- Russell Soto
A "New" Helmet, A Meaningful Victory And A Rainy Lesson
Updated: Sep 6, 2021
Hello everyone! First I’d like to thank everyone that has read and watch my posts in the different platforms I’m in. I loved all your comments, likes and shares - please stay tuned and keep sharing! I’m respectfully asking you to help spread the word and grow my followers base, as this will help me get back at the wheel. Obviously, COVID has had an impact in what I’m trying to do, but I’m also not sitting still – I’m trying to use this time to get some things done and keep fighting to find financial support to get back at wheel and into competitive racing somewhere in 2021.
“While the axe comes and goes” (as my dad often says), I’ve been able to do some things like getting my helmet painted. For this I went to an old friend, Jose DeLa Cruz of IDSigns in South Hackensack, NJ. José was the person who painted my first helmet in 2015, which was kind of an Ayrton Senna tribute, but still an original design:
15 year old me with Jose de la Cruz
I bought my current Bell helmet in 2017, and never had a chance (or never could afford!) to have it painted, and the carbon finish was sort of acceptable, for a while. But this year I finally did have a chance, and here it is:
20 year old me, holding some beautifully painted carbon fiber
I took inspiration from my previous design, notably my flags on the back as I’m proud of my Puerto Rican and Filipino heritage.
But more importantly, I wanted to dedicate it to the celebration of diversity. I believe very strongly in this, and as a person of color the fight to end racism is one that directly affects me and that I pledge to support every time I go on track.
Many, many thanks to José. He’s been a friend and supporter over the years, and I highly recommend IDSigns and Graphics, not just for helmet painting, but for his specialty, which is custom liveries for cars and trucks. He is truly an artist. http://www.idsigns.com/idsigns.com/home.html
A lot of you liked my post about sim racing, so I thought I’d also share a couple more details about it here. As some of you know, two weeks ago, I had the honor of racing in the Sunday Night Skippy Winter Challenge Round at Road Atlanta. This was an hour-long endurance race for charity, and I chose to race for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I loved the opportunity to race for a good cause, and was absolutely ecstatic to take the win in the Audi R8 LMS.
Green flag - Leading the field at a virtual Road Atlanta
I took pole by .5 second and proceeded to score a dominant win. The Audi never missed a beat and neither did I, as I won by almost 25 seconds and raised $250 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. You know, as an aspiring racing driver I’ve seen and met many people I consider brave in my life, but when I hear stories about the children who fight for their lives each day, it becomes hard to imagine anyone braver. Let’s continue to help find cures! Learn more at www.stjude.org.
Proud to wear the St. Jude colors
Sim racing is a very involved thing, and with the pandemic it has become extremely popular, even attracting many real-life, famous racing drivers. This requires an investment in time and equipment, but the benefits are worth it. While it lacks the physicality of in-person racing (g-forces, heat, vibration, the general punishment your body takes), it is nevertheless a valuable training tool and a cost-effective way to keep your skills fresh and current when seat time is not available. My physical training comes courtesy of the Soloflex trainer you see next to my rig below, and the ability to step out and jog, to keep my cardio up.
Front office of the Audi R8 LMS...and a bunch of other virtual speed machines
I did get out to New Jersey Motorsports Park again for some real life testing, this time reconnecting with my old friend Kristina Esposito. Kristina and I started karting together at an indoor place when I was 9 years old, so it was fantastic to see her again.
A pleasant reunion with an old friend
It so happens every race car I’ve driven, even the Ferrari, has been a sequential paddle-shift transmission. So the goal that day was to get some heel and toe practice with a rented BMW E36.
A slightly different front office
To say that there was weather that day would have been an understatement. It was a proper deluge, and some sections of the track resembled rivers and creeks. To top it off, my car was on slick tires, which as you may imagine does not make for a great mix.
All set and ready
However, I managed to become comfortable with heel and toe right away, and proceeded to become so confident with the car that I started to creep up on some decent pace in those horrid conditions...on slicks!
Exiting pit lane and into a watery mess of a track...slick tires not displacing a lot of water
But soon enough I quickly learned one of the cardinal and inevitable lessons for a racing driver – the rain can stick a knife on your back very quickly! Sure enough, we had an off at the Octopus section of NJMP’s Thunderbolt track, which made me feel pretty very awful. Luckily, the damage was no big deal, no one was hurt and we did accomplish what we set out to do.
With that in mind we decided not to risk further damage to the car and call it a day. We were both sad we had to cut it short, but I learned tons about wet driving in the process, pushing a three pedal car with slick tires in the wet, and again reconnecting with one of the nicest people I’ve met so far in racing. Kudos to my passenger Kristina – she certainly doesn’t have to prove her bravery after that day! Many thanks to Jay Menzo of TrackCar4Rent for facilitating the E36. Check out his website at http://www.trackcar4rent.com/.
So the season is winding down, but this will definitely not be the last post for the year, as racing goes on in the form of sim racing – I will post more about that as I hope to be doing more big races during this winter. I’m also planning to continue the relentless search for sponsors and testing/racing opportunities in the coming months. For now, keep watching, liking, subscribing and sharing, and stay safe out there!