The GridLife South Motorsports & Music Festival is quite possibly one of the coolest automotive events I have ever experienced. And in full disclosure, winning made it that much better, so I may be biased! What the organizers behind GridLife have created is a relatively new idea in the America motorsports community; mixing time attack, drifting and musical entertainment at the highest levels into one big race weekend. This was the first time GridLife held their South event at Road Atlanta and it was billed to be a huge weekend featuring (this is a lot); 75+ time attack cars battling on track with some of the fastest cars from all over the country, dozens of pro drifters doing full course drifting around the historic 2.54 course with 140mph drifts into 10a and full drifts through the esses, large car shows, tons of vendors, HPDE for beginners and even headline music from Waka Flacka to Andrew WK. To say this was a unique event would be an understatement, and even in the ridiculous August Atlanta heat there were tons of fans camped out all day to watch the racing and partying all night to the music. I can’t wait for the next one, but first I suppose we should recap this one.
After bad luck at GTA Road Atlanta earlier in the year, the #44 BC Racing Infiniti G35 spun a bearing and we decided to have Z1 Motorsports replace the bottom end with their modified Z1 Stage 2 VQ35DE Shortblock this summer. As much as I love working on the car myself, when it comes to the engine internals I trust Kyle and the whole crew at Z1 Motorsports with my life. Z1 got the #44 Infinti G35’s power-plant fixed and back together just in the knick of time for GridLife South at Road Atlanta, and I was ready to put the new motor to the test from the first lap. With 20 registered cars in my Track Modified RWD class and 70+ total, the competition was steep, and by far the biggest field of drivers in any class that I have seen in American Time Attack. This was going to be a special event and I was happy just to partake and hopefully fight for a podium spot come Sunday afternoon.
Right out of the gate in Friday practice the car felt great, like it never skipped a beat. The old motor lasted me for a very long time, nearly 5 years, but with the new motor there was a noticeable difference in not only ease of power, but also no more overheating issues (never went over 203 in the 100 degree heat!), no more oil smoke out of the tail pipe, or any of the other problems that plagued us in the past. With the engine running great and the brakes working perfectly for the first time in a long time, I knew the #44 (errr #126 this weekend) BC Racing Infiniti G35 was going to do well, but also knew we would have to fight if we wanted to get a spot on the podium. Also as an added bonus to the event, I had the pleasure of finally racing with my girlfriend Savanna in her V8 swapped Nissan 350Z, in the same class as me. She has come a long way in a short time and I know she is going to start whooping my ass on track any event know, but as a shakedown weekend for her new build she did great, but a few issues kept her from her pace earlier in the year at GTA.
GridLife uses an interesting Time Attack platform with Practice during the day Friday and a Qualifying session in the evening, that serves as seeding for the next two days of competition laps on Saturday and Sunday. Normally there isn’t a specific qualifying session at most time attack events, and it was a unique pressure most drivers hadn’t felt before. The evening qualifying combined with their Final Grid session at the end of the event, featuring the top ten fastest cars, makes for a great way to turn normally boring to watch time attack into a crowd pleasing show. After a good day of practice, we qualified a solid lap on our 1st flyer and was unfortunately stopped by a full course black flag due to a wreck, and didn’t register the lap what would have been a faster 2nd lap. Either way it was good enough to put us 2nd in class and 5th overall out of the 75+ cars.
Going into the first full raceday Saturday morning, we knew that the track would be fastest in the for the first session before the Georgia heat set in, and before the drifters greased up the course with their full course drift. Unfortunately, with the grouping of the cars on day 1 we ended up having two very large groups of 30+ cars given about 15 minutes each. The groups were so big that the cars in front would catch the tail end by the last few turns of their first hot lap, creating huge speed differentials and a crowded track. Either way, the car kept in a similar lap time range as qualifying and we ended up improving the a bit in the last session of the day with a 1:36.412, and a ton of room for improvement from my perspective in the driver seat. We would finish the day P3 in class and confident we would go faster Sunday morning.
Sunday was much cooler than the previous days, and the organizers decided to address our issue of large run groups, and decided to put the top 12 fastest cars in their own group in an effort to give ample time and space to do their best laps possible. The first session unfortunately got cut short due to a wreck and the fast cars were again grouped back together with the others to save time and keep on schedule. We barely got a fast lap with the traffic but it was good enough to put us in 2nd. After a quick drivers meeting we were assured the final two sessions of the day would be split three ways and the fast guys would get clear track and clean laps. That’s exactly what happened the next session and we ended up finally cracking into the 35’s with more time to go and ready to do it in the final normal session for the weekend.
With no more track time guaranteed, and a podium on the line, we went out in Session 3 and put down two back to back 1:35.1’s before our buddy Phil’s car blew up on the front straight, and again cut our final session short. I was happy with those times for the weekend with a non-cooperative track and new engine, but after reviewing the video many times I know I still have a ton of time left in the car. But for a shakedown weekend to be completely flawless, it was a true testament to the car and the guys at Z1 Motorsports who got it ready. Knowing we had at least podiumed based on the results in the 3rd session, we decided to skip the invite to the Final Grid Session (because along with many other teams, we knew the track temp and dirt and rubber from drifters had taken its toll and all of us doubted it would be fast in the afternoon). With a great weekend done, and the car in perfect condition, we loaded up and waited for the award ceremony hoping to have been at best 2nd place.
GridLife South was an amazing event, at an amazing track, surrounded by amazing friends and a ton of amazing fans. It was truly an unforgettable weekend, and one of the highlights of my time attack career thus far. At the award ceremony it was great to see that 5 out of the 9 classes were won by GTA veterans, and people who have been my friends for some time now. Of those 5, I was lucky enough to be one of them. When they called my name as 1st place for GridLife South Track Modified RWD I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t think I had beaten who I thought was in 1st place, but there I was standing on the top of the podium with my buddy Devin (who drove his ass off) next to me. After enjoying the moment and taking the celebratory photos with friends, and of course Savanna, I ended up finding out that the car ahead had supposedly dropped out due to classifications and shouldn’t have been on the time charts Sunday (still not 100% sure what happened). Either way I was proud of the #44 BC Racing Infiniti G35 and was beyond ecstatic for getting 1st place out of 20 in class and 4th out of 75+ overall at the event! GridLife was awesome and I can’t wait for the next one! In the meantime check out my in car video above and below, follow on Facebook for more frequent updates, and catch us at our next race in New Orleans for Global Time Attack.