SRMS is back like they never left with their Car Meet & Auto-Xing Event; Cars, Coffee, and Racing.
Story | Phillip Pratt
Interviewer | Clifton Hernandez
Like a phoenix rising from the proverbial ashes, sometimes you have to let something die to build it back up stronger. Street Racing Made Safe came onto the South Florida racing scene like a tidal wave. Starting small at the now-defunct County-line Raceway, the non-profit organization eventually found its footing when it became a fixture at Palm Beach International Raceway (or PBIR). After some turbulent times, things have come full circle for SRMS president and founder, Mario Ojito. He took the time recently to sit down with SRI and layout plans for his new projects, most notably, what we can expect with his new crossing-promoting endeavor: Cars, Coffee, and Racing.
Street Racing Illustrated: Tell us, what does the timeline look like? What came first? Cars and Coffee or Auto-X?
Mario Ojito: Auto-X came first. I’ve always been passionate about Auto-Xing. It’s been something that I’ve always enjoyed. It definitely lasts longer [in terms of racing] than a quarter-mile. Right there, that’s the selling point [for me]. It’s a bit more technical. I actually did another Auto-X back when we did County-line [Raceway]. We used the other side of the property. I set up a bunch of cones. It wasn’t anything big. Then in 2017, before the “corporate take-over” happened, we did an Auto-X over at PBIR, but then it all stopped after that.
SRI: How long did it take for Auto-X to get incorporated into SRMS’ portfolio officially?
Mario: We started SRMS in 2011 and we did Auto-X two-years later in 2013.
SRI: Is there something else you working towards? I mean between Cars and Coffee and now Auto-X, is there any other cross-promotions you have your eye on?
Mario: Oh, yeah. We’re working on something close to downtown Miami. It’s going to have everything. It’s going to be like culture-overload for the car enthusiast market. Essentially what I’m trying to do now is similar to what we did back in 2011. Something that has never been done before. Why? Because Roll-Racing is everywhere. It’s copied by everyone. So now I’m reinventing the wheel.
SRI: Do you plan on having a list for Auto-X, similar to the SRMS Top-10 List?
Mario: No, because Auto-X has multiple classes. You see, you have SRMS classing and SCC classing. SRMS classing is designed and created for the novice types that don’t want to go through the 125+ classes and standard SCC rulebook. That’s why we created the classing differences. If I were to create a Top-10 List for that, there would have to be a Top-10 List for each class. That’d be impossible. In SRMS, there are already 9 individual classes using the three different drive types (FWD, RWD, and AWD).
SRI: Where did the idea of Cars, Coffee, and Racing come from?
Mario: Ok, I’ve wanted to do Cars and Coffee event for some time now and we were able to do that with our partners, CLRDHOT. That’s where Cars and Coffee Key Biscayne came from. They’d been doing it for a while before we came along. I had already been working on the Homestead deal, so that’s where the “Racing” came into play. After that, I made sure our new dates didn’t conflict with the pre-existing Cars and Coffee Key Biscayne dates.
SRI: Cars and Coffee meets are more informal. People park and sit around. Very much a culture-thing. How do you want to this particular event grow? More of a relaxed meet-up or more like an SRMS racing event?
Mario: Ideally, it’d be more of a mixture of both… So it’d be a mix of the racing crowd with a focus on the purpose-built vehicles and less of the streetcar flying down the track trying to get to end. This allows for a much more diverse market. Not just regular Mustang GT guys with full bolts, but people trying to build all-around vehicles coming together.
SRI: You’re looking to get more than just the Test-N-Tune crowd then?
Mario: Well the cool factor about Cars, Coffee, and Racing is the fact that the racing is happening just 10 to 15-feet away from where you’re at. So, you’re right there. There will also be a VIP lounge, and VIP stage, so you can go up 20-feet in the air and literally look over the whole track, which is pretty cool. The other cool aspect is… people drive an hour and a half to go to Cars, and Coffee Palm Beach. Instead, for a large part of South Florida, this is only 35 to 45-minutes away. There’s definitely more parking with the 3000 spaces, and then you have the racing. Of course, with a new event, to start off we don’t expect the pack the house, but we’re hoping for the best. Doesn’t really matter, to be honest, we’re going to be there, and what counts the most is consistency. We’re consistent. After January when we hammer everything out, we’ll be moving over to the Speedway, while still holding the [Auto-X] event. We’ll be holding bigger festivals and Homestead Speedway come 2019.
SRI: What can the non-racing attendee, the person just coming to come, expect to see at Cars, Coffee, and Racing?
Mario: We’re going to have multiple vendors, we’re going to have food trucks, go-kart rentals at a discounted price, the racing around the track. There’s also going to be a VIP area which will have the VIP cars and stuff like that, not to mention the regular dope cars that come out for South Florida meets.
SRI: Is there anything that like a long-term goal? I know you mentioned the coming Downtown Miami event, but what about this one in particular?
Mario: I guess, what I’d like to see happen is for this to become a monthly enthusiast festival. You know; kids play areas, different forms of entertainment. But that’s essentially what I’d like to see. Of course, I’d like to see that place completely packed! I’d love to see 3000 cars there but I want to emphasize the racing aspect because it gives people so much more. We’re just trying to make it different than anything else that’s ever been done. The layout of the parking, the way the racing is happening. Everything.
“We pioneered Rolling-Racing, and now everybody does it. It’s cool, but now it’s like we’re doing it again…”
SRI: So what’s your personal favorite part of the event?
Mario: Racing obviously. I’m a racing guy! I love everything that has to do with racing.
SRI: Yeah, I remember you jumping into your ST while emceeing the Auto-X event up at PBIR!
Mario: Oh, man, I can’t tell you how much I enjoy that! Our first logo was simply “I Love Street Racing”. It’s just something that’s not hidden with me. Though when I drive on the street, I have to set an example. I haven’t street raced since 2009 before I put in an application to become a nonprofit. Going on 9-years now. People have lined up next to me a million times since then, but I’ll never race them.
SRI: Is there a car at an Auto-X event that you haven’t seen yet that you want to show up?
Mario: Sure, the new NSX. Electric motors, twin-turbo, well-balanced, very lightweight… I’d love to see Joker_NSX come out.
SRI: Besides the Auto-Xing, what else are you looking forward to with this event?
Mario: The spectator-factor. Usually at a Cars, and Coffee event, what gets people hyped up and breaking necks is people just revving their motors, or someone rolling in with a high-end car. When you show up at a [drag racing] track and don’t run, no one really cars. But in this type of event, you can have fun without worrying about breaking anything. Your high-end car should perform perfectly fine.
SRI: Now it comes down to driver skill…
Mario: Exactly. Which is why I love Auto-Xing even more. It’s not really about what you drive at this point, but how you drive it.
SRI: Do you plan on branching out anymore? Outside of South Florida?
Mario: Not sure… we did that in 2017 and really all that ended up happening was us sharing facilities and those track managers turning around running with the concept. Kind of just happy with Florida, right now.
SRI: As far as the weather at this event. This is Florida, after all…
Mario: This is a rain or shine event. We do not stop Auto-Xing. Of course, it’ll have an effect on people coming out to spectate. We expect the main amount of people coming out will be from 8 AM to 2 PM and then after that, the only people left will be the ones still racing. The only time we have to stop the event is if there’s lightning. If not, we keep running. Auto-Xing actually becomes more fun when it’s raining!
SRI: You did something with Auto-Xing up at the BB&T Center parking lot once, considering taking this North?
Mario: That wasn’t an SRMS’ event, really. Just something we participated in, but insurance is ridiculous when using sites not regulated for racing. Besides that, I’m focusing on the Miami market, and the Homestead Speedway location and just capitalizing on that. Killing the game there. Everyone else can play catch-up after that.
SRI: SRMS is about getting people on the track and off the street. Going back to when The Fast and The Furious premiered and the industry really took off; do you foresee this format of racing doing something similar as you move forward?
Mario: No, not like that. I do see an uprising in the market because we’ll be putting it in front of people and changing the perception of it. Giving them a way to see it and giving them a way to enjoy it. I see us one day maxing out and not being able to [facilitate] any more racers, just because we won’t be able to. We’re capped at 120 cars in 4 running groups. We’re trying to offer a minimum of 5 runs a day. But because we’ll be running from 8 AM to 6 PM at night, I think most people will be getting 10 or more runs to start out, which is a lot for $55.00. Compare that to a Test-N-Tune where you’d be lucky if you got 5 runs.
SRI: So you want people to come out early and get as many runs as possible?
Mario: Well, it’s mandatory. Registration will open at 8 AM, the drivers meeting will be at 9:30 AM and the track goes hot at 10 AM. From there we call the run groups accordingly.
SRI: That’s cool. Man, I’m getting this old feeling I used to have when I was a kid. Getting all excited about driving up to PBIR (then, named Moroso) and running my car. I can see this turning into that for people.
Mario: It’s an exciting time! We pioneered Rolling-Racing, and now everybody does it. It’s cool, but now it’s like we’re doing it again [with Auto-Xing and our other projects], and I’m getting that same emotion I had, where I’m excited. We’re pushing this beyond the boundary that other people had and I’m going to keep doing it. I’m not going to stop and there’s nobody that can stop me. We’re going to change the face of racing (again). What we’re doing in Miami, what we’re doing at AMR and what we’re going to do Homestead Speedway. I will continue to push the envelope in directions no one has.
Cars, Coffee, and Racing inaugural event kicks off 8 AM, August 12th, 2018 at AMR Motorplex in Homestead, Florida. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org