“Reality” TV for racers

See that picture in my icon? That’s my race car and sometime street car. I am an amateur autocrosser — it’s a kind of time-trial, rather than wheel-to-wheel racing. Which means less stringent safety requirements since there’s precious little chance of having an impact with anything (not zero, but little), particularly in a parking lot where you never get out of 2nd gear (note: the Mustang Cobra in the picture is good for somewhere on the far side of 70 mph in 2nd gear, but it never gets there except on the largest sites, mostly airport aprons or actual race tracks).

Anyway, I’ve also run as a “hired gun” driver in the 2005 Cannonball One Lap of America, described as “a season’s worth of racing in one week” — 20 time trials at 12 venues, all but one a race track of some type, and that one is the test pad at The Tire Rack in South Bend, Indiana, the title sponsor of the event and a lot of other amateur motorsports. That event was done in a 2005 Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG that belonged to a friend of mine. The rules say you have to drive the car — on the same tires you’re competing on — from venue to venue, no support vehicles or crew permitted. So we did, about 4000 miles in 7 nights/8 days. 🙂

And I’d love a chance to road-race wheel-to-wheel for real. So when I started seeing promos on SPEED Channel for a new show called “SETUP”, wherein drivers with talent but not the funding compete in identical cars for $100K and a ride in next year’s 24 Hours of Daytona, I went looking to apply. I found it here, which appears to not be quite “live” yet (the series premieres on Wednesday) as of this writing, but has an application form for the 2nd season — deadline for which may have passed as they talk about February being when they’ll have the interviews.

So I’m reading through the qualifications:

1) Must have amateur status as a racer. Good. I am.

2) Must have a crew of two — a “crew chief” and a “mechanic” as part of the deal is adjusting/tuning the cars. Okay, I can probably pull this together — in fact, I have a couple of people in mind who would be suitable for each position.

3) If the application is accepted, applicant and crew must go to LA at their own expense for 3 day interview/selection process in early Feb, which will be taped for inclusion in the show. Well, the timing is a bit suspect as there’s no mention of *which* February is involved, since it’s April right now… and I can understand not wanting to shell out for everybody who is auditioning.

4) If the applicant is accepted as one of the 10 participants, the applicant and his/her crew must then remain, at their own expense (my emphasis), in LA for the remainder of the 4 week shooting schedule. Okay, the wheels just fell off here. Let’s see… housing/food/transport for 3, wages and bennies for crew chief and mechanic (basically making up lost wages and bennies from their regular jobs), taxes — because you just became a business, bucko, and at least two divorces out of the three-man team? There goes the $100K, assuming you actually win it, plus some more. Oh, and how fun will it be to explain to the TSA that you’re flying to LA with an open-ended return flight and a bunch of personal tools and racer-wear (helmet, firesuit, etc.) in your luggage?

5) Must be a US citizen. Okay, this is something of an afterthought…

Okay, so let me get this straight: the producers of this thing have sold it to SPEED, have sponsors (GM) providing cars, other providing parts, are certainly not doing this without compensation to themselves, and the participants have to PAY to be the medium through which the producers make money? That is one effed-up business model from a participant standpoint.

Did I mention that the prize structure is: 1st place, $100K and the Daytona 24 ride, 2nd-10th places: nothing. Bupkis. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Yeah, guess you really gotta want it enough to flush everything else going on in your life, mortgage yourself, etc.

There was a time in my life — maybe 17-18 years ago, when I was a fresh-faced engineer, so green I squeaked, that I would’ve been stupid enough to try this, and not established enough to have much to lose. Of course, I wasn’t at that time smart enough to have a shot at winning it, either. Now, I am smart enough. But I’m also must more established in my life, and I’m also smart enough to know how to weigh the risk/reward ratio.

K is starting grad school in the fall.

I will not be applying for SETUP in its present form.

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