Greg McCorkle
Team FOTO54 hard at work readying their car for the big race on Sunday at their secret White Center location. The Gravity Gran Prix is set for June 23

SLIDESHOW: 2013 Gravity Gran Prix comes to White Center

The third year of the Jubilee Days Pinewood Derby Gravity Gran Prix arrives at Big Al Brewing. This coming Sunday June 23rd racers from around the Burien, White Center, and West Seattle area will compete in the 2013 Gravity Gran Pre. The event is an all age’s affair with food and music in big Al’s beer garden. The car weigh in period will begin at 2pm with the first qualifying race shortly after.

A new competitor in this year’s races is TEAM FOTO54. TEAM FOTO54 will be filming the races for an upcoming documentary and word from the pits is this team has put together a very fast and competitive race car. I was able to meet up with the team during a testing session at their secret White Center location to see for myself what all buzz is about.

Team owner Greg McCorkle met me at Big Al’s and insisted that I be blindfolded so as not to reveal the location of TEAM FOTO54’s secret workshop.

Upon arrival I was greeted by the entire team. Along with team owner Greg McCorkle there was the team's ace driver Greg McCorkle, Crew Chief Greg McCorkle, head mechanic Greg McCorkle, and lead photographer Greg McCorkle. All were excited to have coverage of their new car and talk about the documentary.

Driver Greg McCorkle was the most animated about the race. “I just came in from our test course and the car behaved beautifully. The crew has found the sweet spot and I expect this car to be extremely fast on race day”.

Driver Greg McCorkle

What improvements have been made to the car? “if I told you I’d have to kill you” McCorkle jokingly responded. “No, just kidding. It really comes down to weight distribution. With the camera gear that GoPro has provided for the documentary the cars center of gravity had to be radically altered. We contacted Greg McCorkle at Weight Distribution Systems and he was able to come up with a radical frame design that still meets the race rules”.

How has the car performed in the past? “We did well last month in Sao Paulo with a fourth place finish but that was due mostly to a late race pit stop to change tires, other than that with the new body design she’s running well and I expect better results this Sunday.”

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Crew member Greg McCorkle fuels up the car which oddly enough uses no fuel

Do you expect to move up in the world ranking before the season ends? “The car holds the number thirteen ranking in the world but I expect that to change on Sunday… I’m referring to winning on Sunday and increasing our points standing in a very tight points race. Several teams are within 3 points of one another so finishing strong will help. We’d like to finish the season with a number four ranking and we can go a long way to accomplish that with a win on Sunday”.

Crew Chief Greg McCorkle talked about the challenges that came up with the new car. “Like Greg was saying we had to create a new frame design that was lite enough to cut weight and at the same time be strong enough to hold up to the stresses that will be put on the frame during the many heats the car will be involved in over the course of the entire race day. I think Greg McCorkle and the folks over at Weight Distribution have done a fine job”. Head mechanic Greg McCorkle chimed in “The frame matched up well with our new body design. It really was a kind of plug and play match up thing”.

Team FOTO54 L-R Owner Greg McCorkle, driver Greg McCorkle, Crew members Greg McCorkle and Greg McCorkle

About the body, which is very sleek indeed, I asked team owner Greg McCorkle how this new design came about. “We decided a few weeks after the Sao Paulo finish that an entirely new concept needed to be explored. We worked with new plastic compositions and developed a new process that got us to this design. Wind tunnel testing validated the math and along with our new frame design we were able to bring the car in at 2.1 ounces. That’s really important because the camera is over half of that cars weight. We should easily come in under the 5 ounce weight limit”.

Team owner Greg McCorkle-left- talks strategy with driver Greg McCorkle

Has weight been an issue in the past? “Last year at Montauque Le Bonne in Quebec we came in a tenth of a gram over weight but we had plenty of time to correct issue before the first qualifying lap and the car ran well and Greg drove it to a third place finish. Everybody pushes the weight thing, it’s the competitive nature that all of the teams have so there will be overs but there is usually plenty of time to correct the problem and get re weighed before the first qualifier”.

Lead photographer Greg McCorkle was very excited to be part of this racing event. ‘The folks at GoPro went above and beyond in helping me with my concept for this documentary. After doing still photography at last years race I really wanted to show the people on the West Side how much fun the Grand Pre event here at Big Al’s really is. Doing a short film, I thought, was the best way to show the splendor and the magnitude of race day. Besides having a camera mounted in the car- which Greg McCorkle gets big props for allowing me to place a camera in his car- I’ll be filming the races throughout the day, with aerial shots, crowd activities and music performances. I’m hoping to keep the documentary under three minutes”.

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We're feeling very confident about our chances on Sunday says FOTO54 team

Where will the public be able to view your documentary? “I’m working with the folks from Jubilee Days and they will allow me to post it on their Facebook and web site”.

When will the documentary be released? “I’m hoping to have it done before the fireworks show on the 17th of July which kicks off Jubilee Days”.

As Team owner Greg McCorkle drove me (blindfolded) back to Big Al’s I couldn’t help but wonder what the other competitors were doing to their cars. Would anyone have a machine capable of beating TEAM FOTO54’s entry? Or would the number 13 car simply run away and take the title at the 2013 Pinewood Derby Gravity Grand Prix…. Come to the races and find out.


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