to not mention every car on the rally, because they were all cool cars. We had some Porsche Turbos, a supercharged Audi R8, Shelby Mustang, several M3s, an M6, Lotus Exige S, a Noble, an RS4, a Maserati Coupe… I am forgetting a whole bunch, but none I would kick out of my garage.”

The guest list of vehicles registered this year reads like an A-list Hollywood event: GT500, supercharged R8, E55 AMG, turbocharged 350Z, and a pair of 911 Turbos to name a few.

Most epic moment from the 2011 Yuppie Rally?

“Pulling in to the first hotel (which was a castle) and getting directed in to a private gated underground parking garage for rally cars only… The last night in Quebec City, being noticed by a club owner… and [having him set] up a table for Rally participants like a scene out of a mob movie… Another that I think everyone loved – after disembarking from Nova Scotia and being back on the main land, there was a very open road with no traffic where everyone got to hit some Autobahn like speeds for over an hour straight. There was also the night Chris got engaged… but the response on that was a mixed bag.”

The 2012 Rally heads for the infamous southern road nicknamed the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee, then up to Atlantic City for a special celebratory bash, then back to Aston Martin of New England in Massachusetts. Interested in driving this year? Visit the registration website HERE for all the details.

How does the Rally compare to something like the Gumball 3000? Did that play a part in inspiring the Yuppie Rally?

For the uninitiated, the Gumball 3000 is basically the daddy of all rallys. Several have featured cross country blasts, some have run the roads of Europe, and all feature some of the most exotic machinery on earth. And some of the most ridiculous parties. And speeding tickets.

“I think everyone that puts together a rally like this would be lying if they didn’t say the Gumball gave them inspiration. It’s stuff like the Gumball and Alex Roy’s Team Polizei 144 that has spawned those ideas for us. While it would be cool to take part in an event like that, the police attention and astronomical entry fees make it only a dream for many. We take the Gumball 3000 spirit and make it an affordable trip for most while still doing our part to help the community.”

What is something you learned from last year that you’ve applied to making the 2012 Rally even better?  

“Last year we put the event together quickly and didn’t think about all the small details. We found ourselves getting hammered with… a lot of unaccounted for costs and some sponsors that promised and didn’t deliver. It didn’t change anyone’s experience, but it also made it hard for us to do that little bit extra that folks have come to expect from [Yuppie Racing] events. For 2012 we have certainly pulled out all the stops partnering up with a ton of quality companies and organizations. I know what’s packed in to the 2,200 mile journey and still have a hard time believing it.”

What does the future of the Yuppie Rally look like?

“It’s tough to say what the future has in store for Yuppie Rally but… we are hoping to become one of those events that people look forward to every year. We would certainly love to branch out to include more folks from New York and New Jersey as the culture and cars of that area are so different than what we have in New England. We have spent a lot of time and energy this year building a secure foundation for the event for years to come. Maybe we’ll be taking a page out of Gumball’s book and start flying cars around? Only time will tell.”

Many thanks and much respect to Peter Ladas for his time and energy on this interview. Be sure to check out Yuppie Racing’s Facebook page HERE, as well as their website HERE.

The Torque Tube: On the track with Guardian Angel Motorsports

In this edition of ‘The Torque Tube’, TDC caught up with Bruce Ledoux from Guardian Angel Motorsports on his participation in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. This year marked the 50th anniversary of this legendary race on the steep banking at the Daytona Speedway, and it proved to be a memorable weekend for everyone involved. To learn more about GAM, check out their website HERE, and also read their previous ‘Torque Tube’ feature. Enjoy!

How did team GAM end up finishing throughout the weekend?

Bruce was involved in an accident back at the beginning of January during the “Roar Before the 24″ practice race. He slid into the wall and ended up with minor injuries. Fortunately, the crash wasn’t too serious and he was able to take part in the race weekend at Daytona. This year, Bruce competed behind the wheel of a Mazda MX5 in the support race that takes place before the Rolex 24 hour race. Another GAM driver, Eric Curran, drove a Chevrolet Camaro in the 24 hour race.

“My three hour race last year was with over 60 cars, this year it was over 80… It was packed, packed, packed… It brought out a lot of competitive people and I thought that was a neat part of the equation for us… We didn’t get good seat time in the car before qualifying so when I got  in the car, I was still pretty jittery from the accident.

“When I got in the car to drive it, the seat was pretty far back, too far back actually and when I sat in it, in the garage, my line of sight was actually underneath the steering wheel and over the dashboard… The clutch was at the end of my toe and I had to actually lurch forward to grab the shift lever if we were in the odd gears because it was too far forward… We didn’t have any time so I just jumped in the car.

I had two snap spins from missing my downshifts because I couldn’t get my hands on the [gear lever] right… So, we brought the car in and made some adjustments and the next time I got in the car was actually qualifying and I was feeling a ton of pressure. I hadn’t been in the car at all to do any fast laps, so we just stickered it up and shot me out there… I was delighted to find that of the four MX-5’s that were out there, I qualified P2!”

The Mazda MX5 is a phenomenal race car, but at a big, fast track like Daytona, it’s immediately at a disadvantage car because of its lack of horsepower. In the hands of the right driver, however, it can be a seriously competitive machine

“Fast forward to race day and it’s pouring… I mean, pouring. For some reason, our guys decided to send us out on the parade laps on slicks, and I was doing maybe 35 or 40 miles per hour, and the guy in front of me [slowed] up and I just brushed my brake pedal and shot toward the wall… My nerves were really, really frayed as we went into the start of the race… The green flag dropped and I don’t know where it came from, but the car just felt like a million dollars. I was able to move seven spots in the first two turns… Then we went into the bus stop in the back and I was able to divebomb a few guys and get up into the 13th or 14th position up from 26th. The car came to life, the chassis was fantastic and I was able to run pretty hard.

We run a Mazda RX8 differential in the car and it’s slightly different than the stock differential… Come to find out, when one wheel is doing two mph faster than the other wheel on the banking, it gets the diff pretty hot, which makes the casing expand, which caused it to spring a leak. So, it started burning up… It got to the point where our straightaway speed was down 10 mph. When you’re full throttle for 26 seconds or so like when you’re at Daytona, that drop in speed is crippling.”

Despite lack of speed and the differential working against them, the team was able to maneuver through the field all the way up to P12.  “We were thinking we had a top 10 finish on our hands, and that’s when the diff blew up with 22 minutes left in the race. And that was it, party’s over.” Naturally, the team was heartbroken with the result. Overall, however, when Bruce looked at the car’s performance before it broke—being ahead of all the other MX5s by five or six places, and this being the first time the team had fielded a Grand Am car—he was thrilled with how everything turned out.

Fast forward once more to the 24 hour race, and Eric Curran and his team are basically driving the wheels off their car. They were cranking through the field and posting great lap times. “I logged onto the internet [to check the current lap times] at 4 in the morning, and they were turning laps that were only half a second off their qualifying times…. What was amazing was that we were at hour 13, and they were still flogging a car like it was qualifying.”

The thing about endurance racing is that it’s not all about your fastest lap time. A lot of the challenge of these races is finding the balance between outright performance and conserving the car. And, like so many other competitors, Eric’s car suffered a major mechanical failure and wasn’t able to finish the race. “The car gave up at the 21 hour mark and they were really upset about that. They had all really, really worked hard.”

How did you involve the families and kids from The Starlight Foundation who came to the race?

“We were giving them what we called a ‘Great Escape’—They could come down and basically forget about life for a couple of hours and escape all of the pressures that they are dealing with. We got them into the track, we got pictures with the cars, we got to have four kids push the car with the crew and the drivers out onto the gird as the team was being announced, it was very, very cool.

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for the impact that seeing these kids would have.[The kids] got around the car and there was an eerie silence. No one was talking within 50 yards of the car, there were few dry eyes; it was so profound.”

More than the racing, this weekend solidified for Bruce that the things he and GAM are doing is genuinely having an impact that extends way beyond the track. “There was one guy there named Eric, he’s mid-teens and in a wheelchair… We headed out to the chain link fence right at turn three… About an hour later, Linda and I walk by and Eric is not only standing out of his chair with his dad, but he’s stuck to the fence. He’s got his fingers through the fence and he’s just elated with what he’s seeing. His parents sent us an email after and said that they can’t remember the last time that he was standing out of his chair for as long as he was… You just can’t put a value on that.”

What was another highlight of the weekend?

“Another family that showed up has a fifteen year old girl who’s in a wheelchair and it’s difficult for her to communicate. She was being introduced to [one of GAM’s sponsors, Jason] that was there. The father said, ‘Thank you for doing this, we don’t go out because of her being in the wheelchair.’ So, Jason said, ‘I feel so badly for you, Elexis.’ And she said, ‘Oh, don’t feel badly for me, I’m a fighter.’ Jason couldn’t believe it, he was totally blown away and burst into tears. It was off the hook.”

Despite having both cars not finish their races, the entire event was a major success for GAM; there is even the potential a NASCAR race will be named for them. Through GAM and the efforts of Bruce and Linda Ledoux, the thrill, excitement, and camaraderie of racing at Daytona was given to people who may otherwise never make it to the track.

“All in all, even thought we didn’t post great finishes for either car, we won in the paddock… One of the things I’m learning when I stand outside and look at this is reframing your expectations and what you’re hoping to get from your outing has to include winning in the paddock and translating that sense of good feeling and voyage to all the people who can’t be there. That’s our mission.”

– Many thanks and much respect once again to Bruce Ledoux for his time and energy for this interview. Be sure to visit Guardian Angel’s website and support their tremendous cause!

The Torque Tube: Bruce and Linda Ledoux, and Guardian Angel Motorsports

This edition of ‘The Torque Tube’ features Bruce Ledoux and his wife Linda from Guardian Angel Motorsports (GAM), a team of racing drivers who are racing for a higher purpose besides podium finishes and racing fuel. Moved by personal experience and inspiration, Bruce and Linda are using GAM to improve the lives of children with disabilities and illnesses by donating money to charities and causes that support them. Be sure to visit the Guardian Angel Motorsports website HERE.

It’s mid-November 2011, and I’m still slightly starstruck as I walk through the paddock at the wildly exclusive Monticello Motor Club (MMC) in Monticello, New York, wondering what supreme stroke of luck landed me at this incredible place. Parked in one of MMC’s garages is an immaculate Ford GT, and lining the pit wall are veritable acres of Cadillac CTS-Vs in coupe, sedan and wagon form, a pair of stunning Ferrari 458s, a Corvette ZR1, and more Porsche Caymans and Lotuses than an average person will see in a lifetime. As I pinch myself I realize two things: 1.) It’s going to be a ridiculous day, and 2.) I didn’t think it was possible to love cars as much as I do right now.

What got me here was more than luck. I’m spending the day at MMC on an invitation from Bruce and Linda Ledoux, the founders of Guardian Angel Motorsports. They brought their race-prepped Lotus Exige Cup to the track to race in the final member race day of the season and were kind enough to invite me along. As you can well imagine I jumped, nay, lept, at the chance. As I wander through pit lane ogling the machinery, I think about the significance of what Bruce and Linda are doing with GAM, and what an incredible impact it can have.

As the latter part of the name implies, Guardian Angel Motorsports is a team of racing drivers that compete in a range of different races, classes, and events throughout the country. As for the first part of the name, Bruce and Linda were inspired by their son Colin, who was born with a chromosome defect that causes global learning delays amongst other challenges, to create a charitable organization that brings awareness and assistance to kids like Colin; to be a child’s “guardian angel.” Since its inception in 2009, GAM has donated over $160,000 to nine different charities, all the while competing in major races like the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Bruce was gracious enough to spend some time talking with me about how GAM started, what it means to him, and what his vision for the future is for this organization.

What is the inspiration behind Guardian Angel Motorsports? How did it start?

“It came around because of the experience that Colin has brought to Linda and I… Professional racing is a passionate undertaking of mine, but I struggle with the time investment and the dollars required when I have a child that is affected the way that Colin is. What I was looking to do was also payback the system or ‘pay it forward’ if you will because we got so many great things from the social services that we consumed as we have been progressing with Colin. It occurred to me that if Colin didn’t have the advocate that Linda represents for him, he would be a complete victim of the system.

One of things we learned in the process is that you can see an injustice or a problem in the system and you can point it out and talk to people about it, but nobody really wants to change it or fix it or do anything about it… Implementing that change is incredibly powerful. So, you show up with a checkbook. Then you can make change, significant change, as quickly as it takes you to write out a check. So… If you want to get something done, you need to do your thing and get it done.”

Linda Ledoux. Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

It was from that desire to enact significant change that GAM was born. Through their organization, Bruce and Linda have married their passion for racing and donating resources to challenged kids, and the opportunity for impact on children’s lives with GAM is enormous. Another fundamental inspiration for GAM were “pledge-per-mile” or “pledge-per-lap” events like the Pan-Mass Challenge. The Challenge, a bicycling event founded by Billy Starr, brings in over 4,500 participates and donates tens of millions of dollars to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Bruce Ledoux at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

“I thought, ‘Why can’t we do a pledge-per-lap race?’… There are 76 million NASCAR and motorsports fans, if I could get half to give a dollar every year, now we have something. We have something with some major range to it.” After learning about the Pan-Mass Challenge, Bruce decided to apply that kind of fundraising concept to GAM. “And I thought, ‘Well, if [Starr] can do this on a bike ride and we use all the TV and media and high profile things that come with [racing], we ought to be able to do that.'”

Where did the name Guardian Angel Motorsports come from?

“The name came about because of frustration we felt when we brought Colin to preschool.” Bruce and Linda experienced significant shortcomings in the school’s ability to cope and adapt to Colin’s needs. “I said to Linda, ‘Damn, you know Colin needs a guardian angel just to go to lunch.’ Then about two days later I was staring at the ceiling and it hit me. It all kinda came together and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, why don’t we do a pledge-per-lap thing and why don’t we call our team Guardian Angel Motorsports?’ We’ll build in it a way that can be franchised much like breast cancer walk is. We’re going to create the package and the formula and then we’re going to franchise that out across as many motorsports participants as are willing to take it.”

Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

Do you and Linda have separate roles in running in GAM?

“We definitely have distinct roles. She has some great strengths in terms of organization and planning and details, I guess I’m more the ‘deal’ guy. I have more relationships and seem to have an intrinsic skill to connect dots. So we try to divide and conquer that way so that one plus one is more than two.”

Are there particular charities that GAM tends to support or do you support any charity?

Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

“I want to immediately relieve some of the pressures [that kids like Colin] are feeling and give them a chance.” Bruce and Linda’s focus with GAM is to create immediate impact and immediate change. This approach leads them to support groups like the Starlight Foundation, the Massachusetts Downs Syndrome Congress, and Friends of Bella, all organizations focused on improving the lifestyles of children in need.

“It’s not important that [Colin] wins, it’s important that he has the same opportunity that you and I have… If we could use people’s passionate interest and the huge public awareness that motorsports represents… then I think we left our own dent in the universe.”

How many drivers are racing with GAM?

“We have TransAm entry, a Rolex entry, two Continental Challenge entries, we have a World Challenge entry, I’m trying to cut deals right now for an ALMS entry, and I have three people that have stepped forward… [to compete in] SCCA, and the Playboy Cup.”

With the franchising model in mind, Bruce and Linda are out to create a vehicle that will allow people to pursue their passion and contribute to charity at the same time. From the GAM website: “Fast lap times feel good. Racing for a little boy or girl that needs your help—feels incredible. Join the GAM driver team and spread your wings for children’s charities. It doesn’t matter what car you drive, or what league you’re in. All are welcome. If you have a children’s charity that you’d like to raise money and awareness for, bring your charity with you. We’ll give you real estate on our site, we’ll help you advertise, do PR releases, get the word out with social media—we’ll support you with our fundraising engine.”

What’s in store for 2012?

Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

“Our big fundraising campaign for 2012 is that we’re going to race 3,000 laps. So what we’re trying to drive awareness to and drive fundraising around is pledge-per-lap. We would like to get 30,000 people to pledge $.10 per lap, that would give us $9,000,000. Our big hurdle is awareness, keeping people engaged and excited about it… We need to get out and have people hear about us and understand what’s going on and start to follow the story and see the impact of our efforts for individuals.”

What is the most significant and impacting thing you’ve personally experienced through GAM?

In 2009, GAM was at a race in Florida where they ended up qualifying dead last. A reporter from a local newspaper pulled into the pits and told Bruce he was going to do a story on the car most likely to finish last and he wanted to write it about them. Clearly, not an exciting prospect for Bruce who had just finished driving the car, nor an intelligent thing for the reporter to say. Instead, Bruce told him about GAM.

“We talk for ten minutes and he clicks a picture and disappears. The next day, I’m in the meal tent and everyone’s coming over and whacking me on the back saying ‘nice job’ and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ They said, ‘You got the cover of the sports section for the local news.'”

A couple of hours later, Bruce is down in the garage for the meet-and-greet, an opportunity for fans to meet the drivers and get autographs. “So… this guy comes over to me with his baby who had some sort of genetic issue… and the 18 month old hands a check to me and it was a $10 donation for our effort. And I was like, ‘Oh man, we’re getting somewhere with this, we’re connecting with people.’ I have a picture of me accepting the check from the little guy… So, it was a little thing, but it hit me between the eyes that we’re up to something that has greater meaning and value.”

Welcome, Bruce and Linda, to The Torque Tube.

Photo Credit: Guardian Angel Motorsports

Many thanks to Bruce for his time for this interview, and thanks to both Linda and Bruce for inviting me out to MMC to hang out for the day. Interested in supporting Guardian Angel Motorsports? Be sure to check out the website HERE. For supporters and donors, there are opportunities to attend one of GAM’s races and even help the fueling crew down in the pits, man safety equipment, work with the crew chief, or a number of other fantastic opportunities.

The Torque Tube: Tim Mather and his battle with gravity

grav-i-ty: (n). The force of attraction by which terrestrial bodies tend to fall toward  the center of the earth.

chal-lenge: (adj). A call or summons to engage in any contest, as of skill, strength, etc.

If you’re going to do battle with gravity, be prepared to be in for the long haul; the force of gravity never sleeps. People pit themselves against gravity’s endless pull in a range of different ways: skydiving, rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing, or anything else that tests mental and physical fortitude and comes soaked in adrenaline. Few people, however, seek to test their limits of fortitude on one of the most challenging mountains in the country six times in one year, in four different sports, all in competition. Welcome to the world of Tim Mather.

Tim Mather: The brains, and brawn, behind the Gravity Challenge.

The premise for Mather’s epic battle with gravity, appropriately named the Gravity Challenge, was simple: compete in all the events held at Mt.Washington in a single year, which included auto hillclimbing, running, skiing, and cycling. Mather’s athletic background, unwavering dedication, and familiarity with Mt. Washington made him uniquely qualified to undertake this herculean feat. Mather was gracious enough to speak with TDC about the Gravity Challenge, his inspiration, and his racing career.

What was the inspiration for the Gravity Challenge?

Mather’s primary inspiration for the Gravity Challenge was the return of the ‘Climb to the Clouds’ hillclimb after its decade long hiatus from Mt. Washington. Mather was actively involved in hillclimbing for many years and the return of the epic ‘Climb’ event created the perfect opportunity for Mather. “The goal was to do [all the events] in one year. I can’t win them all because I cant afford to spend the time to win them all, I was just going to participate… It was hard with my personality because I like to win, but I wanted try to do it and have fun and to keep my life balanced… When I was thinking about the challenge I though, ‘How perfect is this, I can take all the things I love and do all of them… too good to be true to not try.'”

How did you get into the auto hillclimbing and racing scene?

Dialing in a little opposite lock on Cragway, the Auto Road’s most scenic turn.

“My high school was holding autocrosses, got interested in it, and I scraped up a few dollars and bought a 1984 Mazda GLC Deluxe and my career started. Ran that car for a number of years… and ended up opening my own car stereo business, and the racing petered off for a bit.” Mather eventually got back into the racing scene and purchased a 1991 Nissan Sentra that played double duty as his daily driver and his race car.

Mt. Washington’s epic backdrop obscured by rain clouds as Mather makes quick work of the Auto Road.

Over time, Mather pursued other types of racing like rallycross and ice racing.” A typical year would start in the winter time and I’d go down to Massachusetts and do ice racing, and then some time trial racing in the spring. At that point I had gotten into rallycross and a little bit of rally, and my car really wasn’t ready for that so I ended up buying a old Subaru GL and I did a couple of Apple Hill rallys in New York to kind of cut my teeth on the sport, and then went to a rally school with the Sentra. Bob Legere did most of fabrication on the Sentra.” Legere is a world renowned fabricator and resource for Opel cars and parts.

“In the fall of 1992 I did my first hillclimb… While I was [at the Mt. Ascutney hillclimb], I got the opportunity to take some of the hillclimb employees up the hill.” Mather found out about the Mt. Washington hillclimb from these employees and it immediately got him thinking. “That winter, I bought a bolt on cage and then did the Mt.Washington hillclimb.”

Nissan Sentras, especially from the early ’90’s aren’t exactly known as performance machines. How did you get that race-ready?

Mather’s ’91 Nissan Sentra hillclimber.

“There were a lot of custom made parts that were primarily made by Legere because there was basically nothing available [for the Sentra]. Talk about ignorance is bliss, we didn’t know any better… We did a new engine in the car, but it was still basically stock, really nothing crazy about the car. I wanted to keep it turn key, pump gas, emissions legal.” As the car was his daily driver as well as his race car, he didn’t have much choice in keeping it mostly stock. “I built my racing career around low horsepower cars that really centered around the actual driving.”

How did you get into other sports like cycling? What kinds of events did you compete in before the Gravity Challenge?

“I spent a year and a half road racing, and it got to the point where I won my class in 2000, and between disbanding the race and really being done with the sport, I got into cycling. One of the guys I was racing with had a bike and sure enough, I could ride! I slowly got into cycling, bought a road bike and started riding.” The bike shop Mather purchased his bike from was into the triathlon scene and they introduced him into the sport. So Mather pretty much parked his race car to pursue this new passion. “Off I went into this next part of my life into multi-sport.” Mather’s resume includes an Ironman triathlon at Lake Placid and a spot in the Boston Marathon.

How did finish in your events in the Gravity Challenge?

Victory! Mather on the top step of the podium at ‘Climb to the Clouds’

Climb to the Clouds– “I had no expectation on how I would do. There were a lot cars in the class, I hadn’t been there for a long time, but I decaled [the car] up, bolted the tires and wheels on it and away we went….  It was such a neat feeling to go through sections of that mountain flat footed. It’s so much fun!” The weather on the first day of the hillclimb was rainy and driving conditions were poor and Mather felt he would place well at the back of the pack. To his surprise, he finished far out in front of his competition even though many were putting down bigger power figures. That trend of feeling like he was running bad times when he was actually crushing the competition continued throughout the weekend, and Mather won his division. “It was very unexpected, but I was very, very happy… You dust the car off after nine years, dust the driver off after nine years, and go out there and hammer… It was really fun.”

Ski to the Clouds – “It poured the whole time, but I didn’t come in last! There were only three people behind me, but I didn’t come in last.” Mather’s goal with the skiing event was not to try and win, but to finish and enjoy the experience. It was his first ski race and his first time skiing up a mountain (what a mountain to cut your teeth on!)

Mather (in yellow) crossing the finish line.

Mt.Washington Roadrace–  “I did much better than I thought I would do.” Mather set a personal goal to finish the run in under one minute 45 seconds, and he did just that finishing in an impressive one minute 40.52 seconds, putting him 31st in his age group.

Can you tell he was concentrating when this photo was taken?

Newton’s Revenge/Mt. Washington Bicycle Hillclimb/24 Hours of Great Glen – Back in 2006 when Mather was in his physical prime, he competed in a bike race at Mt. Washington and qualified the “Top Notch” class. Getting into this elite group is like qualifying for the Boston Marathon. From an excerpt on the Newton’s Revenge race on Mathersports.com, “At the seven mile mark I caught and passed another top notch rider. I turned off my watch as I knew it was going to be close for a top notch finish. The clouds were very thick and I could not see 10’ in front of me but I could hear the cow bells and the cheering at the finish… As I looked up, I saw a 1:21 on the clock, NICE!!! I just made it across the line and almost fell off the bike. I got my medal and my fleece blanket and just hung on my bike for a few mins to collect myself… I had nothing left, just the way I enjoy finishing a hard effort!!!”

What are your plans for the future? Will you keep racing?

“I see myself getting into hillclimbing…  and I’d like to travel and see some tracks and have some fun… I dunno, there’s a piece of me that wants to do a half Ironman in June… I know there’ll be cars in it, I know my wife will be in it, I know there will be athletics in it, so we’ll see where all that falls.”

Welcome, Tim Mather, to The Torque Tube.

Mather and his wife, Sas, on the summit of Washington.

Much respect and many thanks to Tim Mather for his time and energy for this interview. Be sure to head over to his website www.Mathersports.com for more information on the Gravity Challenge, and to www.Mathermotorsports.com for specifics on his Sentra hillclimber. Welcome, Tim Mater, to The Torque Tube.

The Torque Tube: Local champion Scott Greenwood and life on two wheels

When championship winning motorcycle racer Scott Greenwood of Dunbarton, New Hampshire talks about racing, his eyes light up. He speaks excitedly, he relishes in the telling of every detail, and you can tell he has no shortage of enthusiasm and passion for what he does.

Engines, racing, and speed run in Greenwood’s family. He grew up in the Manchester area and began his riding career on dirtbikes. His brother Bill began road racing in 1989, and was the one responsible for getting Greenwood involved on the sport. In 1999, his oldest brother Dale also started road racing along with his nephew Marshall, and way back in the day, Greenwood’s father was actually a NH State Go Kart Champion and did a bit of regional and national kart racing in the 1960’s.

From L to R: Daughter Kelsie, Scott, wife Heidi, and son Samuel.

Greenwood’s first motorcycle was a 1987 Honda Hurricane CBR600. “My brother bought it as a parts bike; it had been in a street bike crash and the front end was bent so bad the front wheel hit and broke the motor.” With help,Greenwood got the bike back into riding condition and rode it from his home in Manchester to Freedom Cycle in Concord where he was working at the time. When the weekends rolled around, off came the motorcycle’s lights, and it was turned into a weekend race bike.

Having a supportive family is an important element when pursuing a passion full bore, and Greenwood is fortunate to have just that. His wife Heidi, fifteen-year-old daughter Kelsie, and his thirteen-year-old son Samuel travel to Scott’s races as often as possible, and Samuel is actually turning into a promising rider himself. It’s easy to see that motorcycles and racing are a part of the Greenwood family, just like they were when Scott was growing up, and the whole family are all engaged and involved in helping this dream grow and be successful.

Greenwood’s home track is the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH. (A little fun fact, Greenwood is second on the all-time list of most championships won in the track’s history with 38.) NHMS is also home to the Penguin Racing School where Greenwood has been an instructor since 2010. He brings his substantial racing knowledge to the Track Experience program offered by the Penguin school and he helps riders of all levels get their first taste of track riding.

“It has been very rewarding, and it’s refreshed my attitude about racing. Seeing a new guy start out and get hooked is exciting. People who take the school are always smiling when they leave.” Riders of all levels learn body position, what their motorcycle is capable of, fundamentals in a classroom setting, how to read the different flags and corner worker signals, etc. Be sure to check out the Penguin school’s websiteand learn about all their classes, track days, and other events.

How would you describe what’s it like racing a motorcycle?

“Adrenaline! It’s more mental than physical, it’s very much a mental sport… It takes a lot of mental strength and bravery. In order to get better, you have to scare yourself and make that your new comfort level.”

What do you like best about what you do?

“It’s always a challenge. The challenge of winning the race, the challenge of beating your best lap time.”

What makes racing in NH different than racing in other states/tracks? Is there anything that makes NH riders different?

“The [Loudon Road Race Series] is similar to other clubs across the country. There is a good sense of community and sportsmanship, lots of willing people to help out another rider in need. There are many stories of guys getting hurt and neighbors and friends from the pits helping out to pack up that riders stuff or help repair a motorcycle so they can continue racing or loan parts, etc. Also, whenever we have had fundraisers for seriously injured riders… the LRRS racers have always stepped up to the plate. From having auctions to raise money for guys or their families – buying the stuff or donating items.”

Definitely one of the most unique experiences of Greenwood’s career is when he had the opportunity to participate in a race in Uruguay in December of 2010. The following quote was taken from an Argo Cycles press release before Greenwood headed down to the race. The press release can be found on RoadRacingWorld.com. While you’re there, be sure to check out the other articles on Greenwood’s victorious racing exploits.

“This was a very rare opportunity that I could not resist. Back in October, the owner of Argo Cycles asked if I would be interested in racing this event in his home country of Uruguay. We put together a shipment of parts to use…Miguel Orpi, a long-time customer and friend of Argo’s has assembled a nice racebike for me to use… National Championship rider[s] from Argentina, Brazil and also racers from Uruguay will be in attendance. It looks to be an exciting event for the fans of Superbike Racing in Uruguay. It was an epic event and Greenwood ended up taking first place in the Superbike Elite class, and placing second overall.

Greenwood (center) celebrating victory in Uruguay. Photo credit: Mike Buira

In an email response, Greenwood talked about the reaction of the crowd to his victory. “The guy that loaned his street bike to the effort jumped the fence and met me on the back straight-away. I stopped next to him and did a big burnout to celebrate, and he was bawling! Tears squirting out of his eyes type of crying… The whole crew… met me on pit lane and surrounded me and were hugging me and crying. It was very exciting for them to be involved and to win was unbelievable for them. Just a year before they watched the race from the fence as a spectator and now they were not only involved, but were a big part of the show.”

Greenwood (center) and crew. Photo credit: Luis Benzo Mintegui

Greenwood was something of a celebrity when he was down there. His name appeared on posters, he was asked to do a radio and a TV interview for media from Uraguay and neighboring Argentina, and the South American President of the FIM (a world level sanctioning body for racing) commented on the significance and importance of his involvement in the race.

What was your most memorable race?

“Daytona Formula USA National Series Race [in the Pro 600 Sportbike class.] I qualified on the front row, and got the holeshot and lead from start to finish. The pack of riders behind me started battling from the first lap and with all the passing and re-passing they were
slowing each other down and my quick start allowed me to break away from the pack and check out on them. I won by a couple of seconds and we were all on the similar 2003 Yamaha R6 motorcycles. I was 1 or 2 points behind in the Championship (I was in 3rd) going into the final round… the top 3 [were] separated by 3 points. It was truly a winner take all.”

Greenwood doesn’t actually do a lot of street riding. There are hazards that even racetracks don’t have: Old ladies turning into the street without looking, people not paying attention when switching lanes, among others. For him, racing is the ultimate motorcycle experience. And, even after all these years, he’s still hooked on the sport. “[Racing] draws people in for long periods of time. It makes them lifers. They fall in love with the sport and race for a long time.”

Photo credit: Cristian Indart

Welcome, Scott Greenwood, to The Torque Tube.

What does a race motorcycle look like? Greenwood’s current machine, a 2008 Yamaha YZF-R6, is built to Supersport specifications. Here is the list of the modifications done to the bike:

– OEM bodywork has been removed, racing bodywork installed

– Billet aluminum engine cover with removable sliders (The aluminum cover prevents oil from spilling out after a slide.)

– Frame sliders

– OEM exhaust removed and racing one installed (the one on Greenwood’s bike was actually built by the Yamaha factory team)

– Racing handlebars

– Racing rear sets

– Racing ECU

– Ohlins rear shock

– Ohlins internals in the OEM front fork

– Quick shifter

– Engine: Head has been milled, valve job, cam timing adjusted

– Front and rear sprocket

– Lightweight chain

– Steel braided front brake lines

– Racing brake pads

The Torque Tube: Travis Pastrana and the Mt. Washington Auto Road

Travis Pastrana is one of those guys who really doesn’t need an introduction with words, his deeds are what precede him: X Games Champion in supercross, motocross, freestyle motocross, and rally racing, NASCAR driver, multiple Rally America Driver’s Title winner, and action sports superstar. Pastrana has managed to squeeze in several lifetimes worth of epic adventures into his 27 years, but this interview isn’t about his exploits on the motocross track or behind the wheel of a stock car. Pastrana was gracious enough to spend some time with TDC talking about his September 8, 2010 run up the legendary Mt. Washington Auto Road.

For the uninitiated, the Mt. Washington Auto Road is a twisting, undulating ribbon of tarmac and gravel that ascends the mighty Mt. Washington. Man has been climbing this road for over a century: 2011 actually marks the 150th anniversary of the Auto Road. Motorsports is also deeply ingrained here; the Road played host to the Mt. Washington Hillclimb for many years. The previous record up the 7.6 mile road was set during 1998 Hillclimb by Frank Sprongl in his 1982 Audi Quattro S2 at a blistering pace of six minutes and 41.99 seconds. A few years later in 2001, the Auto Road began a decade long hiatus from hillclimbs as sponsorship malfunctions kept the race from being run. All that changed when a joint effort between the Auto Road and Vermont SportCar created the ‘Climb to the Clouds’ hillclimb that occurred this past June. Pastrana’s run in September didn’t qualify as an official “record run” (it wasn’t held during competition), but it did annihilate Sprongl’s record by more than 20 seconds: Pastrana blitzed the Road in six minutes and 20.47 seconds. In the process, his coming to the road and setting such a quick time helped stimulate substantial attention for the Auto Road and its rich motorsports history and helped kick off its big 1-5-0 birthday celebration.  Check out two great videos of Pastrana’s run up Mt. Washington here, and here.

What’s it like to drive the Auto Road?

“It was the coolest thing; it’s truly a road that is a great rally road. Honestly, it is so good it could be fun with a horse and buggy! (laughs) When we drove it, the weather was absolutely ridiculous. It was sunny at the bottom, a little rainy in the middle, and by the end, you couldn’t even see road right in front of the car.” When asked how he was able to see when visibility is so poor Pastrana said, “As long as I have a solid ten feet in front where I can see, I’m okay. Having a co-driver is really important as well. With good weather up there, it’s definitely possible to break six minutes.”

What was the thought process behind coming to Mt.Washington to make a run up the Auto Road?

“It was always something I knew about, the Auto Road has always been famous, I grew up looking at that road. When they said they were going to reopen the road… Some of the top guys at Red Bull and Vermont SportsCar were super enthusiastic and said, ‘We have this guy who wants to run up the road.’ I just wanted to get up there and drive the road.” 

“So many people were way pumped, there was good hype around it and everyone felt like they were part of something cool… Everyone was so passionate about it, that’s what made it so great… One other cool thing that happened on the road is that I almost hit a bear! We’ve accidentally hit a deer before, but never a bear… A little black bear ran across the road during one of the runs.”

During the ‘Climb to the Clouds’ hillclimb in June, Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins, who hails from the Isle of Man, set a truly staggering time up the Auto Road of six minutes and 11.54 seconds, setting a “true” record time and seriously raising the bar for future drivers hoping to conquer the Road. In the process, Higgins bested Pastrana’s time by a lengthy margin. It makes for an interesting situation for Pastrana:  Higgins beat his time up the Auto Road and essentially replaced him at Subaru when he left to pursue other motorized passions, like NASCAR. (You think Pastrana might be a little competitive?) There is little doubt Pastrana will be back on the Auto Road for another shot at the record.

How do you feel about David beating your time?

“I knew that David was going to be at least as quick as me… It was exciting to get beaten by David, I was just hoping the weather would move in on him! (laughs) It meant a lot for David to get such a good time, and I’m sure he wants to get back up there and break the six minute mark. It meant a lot to race my mentor up there, but it would be great to get that record back on American soil.”

Will you be back for another attempt on the Auto Road?

“I’d like another shot. There’s an ongoing battle for that record right now and with good conditions, breaking six minutes is definitely feasible. Who knows if the conditions will be right though in a place with the worst weather in the world!”

Pastrana has excelled in a wide range of motorsports and has performed at a tremendously high level in all of them. In one final parting question he was asked, if he had to choose, would he pick one form of racing over another?

“The beauty of it is I haven’t had to choose! From age four to 18, all I thought about was motorcycles. From 18 to 24, it was all about rally… What I like is changing my focus and now trying to figure out the new elements of pavement and racing in NASCAR. NASCAR is all about precision. You can drive a stock car really fast for about eight laps or so, and then you start to slow down because you took it too fast… Rally is all about aggression, calculated risks. Motocross is all about will. I am always looking for the new challenge.”

Welcome, Travis Pastrana, to The Torque Tube.

Much respect and many thanks to Travis Pastrana for his time and energy for this interview. Thanks also to Vermont SportsCar for providing the photos, and for Lars Gange for taking them. Serious thanks also goes to my good friend Meg Skidmore for without her help, this interview would not have been possible.

The Torque Tube: Brian Whitmore and the Maserati GranTurismo

Welcome to the new TDC interview series, ‘The Torque Tube’. In the same way a torque tube helps channel and direct a car’s power to the wheels, this interview series was created to help channel the automotive experiences, passions, and insights of local successful car enthusiasts. Knowing what successful people know is one of the best ways to become successful yourself, especially when it comes to cars.  If you know of someone who might be a good addition to ‘The Torque Tube’, drop me a line. Read on and enjoy!

Brian Whitmore is a successful entrepreneur who owns and operates Apogee Coins right here in Manchester, selling precious metals to industries and companies all over the world. The Maserati GranTurismo sitting in his garage is the realization of a dream for Brian; it’s been something he’s enjoy from afar of for years and now that he owns one, driving it is a dream in and of itself.

I arrive at Brian’s home and he takes me into the heated garage off the side of the house, and the steel grey Maserati GranTurismo fills my vision. Its lines are fluid, sculpted, and sensuous, yet when Brian climbs in and starts the engine, the space is filled with sharply mechanical, vibrating sound. The exhaust note of the GranTurismo has deep undertones of Ferrari F430 in it that have been overlaid with a snarling energy; something like a blend of a trombone’s low E-flat and a chainsaw at half throttle. I am giddy with excitement as he backs it slowly out of the garage.

Of all the cars you could buy, why the Maserati GranTurismo?

“I’ve wanted one for a long time. It’s faster and more exciting that some other expensive cars I could have bought and it feels young and professional.” For Brian, it’s not about the statement a car like this can make; it’s about enjoying the experiences it can bring and the thrill of ownership. Unfortunately, many expensive cars do come with a stigma attached to them: Ferrari = Old guy with bags of cash and a girlfriend half his age. Lamborghini = Gelled up, cologned up, wannabe “Dude Guy” with no driving talent. While the majority of the time these stereotypes are incorrect, Brian was looking for something that didn’t carry any of these stigmas and was more unique and distinct.

“The Maserati is for people who aren’t interested in just performance. It’s comfortable, a good overall package, it has that distinct Italian look, and it’s unique and exciting.”

At the end of the day, cars like these are designed for driving and that’s exactly what Brian does. “I  look forward to the drive to work. It’s not about getting attention, I do it  because it looks beautiful to me and I enjoy it. It is a very ‘unnecessary’ car,  it’s pretty much designed to be a toy, but some of the best things in life are  unnecessary things. It’s about enjoying every day and this is one of those  things that helps me do that.”

What are some of the highlights of owning and driving a car like this?

“For me, the best is when you’re having a down day and you need a pick-me-up. You walk into the garage and it’s sitting there, you strap in, drop the windows and just drive. You might listen to music, but maybe not. Maybe you just listen to the engine and the noise and drive to the beach. It’s like a mini-vacation.” Brian laughs and adds, “When the New Hampshire weather cooperates.”

There is no doubt, driving around in your Kia Rio is very different than driving around in a GranTurismo. “It’s like wearing a really nice suit,” says Brian. And while the Maserati brand may not be as recognizable as a Ferrari or Lamborghini, there is definitely that sense of occasion when you pop down to the store for a gallon of milk. It’s special, and people know it. “I can be wearing shorts and a t-shirt and when I step out of this thing, I still feel like I’m dressed to the 9’s.”

What was the car purchasing experience like?

“I was in my office one day, I hadn’t planned on buying the car or going to see it and was kinda like, ‘I’m gonna go test drive one.’” No one knew what he was doing or where he was going, not even his wife. On an inspired whim, he drove down to Ferrari/Maserati of New England to check out his dream car.

“The car buying experience was awesome. It was a very different experience than when I bought my Porsche.” When Brian was out looking for a Porsche, taking a test drive was something he had to really work on getting, but with the GranTurismo, the salesperson practically made him get in the car. “It’s very much a lifestyle thing with this car.”

After the test drive and haggling on the price, Brian and the salesman’s numbers were off by about $2,000 and Brian was  ready to walk off the lot and call it a day. The salesman told Brian that he couldn’t believe he was going to walk over $2,000  on a Maserati. Brian immediately came back with, “I can’t believe you’re going to LET me walk over $2,000 on a Maserati!”  The salesman immediately conceded and Brian bought the car that day.

 Obviously, a lot of pros to owning a Maserati. What are a few  cons?

“Not being able to drive it all year (Brian did actually drive the car pretty consistently throughout the winter and even took it skiing once), poor NH road quality around definitely can make driving challenging, low ground clearance makes the front easy to scrape, and some people reactions are a little strange” (people pretending to know what the car is, staring, pointing, etc.)

Bottom line, owning your dream car is like, well, owning your dream car. It makes mundane trips to the grocery store or the dentist events to be savored. It’s this appreciation for the GranTurismo’s  special-ness and the passion for the driving experience that has earned Brian Whitmore a place in The Torque Tube.

“It’s about having that whole enjoying the driving experience moment: The love of driving.”

Special thanks to Brian for his time for this interview and for the Maserati’s 93 octane spent on giving the author the ride of his life!