SCCA Convention Hotel Deal

Date

June 11, 2013 by Brian Ghidinelli

If you're planning to attend the 2009 SCCA National Convention in Las Vegas, I can pass along a incredible hotel deal we scored today.

The convention rate, using code "SCCA09", is $70 for Wednesday/Thursday and $120 for Friday/Saturday for an average rate of $95/night and a total of $380 plus about $40 in taxes. This deal, from Booking.com, costs just $304 plus the same $40 in taxes. That's $76 off! I've heard that times are tough in Vegas right now so I'm not surprised to find a lower rate turn up.

You can buy us a cocktail to say thanks... see you in Vegas!
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Topics: Misc

Next generation form builder on its way

Date

June 11, 2013 by Brian Ghidinelli

Form Builder v2On the drawing board for six months and in development for three, the next generation of our drag-and-drop registration form builder is about to go live this next week:

Because we eat our own dog food, we found numerous places to improve the editing process and create accelerators for tedious tasks. The first iteration of our form builder brought a whole new level of flexibility and control - letting organizers put anything anywhere with drag-and-drop, create dependencies and complex validation rules. Combined with new capabilities like order form branching, all of that is wrapped into a slick user interface that works on Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome and Opera on all major platforms. And just for fun, we made it about 3x faster too!

Looking back at my development notes, it's inspiring to see the progression of a user-centered design process like we use here. It starts with rough sketches on scrap paper, to pen-and-ruler designs on grid paper, to a short specifications document and feature description to early betas and finally the finished product. At each step along the way we incorporate user review, feedback and usability studies to determine how effective each change is going to be.

Stay tuned, we'll be posting a short screencast to demonstrate some of the new features that make us giggle like schoolgirls.
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Topics: Features

Seen at the RunOffs...

Date

June 11, 2013 by admin

Justin Hall's MotorsportReg.com-sponsored Spec Miata at the 2008 RunOffs


Spotted at the 2008 SCCA National RunOffs at Heartland Park in November: previous Spec Miata Challenge winner, Koni Challenge and World Challenge racer Justin Hall's Spec Miata lining up to do battle. Motor issues kept him out of contention in qualifying but he fought back from a 15th starting position to finish 6th overall. Photo by Paul Zimerman Race Photos.
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Team Bimmerworld Results

Date

June 11, 2013 by Brian Ghidinelli

We finished!

Last weekend, I was part of Team Bimmerworld entering a 1990 BMW M3 in NASA's 25 Hours of Thunderhill enduro. Drivers were car owner Lance Boicelli, Scott Smith, SPEED World Challenge pilot James Clay and myself.

While many of the people involved in this team have either crewed or driven in the 25 hour race previously, this was the first entry for this car and this team. And for a first-time team with zero pre-race practice, Team Bimmerworld did great. Friday morning started out tough when Lance's fresh 4-cylinder S14 engine measured 20HP too high on the dyno for our GTS class. Lance swapped back to stock cams but 1pm Friday the car registered only 149HP. Target was 185HP. Yikes. So, one final intake cam swap and Saturday morning, one hour before we had to be on the grid, we came up with 183HP. Close enough!

Lance started the race and having qualified on low power, started making his way through the field. He was dive bombed and hit hard on the left B-pillar but the car was still straight and running quickly. We qualified 39th and bounced between 26th and 34th in the opening hours as we cycled through pit stops every hour on the stock gas tank. For the first time ever, the race was red flagged around 8pm due to incredibly thick fog. I knew it was bad when I came over turn 5 and I could no longer see the stadium lights across the infield I was using as a reference! I think we were listed at 20th at that point when the field parked their cars on the front straight and the track stayed closed until 5am the next morning when I finished my double stint with a fast lap of 2:02.2.

We ran until 10am Saturday with an increasingly bad left pull under braking. As we approached left hand corners and hit the brakes we had to use about 2 o'clock right-hand input to keep the car straight. As we transitioned off the brakes the car would jerk left at the same time we needed to start adding left-hand input to make the corner! It was challenging to say the least and turns out that loose rear toe adjusters were resulting in dynamic toe under squat (skillfully assessed by James Clay during his stint). There are some benefits to having a professional on your team and beyond James' calm attitude and obvious driving talent, his suggestion led to a quick fix at the next stop.

Finishing is as good as winning in a team's first 25 hour enduroThen things got even trickier. The transmission started to tighten up during Scott's morning stint so he was running only in 4th gear but still making passes and running 2:06s. We had glancing contact with a Corvette that resulted in a bent right rear trailing arm and broken CV joint. I have seen it in the Spec Miata paddock before (more than once...) but when mechanic Nate Walton suggested we use two trucks to tweak the car back into shape, there were a lot of wide-eyed people in our pits. But it worked! While not ideal, I jumped in with 1" of toe out in the right rear and we were back on track. It was terrifying at turn-in, especially at high-speed corners T1 and T8 but kind of fun drifting the car around. Lance took the final shift and brought his baby home to the checkered flag.

Ultimately in our class, E1, we were racing against two MX-5 Cup Pro Racing teams (our local HooverSpeed and Team MER fielding a total of 6 cars) who were better prepared, had top drivers with tons of Miata seat time and ran Hoosiers. Even without our mechanicals, our RA1s simply weren't going to match their pace.

At the end of the day though, what I like about endurance racing is the team and strategic component that you don't have in sprint racing. We finished the race, with an S14 no less, and had fun doing it. Thanks to everyone who showed up and hung out all weekend keeping us fed, rested, hydrated and entertained before, during and after our drives, particularly Tom Bell with his warm RV and great cooking and crew chief Peter Guagenti for keeping us organized and on cue.

Until next year...
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Topics: Misc

MotorsportReg.com enters 25 Hours of Thunderhill

Date

June 11, 2013 by Brian Ghidinelli

It's been something I've wanted to do since I co-drove in a three-hour enduro at Buttonwillow Raceway in 2003. Finally this year, I'll be co-driving this 1990 BMW M3 in the E0 class at the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill December 3-5th in Willows, CA. This is the longest road race in North America.

In 2005, I crewed for a Subaru WRX team that took 3rd place overall and the memory of a day-long race is unforgettable. The camaraderie, the exhaustion and the minute-by-minute emotional roller-coaster as the race unfolds create an incredible experience. 25 hours of green-flag racing translates into more like 36 hours of being on-call for pit stops, driver changes, gopher-ing and the occasional meal or moment of shut-eye. Just finishing the race is an accomplishment and it requires intense preparation and a great crew.

To make sure the pilots are well-rested, duties will be split among the four-driver team:


  • Lance Boicelli (Car owner, BMW CCA)

  • James Clay (BimmerWorld owner, BMW CCA, SPEED World Challenge)

  • Brian Ghidinelli (MotorsportReg.com founder, BMW CCA, SCCA)

  • Scott Smith (BMW CCA, Grand-Am and Targa Newfoundland)



My first wheel turned in anger in a race was behind the wheel of this E30 M3 prepared to a similar level. It's a fun car to drive with good balance and handling characteristics. The trick will be getting its highly-strung de-tuned 1980s Formula 1 technology to last for an entire season of racing in one day but Lance is going to great lengths to make the car ready.

After sitting out Spec Miata for a season and trying shifter karts, I'm excited to get back in the cockpit of a touring car. I'll be sure to follow-up with a post-race rundown on our effort but in the mean time, wish us luck!
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MotorsportReg.com Measured #1 Most Reliable

Date

May 13, 2014 by Brian Ghidinelli

In the hosting industry, the slang for reliability is the number of "nines" you run. Most web hosting companies claim something like "five nines", which equates to 3 minutes and 48 seconds of downtime per year. Companies like Rackspace will sell you a zero-downtime network which sounds great but your only recourse for the eventual outage (oh, and there will be one or two) is a few pennies of your hosting dollars. Most serious services aim, realistically, for four nines or 99.99% uptime.

At Pukka Software, we take the reliability of MotorsportReg.com seriously. The problem is every company says they care about reliability but few share their numbers. Until today! Using data provided by impartial, third-party monitoring services, these charts compare the last 90 days between us and three services whom our customers previously used before switching to MotorsportReg.com.

For the purpose of this discussion, we care only about service availability. That is, if I type in the address into my web browser, does the website answer? It's quite possible for the system to be "up" but the network or some other resource to be "down". We care only if the website responds.

This first chart shows uptime expressed as a percentage. Most people look at a chart like this and say: "Woopity doo! Even the least reliable service, DLBRacing.com, is running 98.9215% of the time! That's pretty good!"

That is true. Maybe. How frequent are the outages? How long is the duration? Imagine a website that is regularly down for short periods of time. These flaky websites are typically caught out by unexpected, non-catastrophic issues. Now consider a website that suffers a 6, 12 or 24-hour outage. These kinds of massive outages are almost always the result of poor strategy and contingency planning. In the end, neither type is particularly appealing as a user.

So what is the practical difference between our 99.9288% and that of our competitors? This second chart switches from percentage to absolute number of minutes offline in the past 90 days. ClubRegistration.net and DLBRacing.com have more than 1,300 minutes each of downtime in the past 90 days. Even MyAutoEvents.com, who has made improvements in their reliability in past months, was unavailable three times as often compared to MotorsportReg.com.

"To provide 99.9% or better uptime, you'll need to house your equipment in an environmentally controlled space with guaranteed 100% power availability. In most cases this will be accomplished by purchasing colocation space in a top-tier data center... You will need redundant equipment for all of your key systems... Three nines of reliability is very achievable, but it takes considerable expense and requires a fair degree of competency in your staff." --Processor.com


The rule of thumb with "nines" of availability is that each additional nine costs an order of magnitude more money. In my experience this is true. We know where these operations host their websites and there is a direct correlation between the amount invested and the results in these charts. With our internal target of "four nines" at 99.99%, or 60 minutes of downtime per year, these past three months were regrettably a ding against our record as our historical reliability is a very respectable 99.963%. This includes our physical colocation move last year which resulted in a planned, early-morning outage to migrate our hardware into a private, locking cabinet for better customer data security and compliance with PCI DSS.

At 99.963%, MotorsportReg.com is unavailable for just three hours per year. No other competing service provider has a historical uptime even in the "triple nines" at 99.9%. It's not as good as the four nines we're striving for but we are building on a solid track record in its pursuit.
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Verizon customer connectivity issues

Date

June 11, 2013 by Brian Ghidinelli

Starting sometime last week, certain Verizon customers (primarily FIOS and a few DSL) have been unable to connect to MotorsportReg.com. We are aware of the issue and are seeking a solution. The problem is the Verizon network which can be proven by connecting to other websites sitting in our network and colocation facility (such as pukkasoft.com, which you are reading now).

We do have at least one Verizon FIOS customer who is able to connect to MotorsportReg.com and in all cases we have been able to troubleshoot and confirm it is Verizon's issue. If you are affected by this, please contact us at 415.462.5603 and we will provide a private debugging method for your Verizon customer service representative to prove they have an issue. We are working simultaneously to get it resolved with their network operation center but since we are not customers we are having a hard time getting any action taken and the more customer complaints, the more seriously they will investigate it.

In the mean time, if you have alternate Internet access such as work or home or via your mobile phone's data plan, you will find that MotorsportReg.com is up and running 24/7 like always. Our apologies for the inconvenience - we'll update here when we have news to report...

Update 10/27 at 8:50am: Verizon has asked any customer experiencing this problem to fill out their whitelist request form. Although it says email, it will also impact web access. It may take up to 24 hours for this to take effect. If, after 24 hours, you still can't reach MotorsportReg.com then you will need to call technical support and tell them:


  1. Can't reach a single, specific site, MotorsportReg.com

  2. Already tried the verizon.net/whitelist request

  3. It is only port 80 that does not work; you have confirmed the site is active by accessing it on an alternate port (contact us at 415.462.5603 for details)



Update 10/29 at 8:42am: We have one customer confirming that the whitelist request did resolve her issues. Verizon is apparently making the needed modification to their network to restore access for impacted customers. Please use the link above if you experience difficulty - but also drop us a note so we can stay on top of it.
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Topics: Misc

National Teen Driver Safety Week

Date

June 11, 2013 by Brian Ghidinelli

4,144 teens aged 16-19 died in automobile accidents in 2006 and almost 400,000 were treated in emergency rooms for crash injuries. I know I was certainly not a great driver at that age as two tickets and two accidents would attest. My parents and I split the cost of my first car, an 89 Chevy Beretta, and the third day I drove it to high school I was ticketed for 48MPH in a 25MPH residential zone. Had the officer not literally first put down his donut to pick up the radar gun, I'm sure my ticket would have been 60+ and my morning would have ended with a reckless speeding ticket instead.

Real smart.

While we can't make teenagers any more mindful of their own mortality, the good news is that we can give them skills to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities from their first major freedom. October 19-25 is National Teen Driver Safety Week. The #1 thing you can do for your child or the child of a friend is get them to attend a car control or safety clinic. You can get a list of events on the MotorsportReg.com calendar and check out Street Survival.

These one-day educational events typically cost $40-80 and have a direct and effective result on teen driving behavior. Lobby your friends and family to get their kids into a hands-on clinic that improves their odds of survival behind the wheel.
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Topics: Misc

Insurance, Again

Date

June 11, 2013 by Mark

The New York Times ran a story this past weekend about the ongoing industry trend to limit insurance coverage for incidents that occur at driving schools. This is not a new issue for any of us, of course, but the article does a nice job of explaining the problem and includes some interesting anecdotes from insurance brokers. For example:


American, like other insurers who have tried the [motorsports] insurance, ran into a series of hurdles. To attract a pool of clients and spread risk, the policies were priced low — an average of $500 to $750 a year, Ms. Bergan said. The number of claims wasn’t a problem, but the cost of the claims was. “Most of the claims were total losses,” she said.



Ms. Bergan's comment does not reflect the data we collected from a wide range of event organizers as we worked with Lockton Affinity to put the HPDE Insurance Program together over the last year or so. Our conclusion was that, given a set of professionally run educational events, the overall incident rate is very low and the magnitude of the incidents that occur is also relatively small. However, every program is different and American Collector's varied from the HPDE Insurance Program in some key ways.

Sadly, the NY Times article also chose to omit any information about the HPDE Insurance Program that would have balanced the negativity of the industry situation (other than a mention as an insurance supplier in the sidebar), in spite of the reporter having spent time on the phone with our partner at Lockton Affinity, Ryan Staub.

The entire NY Times article can be found here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/automobiles/19INSURE.html

So far, the HPDE Insurance Program has been an unmitigated success with over 250 policies sold since the program launched at the end of July, demonstrating that there is definite demand from the motorsports enthusiast community and that driving school participants are more than willing to pay for peace of mind.

In the end, though, we applaud the NY Times for giving coverage to both a sport and a situation that gets very little attention. Here's to hoping that options like the HPDE Insurance Program keep our industry growing!

You can find additional information about the HPDE Insurance Program, as well as purchase coverage online, here.
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Helping The Kids

Date

June 11, 2013 by Mark

Because motorsports for us is as much about the people as it is about the cool toys, we pick a couple of charity events each year to support by waiving the 1.5% MSR fees on registrations. This year we helped a new client, Florida Karting Championship Series, raise over $20,000 for Victory Junction Gang Camp.

We could not be more proud of what our friends at FKCS have accomplished and we are happy to have played our small part in it.

The complete story about the event is posted on eKartingNews.com. More information about Victory Junction Gang Camp is available at their website.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this event a success!

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