2018 Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel Recap

2018 Recap
A Review by Steve Schaefer

On Monday, October 1, the Western Automotive Journalists and the Autotech Council met at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California for their annual high-tech automotive event. The all-day program featured more than a dozen interesting speakers, the Autotech Council Science Fair, and some outdoor displays during the tasty lunch. Continue reading

2018 WAJ Media Days


WAJ’s 26th Annual Media Days Another Success, Despite a Bit of Weather!

Our 2018 Media Days had a few challenges this year including calendar timing and a bit of light precipitation the first driving day, but the sun returned at Laguna Seca for track evaluation and the venerable event was another hit for journalists and automakers. Continue reading

2017 Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel Recap

The seventh annual Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel presented by Western Automotive Journalists and The Autotech Council was held at the Computer History Museum on Monday October 9th, 2017.

Since its inception the program has shape-shifted location, directions, format and style, improving with each year, but the focus has remained on illuminating the intersection of the auto industry and Silicon Valley’s technology. Continue reading

The 25th Annual 2017 WAJ Media Days Recap

From the Beach to Valley to Track
The 25th Annual Media Days was a hit for all participants.
By Brian Douglas
We’ve come quite a distance from our organization’s modest beginnings. Back in 1992, the models of new vehicles outnumbered journalists, a third of whom were full-time media employees reporting on the automotive industry. Our fledgling event was one full day at Sears Point (now Sonoma) Raceway. Media Day became Days in ’94 when a day of driving in the Marin countryside was added. Some things never change- a big hit on the track in 1992 was Acura’s new NSX. History repeated itself this year with the all-new NSX winding around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Continue reading

Mazda: All Racing News Is Local

Word went out in late December that Dean Case of Mazda Motorsports would be hosting a Media Lunch at the Silicon Valley Auto Show in San Jose on Thursday January 5th to present the idea that there is a “local story” everywhere Mazda owners race their cars. The Auto Show features two Bay Area Mazda Racers that reinforce that premise. Mark Drennan, “the guy you don’t want to see in your rear view mirror” and Telo Stewart, Owner, World Speed Motorsports. The Sonoma-based World Speed team is known for putting Mazda drivetrains in just about anything and making them competitive.

As Barry Toepke, Maestro of the Monterey Reunion and Brad Littlefield new public relations Manager for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca were expected to be in attendance, there was a chance that we might learn the latest status in the ongoing challenge for the operation of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Dean Case, started the introductions by letting his audience of about two dozen journalists know that Mazda owners race their cars in 46 of the 50 states and, with his usual wry smile, that he was interested in seeing what could be done about the missing four. With a miniscule 2% market share on the road, 55% of ALL Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) entries are either Spec Mazda or Mazda-powered, with the Mazda Teen Challenge being one of the most fiercely competitive classes in racing. Dean admitted that Mazda sold millions in racing parts in 2016 and that Mazda had poured $1 million into payouts for club racing level prize money.

It was really interesting to learn that the engine in the World Speed Mazda Formula Cars were standard MZR production engines with zero internal changes. Only a changed ECU, exhaust and intake yield maximum performance with maximum longevity for a dependable 200 horsepower in the sealed engines assembled by famed builder Hasselgren Engineering of Berkeley. These engines typically go 3,000 miles compared to the significantly more costly Formula Atlantic engines that are anticipated to go 2,000 miles between rebuilds. One MRZ, Dean said, had still not been cracked open with 11,000 racing miles clocked on it.

Dean added a funny story about some consternation concerning a scion of the famed Brabham family being sent out in a car, winning eight races and a championship, only to be informed after the fact that he had been given a car with a used engine! Speaking of the Teen Mazda Challenge Dean stated: “We want the series that we support to be affordable. We encourage our drivers to put advertisements for non-profits on their cars.” He suggested Mazda racers race with passion and support their passions. Dean talked about Mazda support of the SPCA for Monterey County, Project Yellow Light, and mentioned that Mazda racer Sarah Montgomery was working with Lemons of Love.

We heard from Telo about Mazda-powered Formula Cars, the Mazda Challenge Race and the Mazda Road to Indy, setting up farm teams and several levels of competition to create a feeder series for American race car drivers who dream of Indy.

Barry Toepke introduced Brad Littlefield, the new PR Manager for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and spoke about the 60th Anniversary/Diamond Jubilee of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (which was opened in 1957). We also got to meet Mark Drennan a 50-year-old rookie who lead six races and won two in 2016. We also met Marissa Borjon, the new Mazda Western Regional PR person.

Dean kept us on schedule with a light-hearted touch and gave us a tour and walk-around of the Mazda booth and two race vehicles on display after the lunch. It was a great event, well-attended and what is probably the first of what might turn into a Mazda roadshow that will criss-cross the country shining a bright light on Mazda’s amazing footprint in the American racing scene.