Editor’s note – Thanks to Eve Pickman for writing up this week of activities. It was nice to actually spend time with everyone instead of spending my evening writing notes.
Going Electric at JD Karting – The 11th year of Designer Night at the Races™ kicked off on Monday, May 8 at JD Racing Indoor Karting in Novi, Michigan. For some, the allure of racing electric karts, with all their torque right off the line made the Novi facility their track of choice, for others it was their home track or the track closest to home. Whatever the reason, teams from FCA, Ford, GM, Nissan, Rivian, and Toyota Calty Design turned out for a fun filled evening of competition, camaraderie and charity.
Event organizer and karting enthusiast Frank Schwartz was visibly choked up when talking about this year’s chosen charity beneficiary, Pediatric Oncology Research at Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation. As he so eloquently said, “Cancer sucks,” as he pledged to start the evening’s fundraising activities – which ended up raising $732 for the 1st night of donations! Many of us are parents, aunts, uncles, siblings; sadly, we all know someone whose life has been touched by cancer. With your help, we can make a difference in the fight to cure this devastating disease. If you want to make a donation and did not have a chance to make it at the event, please click on this link and put ” Designer Night at the Races supporting Pediatric Cancer Research” in the “tell Us Your Story” box.
Qualify for the night’s three main races brought out the inner F1 racer of many a designer and engineer in the crowd. One GM designer was heard to say “Schumi and Senna got nothing on me…”, while an FCA engineer was observed carefully setting up his GoPro to capture all the action. Nissan drivers carefully strategized, karting is a regular after hours’ team building activity around their office. Once qualifying was over, the drivers were sorted into three distinct group, based on their qualifying times. It’s worth noting that while the A Main winner get cool trophies, the B and C Main winners get their pick from a swag table overflowing with Legos sets, model cars, Hot Wheels, tee-shirts, DVDs, mugs and coasters.
Won by Thomas of Ford, the C Main final was the lowest key of the evening’s races. Alex of GM finished in second place, 3.875 seconds behind the race leader, in spite of having the fastest average lap time of 39.368 seconds. The third step on the podium was captured by Shin of Toyota Calty, who finished 7.515 seconds off the race winning time. As is typical at these events, parity was the rule as all three podium spots were from a different manufacturer.
The second final of the night was punctuated with a few waves of the hand and good natured teasing. James Cronin, of sponsor Autodesk, won the race with a solid start to finish performance, avoiding contact seemed to be the name of the game in this race. Alex of Team Calty Toyota finished 6.353 seconds behind the winner, with a sizable gap back to Ariel, the third-place finisher, also from Toyota Calty.
The highlight of the B Main race may have come during the award ceremony, when Ariel quipped to much laughter…, “Oh, it’s Mark Webber!” when examining the Formula 1 Red Bull model he had selected as his third-place trophy. We assume that means he is a Vettel fan.
The first clue that Group A came to win? The aggressive warming up of tires and the personalized helmets with coordinating gloves. These weren’t the occasional weekend karting guys; these guys were serious. The fastest, and most physical of the night’s races, the A Main leaders pushed each other right from the start, with Jamie from Nissan fighting to maintain his P1 position. Things got a little dirty when a driver on the previous lap spun out, causing the 4th place finisher to drop out of podium contention, with the lucky #13 car driven by Jamie crossing the finish line 4.541 seconds ahead of Ryan from Ford. Andre from Nissan rounded out the top three, 9.742 seconds behind the race winner.
The evening’s car show was a tough one to judge, with stunning array of classic and current domestic, British, German, and Japanese coupes, convertibles, sedans and wagons to choose from. In the end, it was the discretely modified Acura NSX that took home the top honors and F1-inspired pedal car. We can attest to the fact that it sounded even better than it looked!
The winner of the evening’s charity raffle drawing, took home a half day Second Gear Safety Class from the Bridgestone Winter Driving School. Second Place won their pick from the prize table, a Lotus Caterham Lego set that drew many an appreciative stare from the crowd.
At the end of the first of three nights of the Spring 2017 Designer Nights at the Races, Nissan was leading for the OEM trophy, closely followed by teams from FCA, Ford, GM and Toyota. Participation and performance will determine which OEM will claim the prize and bragging rights for their group.
A big shout out to this year’s event partners — ABC Group, Autodesk and Lacks Enterprises for helping make this year’s three-day race series our best yet. Held to benefit the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, in support of Pediatric Oncology Research, it’s truly an honor to bring hope through research to the children and their families effected by childhood cancers.
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