By Todd Reid, as told to Dan Newton
I recently applied for the TV reality race show ‘Robin Hood Rally’ (www.robinhoodrally.com).After some consideration, I went ahead and filled out the application and sent in the deposit. During the weeks that followed, I spoke to many of the people in charge and exchanged emails and phone calls concerning my credentials and driving experience and vehicles, etc. In January I made a trip to Stamford, CT (I had been invited as one of the finalists to be screened in an interview by a panel of ‘specialists’).
After waiting a bit, I was ushered off to the interview room. Wow, it was certainly notwhat I expected! The room was full of cameras, lights, and sound booms—really intimidating. You were sat down in a raceseat, and had a huge camera placed right inyour face, with several other cameras circulating around while the interview proceeded. The producers had asked us tobring our race gear with us to the interview(suits, helmets, shoes, etc) and in the waiting area, guys had been walking around in brand new unused race suits (Sparco, etc.—real nice stuff). I didn’t have the heart to take out my 12 year old ‘Gforce’ suit and put it on (it looks pretty shabby after hundreds of races and, to tell the truth, it never was very fancy as it was on special for $139 when I bought it!). I did the interview in my street clothes, which was fine (lots of other guys did too).
At the table in front of me were the panelists (Stephan Condodemetraky, the executive producer; Frank Markus, editor of Motor Trend, and Charles Hendrikson, one of the hosts of“Pinks All Out”) and they asked tons of questions—mostly concerning driving and racing and my personal experiences on track. I told a lot of stories of various races (both with positive and negative outcomes!), plus the general story of how I had progressed from a DE student,to instructor, and finally to wheel-to-wheel racing. I guess I told a little bit of personal stuff,but mostly I kept it to all race business. I told the panelists that I’d be trying 110%, and that even though I’m driving a heap, that I’d be tough, and fast. And I told them I’d be praying for rain (they didn’t understand that, so I had to explain that I run best in the slippery stuff). I breezed through that stuff, and was told it was over—and I was in! The next day was a nice cocktail party where we chatted with the other participants and met the producer, Michael Noval, who also produces the “Amazing Race” and “Pinks All Out”.
So, I’m in this crazy race now. The way it works is that I’ll be racing at ten different venues,in different states all over the east coast (only your five top finishes count towards the final tally). All are to be on closed public roads, very twisty back-country roads, with the courses ranging in size. There will be no practice allowed on the courses; we get to make 6 timed runs over two days and they’ll be starting us in staggered intervals. It sounds very similar to the Targa Newfoundland way of running things (run in any weather, too. Come on rain!!!).Drive flat out, as fast as you dare, but don’t crash out! The cars are all to be handicapped by power to weight, in an effort to make things even for all the competitors. They are dynoing all of our cars, and then will weigh all of us. Thus, a slower, weaker car can still win even if its raw time is slower than a big bad honking fast car (and most of the entrants are big and bad; lots of Vipers, STIs, 911s, Vettes, Camaros, Mustangs, Ferraris, BMW M cars, etc., etc).I am certainly the underdog entrant in this field! Out of my stable of three, the PERFECT choice would be the Honda Civic Turbo; unfortunately it’s still crunched on the driver’s side to the tune of about $3-$4K (plus it needs to be re-tuned and set up again). No way I am going to risk the Lotus Super Seven in this race (way too big a chance of a wreck to risk my nice “vintage” car).
I am thinking of trying to find a local business in the area to sponsor me and help me get the Honda fixed up and ready to race, and I’ll in turn give them the real estate on the front fenders and the hood for advertising purposes… this program should reach millions ofviewers—I figure that should be some very inexpensive promotional expense for such good exposure? I plan on trying it out on some of the local Honda/Acura dealerships, and maybesome local body shops/parts houses. I have to make haste, as the certification/dyno day is in mid April in NY; and the week after that is a mandatory track day at Pocono Raceway (I guess they will observe us and see our driving capabilities; I’m sure there will be a lot of filming going on there too!).
I think my “schtick” will be to be the guy with the home-built racecar and the well-used gear that much of the viewing public will be able to relate to… I guess maybe I’ll be an underdog competitor (but I expect to run up front, which might surprise some of the big dawg high$$$ entries!). Even in the Ford Probe, I can run strong with some much faster cars. If I get the Honda running well, then I think some of those high dollar exotics are in for a real surprise! My Honda can match a 997 on most any road course (even a GT3, if I’m ‘really standing on it’); I think that most of the guys in this race would be incredulous if they saw me push the Honda hard!
The series organizers of this race cover no expenses; in fact, the total entrance fee is $5k,which I have already paid. That sounds like a lot, but you have to remember that is for 10 races. Plus there is a huge possible payout (around $500k split between the three cars given to the top three finishers). The cost benefit scenario for me is a no brainer, when compared to my usual club racing (a year of NASA club racing typically costs about the same or a little more for me to do).
I asked the organizers specifically if they will allow sponsorship graphics on the racecars,and the answer was a definite, resounding “yes!” I am deferring all other racing activities(except for driver coaching and support) until I see this race series through; I am diverting all my “normal” year-long race funding into running this one special series of races.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to give updates on what’s going on during the actual race because I had to sign a confidentiality agreement that basically said that I can’t say how the races are going—it’s kinda like ‘Survivor’ in that all the races and episodes will be filmed; then they‘ll begin airing the TV show starting at the very end of 2010 or beginning of 2011.
Well, that’s the story up ’til now! I can’t wait for this to get rolling, and for May to be here! Check out the Web site link above for details and info; it has additions and changes fairly regularly. I’m REALLY excited and can’t wait to get started RACING!
Todd has a degree in mechanical engineering, and has been doing track events since1994. He is a certified instructor for the PCA, BMW CCA, Ferrari Club, Mercedes AMG,Mazda, NASA, CCC, and many others. He ran his first road race in 1999, and continues to race driving different cars (NASA PTE Ford Probe GT [Probenstein], NASA ST-2 Honda Civic[Turbo Terror], and a Lotus Super Seven). Todd can be contacted at 410-441-0201 firstname.lastname@example.org. We wish him well!