Local racer, specialty mechanic, parts supplier featured in Mazda’s international brand magazine
West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – West Columbia based Panic Motorsports’ owner Steve Bertok was recently featured in the December issue of Mazda’s Motorsports on-line magazine mazdamotorsports.com. This write-up chronicles Bertok’s near legendary status as a mechanic, driver, and problem solver. He and his crew are true Mazda sportscar enthusiasts on the club level road racing circuit where these distinct little cars show off their speed and handling. Surely, not only Mazda recognized Bertok’s knowledge and dedication to their brand and the sport of racing these types of cars, but also for his passion and unparalleled expertise in keeping them running and making them go very fast.
Panic Motorsports isn’t a garage where you might stop by to have your oil changed in a lumbering SUV. Instead, Bertok and his wife Becca, who is co-owner of Panic Motorsports, specialize in sourcing used parts and providing expertise for sportscar owners who want to zoom around a road track. Mazdas are their car of choice and he has literally spent tens-of-thousands of hours turning wrenches on these unique vehicles. He’s also paid his dues behind the wheel as a driver himself, winning numerous awards in the process. According to Panic’s own webpage, Bertok has over 30 years in automotive parts sales industry. He’s also a former drag racer, 2001 SCR A-Prepared Autocross Champion, 2002 SCR and SeDiv Street Modified Autocross Champion, 2003 SCR Driver and Mechanic of the Year, 2008 SCR Driver of the Year, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016 13 Hour Charge of the Headlight Brigade Spec Miata winner, 2014 13 Hour Charge of the Healight Brigade Spec Miata podium P2, 2008, 2009, and the 2011 Carolina Cup Pro Series Spec Miata Champion.
These accomplishments alone are enough to win several write-ups in prestigious publications, but more than that, Bertok wants everyone else to enjoy the exhilaration of going fast too! That’s why the article at mazdamotorsports.com quotes fellow racer and Mazda enthusiast Steve Strickland as saying, “I have seen him work on competitors’ cars until midnight. The weekend I met him somebody crashed into my car and broke my suspension. I was loading the car up and he said, ‘Where are you going?’ I told him I got hit and was busted. He said, ‘I’ve got parts; you’re not leaving.’ He sold me the parts and we got the car running. I didn’t know him from Adam, I was just next to him in the paddock. And I’ve seen him do that for many other people.”
Bertok got his formal education in business at Midland’s Technical College. More than that education, he grew and learned on the track, at prestigious driving schools, and in the garage. For many years, Bertok sold auto parts for someone else while he indulged his passion for sports car racing. Still, according to Panic’s website, Bertok had his heart set on opening his own business at some point. Eventually he met his future wife Becca in 2000 at an event she was hosting to train new Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Course Marshals. Becca's dad is a former rally driver himself and she grew up around sports car racing. When Steve told her about Panic and how they wanted to put something together, Becca jumped right in and helped to organize the team. Later, the two were married and built their own Miata to race in the club series.
Since that time, it’s been pedal to the metal for Panic Motorsports. The business has outgrown its original space behind the Bertok’s home and moved into larger shops in steps. Now, the company is located on Old Dunbar Road between the Airport and Cayce. Here, besides the work that Bertok and his crew do offsite at racetracks, Panic Motorsports provides a variety of services. They have a large inventory of salvage and aftermarket parts for the Mazda Miata MX-5 and the RX-7. They also carry Nissan 240sx and Nissan’s Z-car parts. If that’s not enough to keep them busy, they do Miata race car builds for others, prep, maintenance, and arrive-and-drive programs that include trackside and crew services. This means you don’t have to be a wrench head to enjoy racing, just arrive-and-drive and let the Panic team take care of the rest. They also do dyno tuning for specific car programs like Hydra EMS, MegaSquirt, ECU Tek, AIM, and EFI Live - HP Tuners.
Bertok recently said in an interview with The Lexington Ledger, “Having the manufacturer of the cars that you love and focus on recognize you at this level is a pretty big deal. It’s nice that the team and I at Panic were singled out for doing what we love although, but we certainly don’t do it for the recognition. It’s really just a huge part of who we are.”
Read the entire Panic Motorsports article in the December 2018 issue of Mazda Motorsports by clicking this LINK. You can find out more about Panic Motorsports by going to their website at www.panicmotorsports.com. You can reach them by telephone at (803) 261-7629.