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A Ride on the Lighter Side: RSP Members "Crash" the Lotus Club's August 11th DE at GingerMan


At the urging of RSP's social butterfly, Rick Mammel, a group of RSP members participated in the August 11th Great Lakes Lotus Club Driver's Education event at GingerMan Raceway. The trip to South Haven began the day before when members Mike O'Rear, Valerie Roedenbeck, Tom Fielitz, and Rick met at Al Wright's home in Ann Arbor. The caravan, which included BMW Club member Dave Seemann, left Ann Arbor around 2:30 PM and arrived at various locations in South Haven (as our GPS units could not agree on the location of the hotel). After a lovely dinner and a good night's sleep at the local Comfort Suites we re-convened at GingerMan bright and early on Monday.


The group set up camp near the GingerMan Pit Lane. As seasoned track rats know, pre-track preparations vary from person to person. In our group's case, the "best prepared for personal comfort" award went to Mr. Seemann, who quickly set up a tarp, miniature tent and personal effects area resembling Everest Base Camp. Dave was ready for anything, be it sunshine, rain, or a nap. This preparation really paid off for Dave when lunch rolled around and, to the envy of all present, he enjoyed a gourmet meal. (Note to vegetarian track visitors: the menu at GingerMan concessions does not include any tofu items! Come prepared to eat beef in any of five ways).

The "best prepared/technology" award went to Mr. Mammel. From the various tools, tires and refreshments contained within his trailer to his priceless advice ("always use the bathroom before your track time, because you don't want to have an event and wet your car seat!" and "don't pinch the turns!"), Rick was ready for anything.

Last but not least, the "most timely" award went (uncontested) to Mr. O'Rear, whose trusty Timex was tirelessly re-programmed with an alarm before each blue group run to keep us slackers on schedule, helmeted, and ready to roll.

Right: Rick Mammel switches tires before the driver's meeting.


A little after the RSP early birds arrived, various Lotuses began showing up at the track. The GingerMan parking lot was soon abuzz with the light, colorful cars and their equally gregarious owners. The general atmosphere was lighthearted and friendly and this spirit carried through to the driver's meeting led by Chris Price, chief instructor for the Great Lakes Lotus Club (GLLC).

Mr. Price's GLLC event organization was impressive, so much so that several RSP members began asking if our club could do things their way. The GLLC uses to manage events and registration. Luckily for us, Mr. Price is quite generous and has agreed to share his registration packets and other track materials so we, too, can join the modern era of track event preparation. Look for that change soon!

Soon after the 8:30 driver's meeting, the instructor group went out for the first run of the day and the track got off to a good start. GingerMan has less stringent noise rules than Waterford (RSP's home track), so the driving can begin much earlier. Drivers can expect five instead of the usual four runs, each lasting about 25 minutes.



Left: RSP member Rick Mammel tries to explain the secrets of speed ("it's all in your head") to Dave Seemann while driving instructor extraordinaire, Tom Fielitz supervises. Mike O'Rear has heard it all before...


After the first run of the day, the group's comfort level with the track began to rise. For Rick and Valerie, Gingerman was a new track. Learning a new track is an exciting experience, with the first runs feeling disconnected and surprising and everything coming together as the day progresses.

Member Mike O'Rear got the day off to a good start with a spin, but quickly settled into a fine rhythm, gaining speed and smoothness with every run. He enjoyed RSP instructor Joe Fialka, whose driving wisdom (familiar and appreciated by all present) he shared with the group throughout the day. Joe's on-board encouragement ("faster, faster, faster, yes, yes, YES--WHOA, ok, not THAT much...") and victory dance was enjoyed by all, not just his student.

Valerie Roedenbeck benefitted from having instructor Chris Williams as a passenger during her maiden laps around GingerMan. His intimate knowledge of the line and clear instructions proved very helpful, particularly as she learned that her mid-engine Cayman does not like when she pinches turns or attempts harsh steering inputs. (Note to self: when about to spin in said car, steering corrections should be very, very delicate. And deliberately driving off the track to collect oneself is probably not the best alternative.)

Our group headed home after the last run at 5:30 PM. The day was an enjoyable one for all; we made new friends among the GLLC and enjoyed new track challenges at GingerMan. We're always planning new track excursions and encourage other RSP members (and non-member friends!) to join us on our next adventure to another club's DE.


Right: Michael Dovorany, Mike O'Rear, Garen Nicoghosian(SEM-PCA), Rick Mammel and Al Wright enjoy the shade cast by Rick's trailer.


Below left: The flame-throwing Arena Turbo makes its appearance at GingerMan

Below Right: RSP member Tom Green chats on his cell phone (just minutes after lecturing our group about the overuse of cell phones!)





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