What a freaking day! After finishing up at testing yesterday, we finally checked into the 1st hotel that Josh had reservations for. After waking up around 6am again, we headed out for the track around 6:30ish. Josh couldn’t find his watch, so we headed back to the hotel. He couldn’t find his watch, but picked up his much-needed camera. We got to the track around 6:40ish and headed back to registration from there. To even up the teams, myself and one other driver were switched from yellow group to green group (Josh’s group, that worked out well!).
First business of the day: fitness! We did some fitness tests with the professionals from Athlete’s Performance. Wow, VW really does not spare any expenses when it comes to selecting and developing the best drivers. We did a bunch of flexibility and balance tests. Some of the exercises did not go so great for me since I have mild scoliosis, but nonetheless, I gave it my best. It turns out my hamstring in my left leg has no flexibility! Uh oh. Lying on my back, I could not pull my left leg up past the 90 degree stick. With my right leg, no problem. After those tests, one of the trainers pinched my skin, used calipers and measured my body fat index. I have a 7.68% body fat index. I guess that’s good for 5’11 1/4″ and 139.4 lbs. With those two ‘tests’ finished, we got on workout bicycles. With a heart rate monitor strapped to our chests and breath measurement masks, we had to bike atleast 80 revolutions per minute while they switched to a higher gear every minute…then every 30 seconds after the 4 minute mark? I got to around 6:20 and the resistance wore my legs out. Most of the guys in green group did around 6 minutes with one exception of 11 minutes. Ridiculous.
With fitness session over with, we headed to the Jetta race car tent. With HANS devices on, we all sat in the Recaro HANS seats and had the technicians adjust the length and height of the seat to our individual specifications. My seat fitment was painless and I was fine with the previous guy’s settings.
Time for lunch. Today, we had tacos and spanish rice. Not sure if that’s the best of choicing for driving events, but I love tacos. In the hospitality tent, they setup Recaro seats for people to play Project Gotham Racing 4 on Xbox 360. Again, VW shines with their unique activities and stuff they ‘bring to the table’.
After lunch, it was autox time again. This time with green group, all the drivers were competitive and closer in skill level, compared to yellow group. Myself and another driver hopped in one of the GTI’s with Ryan Arciero for his informative run through of the course and then a hot lap to show us how it’s done. What a madman! After flying full throttle through the kink, he slams on the brakes, twitches the GTI and perfectly sets it up for the 90 degree right hander. What a smooth execution. Today, we ran with traction control off, so wheelspin was very evident. My first two practice runs, I butchered the 90 degree right hander by going in too hot and killing the cones. Not smart. The rest of the course I picked up fairly easily, especially throttle modulating for the difficult decreasing radius turns and hairpins. Too much gas, wheelspin and smoke. You really had to find that fine balance between laying down the power and roasting the tires. Since I was 2nd to last to run out of 12, the tires were shot to say the least. After people understeering hardcore, gunning the engines and burning out the tires, the cars had taken a beating. I still had fun and managed to drive fast (in my mind) and clean. No cones this time. 🙂
Next, we headed from the parking lot to the west track oval. It was the same course we had karted on the previous day, but they took away the plastic barriers and rearranged the cones. American rally driver Mark Miller, Belgian Champ Car driver Jan Heylen and Swedish touring car driver Jimmy Johansson were our instructors for the ‘track’ session of the day. It’s funny, just the other day I posted a video of how fun the VW Polo Cup looks. Well, Jimmy Johansson, our instructor, was the one in that YouTube video battling against Philipp Leisen at Hockenheim-ring in Germany! How cool is that? Like I have stated before, VW spares no expense. Bringing over their top European drivers as well as very important Volkswagen motorsport officials from their headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. Jimmy and Jan helped us out by showing us the the specific apexes to hit at each corner of the track. Jan was especially impressive, driving the course pretty fast, one handed, while speaking to us about what to do without hesitation. My first two laps (practice run) were pretty decent except for me going too wide coming out of T5 and screwing up T6. For my timed laps, I thought I did much better, but Jan said my first run was better. 🙁 He said I improved T5 and T6, though. I felt my confidence drop immediately as he told me my first run was better, especially when I asked what he thought of my 2nd run and he stated, “it was average”. Not the re-assuring words I wanted to hear. The other drivers in green group seemed to all do equally well, with a few cone kills here and there (points deducted). After the session was over, I wanted to get a second opinion, so I then asked Jimmy and he stated I improved on my 2nd run and that I did a good job. My confidence level then raised out of the negatives. I guess I was so focused on hitting the apexes specifically like they wanted that my lap times maybe suffered. Who knows as they, again, kept all times secret.
The wait. This was the absolute worst. Nothing brings a crappier feeling than waiting for about an hour finding out the results of who stays and who goes home. I didn’t even bother eating the “volkswaffles” today. I drank up RedBull and was sitting nervously with the others in green group. We sat around talking forever while the instructors chose the top 35. So damn dreadful doesn’t begin to describe the feeling all 54 drivers had. To think, if you did not perform better than 19 other people, you were going home. I felt extremely confident yesterday after performing well in karting and autox, but the last ‘track’ session had me worried. I had this feeling that since I didn’t perform my best on the ‘track’ that that would ultimately hurt my final scoring. I tried to feel confident, but that just wasn’t happening. I was so so nervous, like I was trying to be a finalist on some reality show. It really didn’t help that the A/C was freezing inside the hospitality tent.
The moment of truth: after waiting for a half hour or so after the schedule said so, Clark Campbell and the other VW officials and instructors came up to the front to speak about how well we all did. The selection list was pulled out. First name, my buddy from the DC area, Liam Kenney! Congrats to him! After watching several other people whom I did not recognize go up, I was seriously doubting my chances of making it…but I still had hope. But then, I see a couple of guys from green group get called up! About halfway through the list, Mr. Campbell says, “the next driver selected is…John Shim!” HOLY CRAP!!! YES!!!! I made it!! Wow, what a freaking relief! Such a great feeling as I walk up to shake Mr. Campbell and associates’ hands. I get a nice VW tin can with a envelope labeled “congratulations”. Ok, I can calm down now. Now, it’s about Josh making it. I am crossing my fingers and saying “please, please, please”. Not only do I want him to get in because he is talented, but because he is the one who booked the hotel and is the only driver allowed for the rental car! Without him, I’m sorta screwed. there are now 3 rows of us, with each row having 10 people. I see Mr. Campbell sliding down the manila envelope and only see about 5 names left on the sheet. “C’mon Josh”. After driver 32 gets called, “and the next driver is…Josh Hurley!!” Haha, yes!! I am so ecstatic when his name is called. So glad I do not have to find an alternate hotel or rental car as well! It was hilarious as Josh told me he thought I looked the ‘most excited’ when I heard my name. Heh, times like these call for big enthusiasm. 🙂 Inside the VW tin cans were VW stamped compass/USB jump drives! Pretty sweet. Final count: 34 guys, 1 girl.
It honestly sucked to see guys we hung out with the past two days have to go home. It was great meeting you Craig, Anders and Harold, I wish you guys the best! After we were all chosen, we head into a separate ‘glass room’ and get briefed on what to expect when coming to each track this season and then a session on the AiM data logging systems that will be used in the Jetta race cars. I could barely pay attention as I had to piss like a race horse all day long. Afterwards, Josh and I took some pics with the guys running the show from VW. After that, it was about 8:30pm. We had been at the track for 14 long, exhaustive, nervous hours. We went to a local Italian restaurant to celebrate and load up on carbs as they expect us at Athlete Performance’s center in Tempe tomorrow at 7am. It was funny running into fellow top 35 Jetta drivers at the restaurant. I am so relieved I made it. I cannot thank my dad, my sister, her boyfriend, and all our friends for all their support, love, and encouragement. They believed in me and I finally made it happen!
Tomorrow will be another interesting day. I am sure they will break us down with more fitness training and VW will be knocking out 5 more people in order to get the final, official 30 drivers who will race a Jetta for this year. I can’t wait!