Last weekend, the Grid Life tour made it’s first stop of the 2016 calendar year at the track that started it all three or so years ago GingerMan Raceway. South Haven, Michigan would play the venue for the first part of the automotive festival’s tour this year.
Having seen footage and photos of the “Midwest” event for Grid Life in years past, we jumped at the chance to attend this year when the event was announced. In January, our media passes were sorted out, all that was left to do was to pack and wait to begin our three hour journey to the south west of the state of Michigan, just miles from the lake sharing the same name.
Thursday afternoon last week. Greeted by overcast Indiana skies, and the promise of an epic weekend ahead, we loaded up Brenden’s Subaru and headed to GingerMan.
We arrived at the track well after the sun had gone past the horizon for the day. So after getting our camp set up we proceeded to explore the paddock to see what we could come across parked up and ready for the weekend’s festivities. We were greeted by many of the teams and competitors getting everything prepared for the next day’s track action.
One unfortunate thing we came across was this gentlemen. Spot lamp on, beer in hand, had set about swapping heads on his S52 E36 M3. We don’t know if he ever accomplished his task and got out on track at all during the weekend because we didn’t see the car, but we like to think he was successful in his efforts.
After our tour of the paddock and walk of the track’s perimeter was complete. We turned in for the night, excited for what lay ahead the next day.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t get a single second of sleep in the tent that first night. I was too excited, hearing the hustle and bustle of people working on their cars and setting up their pits throughout the night made me want to crawl out and have a look to see what was going on. So when the sun peaked above the eastern horizon in the morning, revealing a pink, purple, and orange sunrise back lighting the clouds that were passing overhead. I had to jump at the chance to get some photos.
Groggy and tired. I blinked away the fog in my eyes and tried to focus on the images that were coming through the viewfinder of my camera. As I walked the pits I came across a few cars that we either couldn’t see that well the night before, or hadn’t even arrived yet by the time we made our way to the tent. Ken from Speed Academy joined the rest of the crew with his carbon bodied FD3S Rx7. Across the aisle in the paddock sat these two Subarus. I loved the color matched headlight blanks on the GC sedan. It wasn’t a slouch out on track either!
The next thing that caught my attention was this wild Datsun 510 coupe. In the morning I couldn’t tell what secrets the car was hiding behind the massive intercooler that took the place of a front bumper. Fortunately, the next day I was able to see the car with the hood open. Inside lay something completely unexpected. I was waiting to see an SR20 or maybe a VQ35 but neither were between the strut towers of the little Datsun. Instead, there was a turbo four cylinder Chevrolet EcoTec motor out of a Pontiac Solstice. Besides the crazy drive train choice. I also loved the custom aero, like the vented quarter panels and the chassis mount wing.
As I continued to walk the paddock, the sound of rustling of tents, clanking of tools, and reverberations of engines being warmed up began to permeate the air. I ran into Benjamin Freeling (aka. “Benji”) and his K-Swapped EK Civic hatch from Toronto, Ontario. We met the night before entering the track. He was in the middle of changing out his brake pads for more suitable Hawk DTC track pads so that he would have a fighting chance under braking in the Time Attack classes. He finished out the weekend second in the Street Mod FWD class about a second off first place. You can read up on the progress on the build of his Civic as well as all his team mates cars on their blog (here)
After the HPDE classes got a warm up session in early in the morning. It was time for the Time Attack cars to hit the course. There was a plethora of cars out on course. From street cars with sticky rubber and better brakes. All the way to stripped out, carbon bodied, big power, big aero, time attack monsters. The sheer variety out on track always made it fun to watch, no matter what group was out there.
I really wish that I could’ve known how the time attack classes were doing as far as the competIition was concerned. Every once and a while I would hear updates by Jarrod Deanda or Matt Farah about certain cars out on track. I know for sure that a couple track records were broken throughout the weekend. Ill keep you guys posted on the results as soon as the Grid Life staff releases them.
It seemed that within the top ranks of the time attack class that there was a “beat the Radical” competition being held out on track. Let me elaborate. About midway through Saturday, a couple of guys showed up with a 2015 Radical SR3 RSX. If you don’t know what a Radical is. They are basically a mid engine, two seat, miniature LeMans prototype car. They are wicked fast in the hands of the right driver and the gentleman behind the wheel didn’t look to be a rookie either. So the regulars at the top of the time attack classes had their work cut out for them.
As far as we know. Four cars were able to best the little Radical around the 2.21 mile road course. Two in particular in a special way. The Professional Awesome Evolution and the K-Tuned DC3 Integra were able to reset the lap records around Gingerman in their perspective drive types (AWD and FWD). The Evo finished with a fastest lap of 1:29.670 and the Acura lapped Gingerman with a 1:31.647.
As the days wore on, the drift group was sent out to break the flow of grip classes and to keep the crowds attention and keep the excitement of the event up. The attendees of Grid Life Midwest were treated to a show every time these guys would hit the track. Because of this, at then end of each day, the time attack classes would be cut short to make room for the drift sessions. Which is a sad thing to see because the legitimate competition that takes place during the event has to be shafted in favor of what makes the crowds happy. That’s just business I guess.
All was not lost though. Formula Drift Pro drivers Ryan Tuerck and Geoff Stoneback were there to pull triple digit initiations into the first turn and give ride-alongs to lucky attendees of the event.
Our friends at Team Breaking from here in Fort Wayne made the trip up to South Haven to take part in the drift sessions and show the crowd what team drifting is. We took some ride alongs with the guys and shot some video that you will see here in the near future. When we weren’t at our own camp or out on track they were kind enough to let us hang out in their pit to take a break and take in some of the atmosphere of the event. They are truly a good group of guys and gals and we can’t wait to have more fun with them in the future!
Other teams made the trek to Michigan as well. PROCEED out of Chicago brought some of their cars out to take part. The Risky Devil E30, one of my favorite drift cars in the Mid-West was on hand as well. The red BMW features some JDM love in the form of Work Equip wheels and an SR20DET under the hood to power it though drift.
Elsewhere on the grounds there was a space for show cars to park. Saturday there was a judged show car competition as part of the Grid Life festivities. I walked through both Friday and Saturday to take a look and see what had shown up. I was surprised as to how high quality some of the vehicles that had shown up actually were. After attending WekFest a few weeks ago I’ve unfortunately become a bit jaded towards show cars. However, a couple in the show grounds had peaked my interest and will be warranting spotlight features in the near future.
Once the on-track activities finished Friday and Saturday, the party began. The race cars were repaired and packed up for the evening and the speakers and spotlights were fired up. Artists like Shawn Wasabi, OOkay, and Paper Diamond took the Grid Life stage to entertain the show-goers till the wee hours of the morning. While I really am the farthest from a party person. I must say, that Grid Life knows how to throw a party. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. Even the people who didn’t attend the concerts sat in their pits or their campsite around a stove or fire and talked the night away. So in the end, I’d like to think everyone had great times both nights.
Over the course of the weekend. We watched a lot of track action, saw some amazing cars, met even more amazing people and had a hell of a lot of fun doing so. When we say that you need to attend this event the next time it comes around (or the South event at Road Atlanta) we mean it. Words can not accurately describe what it’s like to spend a weekend at Grid Life. Imagine the Forza Horizon festival but in real life. Without all of the crazy car vs. fighter aircraft races of course (even though we wouldn’t be against that). The music, the people, the cars, the track. They all combine to make a once in a lifetime experience.
With me driving the next Grid Life event at Autobahn Country Club next month, our coverage of the Grid Life events will continue. We have all agreed on one thing though. We will return to the Mid-West event, the one that started it all, every time we can. So keep your eyes peeled on the site here as we will have more posts from the weekend that you for sure don’t want to miss!
The results of the Time Attack can be seen on Grid Life’s website HERE
You can view all of our photos from the weekend on our Flickr Page