Game-Changer: #GRIDLIFE Midwest Comes in Hot & Bigger Than Ever
The #GRIDLIFE Motorsports Festival rumbled into the Gingerman Raceway for its fourth year and has quickly become the hottest grassroots motorsport event in North America. Over the weekend, skills were tested, race cars broken (and many re-built), speed records made and new friendships sparked.
The growth of this event is evident: Thousands of hardcore enthusiasts joined together to make 2017 the best season yet. The entire three-day event included upwards of 300 registered drivers, enough vendors to fill a football field, live concerts throughout the day and night, motorsport celebrities, a car show and more — yes, really. What’s even more incredible is that it all went off without so much as a hiccup. These event organizers deserve a standing ovation.
Vibrant Performance techie Aaron Weir returned to the grid for his second year and agreed that the event appeared to have doubled in size since 2016.
“The vibe at #GRIDLIFE is one you would find in a community that is all working toward a common goal: to have a good time,” he said. “It is difficult to accurately convey just how special going to a #GRIDLIFE event is, but the best advice I can give is to get there. Once you go, you will always want to go back.”
It goes without saying that when racing is involved, things can get heated, but at the grid, competitors wanted to see fellow racers compete at their highest level. For example, when the transmission gave up on the Vibrant Performance/PZ Tuning time-attack Honda Civic, racers peeled parts from their own race cars to keep it on the track. This year, Weir brought as many Vibrant parts and other randoms that he could.
“I wanted to help anyone who might come by our vendor spot in search of help," he explained. For Weir and many others, #GRIDLIFE and goodwill go hand in hand. The atmosphere is filled with positive energy, so even when cars break down, everyone still has a smile on their face.
With annual events comes dedication from diehards, and Jordan Connor with Crude Engineering is a prime example. Connor’s turbocharged Echotech Datsun 510 was in pieces just weeks before the event, but despite it all, the ravaged race car ran its fastest time yet — and flawlessly.
“Talk about a great weekend!” Connor beamed. “The Datsun turned some amazingly fast lap times right out of the box. I ran a 1:39.1, which ended up being 4.1 seconds faster than my fastest time last year.” As a side note of excellence, all of this was accomplished while running the smallest tire in the class (205/50r15) and lowest horsepower (290 whp).
#GRIDLIFE’s good vibes attracted the largest pro drifter lineup yet. Familiar Formula Drift names like Vaughn Gittin Jr., Ryan Tuerck and Chris Forsberg appeared in the list of 11 that graced the track’s presence. Among the 11 pro drivers, around 40 intermediate to advanced drifters were working on their pro status.
Gittin Jr. had a blast wailing around the course in his Ford Mustang RTR. This powerhouse is an absolute monster, and having the honor of sitting in the belly of the beast while JR worked his magic equated to one incredible, goose bump-inducing ride.
California native and Formula Drift pro Ryan Litteral kept his Nissan 240SX drifting sideways, even down the straightaways. He is always a crowd favorite, and his tenacity and consistency never disappoints.
It was a real treat to see Dirk Stratton of Stratton Racing keeping fans on their toes and rubber in the air with his 500-hp Z06 widebody. It isn’t often that you get to hear the harmonic hum of a Lingenfelter 427-powered Corvette, let alone see one set up for drifting and dominating the pavement in a lateral fashion.
The #GRIDLIFE Trackbattle kept senses tingling and fans cheering despite sweat dripping in awkward places and hot, sunburned faces for Round 2 of 5 in the 2017 season’s multi-event time-attack series.
DMN Racing’s Michael Puglisi ran in the Track Modified class for Time-Attack with his Mitsubishi Evo, with a best run of 1:36.561 on Nitto NT01 tires. For Pugsli, this year entailed a bit more of a struggle than the typical event preparations. His 100 hours of work finalizing the new aero was completed just in time for loading the car onto the trailer on Thursday for #GRIDLIFE.
“Friday morning was my initial shakedown of the car’s new aero setup, and it was a night and day difference right out of the gates,” he said. “I was within three-tenths of a second of my fastest previous lap time during my first session, and the cornering was unbelievable.”
Throughout the weekend there was a close battle in the Track Mod AWD class between Puglisi, Max Race and Cody Miles. Puglisi finished third in class and 12th overall out of 137 competitors.
“I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has to bring!” he exclaimed.
James Houghton set the bar with a best time overall (1:27.846) in his K-Tuned Integra in the Unlimited class, which also set the bar exceptionally high as the new track record at Gingerman Raceway.
Cody Loveland of Lovefab, Inc. arrived at the track on Saturday, following some Pikes Peak International Hill Climb test runs just a week prior (no big deal or anything). The deviant Enviate Hypercar roared around the track until the Lovefab team discovered minor issues that needed fixing, then headed home to get to work. The official Pikes Peak race is coming up quickly, with tech inspections starting just 10 days after #GRIDLIFE.
The track was extra hot for the HPDE classes. Mikko Kataja was seen testing his Toyota Starlet’s limits. As always, the car was heard before it was seen. The loud, distinctive “braaaaap” had us running to the trackside.
Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire was a guest announcer for the event, where he was called out on saying “drifting is easy,” but we also spotted him having fun racing around the course. All that was missing was the drift car.
The action didn’t just roll around the track. The hustle and bustle of the paddock could distract you for hours if you let it. The camaraderie between teams boomed louder than the music, and the vibe was light and inviting.
Walking through each row revealed glorious things, such as this Porsche GT4, which was gingerly backed out of the trailer in preparation for its hot laps around the raceway. Oh, my... (Enough said.)
After a full day of drifting, this Roush-sponsored Ford Mustang was proudly displaying its plethora of suspension and steering components. Modified hubs and a custom high angle steering kit allowed for seamless drifting around the course.
The #GRIDLIFE Car Show takes place just outside the main action, arranged on lush, green grass around a pond that is more for looks than for swimming (although tempting on such a hot day). Awards are given for the best of the best in several categories, including (but not limited to): VIP, Euro, Japanese, Domestic Performance, Supercars, Classics, Rat Rods and Motorcycles.
#GRIDLIFE was an event to experience amazing cars and meet equally amazing people. Everyone was open, accommodating and friendly, and the vendors that line the outskirts of the track were just as welcoming. And yes, the food was great, too.
It was as much of a celebration of cars as it was a celebration of music. Beats bumped throughout the day and continued into the night — the exhaustion from the hot day temporarily melting as the nightlife scene brought on new fun to be had.
Horsepower transferred to energy, and the energy rumbling through the grounds during the day kept the party going, or — in some cases — kept the wrenches turning.
On the way back to our campsite, we couldn’t help but stop and admire the vehicles. This was the prime time to see light effects, and the paddock lighting provided a peaceful glow against the inviting four-wheeled shadowy figures.
While nestled into our tent for the final night at #GRIDLIFE, the sounds of race cars accelerating, the echoing beats from the stage and the excited voices of partygoers made for a perfect end to the weekend.