UTAH MOTOR NEWS    Performance, Motorsports and Automotive News and Events for Utah and the Surrounding Area.

Air Power Racing

| March 16, 2024

By: Rick Bairett

I first found out about Air Power Racing when one of my driving instructors, Perry Needham, discovered that I’m a Porsche-owner wannabe. Perry said that Air Power’s (then) team manager, Brandon Tolley, was one of the best people to talk to about getting a Porsche on track. 

So as soon as I finished my track session I made a beeline for Air Power Racing (APR). I found garage bays absolutely stuffed with Porsches, mostly track-ready. And Brandon was friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to answer my questions in-depth. 

I mostly wanted to know what it might cost to get and maintain a Porsche Cayman for the track. He took time to talk me through the considerations, including additional cooling capacity to keep the mid-engine happy. That’s critical when running at the limit for an extended time. 

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I learned the business was founded by retired F-16 pilot Les Long. Being a former USAF pilot myself, I just assumed the name referred to military airpower. As Brandon explained, it mostly refers to the air-cooled engines that powered most Porsches when Les launched Air Power in 1999. 

By the time Miller Motorsports Park—later Utah Motorsports Campus (UMC)—opened in 2006, Air Power Racing had established headquarters there. Les started the business in part to fuel his own Porsche racing habit. With the relocation to the track the focus became almost entirely racing. 

As for Brandon, he grew up racing with his dad in Colorado. Although he enjoyed driving, he really liked modifying cars to get them around a track faster. His career as a professional mechanic began at the Porsche dealership in Colorado Springs. Unsurprisingly, he jumped at the chance to make a lateral move to their race team. When dealership restructuring eliminated most of their racing emphasis, Brandon started looking for other opportunities. 

Meanwhile, Les and Brandon met in 2016 at a Pike’s Peak race, and quickly forged a strong connection. So strong that Brandon joined Air Power in 2018. In some ways Les became like a second father to him.

When Les was ready for his second retirement, he wanted someone to take over who would keep the Air Power “Pirate” legacy alive. Brandon was a natural fit, so Les gave him first shot at buying the business when he stepped away completely in 2022. 

New Ownership

Brandon was happy to take ownership, and APR has continued as one of the most trusted Porsche race teams in Utah. While day-to-day operations have moved from UMC to downtown Salt Lake City, their race presence is as strong as ever. 

At any National Auto Sports Association (NASA) Utah or Intermountain Region Porsche Club of America (IRPCA) event, you can count on seeing Air Power’s portable garage setup at the track. Their racing clientele is as loyal as ever, with new customers joining. 

They also support clients driving older Porsches in the Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) and Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) series. 

One new emphasis under Brandon is increased street car service. He knows that several Porsche owners are ready to take themselves and their cars to another level—make them even more capable. Air Power fills that demand beautifully. 

Client Focus

As I walked through the shop I saw client’s Porsches from all eras, including antique 356s, in various stages of restoration and/or modification. Beyond modification and restoration, APR provides a full range of services. Those include driver coaching, vehicle housing, race preparation, plus transport and trackside support for major races around the country. 

When I asked how he manages to be so successful in a niche market, Brandon explained that Air Power customers do not just drop off their cars to a mechanic. APR crew chiefs make every effort to function as a team by actively coordinating with their owner-drivers. They stay open to what their clients are trying to accomplish with their cars and involve them in the process. 

The employees I spoke with were clear that Air Power Racing is not a 9-to-5 shop and that they will not sacrifice quality. Brandon describes his technicians as a great group of guys; however, he has had to let an employee or two go when they would not uphold quality standards. How does he know? Because the rest of his team won’t tolerate a tech who cuts corners. They all care about the experience that every client has with their cars. 

Client Feedback

I was fortunate to catch owner-driver Lane Farka in the shop when I visited. Lane competes in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational series. So he epitomizes Air Power’s additional emphasis on street cars. He has two 911s that are currently in APR’s care: a 2015 GT3 (991.1) with a stock powertrain, and a 2000 (996) race car that was getting an LS1 V-8 engine swap. 

Lane just started working with Air Power this year when he switched to Porsches. He talked about how well Brandon was taking care of him, and how great the crew chiefs are about working with him and staying in touch. Perhaps his biggest compliment was that his GT3 street car is “perfectly dialed in.” 

I’ve ridden in that car on an autocross course and I have to agree that it’s ridiculously capable. The fact that Lane just topped the GTL-class podium in the Optima event at California’s Thunderhill Raceway, on March 2nd – 3rd, is an even bigger testament to how dialed in that car is (it also says a lot about Lane’s driving). Afterward, Lane said that Air Power “absolutely nailed the engine and chassis set up!” 

Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2025

My biggest surprise, while wading through piles of amazing Porsches, was finding a 1971 Datsun 240Z with a stock S30 straight-six engine. It had been stripped and was being race-prepped. Apparently owner Ryan Salter has been a Porsche client with Air Power for many years. He got the 240Z to drive the “Peking to Paris Motor Challenge” with his son Izzy. That’s a 37-day, 8700 mile “endurance motor rally.” He really wanted the Air Power touch on a car that was going to be driven under severe conditions for weeks.  

So while working on a Datsun and building a rally car are a bit out of the norm, Brandon really wants to take care of his clients.

The car had to be completed two days after I saw it, and it didn’t look to me like it was that close. The technician on that project, Jeff Henderson, assured me that he had no problem working late when needed and that the car would be ready. As it turns out, Ryan is planning to push race entry to the 2025 event, so APR has additional testing and tuning time. 

Top-tier Racing Support

APR just spent the winter going through team race cars thoroughly for two reasons. First, they want to make sure their drivers are as safe as they can be on the track. Second, it’s more cost effective to make sure a car is ready to race than it is to lose a track weekend because it isn’t. 

After numerous podium wins, they know what it takes to be ready. Successes include being 1st overall in NASA Utah’s 2020 6-Hour Enduro, 2nd overall in that event for 2021, and 1st overall in the 2021 Porsche Owners’ Club “Tribute to Le Mans” endurance race. Les Long and various clients have earned many other podium spots in regional and national races.

So Air Power Racing continues to have great success supporting some amazing Utah race cars and drivers. They are also branching out quite successfully into street car competition and, inadvertently, endurance rally competition.  

I don’t doubt that Air Power Racing is off to a great 2024 racing season!

© 2024, R Bairett

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