Weatherford is a slick shifter

A relatively new face on the
motorsports scene is making waves in autocross races. He’s not even out of his
teens yet Michael Weatherford is outclassing grown men.

Weatherford, 19, is the frontrunner
in the All Wheel Drive class of the Cayman Motorsports Association Time Attack
series. Behind the wheel of the Ace Paint Subaru Impreza WRX the young man has
raced ahead of older guys like Nikko Miller.

Interestingly the Bodden Town
native has been a regular at dexterity events ever since getting his driver’s
license. His regular participation continued last weekend as he took part in
the August edition of Time Attack. As usual the race took place at the
Progressive Loop on Sparky Drive in George Town.

Weatherford states he is happy to
be among the top drivers now and credits extra training to that success.

“I started last January so I’ve
been into this close to two years now. I’ve always been into cars and the
mechanical side of them. I guess I drifted into racing. As far as my standing
this season, I’ve worked towards it. I try to learn from others and get pointers
from Keith and Bobby. I even go out and practice at the loop outside of Time
Attack events.”

Aside from his age and experience
in the sport, Weatherford stands out for his connections in racing. The young
man has been sponsored by long-time family friend and noted driver Keith
‘Speedy’ Tibbetts III. Even though the partnership is not financial for
Weatherford, he has enjoyed driving a pair of race-ready cars from Tibbetts’
stable in the Stingray Batteries Mitsubishi Evolution III and the Ace Paint
Impreza.

Weatherford spoke about his
relationship with Tibbetts and the experience of driving cars that belong to
the assistant general manager of Associated Industries.

“I’ve known Keith for awhile now
and I used to be around him a lot because my brother’s wife is family to him.
One day he approached me to be a driver for Time Attack. I didn’t have a car to
drive so I took him up on the offer.

“After driving both the Evo and the
Impreza I can tell you that Evo IIIs are not the best. They’re nowhere near as
good with handling as the Impreza. I found there was a lot of understeer with
the Evo and the emergency brake was not as good as it could be. I know a lot of
guys prefer the Evos and think I’m crazy for saying a Subaru is better but I’ve
driven both of them so I know the difference first-hand.”

Weatherford may have started out in
motorsports without a car but he now has his own set of wheels. To no surprise
it is a Subaru Impreza WRX. This time it’s a black station wagon with a 2.0
litre engine that has seen small modifications. The most notable are a
transmission change from automatic to manual and improved suspension thanks to
an Eibach full coil-over package. With a passing interest in drag racing, the
young man hasn’t ruled out taking his car to Breakers Speedway.

“Aside from the conversion and the
upgraded suspension the car is stock. It wasn’t really running before now but
because it’s standard I think I will be up there at some point. I didn’t know
much about the meet they had over the weekend aside from NAPA sponsoring it.
But I would be interested in taking my car up there to race in an event like
that in the future.”

For the current Time Attack season
Weatherford has had seat time primarily in the Ace Paint Impreza. The Stingray
Batteries Evo has been off the road undergoing a few changes, most notably an
upgrade to a 2.3 litre engine (compared to the stock 2.0 litre turbo). The
car’s future is uncertain at this point as Weatherford believes it might be up
for sale and Tibbetts has expressed an interest in adding more parts to the Impreza.

Nevertheless the young man is
intent on keeping his high standards on the track.

“It doesn’t matter how fast or slow
your car is, it’s about driver skill and handling. I’m going to try to push the
car harder and work on my 180s and 360s. Guys like Keith and Bobby (Hulse, the
motorsports association president) have that over me. I just want to go out
there and be faster.”

A big help in that quest is
go-karting. During the week he is part of the Parker’s auto store team in
Cayman Karting’s ongoing corporate league. The go-kart track is convenient as
it is part of the Progressive Loop. Weatherford states go-karting helps improve
his racing.

“I race there with Parker’s every
other Monday and Tuesday. Time Attack helped me with karting and karting in
turn helped me race better in Time Attack. It has all helped me know when to
accelerate, brake and corner and understand concepts like the importance of
hitting the apex.”

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