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Motorsport Heaven Found at Malibu Speedzone

3 July 1997

On a recent road-trip to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Sports Car Vintage Racing Association races my journey took me through Atlanta. Not exactly a pleasant experience considering it was during afternoon rush hour. By the way, why do they call it "Rush Hour" when you are travleing at 10 mph? I digress. Anyway, I happened upon the new Malibu Speedzone. Now I was not exactly dressed in my best threads (dirty chinos and a motorsports T-shirt) plus I had decided to take a vacation from my shaver for a couple of days. How was I to know that I would be doing an interview today? Anyway my journalistic curiosity acquired the best of me. After debating the merits of "to go or not to go" I decided "what the hey, you only live once." After a lengthy explanation of my association with "The Auto Channel" to one of the employees, who appeared to be having difficulty believing my request, I was greeted with success. My sincerity must have shown through because before you know it I was face to face with Malibu Speedzone General Manager Gaetano Calise.

For those of you who frequent Malibu Grand Prix for your weekly or monthly fix of timed competition in the open-wheel race cars, then you are in for a real treat when you visit one these new Malibu Speedzone facilities. Currently, the three facilities are available in Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta. The plans call for converting most of the existing Malibu Grand Prix sites into Malibu Speedzones. With the conversion cost exceeding $12 million per site, a "go slow" approach is prudent. The Atlanta site was converted in fifty days.

From the first moment that you pull into the parking lot you will notice a lot of changes. The entire outside area is landscaped to the nines. Eye-appealing is an understatement. Upon entrance into the large main building you soon realize that this is no ordinary amusement place. Nope, this is motorsport wannabe heaven. The decor is pleasant, functional yet very rich. The arcade area is larger, with an abudance of the "inter-active competition" arcade machines. A new addition is the "Speed-Zone Cafe" which carries a full-menu of lunch or dinner items. A non-descript bar area for those who would like an adult beverage is also available. Television monitors play racing tapes or have cable racing shows on the line. Computer monitors for on-line services are planned.

Going outside you have a choice of four types of racing. The Grand Prix Racing track, the Turbo Track, the Slick Trax and my favorite, Top Eliminator. This new addition in the one upsmanship of "how are we going to wow them today" is a blast. The dragsters are full-sized machines powered by 350 cubic-inch small block Chevys producing 300 horsepower. The "drag strip" is 140 yards long with an automatic braking system to bring you back to earth. The company has taken an enviromental stance by powering these dragsters with propane. After being snuggly strapped into the dragster cockpit a voice from the control tower outlines the pre-stage, staging and "Christmas Tree" sequences that each driver will go through. At the Atlanta facility the drag area is four lanes wide. General Manager Calise informed me that the Los Angeles facility is six lanes wide.

At the point of accleration the dragster goes from 0-60 mph in less than three seconds. During the run you can make one gear shift from a wheel mounted shifter. At the end of each run the voice in the tower tells you who won the heat and each person's "reaction time."

Paying for your track time at Malibu Speedzone has also changed. Your driver card can be "refilled" at automated servicing stations. Cash or credit card may be used. Another feature that has been added is reserving a time to use the track.

So, are you visiting any of these cities in the next few weeks? I guarantee you that you will walk away with a smile. Oh, by the way the company plans to convert the facilities in Tampa, Orlando and San Francisco next. I can hardly wait.

David Treffer -- The Auto Channel