A society of gentlemen racers does it in style
omewhere between gentlemen’s club, sporting society and concierge service, the Gentleman’s Guide to Racing (GGTR) came about when LA-based British writer Michael “Skiny” Power decided at the age of 40 that the urge to go racing could no longer be ignored. What began as pure indulgence—and a gonzo book project—on his part has morphed into something more. Prompted by Power’s desire for content creation, the GGTR aims to bring together like-minded gentlemen (and presumably gentlewomen) to compete in a bucket list of races from the Himalayan Raid to the Paris-Dakar to the London-to-Monte Carlo speedboat race, which amateurs and privateers can enter if they have the skill and desire and can muster up the scratch.
But first, there was some racing to be done. The GGTR’s debut outing was 2011’s SCORE Baja 1000, with the famed Alexander Roy, noted Gumball Rally entrant and holder of the record for the fastest driving time from NYC to LA, riding shotgun. The 1000, as it’s referred to by devotees, is a grueling desert race held in Baja California, Mexico, with a route that varies but is generally somewhere close to 1,000 miles in length. Several types of vehicles can enter, from motorcycles to cars to specialized desert-racing buggies to full-sized trucks. Power and Roy entered in a Class 16 VW-powered buggy with support provided by tire manufacturer BFGoodrich. As for how tough the going was, his race diary from November 19, 2011, simply notes: “Alex has turned down my intercom. The sound of my constant retching and vomiting is too much.” In a race where the general attrition rate is over 50 percent and the majority of first-timers don’t finish, they completed the race in a respectable 25 hours. “I can honestly say that the SCORE Baja 1000 was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” he states. “Finishing it has come with an incredible sense of accomplishment. During the race one rarely has time to reflect, but in those rare moments I saw this for what it was—one of the most evenly matched battles with nature a man can wage.”
When the GGTR isn’t racing, its founders are hoping to inspire motoring adventures. Power’s next sojourn, in the summer of 2012, was a laid-back motorcycle tour of the north of Vietnam in the company of cinematographer Matthew Woolf and photographer Zach Gold. From Hanoi, they hugged the Laotian and Chinese borders, following a circular route that eventually returned them to Hanoi. With no actual racing involved, the GGTR trio traveled in relaxed style on locally acquired 125cc Russian Minsk motorcycles, permitting them to enjoy the spectacular views along the way and drink in the local culture. Where the Baja 1000 presented Power with a physical challenge, Vietnam provided something of a philosophical revelation. “Having traveled the world, I can say I have never come close to finding such peace, sincerity and honesty in any people I’ve known,” he wrote in a posting on GGTR’s blog. “Something about everyone having the same bicycle or moped, the same rubber sandals, the same clothes gives these people an incredible freedom.”
After that relaxed tour, it’s back to racing. The GGTR’s next project is Rally Jamaica 2013, and all efforts are currently devoted to race-prepping a Ford R2 Fiesta rally car, intensive rally-driving instruction at the Team O’Neil Rally School in New Hampshire and—lest all work make Jack a dull boy—converting their race trailer into a functioning rum bar.
And then Powers and business partner Justin Hills plan to devote themselves to phase two of the GGTR, enabling (in every sense of the word) others to share similar experiences by opening the doors of their exclusive society. Certain criteria will have to be met—perhaps particular races or journeys already completed under candidates’ own steam—but ultimately GGTR will assist the like-minded in experiencing the thrills and spills that Power and his cohorts have. It is not the GGTR’s intention to sell you their journey, says Power, just to motivate you to find your own. “Today starts a journey of a lifetime,” he wrote in 2011. “The decision has been made to turn my 40-year-old life over to the pursuit of racing for the indefinite future and hopefully inspire some people along the way.…”