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You won’t find a driving simulator in Edgar Cabrera’s apartment in Queens, N.Y., nor will you find him watching video of track sessions on a continuous loop.
When it comes to racing, Cabrera is a hard-charging throwback who leaves it all out on the track. While some fellow competitors in NASA’s GTS3 class may bristle at Cabrera’s driving style, it’s hard to argue with the results that Cabrera gets from his BMW E46 M3.
The 31-year-old is the 2014 Eastern States Champion in GTS3 and finished eighth at the Mazda Race of NASA Champions this past May, despite having transmission problems much of the weekend.
“Some would say I’m aggressive,” Cabrera said of his reputation at the track. “Or you could say I’m less conservative than most.”
Cabrera embodies the work-hard, play-hard philosophy, which is why he has little time and patience for simulators or exercise regimens aimed at improving on-track performance. Friends say Cabrera is blessed with the ability to learn a track quickly and make adjustments to better lap speeds.
“When we’ve gone head to head and we have equal cars, I’ve never come out ahead,” said fellow racer and friend, Joe Fuchs. “He’s not the fast guy among the slow guys. He’s just fast.”
Cabrera got into racing at age 17 soon after getting his driver’s license, and started competing in autocrosses in mall parking lots. Most of his weekends, Cabrera said, were spent with his friends traveling to the next autocross event. Cabrera progressed as an instructor, but acknowledged that wasn’t for him. He took a liking to road courses, eventually converting his BMW to a racecar.
“I got lucky because I was exposed to people that were good from the beginning,” Cabrera said. “A lot of people say autocrossing is not smooth driving, but you are always on the limit, so that helps get you out of trouble. You also learn about the dynamics of the car.”
Michael Gershanok, leader of the GTS National Series, has known Cabrera since his days in autocross. Gershanok calls Cabrera a natural talent with very good skills.
“People call his style aggressive and take no prisoners,” Gershanok said. “He puts his car into situations that it doesn’t seem like he has control, but he does. He pushes the envelope further than most drivers.”
Racer Luke Pardi said that drivers often mistake Cabrera’s competitiveness for being too much of a risk taker.
“Eddie is definitely out there to win,” Pardi said. “Off the track he’s the life of the party and enjoys having a drink. He’s always got a crowd around him.”
Like many racers who live in the big city, Cabrera knows the challenges of finding a place to store his racecar. If someone is willing to rent out their garage, they’ll charge big bucks and aren’t willing to have someone working on the car all hours of the night.
Cabrera’s job, overseeing the installation of escalators, has him traveling 30-plus weeks a year. That leaves him little time to work on his car, even if he can find a homeowner willing to rent out a detached garage. He has one car at a storage facility near the airport, and occasionally will use his mother’s garage in the suburbs. Cabrera acknowledges his situation is not ideal, especially when trying to store spare parts.
“Before it was a racecar, I used to have access to my mother’s garage. I would share that along with the millions of Christmas ornaments she has,” he said. “It’s not like I can jack up the car and leave it there, and come back weeks later, because I wouldn’t want to inconvenience her.”
Cabrera tries to be proactive with the car’s maintenance, sending it to BMW shops that can do the work and have space to store the car for a few weeks.
“I do a lot more preventive maintenance than I really should, but that helps not having to deal with a broken car at the track or waiting for something to give out,” he said.
Cabrera races about 12 days a year with the Northeast Region and attends a couple of races outside his home region with NASA. Despite his sporadic racing schedule, Cabrera qualified for the Eastern States Championship in 2014 in GTS3.
In the Championship race, Cabrera beat two favorites. One racer got caught in traffic while the other suffered a flat tire. With the victory, Cabrera joined NASA Champions at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the inaugural Mazda Race of NASA Champions. Cabrera didn’t know what to expect when he arrived at the track in Monterey, Calif. Each driver was told to select a prepared MX-5 Miata.
“I’ve never even seen a Mazda or even been to that track,” Cabrera said. “And being in a new car, you realize, ‘Wow, this is a lot.’”
Cabrera said the car had transmission problems from the start, with the transmission giving out on the second day. He credits the mechanics for getting the problem fixed, but he also didn’t want to break the car while learning the track. Cabrera quickly realized with the evenly matched cars, one mistake could cost a driver several spots.
Despite mechanical gremlins, Cabrera started 15th and finished in eighth place. Matt Powers of San Rafael, Calif., won the inaugural event.
“I’m not using the whole car thing as an excuse,” Cabrera said. “A lot of those guys were really good and they knew the track. That’s just the way things worked out.”
Cabrera had such a fun experience at the Mazda Race of NASA Champions, he mentioned the possibility of buying a simulator or at very least a Sony PlayStation.
“I’ll leave that for when I get a house,” Cabrera said with a laugh.