Respect For Racers


I have participated in a few types of motorsports in my life, Dirtbike Hare Scrambles, Dirt track circle track car racing, autocross, drag racing.
It is easy to watch and criticize the racers thinking “I could do better.”
This is especially true when someone is spinning out, causing wrecks etc.
Racing has been a humbling experience for me.
It’s easy sitting in the stands critiquing someone, it’s a lot tougher stepping up to the line.
Have you taken the challenge? Have you done any racing?

The Scramble!

hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 new hartford

hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 New Hartford (this was last year’s hare scramble)

I participated in my 2nd Hare Scramble on 9-7-2014 in New Hartford, IA. For those of you who don’t know, a Hare Scramble is a dirtbike race that goes through woods, over beaches, over obstacles etc. It is a 2 hour long race, for the class I ran. They are a ton of fun. Unfortunately I jumped in way over my head! There are multiple classes for Hare Scrambles, AA (really really really fast), A (really really fast), B (still pretty fast), C (novice), the main classes are for riders 30 and under. There are also all the same classes with vet and Sr. on the end of the name, these are for older riders. I have a good number of friends who ride and we all rode this same race last year (it’s 10 miles from our city.) We all rode C class which is a 1.5 hr race. I finished about middle of the pack and was pretty satisfied with that. It was my first race on a dirtbike ever. The C class also rides by itself so you aren’t getting passed by faster riders to often. The AA, A, A Vet, A Sr, B, B Vet, B Sr all ride the race together. They start in that order with 1 minute between each class start, to space the groups out some.

This year only one friend rode and he said we should ride B class. Thoughts were

  1. Our friends were riding B class. (I’m not sure how they are doing, never watched).
  2. We’d get more riding time 2 hrs vs. 1.5 in C (for the same entry cost).
  3. We’d get the chance to ride with faster guys and learn from them.

So we started the race. I was immediately behind due to a bad kick start. (You still kick start your bike when the horn goes off, which is cool, vintage LeMans style).

Eventually I was passed by a some of the B Sr. riders and a while later some AA and A riders started to lap me. By the last lap I was wishing the race to be over. I finished 17 of 19 overall, and one of the guys behind me was a friend who had buried his bike in a mud hole so he was laps behind.Here are the results for the Hare Scramble I was in this year.

My brother's race car, before I smashed it....

My brother’s race car, before I smashed it….

Another type of racing I’ve participated in was dirt track car racing. Here is the unfortunate proof of that endeavor. My brother who races pure stock circle track let me race his car one time. I made it through the heat race, in last place, without spinning out, but rather slowly. The next race, the feature, I spun out 2x, while in the back of the pack, and the second time a fellow competitor crashed into me, basically wrecking the car. I’m definitely not upset (although my brother might be) with the other driver. While he could have avoided me, I also could have not been spun out in the track….

I have also drag raced, which seems easy when you look at it, go straight, mash the gas. Not easy once you try to get traction, shifting, etc all right. Check my write up about drag racing for more on that. And the last type of racing I was part of was autocross, again, harder than it looks.

drag racing 2013

drag racing 2013

Now that I’ve put all my embarrassing show of racing on display for the world what is my point in all of this? Like I mentioned at the start, racing is harder than it looks! Every time I race anything I become humbled. I remember that the race is not really against the other competitors but against myself (at least that’s what slow people say). You also usually can gain a lot of camaraderie with fellow riders drivers, at least at the smaller events like I’ve participated in.. Fellow drivers or riders are willing to give you pointers to make you faster and safer.

Overall, it has been great every time I have raced. I have learned a lot and met a lot of great people.
Hopefully you remember how hard racing is next time you are watching it and start to want to criticize the drivers.
Of course when you get to professional drivers, there is a higher expectation, but the difficulty it takes to drive those cars is incredible. Just try driving a slow car or bike and you’ll learn.

The point of this is not to dissuade anyone from participating in racing. Of note is that I’m obviously not an expert. Part of some of my poor finishes have to do with lack of experience. The general thought is that 10,000 hours makes you an expert, if that’s really accurate or not there’s no argument that more time practicing any skill makes you better. And even for dirt bike riding, which I’ve been doing for years, I have done very little riding this year (10 hours about) and very little racing, 2 total, so I am currently considering if putting more time to getting better at hare scrambles is something I want to do or not, I only have 5 years until I’m considered a senior. In the end, you have to do something for your love of it, not for the glory.

You should participate in anything you think you can for the experience. Just make sure you have some idea of what you are getting into. It’s always best to talk to a friend who does it, but if you can’t or don’t know anyone, you can still go. Participate!

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What racing or competition have you taken part in?
Did you do good? Bad?
What are you doing next?

3. My Wheel Life – The Illusion of Speed

Quartermile: The short story
Cars, dirtbikes, motorcycles, trucks, they are made for having fun!
If you aren’t having fun you’re probably doing something wrong.
Off roading/mudding a truck, jeep, ATV can be fun too! (I have friends who do this, I haven’t, yet)
Sometimes the quartermile section can have something that is not mentioned in the full article. Sometimes the message strays from the title?
Who’s steering this ship? (Car?)

How car guys park....
Why do I spend time working on cars? The reason is two fold. First I enjoy the satisfaction of taking something apart that is not working and restoring it to working order. Second, and really the part I enjoy more, is the fun of showing and driving my car. I prefer to have my car together and utilizing it than having it sit in the garage. Cars are art but part of their art is their performance. What good is a 800hp (insert super car model here) if it sits in your garage? I’d rather have a 1999 Honda Civic with a loud cannon, a huge wing and a short shifter and a cold air intake that I drive everyday.

The above brings me to the thesis of this post,The Illusion of Speed. Have you ever driven a geo metro, with a fallen off exhaust down a dirt road in 2nd gear at 30 mph? You feel like you are going 100 mph! Have you ever drag raced a 2007 Mustang GT a quarter mile in 14.22 seconds at 100 mph? That felt more like going 55mph down the road. Launching is probably the most fun part of drag racing. A 1987 Monte Carlo SS going 15.12 at 89 mph felt even slower…. My point here, besides I need a faster car, is that speed is relative. You don’t have to go 150 miles an hour to have a good time.

Motorcycles are a great toy to have for fun. They generally have great power to weight ratios which makes them speedy. The lightness makes them nimble, which is also fun. Although I can tell you from experience that swerving around inside your own lane is apparenlty “suspicious” enough for Johnny Law to pull you over and give you a ticket for a “hard to see” license plate. Motorcycles are also cheap. A 1970’s or 80’s Japanese motorcycle can be bought for anywhere between $500 and $1000. I personally have a 1981 Honda CM400C that I have turned into a bobber (with a little help from my brother). Stripped down, solo seat, no rear fender (yet, it’s in process). This is my around town bike. It is loud, I beat on the thing and I’m not worried if it blows up because I have so little money in it. If the engine blows up a replacement is CHEAP! And if you don’t want to replace an engine you could always Frankenstein a 600cc new rocket engine into it. I think that’d be an awesome project also. Did I mention how cheap old motorcycles are?
1981 Honda CM400C Spring 2013
Another way to have fun is on a dirtbike. I have been dirtbiking since I my father bought my brother and I a Honda XR80 for Christmas around 2003. I upgraded to a (1993) CR125 around 2006, you don’t need the newest toys to have fun! That’s a 2 stroke for those unfamiliar with dirtbikes. This is the bike I still have today. The most fun I have had on a dirtbike (and perhaps one of the most fun things I’ve ever done) was the hare scramble I participated in last year.
Follow the link below and change to New Hartford, IA – September 15, 2013 race.
Apparently I finished 77/115. There are a ton of classes represented in there. I was sure I finished higher…

The appeal of the hare scramble is you get to ride for 1:30-2 hours. The time is great, compared to drag racing/autocross where you get to drive a total of between 11 seconds and 10 minutes in a whole day. You are riding changing terrain with a bunch of other riders. Also there is minimal damage done to your bike or your body (if you aren’t some of my friends, you know who you are 🙂 Overall if you want to have fun, I recommend a dirtbike.
hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 new hartford
Onto street cars. How do you have fun there? Like I mentioned earlier, I can find pleasure in simple things. A 1995 Honda Civic stock with 100 Hp, give it a tune, an exhaust, and air intake and cool rims and sticker it up and drive it like you stole it. The great thing is it’s probably pushing 140 hp as this point so you will likely not be able to speed even. But really, Honda Civics can be fun. Remember, no haters welcome here.
On the topic of air intakes. You might find it interesting how Ford worked to develop a “performance feel” for the Focus ST ““active sound symposer” in order to provide the car with a fitting aural soundtrack. The symposer is similar to a sound tube that’s been used in the past on cars like the Mustang in the sense that it pumps sound from engine into the interior, but the Focus ST system is more advanced. It’s attached directly to the intake manifold and pipes in a specific frequency range – 200 to 450 Hz – into the cabin” – Taken directly from Motor Trend, Read more:
How fun is that?!?!?!

Of course my personal vehicles are American muscle cars, a 2007 Mustang GT and a 1987 Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe. Lots of torque and hp. Unlike the Honda you can get in lots of trouble speed wise with these cars. The most fun I’ve had with a street car,on the street, has been Hot Rod Power Tour. It’s a humongous, week long, moving car show. Read more about Power Tour here:
I will be attending this year, trip goes from Charlotte, North Carolina to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. I will definitely chronicle that in a later post.
Other great ways to have fun on a smaller scale are local car shows. Check out the events section of my site to find events local to the Cedar Valley.

"Replica" Monte I made for a contest

“Replica” Monte I made for a contest

One final way to have fun with your street car is to race it! On the track!
Drag racing and Autocross are 2 great ways that let you put the pedal to the floor without losing your license. You just might find that you aren’t as “bad” of a dude as you thought. There will be many great drivers and fast cars at both of these events. The great part of these events is learning from others who have been in your place. Everyone had a first trip to the race track. If you go alone you will be sure to find someone who will talk to you. Don’t worry if your car is slow or not a race car even! I have seen 1998 Buick Centuries at the drag strip and 1984 Mercedes station wagons at autocross events! It’s all for fun!
(Again, find links on the events page.)

What’s your favorite way to have fun with an engine and some wheels?

So I hope you are now overly anxious to get out and start participating!
Keep the wheel side down and enjoy the ride.

1. My Wheel Life – Intro

Hello world. My name is Axel Hoogland. My passions are speed, design and engineering. I am a gearhead, car guy, engineer, motorcycle rider, dirt bike rider/racer, amateur/aspiring car builder and hopeful entrepreneur. I don’t discriminate against any genre of cars. Classic muscle cars, super cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, classic hot rods, rat rods, sleepers, odd ball builds, dirtbikes, monster trucks, rally cars, drift cars, if people are passionate about their vehicle I love ém all!

Growing up my father told me that I should shy away from being a mechanic as a full time job. He told me that cars were a good hobby but not a high paying career. There was some truth to that but obviously many people are able to make a career out of working on cars also. That being said, I am very grateful for the direction my father steered me in. I was able to attend a 4 year college and graduate with a mechanical engineering degree. This has allowed me to be exposed to the initial steps of what goes into designing engines and vehicles. I now have a greater appreciation of all the testing and design work that happens before any vehicle is released to market. I also have been fortunate to visit many manufacturers of various components. Heads, blocks, frames, tires, rims, shift knobs, dipstick tubes, they are all made by someone! I have learned that no one (company or individual) builds a car by themselves. Every company has thousands of suppliers for each part of the car.

I was grateful to be exposed to dirt track racing from my father at an early age. His love of racing consumed all his free time that wasn’t spent farming. Also growing up on the farm I was exposed to a lot of broken machinery. I have been fixing things from a young age. As I have grown older I have been able to work on projects that are more interesting, involved and fun oriented than broken farm machinery.

During college I was part of a (FSAE) Formula Society of automotive engineer’s team. This is a great team for young gearheads. The team designs and builds a Formula 1 style (scaled down with a 600cc or less motorcycle engine) race car and compete against many other young hard working college students from around the world.

Since graduating I have had difficulties, at times, finding gearhead activities. This summer I am hoping to take in as many gearhead activities as I can. I have already participated in my first SCCA autocross. That was a great time despite the torrential rain all day. There were about 40 cars there and the people were great fun to talk to. I also took my newest car drag racing this summer. I have been drag racing before but it is always fun, especially with a new car. I will try to share some stories from those adventures in future posts.

I have also found it difficult at times to get friends interested in car related activities. Often people these days are only interested in drinking, watching tv, playing video games or putting all of their pictures of them doing those activities on social media. I don’t want to sound like a troll here. Those are all fine activities and I enjoy them on occasion, but personally I get much more enjoyment from going out and working on a car, going to a car show or better yet driving!

Through My Wheel Life, I want to inspire those of you who have similar interests to get out of your house/apartment/local bar and start participating in the gearhead community.

Hope you enjoy the ride!