Autos, Consumer Electronics, Motorsports, Travel, Entertainment & More!

By Jan Wagner - syndicated weekly columnist/photojournalist
Home Up Photography News & Views Most Recent Column Other Publications COLUMN ARCHIVES Contact Jan


Local Racer Profile:

Dave Cynkin


Dave Cynkin and his SpecMiata racecar

Certainly if you follow this column regularly you know that motorsports are alive and well in Southern California. Case in point: SpecMiata racer Dave Cynkin.

Dave lives in Carmel Valley. Most days he seems like a perfectly average resident of our county. For starters he has a growing young family (two children and a wife), his lawn is neatly manicured and he has a real job that pays the bills.

Dave is the owner of Image Factory, an advertising and graphic design firm based in San Diego. His automotive client list is extensive and has included such well-known names as SEMA, HRE Performance Wheels and Nology. He proudly showed me some of his finished work. It is very professionally done and first-rate. If you are in need of these services you can visit him online at

If you met Dave at your place of business or in front of his house (if the garage door was closed) you would have no way of knowing what he does for fun on weekends. He is an amateur racecar driver. He did not become one overnight, nor was this the first kind of racing that he seriously participated in.

Back in high school he used to race on skis. He got used to carrying a lot of speed and learned how to use his eyes – important skills in automobile racing, too. As Dave reminded me, in both kinds of racing you go where you look. The best racers can see the quickest line to the finish.

At various times Dave has been involved in autocrossing, Porsche Owners’ Club (POC) and Porsche Club of America (PCA) time trials, and go-kart endurance racing. His first competition car was a 1994 Mazda Rx-7, which he autocrossed in San Diego.

From there he soon transitioned to a racetrack: the Streets of Willow, using borrowed wheels and tires. Willow Springs Raceway is a great roadracing complex and not too far from San Diego. Fast forward to 1998 when he attended an SCCA two-day licensing school at the Streets of Willow, where he drove a borrowed IMSA Miata.

Then his priorities changed. He and his wife bought a house and they had a baby. However, he never quite lost the racing bug. Soon he sold his SUV and used the proceeds to buy a used Porsche 968. The car was set up for autocrossing and time trials. He owned it for about half a year and entered it in two POC time trials.

At the Streets of Willow he attended a time trial school. He shared his car with his wife the first day. She enjoyed herself until the inevitable happened: she spun, at which point she realized the very real risk that she could be hit by another car on the track. In the meantime, by the end of the day Dave had broken the track record for his time trial class. Despite his experience and skill he still needed sign-offs by the Chief Driving Instructor before being allowed on the big track. Racing is dangerous so safety is of paramount importance.

On his first day on the big track Dave was doing great. As he circulated around he knocked four seconds off his best lap time. Imagine his surprise when he found out that he had achieved that improvement with a broken end link on his car’s front swaybar. After it was fixed (at the track) he proceeded to get even faster lap times, dropping another four seconds on day two. Two months later he sold his Porsche to go racing “for real.”

In 2002 Dave bought a used Ford Expedition as a tow vehicle for a 1994 Mazda SpecMiata racecar. The car needed work before it could race.

When I met Dave at his home his garage door was open, so the first thing he proudly showed me was not the inside of his nice house but rather the SpecMiata racecar that was inside his garage.

At first glance one might think it is just another Miata but that is not the case.

Dave doing a little work on his Miata

To make it suitable and race-legal for the SpecMiata class, Dave made some changes to the car. What was once a perfectly fine, street-driven Mazda Miata has now been put on a diet for racing.

Sponsorships help make racing happen

One clue is the racing graphics. Dave’s car is a rolling billboard for his sponsors. Look inside and there can be no doubt that this Miata is now quite dedicated to its new life as a racecar.

A rollcage offers serious protection

The rollcage has been designed to protect Dave in case of a collision or rollover. It’s not pretty nor would it be very convenient for everyday driving.

The idea is simple: remove non-essential items

Instrumentation is functional and much of the extraneous stuff has been removed. Notice the lack of an airbag in the center of the very easy-to-grip steering wheel.

Racing in traffic from Dave’s point of view (photo from Dave Cynkin)

Dave’s first race in the car was in December of 2003. That was a PCA event at – you guessed it, the big track at Willow Springs. Combine a large, crowded field of hungry competitors on a very technical track and you know the racing action was wild. Dicing for position on a crowded freeway is nothing compared to this.

By January of this year Dave had already placed third in the opening round of the 2004 Challenge Cup race series – only his third-ever wheel-to-wheel auto race.

What does the future hold for Dave? He would like to race on an endurance team in major events like the 24 Hours of Daytona. He favors closed-wheel cars.

What does his wife have to say about all of this? I didn’t get a chance to speak with her so you’ll have to take Dave’s word for it. While she doesn’t want him to get hurt she’s excited for him. She’s also a pretty good competitive driver in her own right, having already done well in autocross school. Could this be another local racer’s story in the making? It would not surprise me.

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to Enjoy the archives and more at Drive safely and do join me again next time.


Copyright © 2004, 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #87r2 AutoMatters

Send email with your comments and suggestions about AutoMatters+ and this Web site.
Copyright © 2014 Jan R. Wagner – AutoMatters+