As a 60th birthday present to himself, Norm Shaw took up racing.
Ten years later, the 70-year-old Walnut Grove retiree is still on the track, but more interested in driving than he is in the final race results.
“It is about having fun,” he said. “I no longer worry too much about where I am in the championship standings, but more concerned with being able to race wheel-to-wheel-to-wheel with another Miata, regardless of finishing position,” Shaw told the Langley Advance.
That said, last weekend – while running his customized spec Miata at the Mission Raceway – he earned a third, fourth, and fifth place ranking – results that sit just fine with him.
“Last weekend was an opportunity to make sure the car was back in shape following a fairly heavy collision with a concrete wall the previous race,” he explained.
How it all began
Shaw jokingly blames his daughter for getting him behind the wheel to race, although he admitted he’s always been interested in the sport and cars, in general.
“Retirement seemed a good time to take on an activity that falls on many guys bucket list,” he said. “My youngest daughter and I took the Sports Car Club of B.C. driver training course together in her Miata.”
Not long after that, he bought the automobile from her, and turned it into a race car.
“I chose to build what is called a spec Miata, since it seemed to be one of the most popular classes in North America,” he said, noting that economics was also a factor in his pick.
The car looks like a Miata sports car, but he insists it is fully race prepared with stripped interior, full enclosed roll cage, fire system, and racing suspension.
Behind the wheel of said vehicle, he won the Miata championship in 2012, and had a couple seconds and thirds since then.
Days of being champ a thing of the past
“The ability is probably not there to be winning all the time now, so it is simply racing,” he said. “As I said – not the championship driven driver anymore – out to have fast, safe fun.”
Last year, for instance, he partnered with three other spec Miata drivers to build a car for the champ car races at Laguna Seca.
“It was a lot of fun sharing a car and driving as a team. That may be the kind of racing that I will enjoy over the next few years,” Shaw said.
“We are competitive and that is why we race, but it is not necessary to win all the time, but it is necessary to actually race car to car.”
While his goals have changed since he first started racing a few years back, so too have his abilities.
Similar to other older racers, he just wants to get out there and race, stay “reasonably competitive” with other cars, and experience other race tracks.
“I keep racing to keep active and feel alive,” he said.
Shaw has a varied history. He worked in the forest industry for 15 years, then took a two-year break to skipper a sailboat in Europe and the Caribbean, before returning home to a teaching position at BCIT until he retired 11 years ago to “consult and practise retirement and race.”
Shaw comes from what he describes as a generation that was – out of necessity – more involved with building cars, maintaining them, and ultimately racing them.
“The current generations have much more complicated and expensive cars, which do not encourage tinkering and modification to race,” he said, noting a decline in the motor-sport field. “They are more likely to participate in lapping days or video simulation.”
More dangerous driving to races
Admittedly, even though he said the sport is not really dangerous, his wife, Margaret, is “very nervous” watching him race.
“If there is one misconception it is that racing is dangerous. Club racing, which we do, is not like the professional racing on TV. Contact may be penalized, and everyone is going the same direction. And everyone is trained so actions are totally predictable. The most scary part of a weekend is getting on the highway where cars are actually coming towards you at speed,” he concluded.
He’ll be back out on the Mission track racing again July 14 and 15, as well as July 28 and 29.
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