In the latest of our series on the people who race at PGP Motorsports Park, meet Jay Brickey, a paraplegic who got “the racing bug” and has helped PGP make karting available to others like him
KENT, Wash. — (March 16, 2011) Racing — karts, bikes or cars — can get into your system and stick hard. NASCAR championship team owner Richard Childress famously said: “Once you’ve raced, you never forget it … and you never get over it.”
There is something about driving fast that appeals to just about everyone.
There’s no need to remind Jay Brickey of Kenmore, Wash. The 42-year-old Microsoft employee got into racing about seven years ago, and he and girlfriend Cris Lewis are configuring a 1988 BMW 325is Pro3 race car for Brickey to compete with the Pacific Northwest-based International Conference of Sports Car Clubs (ICSCC).
Brickey has also helped PGP Motorsports Park modify a Birel rental kart to meet the racing needs of people with limited mobility. He’s been paralyzed from the waist down since breaking his back in a 1997 car accident.
“PGP has been very supportive and receptive to the idea of adding this type of kart,” said Brickey after a day spent working on installing hand controls and then test driving the modified kart. “I came away from PGP very excited, happy and glad that I had the chance to drive it. And I want to do it again.”
Originally from California, Brickey moved to the Northwest in 1978. He has a degree from Bellevue Community College and has worked at Microsoft for the past decade.
After his accident, Brickey skied for recreation and spent about five years as a volunteer ski instructor with Outdoors for All, a non-profit organization that helps adults and children with disabilities to exercise their abilities through outdoor activities.
“Then I got the racing bug and I’ve now been driving cars in a high-performance setting for six or seven years,” said Brickey. “Cris and I spent a year and a half building the 325is and adding controls to it. I am planning on getting my novice license this year, after we sort out the controls.”
Once completed, Brickey plans on racing the 325is in the ICSCC Pro-3 class. He and Lewis built the car with sponsorship support from Speedware Motorsports (www.speedwaremotorsports.com), Bell-Red Auto Rebuild (www.bel-redauto.com), BimmerWorld (www.bimmerworld.com) and Shelly K. Neves Design (www.shelleyneves.us). In addition to the 325is, Brickey has a BMW M3 that he has used for high-performance drivers education events in Portland and Seattle.
Brickey watched PGP being built while making trips to nearby Pacific Raceways and last year during a birthday party held at PGP for his girlfriend’s son, he brought up the idea of modifying a kart with hand controls. It took some time to find the right equipment, but on Jan. 22 Brickey helped track personnel install, test and adjust it.
“That was the first time I’d taken one of the karts out on the track. We got there about 8:30 a.m. and had the first iteration of the control package in and the kart on the track by 11,” said Brickey. “It was a constant adjustment. In my first session I was running top-five, in the second and third we worked on some braking issues, but I was still running competitively.”
Brickey planned on at least one more test session with the modified kart to ensure the controls were correctly set for all skill levels — not just a driver with extensive experience on racing circuits.
Test driving the modified kart on several of PGP’s track configurations, including the full course, was both fun and challenging for Brickey. Although he had contact with other karts twice — getting hit once end-to-end and once in the side — and some bruised ribs the next day, Brickey summed it up by saying: “We had a blast.”
“It’s pretty amazing how fast you can go. When you look at the dynamics of a car and the dynamics of a kart, they’re very close,” Brickey added. “Anybody can go karting, but not everyone gets to race a car. There are pros and cons with both of them, but for wheel-to-wheel driving and gaining experience, PGP is great. You can learn what it feels like to stuff your nose under someone in the braking zone to pass without risking everything.”
Brickey complimented the layout at PGP, saying the full .82-mile course configuration was more of a challenge than some road-racing circuits he had driven on. He also pointed out the 30-foot width of PGP’s track was proportionately greater, giving novices plenty of confidence to test their skill.
“PGP’s full course is a good mix of high-speed fundamental driving and cornering,” said Brickey. “It’s a great track for all levels of high performance drivers and a great venue for honing skills and techniques that can be applied to motorsports in a competitive manner. It’s a fun track to go out and play on.”
Thanks to Brickey, PGP is now able to offer more people the chance to never get over racing.