The world of motorsports is constantly evolving, and so is RACER. The newest addition to the team here at Racer Media & Marketing is associate publisher Wen Lai, who previously held that post at DSPORT magazine, the premiere publication focusing on import performance tech and the tuner scene. While that might seem a different milieu from RACER's beat, it's among the fastest-growing segments of the motoring industry and a primary driver of auto racing trends. Wen believes his knowledge and experience with tuner cars and the culture behind them can help boost RACER's profile, while gaining equally himself from the association.
“I came from the tuning industry, which is heavily dominated by import Japanese vehicles,” he relates. That industry really got started here in California and got very heavily connected 10-15 years ago with the street racing culture, and that's how it was built. I was in that industry from day 1, since it the early '90s, and saw the whole tuning industry grow and mature, and become more respected by the automotive industry. I helped Apex Innovation establish a U.S. office from Japan, and played a vital role in expanding DSPORT magazine .
“Then as my passion for motorsports grew, I was able to participate in drag racing competitively (RIGHT), and I also dabbled in drifting for a couple of years. One thing led to another and that evolved into my running road racing and Time Attack events. Each discipline requires a different skill set, but what I'm really looking forward to is door-to-door racing. That's where my next step is going to be, and being here at Racer Media & Marketing and being a publisher of SportsCar magazine for the SCCA, provides that best opportunity.”
Lai first learned about RACER from Paul Laguette, a former art director at RACER who now plays that role at DSPORT, and who remains a regular contributing artist to RACER (indeed, his work graces the cover of our winter issue). That – and his burgeoning interest in the wider racing world – paved the way to his new position.
“I've been a huge F1 fan since the '90s – I can't shut up about it and I watch every single session and the Debrief shows on SPEED,” says Lai. “That level of motorsport, it's an elite class of people, so I have a lot of respect.”
For Pfanner, that feeling is mutual. “From our first discussions it was clear to me how insightful and enthusiastic Wen is about our sport and the possibilities for growth within it,” says RACER's founder. “Our current sales staff, including Associate Publisher Steve Bottom and Sales Manager Sophia Lopez, have done such great work this past year in helping make the relaunched RACER such a success, and with Wen now joining our team, I'm confident we're set for even bigger things.”
“We want to raise the bar and set the standard in everything we do,” added Racer Media & Marketing editor-in-chief Laurence Foster. “Welcoming Wen to the team is another statement of our intent. He's a guy who knows the industry and understands the needs and goals of advertisers in a fast-changing media landscape – and he's a racer, too. Our existing advertising and editorial rosters are among the very best in the business, so I'm confident that adding Wen's expertise and ideas into the mix can only lead to bigger and better things. Watch this space.”
Lai plans to mesh his interests and experience with the staff of both RACER and SportsCar to take his racing to a new level, too.
“The editorial staff here, both Jason (Isley, SportsCar's associate editor) and Phillip (Royle, SportsCar editor) both race competitively in SCCA, so I am definitely going to latch onto them and pick their brains and follow their footsteps,” he says.
Isley and Royle have both built SCCA Club Racing cars as “project vehicles” for the mag, and those are some of the steps Lai aims to tread. “Yes, definitely,” he says. Maybe I can convert one of my current projects to become an SCCA-legal car.
“I have a 1996 Skyline GTR that makes over 1000hp – that one was built back in the early 2000s when tuner drag racing was big, and it's always been my sort of ‘hero car.' Currently that car's being overhauled to go for 12 or 1300(hp) and we'll see how that goes. Another one that I have is a '96 [BMW] E36 M3 – that's what I take to a lot of club races and track days. I have a '99 [Acura] Integra, which I think will fit really with SCCA competition. Those last two have no engine mods, just suspension and tires; and my most recent project car is a 2011 [Mitsubishi] Evo 10 (ABOVE). That one was built through my old magazine, DSPORT, as a project car and parts testing vehicle. It has a built motor, fuel system, MoTeC, suspension tweaks – that's my current go-to car for competition.”
There's a lot more to Wen's racing passions than fun, though – he's serious about helping take RACER and SportsCar to new levels business-wise, utilizing strategies honed by his years in the tuner industry.
“I will work with the editorial team to develop new, creative ideas for special projects,” he says, noting that they go hand in hand with his ambitions for competition.
“I'm really excited to be immersing myself in the world of motorsports,” add Lai. “It's kind of like when you're a kid and you wake up really early in the morning to open up a Christmas present, so I'm really looking forward to the future with RACER.”
• Contact Wen Lai at (949) 417-6728 or Wen.Lai@racer.com.