- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Doug Ford
South Boston resident and 2009 Pinks All Out winner Buster D’Amato is switching gears from drag racing to street racing for an appearance in the upcoming reality TV show called the Robin Hood Rally. The rally will take place over the course of 10 weekends between late May and early November in 10 different states, beginning the weekend of May 21 in New Hampshire.
Each of the events will be filmed to produce a reality TV series that will air from late November through the winter on either NBC or Speed Channel, according to D’Amato.
A total of 100 drivers from around the world will compete for prizes worth approximately $500,000, including the first-place prize of a Ferrari F430.
D’Amato’s chance to run in the Robin Hood Rally was a by-product of his Pinks All Out victory last April.
“One of the co-producers of Pink’s All Out is also co-producing this show, and Executive Producer Stephan Condodemetraky contacted me,” recalled D’Amato.
“He’d heard that I won Pinks All Out and that I had a road race car, and asked if I would be interested in participating in the Robin Hood Road Rally race.
“It’s pretty demanding, and it involves a lot of time and a lot of traveling, but I looked at it and worked it out on my calendar.
“I thought I could probably do it, so I called him back and said ‘yes.”’
All 100 participants will travel April 22 to Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania for a meeting where rally officials will check the drivers’ credentials and equipment before putting them to work.
“They’ll put us on a 3.2-mile road racecourse to see what we have and don’t have, and then they’ll pair us up and do some television stuff there also,” explained D’Amato.
“We won’t normally be racing on race tracks, but they wanted a controlled environment where they could get everybody on the same page, registered and ‘teched’ in.
“We’ll be practicing for two days, and the person who sets the best time will win some prize money.”
Two weeks before each event, drivers will get a CD in the mail with an in-car camera view of the road course they’ll be driving.
“They’ll let us know what town we’ll be close to, but they won’t let us know which road we’ll be racing on,” said D’Amato, who added that all the drivers had to sign confidentiality agreements that prohibit them from disclosing the winners of each race.
Each Race A Community Event
Rural towns selected to host one of the rallies will benefit in many ways, D’Amato pointed out.
He estimated about 2,000 people associated with the Robin Hood Rally will be at each event.
“They donate money to the town, and all the proceeds from that weekend’s event are donated to a cause for that particular town, so it’s a great shot in the arm for that community,” D’Amato said.
The rally starts the weekend of May 21 in New Hampshire and ends the weekend of Nov. 5th in Louisiana.
In between, the Robin Hood Rally will visit the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
“The road courses we race on are between seven and 15 miles long, and we have three time runs on Friday and three time runs on Saturday,” noted D’Amato.
“We don’t actually race each other, but we go out in three-minute or maybe two-minute intervals, and if you catch up to the person in front of you, you’ll get a re-run.
“There will be some handicapping done, so if a guy comes in with a Ferrari with 700 horsepower and weighing 2,400 pounds and races something like a Miata, they’ll do a horsepower to weight ratio.”
Officials will take into account driving aids such as traction control, and drivers will not be allowed to have any kind of GPS, onboard computers, video or audio equipment, according to D’Amato.
“We can run anything we want, a COT (Car of Tomorrow), or an old NASCAR Cup car, and we run rain or shine, so you have to take into account what kind of tire to use. That’s important considering today’s economy and the condition of back roads we may drive on.”
Reality TV Sets In
Each event concludes with a party Saturday night where the winner of that individual event is announced, D’Amato explained.
“I’m going to bring some friends of mine and some ‘characters’ I know from all over, and I’ve been having some of them come up and stay with me to get acclimated to what we’re doing,” he said.
“We’re bringing a couple of models out, and it will be interesting. We want to get as much ‘PR’ out of it as possible, because there’s no sense in doing this and not taking advantage of the situation.
“We might be a little flamboyant in some aspects of it just to get the air time and exposure for our business.
“That’s what we’re looking to do, because this will cost me a ton of money, but it’s the chance of a lifetime, and you never know what things like this can lead to.”
D’Amato Shifts Gears
Drivers are allowed to bring multiple cars or switch cars from venue to venue, and theyare only required to compete in a minimum of five races.
The best lap at each venue is recorded, and the best five of those results are tallied to determine the overall finishing order.
D’Amato plans to bring both his 1968 Camaro Rally Sport convertible and his 1965 SS Nova to the rally.
“You can run whatever car you like as long as they pass technical inspections and have safety equipment you need to have,” said D’Amato.
“It’s going to be something different, and it’s going to put South Boston on the map again, so hopefully, we’ll have some success with it.”
“My instructor is trying to get some of the drag racer out of me,” D’Amato admitted.
“Being smooth is important, and I’d rather be a little slower and more consistent and keep my stuff together.
“I’m into high RPM’s, fast shifts and abrupt starts, and that’s not what you do in road rallies, so I’ll have to adjust my thinking.
“You really have to use your peripheral vision because the road has different crowns and undulations, so VIR is a good practice track for that,” noted D’Amato, who will practice next week at that track.
“I have a great feel for my car (Camaro). We just put a different rear end in it and a different clutch setup,
so we’re trying to smooth the car out.
“We had a lot of power and torque, so my instructor is trying to get me to shift less and more smoothly and to concentrate on driving, not shifting.”