Carrying Speed: New Column From Kasra Ajir On Racing

I’ll start at the beginning.  My name is Kasra Ajir, and as far back as I can remember, I loved everything on wheels. When I was a young kid, maybe 4 or 5, I was already looking at cars on the street and emulating the noises they made. I had a different noise for each toy car that I had; each car had a specific duty, and as I got older, my collection grew.

If I really needed to catch the bad guy and go Mach 1, then I’d be in a super-slippery supercar; usually a Countach or this awesome Matchbox car called a Quasar (Go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait. It’s freaking sweet and I wish I still had mine). If I needed to take down the mob, then I needed something loud and scary, so maybe an A/C Cobra or a Testarossa — like the guys in Miami Vice.  My first wedge shaped toy car was a Fiat X1/9, and that started my obsession with low-slung, mid-engine radness.  Apparently, this all started at a very young age.  My mom and dad tell me the first time I saw a tricycle at a toy store, I started shaking I wanted it so badly. I was three years old.

Two survivors from my early die-cast building days. Ah, to be a kid again!

My obsession with toy cars as a kid turned into a full blown, lose-my-mind madness with going fast the moment I got my hands on my first Huffy bicycle in sixth-grade. I lived in a hilly neighborhood in Connecticut with lots of winding roads. My daily summer activities largely included leaning that Huffy as far as I could for traction, and carrying as much speed downhill as much as my courage would allow.  That, and assembling die-cast and plastic car models with extreme detail, while a mix of a grinding, power-hungry air-conditioner and Iron Maiden’s “Somewhere in Time” album played in the background, drowning out humid summer storms just outside.

Sometimes, I wish I could trade it all to go back to those days just for a week and relive those summers. Wishful thinking, better discussed over a tumbler of Talisker on the rocks.

So it went with each step forward in my love for cars and going fast.  When I finally got my driver’s license, I would take my four-speed, carbureted, hand-me-down Nissan Sentra to it’s very low limits often, all the while giving other drivers in suburbia dirty looks. I’m driving a Sentra, get out of my way!

Soon my friend introduced me to the amount of G-forces you could create on the Route 7 connector in his Merkur with Eibach springs.  Something akin to a small part of my brain lobe leaking from my ear, my testosterone filled skinny frame was addicted.  I bought a black 200sx SE-R and started modding it.  Headers, chips, short shifters, bigger tires, other headers, other chips . . . you get the idea.

Pictures of my buddy’s Merkur and my Nissan 200SX SE-R. We beat the hell out of those cars.

In all my years of car ownership, which has spanned classic and modern BMW M cars,  there hasn’t been a car that was washed, waxed, and pampered more than that SE-R.  Lots of Tire Foam, and I mean, LOTS of Tire Foam, were used in those years.

While living on the east coast, my automotive obsession had me all over the map.  From interning at a race shop building and prepping World Challenge race cars, to changing cams in my fraternity parking lot and drag racing my daily driver at Englishtown Raceway Park, to delivering pizzas in my E30 M3.

Moving to California in 2002, gave me unprecedented year-round access to automotive events.  At first, my automotive adventures consisted mostly of taking group drives and hanging out with fellow E30 M3 owners.

I thought my M3 was in great condition . . . until I moved to SoCal! There were lots of mint examples driven by great friends.

Once I got into a more agile daily driver, I began autocrossing at BMW CCA events, and not long after started in the HPDE ladder with NASA.

Jagermeister and trophies, a winning combination — off-track that is!

Other highlights include being one of the owners/builders of a Sportsman-class Range Rover Classic, and then driving the poor thing into an early death at the 2011 Baja 1000. I was also lucky enough to participate as an instructor for the Tire Rack Street Survival Teen Driving School for young drivers; a rewarding experience where I learned as much as I taught.  I believe that driving schools across the U.S. are barely preparing kids for the realities of piloting multi-ton pieces of steel on public roadways, and I plan on talking about that in later articles.

Baja – wow.  That program was an adventure from day one, filled with real-deal danger and long, endless nights, before and during the race.  Baja is a crazy race for crazy people, and I mean that in the best way. I’m glad I did it, and until now, nobody could talk me into doing it again, much to the relief of my family and non-racing friends.  Strangely, I’m thinking of going back in the next few years.  The sights, sounds, and emotions of that race are unbelievable, especially when you’re roughing it, camping in the desert, and pulling the whole thing together on a shoe-string budget despite having numerous sponsors.

Gutting the Range Rover to prepare it for our first Baja 1000 in 2011!

Victory! Well ok, we didn't win, but just participating was an enormous accomplishment.

So yeah, I’m into cars, but why bother reading what I have to write? Throw a stone and you’ll hit a car enthusiast, many with a decent amount of knowledge.  Well, short and simply, I’m a student of the craft. A decade and a half of experience, many thousands of hours and dollars later, I have a sizable bag filled with knowledge, stories, advice and thoughts to share.  Like many of you, I would fill my every waking hour studying race craft, car set up, mindset, performance-driving fitness, and the physics behind going fast, if I could. Also like you, I’m a working stiff and have to find a balance between my passion for racing and my passion for my work, spending time with family, and generally handling biz.

High-performance driving is one thing, and there is a lot that goes into it that we will discuss.  Racing with a bunch of animals like the folks in Spec E30 or Spec Miata is a whole different animal.  Again, I say that with the utmost respect and admiration for these drivers.  I figured the best way to grow and test myself was in Spec racing and my first two race weekends in Spec E30 have been humbling. I’m looking forward to kicking all their butts, but it will take a while.  As my record, knowledge, and racecraft improves, I look forward to taking you all on the journey with me and sharing what I can. We will talk about the ups and downs of amateur racing, seeking and providing mentorship, and what I do to work toward my dream of one day racing in a Pro Am series.

‘Till next month….

About the author

Kasra Ajir

Having competed, raced, or trained with SCORE, SCCA, NASA, BMW CCA, and more, Ajir is well seasoned in the various series that pollinate the grassroots and professional auto racing world.
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