Welcome Back to NOLA Motorsports Park

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NOLA Motorsports Park is one of my favorite tracks that no one knows about. It’s long, rough, scrappy, and flat, built in the swamp south of New Orleans proper in Westwego, Louisianna. Perhaps it’s a little too far for most, located in a racetrack desert. Or maybe the variable weather this part of the country experiences scares all but the seasoned racers off. Regardless, with the racetrack, environment, and culture unique to Southern Louisiana, it is always an experience racing this close to the Big Easy.

NOLA Motorsports Park

The park itself is huge. Containing not only the 2.7-mile racetrack, garages, and event center but also a world-class karting facility. (More on the karts later) This season, we raced the full track configuration with the esses, hosted by the rebranded NASA Gulf South region. And with the weather looking rather rough Friday night into Saturday morning, driving conditions would be mixed on a track that … quite frankly … doesn’t drain that well. It is a swamp, after all.

(Before continuing, I want to drop a link to the awards ceremony memorial. During the awards ceremony, the members of the Gulf South region were honoring the sudden loss of a racer and friend to many in the region.)

Track Conditions

The weather did not disappoint, and the rain ‘came plenty’ on Friday night. Around 7 am Saturday, it slowed and ceased at 10 am. The track itself was a mess and full of puddles afterward. Not to mention the pop-up ponds on the outsides of certain high-speed turns. With the smaller race field and the races taking place on the sure-to-be drier afternoon, all but a few racers skipped the qualifying session. This created a pretty interesting start to race 1 when someone decided to grid the Miatas in front of the Rush SRs and Porsche GTs.

Showing the location of one of the new ponds that popped up at NOLA Motorsports Park after the rain.
I like to play on the curbing and gators at NOLA Motorsports Park, but not today, with the huge puddles on and around the racetrack.

Race 1 Analysis

Race 1 was mostly uneventful, and I spent it battling with a Super Touring 5 car. Being the first session of my weekend, I began the race searching for a bit of grip. I did have one moment of excess oversteer going onto the front straight towards the end of the race—one of those moments where it is better to ‘let it go instead of hold on.’ A reaction that saved me from the wall on the second to last lap of the race. (20:36 in the video below)

Race 2 Analysis

Race 2 was quite a bit drier, but a few puddles still lingered in some less-than-ideal locations. Regardless, grip was up, speed was up, and lap times dropped. Once again, I spent the race battling with a Super Touring 5 car. Around 13:34, a Rush SR spins and stalls outside turn 1. The location triggers a full course double yellow, and the pace car is brought out to collect the field. But not before two racers pass me under caution. One at 14:00 and one at 14:29. (Sorry to point it out guys, you know better. 😉)

Saturday Awards and David Shall Memorial

The racetrack is a second home to us, and even though I only met David in passing, I was thankful to attend his memorial at the awards ceremony. David’s family and many NASA Gulf South region members shared heartfelt words and stories about David Shall, and it is obvious that he impacted this region immensely. As we age, the number of our fallen racetrack family grows, and just as I will remember Richard Bratton and Pat Magruder every time I step in the racecar, the Gulf South drivers will remember David Shall just the same.

After the memorial the awards were distributed, and the comradery continued late into the night. I managed first place in Super Touring 6 in a field of 1. But not without a little action from the Super Touring 5 class. Several other Mid South drivers took home trophies in their respective classes.

First place in a field of 1 at NOLA Motorsports Park.
I managed first place in the Super Competitive Super Touring 6 class. At least I got to play with Super Touring 5 a bit.

Race 3 Analysis

Race 3 resulted in an early retirement for the Super Touring 6 Miata. Greeted with a dry track Sunday morning, I drove the wheels off the car until a red flag mid-race. Once the race resumed, I suffered a rather unique front caliper failure. At turn 5, it felt like something was dragging, and the engine note changed. I also encountered a bit of understeer. Then it felt like the brake dragged intermittently, and I returned the car to the pits. Upon inspection, the front driver’s caliper top bolt loosened, and the brake pad retainer clips left the scene. As a result, the brake pads could move about with the rotor’s spin. This led to them biting on and off like an ABS system. In turn, the wheel threw a lot of rubber onto the caliper, compounding the issue by melting rubber onto the edge of the caliper and the rotor. A rather complex series of events resulted in a DNF and the end of the weekend.

Close up of the failed brake caliper during race 3 at NOLA Motorsports Park.
Melting rubber and loose brake pads caused the early retirement. Notice the clip is missing from the top of the brake pads.

Extracurriculars

It’s not NOLA without unique experiences. It was the 1st Annual Big Easy Slingshot Riders Extravaganza this time. A large gathering of Polaris Slingshots was in the drift lot next to the event center. I didn’t pay much attention until the sun began to set. Then I realized these weren’t your ordinary Slingshots. These were underglow sporting, neon-accented sound systems. And they were cool. I went to chat with some of the drivers and check out their equipment. Needless to say, I didn’t know this was a thing, and I highly approve. Reminded me of the old-school street tuning days.

Polaris Slingshot decked out for the Big Easy United Slingshot Extravaganza
Not the best shot but every Slingshot was decked out with neon’s. Imagine over 100 of these cruising by.
Another closeup of a Polaris Slingshot at the Big Easy United Slingshot Extravaganza.
The Big Easy United Slingshot Extravaganza was uniquely New Orleans and uniquely cool.

NOLA Motorsports Karting

No trip to NOLA Motorsports Park is complete without a trip to the karting complex. As usual, it was difficult to determine when they were open and when we would be allowed to run. After being turned away Saturday night at 7:30, we stayed persistent and were able to enter one session around 1 p.m. on Sunday. The track is tight, and the karts are quick enough to give drivers an adequate sense of speed. All the racers had a blast, and only a few non-racers were traumatized on the track with us.

If only I could get that adult shifter kart league started in the US.

Next

That’s it for another successful trip to the Big Easy. Next up will be a 3-day event at Nashville Superspeedway with NASA Mid South. Including an endurance race to start the weekend. In the meantime, back to work on the exo car.

By Chris Simmons

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