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#1
Johnny D

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OPM Autosports

 

OPM-1-400x244.jpg

 

Atlanta-area Spec Miata prep shop helps serve Southeast racers

 

Fresh off a successful weekend at the first SCCA U.S. Majors Tour race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, we caught up with OPM Autosports principal, Tom Fowler, just as he pulled into Sebring when MazdaMotorsports.com to get the lowdown on his operation.

 

“Spec Miata is our largest business. We also take care of a couple Mazdas in the STL class and a couple of F Production Miatas. We also take care of a couple of Regional drivers that run ITA and ITS with Mazdas,” Fowler explains, noting that the shop takes care of 30 to 35 SMs and 10-15 other cars. “That’s the bulk of our business. We build cars, we rent cars – we have two rental cars here at Sebring, and we have four that we use for rentals.”

 

While OPM doesn’t gear its business toward building cars, Fowler says, they’re happy to do it. But with more than 40 cars to take care of at any given moment, maintenance and trackside service is their big thing. OPM is one of the larger shops in that part of the country, and things seem to be growing. OPM brought more cars to the first two races of the season than last year and the shop has more rentals lined up. Fowler thinks it comes down to the way he and wife Tracy, who takes care of the business side of things along with at-track catering, do business.

 

“Our big thing is customer service,” Fowler says. I’ve been doing this a long time, and just about everybody in the paddock knows me. I race myself, so I feel like I can do a really good job working with the drivers on setup and handling, because I’ve driven just about every track we go to. If they’re telling me the car has an issue, I can relate to what they’re trying to tell me.

 

“We provide just about everything,” he continues. “We do Regionals, we do Majors, we do NASA, we do SCCA, we do vintage racing and we do track days. We help people, we try to diagnose … we helped two other cars that were competitors. We spent probably an hour with their crew chiefs trying to diagnose their electrical gremlin. We’d much rather have them on the track racing us than sitting in the paddock.”

 

He also notes that other teams are likely to come by his paddock spot during lunchtime, hoping to get some of what Tracy has prepared. If you’re in the Southeast and want to race a Mazda, OPM Autosports is one of the prep shops to look into.


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#2
Johnny D

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Flatout Motorsports

 

Flatout1-9837_RSJ-400x244.jpg

 

New England prep shop specializes in Spec Miatas, but also rents and takes care of customer cars

Mendon, Mass.-based Flatout Motorsport was founded by Nick Leverone, Andy Bettencourt and Steve Ufelder in 1993 to be a service provider for autocrossers, but a decade later retooled itself as a Spec Miata rental company. After taking on partners Attilio A. Albani Jr. and Hugh McHaffie a few years later, the prep shop now has six rental cars and maintains another 20 cars for customers.

 

Flatout has built and fielded cars for a variety of styles of competition and series, including not only every level of club racing, but also Grand-Am Koni Challenge (now known as the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge), where it has been a winner. It’s now expanding into Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, having entered its first race last year with Matt Koskinen and Tyler Kicera at Watkins Glen, and landed on the podium with Kicera finishing second. Flatout is looking for more MX-5 Cup customers in order to put together a full-season effort for 2018.

 

“We’ve been in business [as a prep shop] since 2003,” explains Leverone. We started renting cars to SCCA Regional racers and the company quickly transitioned to taking care of customer-owned cars. We do everything for the customer – they show up, race it, then fly home. We do 30 to 35 weekends a year.”

 

Leverone3-8379_RSJ.jpg

 

Although based in New England, Flatout is already well into its racing season, having taken customer cars to Florida for the Homestead SCCA U.S. Majors Tour, where Leverone took a couple of Super Touring Lite victories, and the Sebring Hoosier SCCA Super Tour. Circuit of the Americas and NOLA Motorsports Park Super Tours are also on the schedule, as are Majors at Road Atlanta and the VIR Super Tour before the Northeast begins its season. Leverone says he may also go West for a couple of Majors, including Sonoma, before the Runoffs, especially since two of his biggest customers live in the Northwest.

 

Aside from arrive-and-drive rentals and prep, Flatout also does full builds and has developed parts for Mazda race cars such as a splitter for the NC MX-5. The company also places driver development high on the list of services offered, and it’s an area that Leverone says sets it apart from some of the other shops.

 

“One of the big things is that we include coaching in our support of the racers. Some teams, if you want a coach, you’ve got to hire somebody to come on board with you. With us, that’s part of the deal. Maybe that’s because I’ve been quick enough throughout my career to help my customers with coaching and all of that stuff,” says Leverone.

 

The coaching side of the business is probably helped by the fact that Leverone, like a few other prep shop principals, is racing alongside or at least on the same weekend as his customers. He admits that he just has too much fun not to race. And while most of his racing recently has been in STL, he says he loves the Spec Miata community where much of his business is done.

 

“All the teams out there are good at what they do,” he says. “The cool thing about the Spec Miata community is we’re all friends. The camaraderie among the team owners and competitors is second to none.”


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#3
Johnny D

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Panic Motorsports

 

Panic1-400x244.jpg

 

South Carolina prep shop builds and preps Spec Miatas and T4 MX-5s

 

When MazdaMotorsports.com caught up with Steve Bertok, owner of Panic Motorsports with wife Becca, there was a drop floor going into a Spec Miata and a Touring 4 MX-5 being prepared for a driver’s school. The truth is, this is standard fare for what goes on most days in this West Columbia, S.C., prep shop.

 

“Our typical day around here is focused on the race stuff,” says Bertok. “We don’t take on a whole lot of street work, it’s mostly race car stuff. I’ve got 15 customers whose cars live here, and we’ll take out from three to as many as 10 at a time, but usually it’s four to six, so on any given weekend we’ll have half a dozen cars hanging around.”

 

Typically, Panic takes its customers’ cars, or one of its Spec Miata rentals, around the Southeast, maybe as far as Louisiana. Although this year, one of Panic’s customers, Mike Burke, who is in his 70s and has been racing for 40 years, wants to travel to some bucket list tracks, so Panic will look at going to Road America and Circuit of the Americas. Bertok uses that as an example of how his shop operates.

 

Panic2-400x250.jpg

 

“I don’t view everyone as a number in a checkbook. We prefer to be more of a teammate than just a service provider. We’ve brought a bunch of young guys up through our program, and we’ve got some older guys like Mike who are in it for the camaraderie, going out and having a good time. We focus on making sure everyone is having fun. We all want to win, don’t get me wrong, but there’s only one winner, so you’ve got to make sure everybody else has fun, too,” Bertok says.

 

Over the last 11 years that Panic Motorsports has been in business, the focus has been more on Spec Miata as it was profitable and plentiful, Bertok notes. But in recent years, Panic Motorsports has been building and preparing other cars, notably the third-generation MX-5 for T4.

 

“We’re about to start construction on our fourth T4 car. Some of the folks that have shied away from the huge fields of Spec Miata still want to have fun and T4 and the MX-5 have proven to be a step beyond that car. They’ve enjoyed it with the power steering and ABS and the more advanced suspension. I think it’s a logical progression into that chassis,” he says.

 

In addition to the cars it takes care of for customers, the Bertoks have three Spec Miata rentals, and some of their customers are also willing to have their cars rented for the weekend.


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#4
Johnny D

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V2 Motorsports

 

V2-1-1854_RSJ-400x244.jpg

 

From Spec Miata to Prototypes, V2 has raced it all

 

Ralph Provitz notes a couple of highlights in recent years for his Sterling Heights, Mich.-based V2 Motorsports shop: Justin Hille winning the 2016 SCCA National Championship Runoffs in Spec Miata at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and building his own P1 car that set many track records. Provitz says that speaks to his engineering background.

 

“I think we have an advantage in that I’m an engineer by trade,” Provitz says. “I spent over 30 years in the OEM engineering industry, so a lot of our stuff is a little better engineered than others. I’m on the SMAC [SCCA’s Spec Miata Advisory Committee] as well, so I definitely have a pulse on the rules and what’s going on.”

 

He jokes that being on the SMAC probably isn’t good for his business, since much of the rules changes are to improve durability – he worked with Mazda Motorsports on the Miata subframe gussets then turned it over to Mazda so he didn’t seem to benefit, he says.

 

V2 Motorsports does a lot of things that other prep shops do, but they’re arguably more varied. Much of the work is related to Spec Miata, plus Touring 4 Mazdas and Formula Enterprises, but he ventures outside of the Mazda universe as well. Currently, the shop is taking care of around 50 cars, but V2 is no longer in the rental business. V2 does build cars, and last year built nine, with another four expected for 2018.

 

V2-2-0091_RSJ.jpg

 

biggest thing we’re known for is extremely high-quality builds and maintenance,” Provitz says.

 

“There’s a lot of engineering behind how we put a cage in, understanding the engineering principles behind it as well as the crash factor of what the cage actually needs to do to keep the occupant safe,” explains Provitz, who was an engineer for crash testing vehicles. He says safety is the number one priority for his shop, followed by making sure the car is prepped so the driver can have a fun weekend. Then comes the fast factor.

 

For trackside support, V2 puts a lot of emphasis on coaching with data. “We put heavy, heavy, heavy emphasis on data acquisition. Everything we do is verified by data, everything we do here has to be validated. At the track, in coaching clients, we use a lot of data to support that as well,” he says, noting that Hille is often part of the coaching team.

 

V2 also offers shock dyno services, dyno tuning, damage repair and graphics. They are also a NASA certified tech shop.

 

V2 Motorsports
Sterling Heights, Mich.
www.v2motorsports.com


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#5
Danica Davison

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Ayyyy Piku you're famous^^. You finally made it.


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Series Champ - Won a points based series in a Spec Miata Chatterbox - Blah blah blah... Blah blah blah Instigator - Made a topic or post that inspired other We have a Winnah! - Won their 1st race... Congratulations! Bona fide - A bonafide Spec Miata driver

#6
Richard Astacio

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who can see my car in the background too!  :banana:


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Richard Astacio

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#7
Jim Drago

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Nice Article Ralph


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Hoosier Super Tour points Champion - Hoosier Super Tour points Champion ARRC Champion - Won the ARRC Race in a Spec Miata Series Champ - Won a points based series in a Spec Miata BFG Supertour Winner - Majors Winner - Circuit of the Americas Winner - We have a Winnah! - Won their 1st race... Congratulations! June Sprints winner  - June Sprints winner June Sprints winner  - June Sprints winner June Sprints winner  - June Sprints winner June Sprints winner  - June Sprints winner SCCA National Champion - Won SCCA Runoffs at Road America SCCA National Champion - Won SCCA Runoffs at Road America

#8
Danica Davison

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who can see my car in the background too!  :banana:

 

I'm just amazed they were taking pictures that far back in the field. Usually they are just focused on the leaders :P


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John Davison
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#itcouldbeyou

Series Champ - Won a points based series in a Spec Miata Chatterbox - Blah blah blah... Blah blah blah Instigator - Made a topic or post that inspired other We have a Winnah! - Won their 1st race... Congratulations! Bona fide - A bonafide Spec Miata driver

#9
Alex Piku

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Ayyyy Piku you're famous^^. You finally made it.

 

It me


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#10
JRHille

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Sorry, Alex.  It looks like they removed you from the article.  :(


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#11
Danica Davison

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Sorry, Alex.  It looks like they removed you from the article.  :(

 

HAHA They did! Damn, that's cold.


John Davison
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#12
FTodaro

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Ralph congrats, I am surprised that they did not mention our relationship, that we consult on electrical wiring issues on FB?  :)


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#13
Alex Piku

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HAHA They did! Damn, that's cold.

 

http://www.nooooooooooooooo.com/

 

...gbcw


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#14
DrDomm

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who can see my car in the background too!  :banana:

 

...and right behind you?  Somehow I just couldn't catch up on the straightaways.


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#15
Tom Sager

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Nice write-up Ralph, and as a racing community we are really lucky to have so many good prep shops all over the country and trackside. 


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#16
Richard Astacio

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...and right behind you?  Somehow I just couldn't catch up on the straightaways.

 

you need DRAGO power! 


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Richard Astacio

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#17
Jim Drago

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you need DRAGO power! 

HE DOES :)  


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#18
DrDomm

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HE DOES :)  

 

So funny...he fell into that trap.


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#19
Johnny D

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TFB Performance

 

TFB-400x244.jpg

 

Northern California prep shop TFB Performance operates out of historic Sonoma Raceway

 

Tim Barber opened up TFB Performance in 2009. At that point he had been making a living driving cars – USAC Silver Crown sprint cars, most recently, although he had done a lot of road racing and some stock car racing as well. He also did some driver coaching on the side, but quickly found out it wasn’t only the driver that needed help. “What ended up happening most of the time was the car was far worse than the driver,” Barber explains. “I’d tell the guy, “I can get so much out of you, but we can take a lot more out of the watch if we fix your car.

 

This journey began in 2009, evolving into all TFB does today. “In addition to all the club racing Spec Miata stuff, we did the Global MX-5 Cup in 2016 and 2017, and this year we’re doing NASA, SCCA, Pirelli World Challenge and we have some TA2 customers so we’re running Trans-Am as well,” Barber explains.

 

Barber’s customers that ran the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires won’t be running that series this year, instead concentrating on club racing with the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at TFB’s home track of Sonoma Raceway, where the shop is located, and the Toyo Tires big-money race at the NASA Nationals at Circuit of the Americas. Both club racing venues are a big part of TFB’s business because San Francisco Region of SCCA and NASA NorCal are some of the biggest regions in their respective organizations. Barber estimates that he’s influenced probably half of the local Spec Miatas at some point.

 

“We do everything,” he says. “We had a guy just come in and we did a setup for him. We have our core group of customers for whom we build the cars, prep the cars, transport the cars and they just show up at the racetrack. We probably have five or six Spec Miatas alone that we do arrive-and-drive and everything at the Runoffs on. But how many cars in the field would I have worked on? I have a dyno, so whether or not I work on the car, they’ll come to me to dyno the car or do setups or something.”

 

Barber’s range of experience has given him the insight to solve lots of problems with both drivers and cars, he says, but he makes his business largely on the basics – getting the job done correctly and on time. “Doing what we say we’re going to do and making deadlines,” Barber explains of his business plan. “There’s no black magic in this, but being reliable in the racing industry seems to really put you on the pointy end of things.”

 

And considering TFB and its customers have their sights set on the Runoffs and the NASA Nationals, Barber says he expects to be quite busy between now and this fall.


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We have a Winnah! - Won their 1st race... Congratulations! Beta-Tester - Assisted us with beta testing the website. Donor - Made PayPal donation Bona fide - A bonafide Spec Miata driver Novel Approach - When a paragraph simply won't do... Survive the 25, NASA Thunderhill - Survive the 25, NASA Thunderhill Instigator - Made a topic or post that inspired other Make it Rain - Made Paypal donation of $100+

#20
Johnny D

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X-Factor Racing

 

XFactor-9663_RSJ-400x244.jpg

 

Texas prep shop headed by Chris Haldeman expands rapidly

 

In a relatively brief time, X-Factor Racing has grown immensely to become a powerful force in Texas Mazda racing. “X Factor is an ever growing entity,” explains owner Chris Haldeman. “We started out building some engines for some friends. Then there was a large hole in the market and I seized the opportunity to provide more.

 

“I think at the beginning, two years ago, I had maybe three full-support guys and probably 40 or 50 engines around the country, now I average over 20 cars per event in my paddock,” he says. “I think I stamped my 330th cylinder head last week. I just work really hard. I’m a seven-day-a-week, 100-percent-effort kind of guy, and I drive my crew and employees to be the same way. Nobody goes to sleep until everything is ready for the next day.”

 

With 22 cars in its paddock space at the COTA SCCA Hoosier Racing Tire Super Tour and 25 at a recent NASA race at MotorSport Ranch Cresson, X-Factor is about to move into a new building just outside of Dallas to expand its operations, as Haldeman says he has outgrown his current location.

 

“Currently, I have three full-time rental cars. Two of the three are spoken for the season. Through the week, Monday through Friday, I have five full-time employees that are servicing cars between events and getting stuff done. We do everything in-house – paint body repairs, frame work – so pretty much once a car rolls in it doesn’t have to go anywhere else. I have a trailer parking lot – customers bring their car and their trailer and drop them off. I have a transport capacity of nine, the rest roll through, but sometimes I’ll take their cars home and they take cars for me – we just work it out so it works. It’s pretty much a revolving door of Miatas at my shop,” Haldeman explains.

 

X-Factor offers all the usual services, including race car builds, engine builds for SM, STL and T4, transport, trackside prep and coaching. X-Factor also offers a benchmark in a very fast driver – Haldeman was the polesitter for the 2017 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finished on the podium. X-Factor also takes care of most of the Teen Mazda Challenge drivers in Texas.

 

Apart from some machine work on Modified dirt oval cars, all his work is on Mazdas, all of which is some generation of MX-5. Haldeman is very hands on, too, something he believes sets him apart from some others in the business.

 

“Consistency and product delivery timing are important,” he says. “Every single decision and every single thing comes through me, and every single ounce of machining is done by me and no one else, so I’m somewhat limited in what I can get done. But in order to maintain quality control, I can’t sublet anything. My bad ones are still good and my good ones are good and I don’t have a very large spread.”

 

X-Factor Racing
Princeton, Texas
www.x-factorracing.com


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