NASA racer and Trans Am competitor racer Carl Rydquist says he’s never been much for coaching, but listening to him talk is like attending a TED Talk on auto racing.

Showing up at the Track

“If you want to achieve success the old-school way, working on your car until Thursday night and then towing Friday. You’re going to be having a really hard time beating the driver who spent his or her weeks leading up to the race preparing to be a driver, while his or her team brings the car.”

When a Second job is Better than a Sponsorship

“I think every racer should look at what’s the output from the sponsor relationship and the time put in. Sometimes it’s better to take a second job or start selling stuff, become a vendor. Ask yourself if a sponsorship is worth it.”

On Unofficially Driving a Tesla Model S on Germany’s Famous Nurburgring to Beat a Porsche Taycan’s time

“No comment, NDA.

About the Ring in general, though, I did my first race there in 2005 wheeling a 996 GT3 Cup. I knew it from video games and videos with turn-by-turn advice from a teammate who had done 1,500 laps there at the time. I got in a groove and posted quick laps right away. I absolutely love flying over the crests and shipping it into sections of fast blind corners. It just really clicked for me. HANS was a new thing at the time and optional. But a track like that you have to respect, so I walked across the paddock and bought one immediately after my first session.”

Meet Swedish import and NASA NorCal Region racer Carl Rydquist, who by day is a senior engineering manager for Tesla, and when he isn’t working, Rydquist is busy racing and raising a family with his wife, Jennifer, in the San Francisco Bay area.

Rydquist campaigns the PDG4/ Factory Five GTM in NASA’s Western Endurance Racing Championship, and leads the Trans Am TA2 class in his inaugural season in the Trans Am West Coast Championship, driving the No. 47 Nelson
Motorsports/GroupwholeSale/OptimalStunt TA2 Ford Mustang.

Early in his racing career, Rydquist was doing a lot of private coaching to bring in money and quickly recognized he had a different target in life. “I really enjoy connecting with people and helping them go faster, but as a job, I’m still a racer at heart and I want to race,” he said.

It’s natural that Rydquist would go into racing, though he got into the sport in his early 20s. His father designed and built performance engines for Volvo’s factory team when it ran the British Touring Car Championship during the 1990s. Rydquist’s big break came in 2001 when he posted the fastest qualifying lap against 1,100 amateur and professional racers in a go-kart talent shootout in Sweden.

The strong showing earned Rydquist a seat to drive a Porsche for Apex Racing, and he won the GT class in his rookie season. Spending the year with a professional race team gave Rydquist a racing education he could only dream about.

“They were such great mentors and really good humans,” Rydquist said. “They would just tell me little things when I was testing with them or driving, and I would just soak it up.”

Rydquist said that experience set his path in the automotive industry, leaving a job with Volvo Cars in Sweden to pursue racing and career opportunities in the United States. “I grew tired of the rain (in Sweden),” he said laughing.

Fellow NASA racer Beau Borders first met Rydquist when he joined the Prototype Development Group to race a Factory Five GTM car. Within moments of meeting the Swedish racer, Borders recognized that Rydquist was a “racecar setup encyclopedia.”

“He’s not the kind of guy that’s just going to take whatever you give him and just deal with it,” Borders said. “He’s the kind of guy that’s going to take what you give him, take it apart, reinvent it, put it back together, show up, beat everybody and leave everybody scratching their heads.”

Rydquist’s engineering background shows through at the track where he will not accept status quo or conventional wisdom. Borders recalls a 25 Hours of Thunderhill race where Rydquist was insistent on using tire warmers for a December race in Northern California, but the rules prohibited it. When Borders walked into a motorhome the team had rented for the endurance race, he saw Rydquist putting duct tape over the vents.

“He had taken our racing tires and he crammed them into the bathroom and closed the door and put the heat as hot as it could possibly go,” Borders said. “If we can get a little advantage like that, let’s take it. That’s a mindset that I’ve learned from Carl.”

Rydquist freely shares his racing knowledge with teammates, but for some younger drivers it might come across as tough love. “I’m a strong believer in your own performance and focusing on that,” he said. Drivers, especially those just starting out, should race at the top level they can afford, Rydquist said. Rather than running a solo operation, Rydquist suggests drivers join a team to accelerate their development. He encourages drivers to look for teams committed to winning and not just paying the shop bills.

“We don’t have infinite time. If you’re going to spend your time, make sure you bring your craft because the team is going to bring the car and they put everything in,” he said. “You owe that to yourself and any sponsors you may have.”

When it comes to data logging systems, Rydquist feels there is no excuse for not having one. Older systems are affordable and readily available, and there are plenty of phone-based apps to provide basic lap data. Study the data, look at videos and run one line three times in a test session, then switch to another line for comparison, he said.

“When you go out there, have a plan for your sessions because your sessions are giving you the data to know how to do better,” Rydquist said. “Have a plan what you’re going to do and stick to the plan.”

Rydquist is busier than usual this year, between NASA and the Trans Am 2 West Coast Championship. Rydquist appreciates the crew for providing a good car that is set up right for the track he’s running that weekend.

“I appreciate everything about racing more broadly these days, maybe that’s just more with age, confidence or changing priorities in life,” he said. “I enjoy meeting my competitors much more than I used to before, to actually get to know them, to empathize when they had a tough race. At the end of the day, they are the ones that are the competition with me. We are the ones that are making it fun together.”

Sounds like something a great coach would say.

Name: Carl Rydquist
Age: 44
Region: NASA NorCal
Hometown: Goteborg, Sweden
Racing Class: ES, ST1, ESR
Sponsors: Optimal Stunt
Day Job: Test engineer
Favorite Food: Mexican
Favorite TV show: “Entourage,” “The Grand Tour,” “Bosch”
Favorite Movie: “This is Spinal Tap”
Favorite Book: Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s biography
Favorite Track: Thunderhill
Dream Racecar: Trans Am 2 cars are pretty much the biggest riot to drive, I recently learned. Before I knew that, I likely would have said Cadillac DPi-V.R or something of that nature.
Image courtesy of Carl Rydquist


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