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The-storm-before-the-storm

The Storm Before the Storm – Watkins Glen 2016

I suppose the same could be said of any event, but those not involved have no idea how much has to happen to get it all set up to pull off the show. Even as we roll in to set up before the spectators arrive, there are already other support series, officials, and equipment in the paddock. Dozens of semitrailers full of tires are hidden behind the fancy tire support haulers. Generators, communication equipment, vendors, fuel trucks, and safety equipment are staged around the paddock.

Rainy day pit practice
Rainy day pit practice at the shop and constant effort from the BimmerWorld crew paid off in the race.

 

No One Goes Hungry!

Everyone has something to do, and everyone needs to eat. From concession food or cooler-packed cold cuts to the full splendor of Chef Dave’s trackside services, this is one of the areas that we’ve grown even more so than our transporters. Johnny and I were able to fill in during Dave’s absence, but Johnny clearly stated, “We’re not Dave Taylor, so the chicken cacciatore and grape leaf appetizers would be another time.” I was fine with that. I have half a dozen staples I knock out for the guys on test days, at club races or in the shop, and Johnny Ray is working on a BBQ stand business to ease his coming retirement boredom. All that said, I’m always looking for an excuse to run the smoker, so I smoked a big batch of Southern BBQ the weekend before we left and vacuum-sealed it to bring with us. We take our eating pretty seriously here at BimmerWorld, and no one goes hungry at the track.

Pre-race BBQ
Making sure no one will go hungry: Pre-race BBQ prep at 7:00AM on Sunday morning at the Marks’ Ranch

BimmerWorld subs
And for a bit of variety, Italian subs tend to make everyone happy – and full.

BW waffles
Our morning adventure with “BW” waffles… Talk about a good omen!

 

Before the Storm: Time For The Rain (Tire) Dance

After the mad dash of the event setup and practice, we prepared for qualifying. If it’s going to rain on a race weekend, it’s most likely going to begin to sprinkle indecisively about 30 minutes before qualifying or the race. True to form, qualifying was no different this weekend. The first cloud of the weekend, and green blips on the radar, showed up 40 minutes prior to the qualifying session, so the rain tire/dry tire decision dance began. The garages looked like an Independence Day sale at Ray’s Tire Emporium as the crew juggled the air lines, impact guns, and tire options. There is never a dull moment. A fleeting shower left the tire decision gray, so we sent the No. 81  on wets and the No. 84 on drys. As expected, it seemed bleak for the No. 84; the early wetness looked like it wasn’t going to dry, but Tyler Cooke laid down his fastest lap the last time around and this left both cars with solid qualifying positions.

Rain tire dance
Chris Broce looks ready to start the rain tire dance.

All hands - Race-day prep
All hands on deck for race-day preparation.

Watkins Glen fan walk
A fan checks out the No. 81 BMW 328i on grid during the fan walk.

 

Two Top-10 Finishes – Two Solid Cars Heading to Canada

Race day was beautiful with good winds and a relatively cool temperature. Both opening drivers drove excellent stints and brought the cars in high in the field. The crew banged out two great stops. Dave Simpkins, Joe Vaught, Chris Broce, and Tom Wansor nailed a super green-flag stop on the No. 84 which pitted from a 2nd-place position and returned to the track in 2nd place. We lost a little ground in the end, but the closing drivers still put two cars in the top 10 and grabbed points for the championship. The race also left solid cars to prepare on the road for Canada, which is always a looming concern for back-to-back races. Damage is harder to fix when you don’t have your own shop to work in.

Post-race carnival
Scattered race parts at the IMSA series transporter. The day after the carnival is always an interesting sight.

Staying at Watkins Glen to get the work done in the short turn-around before the next round lets our week come full circle with a glimpse at the midway after the carnival has left. Broken race parts and miscellaneous hardware litter the empty asphalt as straggler trucks and trailers make their way out of the paddock. After preparing our cars we head out right behind.

-Jason Marks

BimmerWorld rigs on the road

Watkins Glen Bound: On the road again (again!)

It was 14 years ago when BimmerWorld went big time and bought our first semi-trailer race hauler. It was the week before Petit Le Mans, and we were running a two-car, three-man show (including drivers) in World Challenge. On Friday, James and I picked up the new-to-us Volvo tractor from the local factory and set off for Georgia to pick up the new transporter.

James and Jason after a two-man 2AM engine swap
Nothing like a two-man engine swap at 2AM. Ah, the good ole days (2003).

James had a Class A CDL from his early contracting days, and it was crash-course time for me in heavy trucks and big transmissions.  We picked up the also-new-to-us trailer Saturday morning and high-tailed it home to VA to load on Sunday.  After a full day of last-minute prep and getting acquainted with a new trailer and lift gate, James took me on a loaded-rig test drive around Radford… And then Monday morning it was trial-by-fire on the way to Road Atlanta solo. I made it, only missing a gear so badly I had to coast to a stop on the shoulder once, then parked the rig in the tightest spot I’ve ever had to get into in the paddock, and it was into the great wide open from there.

BimmerWorld's original Lotus rig
The original BimmerWorld rig undergoing it’s Lotus decal removal and transition to becoming “Big Blue.”

Our fleet of crew and cars has grown. Two cars became three became four. The old Lotus rig became “Big Blue,” and that became a giant circus tent that was later joined by a second transporter which was ultimately retired for a second modern day hauler.

The BimmerWorld circus tent
The original BimmerWorld circus tent in all of its glory.

 

On the road again

After eight seasons, a handful of crew and co-drivers, dozens of  “good” stories (or bad, depending on your perspective), more hours after midnight on the West Virginia turnpike than anyone should spend in a lifetime, and 200,000 or so miles, I handed “Old Blue” over to Dave Taylor in 2010 as he came on board as truck driver and chef extraordinaire.  Dave couldn’t make the two-week New York-Canada run this year, so I dusted off the old trucker hat and hit the open road today.  After a 30-minute delay at a bottleneck due to a tractor-trailer wreck 10 miles from the shop, it was pretty smooth sailing to New York.

We’ll handle the rig parking in the AM: “Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.”

-Jason Marks


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