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Grace
Hagerty Employee

GM fields a semi-secret autocross team for young engineers

Today’s twist on the old saw about racing improving the breed is that competition also benefits the breeders’ skill set. General Motors confirmed that theory five years ago when the company’s Performance Driving Team (PDT) got a green light. The reason you probably haven't heard of it is that they spend their time racing instead of tooting horns.

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/motorsports/gm-fields-a-semi-secret-autocross-team-for-young-engineers...

28 REPLIES 28
drm101
Intermediate Driver

Chrysler did a similar thing in the early 2000's when I was engineer there. I applied but was rejected as I had too much experience. They wanted young recent college grads who had limited hands-on knowledge. GM's program looks like a ton of fun.  

bradfa
Intermediate Driver

What's that Nalgene bottle doing with the 3 hoses connected to it?  Catch can?

ShaunMBailey
Pit Crew

Yep. Stolen from Matt Bush, GM powertrain engineer.

jnsilver
Passenger

Too bad this wasn't going on 50 years ago when I was a young engineer working at the Proving Ground.

PhilSchw
Pit Crew

Too bad they are not using cars & platforms from 50 years ago. The Chevelle & El Camino of that day are not forgotten. Even today, this would be totally awesome with the array of performance parts that are available for those cars of the past. They talking a small budget of $50,000  for tires & parts. **bleep**, that's what I'm looking at when I go shopping for a new car.

RetroRock
Intermediate Driver

45 years ago our University sponsored autocrosses on Saturdays in our Arena parking lot.  No car classes...Just run what ya brung.  Everything ran from hopped up Chevy II's & Mustangs via the guys in Automotive Technology to VW Bugs.  Saw a Porsche 914 flip on it's side once but those Bugs always had the last laugh.  On that tight course, they were unbeatable...  

john9546
New Driver

As a Nebraska Region SCCA member and host region of the SCCA Solo Nationals in Lincoln, I remember a year when the GM/Pontiac engineers campaigned of all things the Pontiac Solstice. The team leader and driver was a woman and she had several male engineers with clipboards marking all sorts of things after each run. This was in 2005 or 2006.

john9546
New Driver

Went to the SCCA Solo Nationals Records. The GM Performance Division ran a 2006 Pontiac Solstice at the 2006 SCCA Solo Nationals driven by Brenda Loveday in C Stock Ladies class. She came in 5th; one place out of trophies. Then at the 2007 SCCA Solo Nationals GM Performance Division brought again a 2006 Pontiac Solstice competing in C Stock Ladies class. Car was driven by Mary E Sosa and Laurence Lemaire both finishing 7th and 8th respectively; three and four places out of trophies.

 

ShaunMBailey
Pit Crew

In 2007 Carol Kolk won A-Street Ladies in the GM Solstice GXP.
ShaunMBailey
Pit Crew

That driver in the Pontiac won her class and was a great help in starting this new team at GM.

auto-mark
Pit Crew

Neat story.   And it reminds me of the Mark Donohue book "Unfair Advantage".    

Flashman
Instructor

Impressive and correct usage of "champing at the bit".  Most (incorrectly) say "chomping".

Tinkerah
Technician

As a novice grammarian I appreciated it too but wasn't moved to comment; however I'm happy to pile on.

BWeston
Pit Crew

Brilliant idea & execution by GM!  Hello to Shaun Bailey -  we used to work together at Road & Track!

hyperv6
Gearhead

GM racing engineers are nothing new. 

Over the years a good number of them raced off the clock. A number of the were SCCA Runoff champions. 

The best was Herb Adams got his wife’s 64 Lemans, They turned it into a Trans Am car. They raced it and even was leading at Mid Ohio over the Donohue Camaro. 

Mark Stielow one of their lead engineers also has build a number of Pro Touring Camaro's that have been killers on the street and track. He is a true hot rodder.

 

These people are there they just don’t get much attention.

 

This goes back to the 59’s as Bill Mitchell built the Stingray to race. Jim Wangers raced for Pontiac in super stock. And .DTS not forget Zora. He raced for GM and even got leave to race for Porsche.

 

There were many more than we can list.  

Hoosier-Daddy
Pit Crew

Who gets to autocross that full size van in the picture?

Sajeev
Community Manager

That's a very important question: whoever does gets a promotion in my book. 

ShaunMBailey
Pit Crew

It's never a good idea to race the support vehicle.
Pault1
New Driver

Well, FWIW Bob Bondurant used to give a site tour to the students in a Ford van, I can't remember if it was 14 or 17 passenger but it was huge.  When he got to the track, he said, "And here's where you will be doing laps!", put the hammer down, and took a lap at (as far as we could tell) full bore.  Because we had a big group, there were other students following in the instructors' SHOs.  They told us that the van's inside front tire looked like it was a foot off of the ground coming out of the corners!  😲  Bob was shuffling the big wheel and looked back at us and called, "Haven't rolled one yet!"  My brother and I agreed that it was like that when you're a world-class driver.

Of course, he had a garage right across the lot, and if the van had a mechanical problem he wasn't stuck towing/carrying tools across the country.  So maybe not /exactly/ the same as racing the support vehicle....

ShaunMBailey
Pit Crew

That's the tool and tire hauler.

CP66
Intermediate Driver

Great.  Now all of the manufacturers will start fielding factory teams.  There's goes the opportunity for real people to be competitive.

Kyle
Moderator

There is always the option to stick big-budget teams into a separate class.
adsinger
Pit Crew

I will happily provide the curmudgeon view. It's all well and good to have happy engineers, and perhaps some of this may eventually trickle down to production, but these are paid factory guys in factory provided cars competing in what is one of the last bastions of amateur racing. Better to let 'em pick on someone their own size.

Tommm
New Driver

As a certified curmudgeon, and occasional autoxer, other occasional autoxers and I break the grid into three groups. There are the novices, folks like us, and the group we call "professional autocrossers." The professionals are in a class by themselves. They are on the tarmac almost every weekend, often in trailered cars. They video and then analyze the video, adjust tire pressure after every run, and they fight for the hundredth, and thousandth of a second. These guys and gals are in that class. More power to them!

Those of us in the middle group often ignore everything after the decimal point, we are fighting for seconds. We set the tires at the beginning of the day and forget about it. We laugh about our screw ups - like forgetting to turn the nannies off, and celebrate together with the same 12oz trophy. The novices are quickly join our ranks, and often move up to the next level. We cheer for them. 

When my daughter at 16 finished the autox school they set the course up for after lunch fun runs. When she pulled into grid with a cone under her car, I pulled it out and showed it to her. She had that look that she was going to cry. My buddy working grid asked how many cones she took out and if she was going to pay for the cone? "Only one" he said?  "Your dad took out something like ten one time!" Almost cry was replaced with "really?" "yes." and a laugh. Some Dudley Do Right chimed in that she doesn't pay for dead cones. At that moment she went from Novice to one in the folks like us group. She got a 12oz trophy, but it was a little different than ours. I enjoy the friends I made on the tarmac. I enjoy the track walks, and the professionals explaining the logic I try, and usually fail to follow. 

chrlsful
Instructor

all the co should do this in developing their lines. Can set up such courses @ their test facilities.  Should expand to real road races (canyon carving). It useta sell cars, may bring in new buyers. Today's kids R not interested, might this peak it? 

Tommm
New Driver

Nice article.

Does the woman wearing flip flops get to do more than clean up after the guys make a mess?

My daughter autocrossed when in utero. At 15 she took tire rack street survival with BMWCCA. At 16 she took autox school with PCA and autoxd her E46 323Ci.  At 17 she drove my Cayman at BMWCCAs ladies day. She would have done more in 2020 but for COVID. Next season when she is 18 she will hopefully be a student in a DE with someone better than me as her instructor.

She knows the basics, not to wear flip flops, not to drop her helmet, and not to drop the clutch too hard. 

I wouldn't have expected an insurance company to post those pictures. I am champing at the bit for an explanation. 

Sajeev
Community Manager

Perhaps @ShaunMBailey would be able to answer your query about the flip flops.

ShaunMBailey
Pit Crew

I fail to see the concern for wearing flip flops while using a rag to buff out cone marks in the paddock. Due to the monsoon that swamped the event that year, her choice of footwear wasn't a fashion statement as much as practical.

The reason for all the photos of the team cleaning the car, was that we'd been asked to provide it for a photo shoot. Having recently raced through 4" of standing water, we had a lot of cleaning to do.

If you scroll through all the photos, you'll see two women present. The 2018 elected GMPDT President of 900+ members is the third from left. In 2018 we had 21 drivers from GM participate, 6 of them were women.

The reason not everyone is in the photo is that they likely had to race, or support other team members who were racing.

#I_WORK_FOR_GM