Team connected through racing, real estate

FONTANA — In a fire retardant driving suit, shoes and socks, helmet and a neck restraint, German Santibañez squeezed into the driver's seat and was helped with the many buckles strapping him down so he could barely move.

The metallic whining mixed with the earsplitting guttural groan of the engine announced he was ready — and then he was going 140 mph — slow, he said, because of the rain — around the road-race track.

"It's hard to say, it's like an adrenaline rush," he said.

Santibañez, 32, fellow driver Jason Bradshaw, 35, spotter Oscar Jimenez, 44, and sponsor Eddie Luna, 40, make up First Team Real Estate Racing. They spent Saturday at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana getting in a few practice runs as the sky threatened more rain.

With the National Auto Sport Assn. season ending, it was a time to "test and tune" the car, a black, blue and yellow-striped gray Mustang GT with a supercharged V8 engine. The car was stripped of all nonessential elements, like the carpet, back seat and air conditioning, to help take off 320 pounds, said Bradshaw, who raced in NASCAR in 2011.

"Everything's changed and gutted to try to get the lowest weight combination," he said.

The team started from a long-standing friendship and mutual passion for racing — and for real estate.

Bradshaw and Jimenez are both agents with First Team Real Estate, which has offices near Fashion Island. Although friends and colleagues for 10 years, they didn't know right away that they shared a passion for cars.

Once they started racing with friend Santibañez, it only took a few trips to the track before they started racing more seriously.

"I guess I could best describe it as a scary roller-coaster ride," Jimenez said. "You get scared, but you want to get on."

First Team Real Estate stepped in to help their passion for racing through a sponsorship in 2012, and Luna, a friend who worked with the real estate agents through his lending company, Alfa Investments & Loans, also came on as a co-sponsor.

"We became one big family in every field — career, racing and family," Luna said, adding that they vacation together.

The connection between racing and real estate has been more than hobby and career. Racing has helped build a connection with clients who share the passion, Jimenez said.

"They can see the human side of us and relate to us," he said. "It helped me [professionally] by accident."

With one year under its belt, First Team Racing competed in three races and took home one win, with Santibañez at the wheel.

The team hopes to gain more sponsorship and eventually start racing beyond Southern California.

"I wouldn't mind if we went a little more nationally," Jimenez said.

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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