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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

Laguna Seca 2016 race start

2016 – Race 3: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Frustration with mechanical issues isn’t limited to new platform race car development. We transport drivers have our fair share on occasion, too. Lately, our two Volvo tractors have provided us with plenty of drama, either while on the road (read serpentine belt saga in the Race 2 blog) or during the down periods between events.

Since we only put around 50,000 miles per year on the transporters, it isn’t practical to invest in new equipment. We buy used equipment that generally has about 600,000 miles, but they’re in good mechanical condition. It’s common for over-the-road tractors to last a million miles; on our schedule, these trucks should last years. That’s generally the case, but they’ve been a bit cantankerous lately.

Our newer tractor developed a disturbing knock while at a VIR test day. Suffice it to say the cost of the repair (essentially an in-frame overhaul) blindsided us, blew up the budget, and sent James into near apoplexy. Hence, in route to Laguna, Johnny was driving a loaner from the dealer. Now, this appeared to be a good idea as the dealer wanted to maintain good will and help us out in a pinch. Operating under the belief that they had provided this service to others in the past, and with the departure date fast approaching, we accepted the offer on face value and hit the road. Without covering all the details, or rehashing the shoulda-woulda-couldas, the loaner was a bad idea. The paperwork the dealer provided wasn’t appropriate for our activities, and we had to sweat every weigh station as we crossed the country. After an educational stop at the latest and greatest technology-laden weigh station in Oklahoma, an $11-million homage to commercial trucking law enforcement, I spent a half hour on the phone buying 72-hour trip permits for all the states we had to traverse on the way to California and back.

Temporary BimmerWorld loaner truck
Clearly, no one would realize this isn’t our regular truck.

To quote Forest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Another aspect of this trip is that as I get older (and as with many things) it isn’t as easy as it once was. Ten-hour days on the road followed by truck-stop food and, hopefully, a decent night’s sleep to get up before sunrise and back behind the wheel is wearying. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be on the road. I’ve said it many times; driving a tractor trailer is way different than driving a car all day. It commands so much more attention and concentration (at least the way I drive), the view is amazing, and modern trucks are quiet and comfortable. The one I drive has automatic temp controls, Sirius, air ride seat with three separate air bladders for back comfort, plus adjustable side bolsters and heat. The 18-speed transmission keeps me busy, too. Volvo’s ergonomics are also amazing.

BImmerWorld transporter rear view
Staged on the South Boundary Road.

Finally at Laguna Seca, we drive up the South Boundary Road and park as we wait to stage in the paddock. After 4 and a half days on the road, including a day and a half driving at California’s insane 55 MPH for trucks and towed vehicles, I’m ready for a break.

Please permit me a moment to vent a bit about that speed limit. First, it is strictly enforced in regards to commercial vehicles. I got stopped two years ago for doing 60 in a 55. The CB offers dozens of anecdotal stories from other truckers for being stopped for 57 or even 58 in a 55. In the meantime, all sorts of landscape trailers, boats, and campers fly by at 70-80 MPH and the CHP doesn’t blink an eye. I understand the concept of discretionary enforcement, but seriously.

For those of you who might suggest “it saves fuel,” I will say the same thing truckers have been saying since the implementation of the 55-MPH limit in the ’70’s – balderdash! As you may know, diesels have a limited operating range. As my truck is geared, I can set the cruise control and drive at 70-72 MPH all day at 1,600 RPM in top gear. To drive 55 I must shift down two gears to be in the correct operating range. So, now I’m driving 55-57 at, wait, 1600 rpm. SO, the engine is operating at the same speed, sipping the same fuel (I know this because the digital dash monitors constant fuel use), yet I’m driving 15 fewer miles each hour. How is that saving fuel? Duh.

Lance Boicelli cleaning a BimmerWorld engine bay
Lance has an opportunity to clean the engine compartment.

The remainder of the event goes by quickly. If you read this blog, you certainly follow Bimmerworld’s Facebook and news updates and know we had our share of challenges (we’d prefer Lance not have that much room to work). James got the F30 on pole for the second consecutive race and save for an interesting racing move entering the corkscrew by Eric Foss, Tyler would have been on the podium. While the other cars had issues, and whereas this track is nearly perfect for everything Mazda, we were content with 4th.

BimmerWorld tire pressure check
Steve monitors pressure on one of the many sets of tires he manages throughout the week. Halston Pitman photo for MotorSportMedia.

Laguna Seca 2016 race start
Green flag from Pole Position. Halston Pitman photo for MotorSportMedia.

2016 Laguna Seca BimmerWorld rubbin is racin
Rubbin’ is racing. It seems to me that the Mini’s are doing most of the rubbin’ this year. Do not take that as any type of statement, indictment, or endorsement from the team. It’s my opinion based on personal observations. It’s not anything malicious on their part; they simply appear to have a lot of contact. Halston Pitman photo for MotorSportMedia.

BimmerWorld OPTIMA Batteries Lifeline car Laguna Seca
Halston Pitman photo for MotorSportMedia.

After all is said and done it’s time to pack up and head East. By the time we’re done packing up the transporters, it’s too late to hit the road, so we catch a ride to a nearby restaurant and enjoy a good meal. After a solid night’s sleep in the paddock, we hit the road at about 0400 and exit through the main gate. If you’ve ever been to Laguna Seca, not only do they have the long, very steep hill inside the track, they also have a twisting, 16% grade entrance. Since the powers that be never seem to be able to coordinate our departure times, we have no choice but to exit down that grade. That’s “fun” first thing in the morning.

There are two places we always try to stop each year on this trip. One is Nick’s BBQ & Catfish in Carlisle, AR. Second is Lisa’s Truck Stop in Moriarty, NM. It’s great to find these places with awesome food AND truck parking.

Lisa's Truck Center Cafe menu
Chrome chairs and boomerang Formica!

Half way on the return trip we swap trucks so Johnny can continue up to Lime Rock for a few days of testing as I continue back to the shop with the loaner. As luck would have it, I pass the eastbound Oklahoma weigh station just minutes before it opens, and I passed safely through the scales in Arkansas and Tennessee as well. Stopping for my return visit to Nick’s I discovered an air leak too big to safely continue. I found a nearby repair shop that sends a guy first thing in the A.M. to complete the repair, but was 4:00 P.M. before everything was done. I learned that the dealer has sold the loaner and is anxious to get it back, so I drove through the night and got to BimmerWorld World Headquarters at 0330, unloaded all my stuff from the loaner, and headed home.

That’s the end of this adventure. Thanks for reading.

-Dave Taylor

Race 1 Daytona

2016 – Race 1: Daytona International Speedway

During the off-season I agreed to resurrect the Bimmerworld Racing Travel Blog. I waited until after both Daytona events to get started. Frankly, after a few years of writing about the team I didn’t feel as though I was offering anything fresh and interesting; then I realized that racing is a grind and mostly tedious and uninteresting work. Now I feel better about writing again, even if it’s an occasionally boring article, as that’s the reflects the reality of working for a race team.

The Roar Before the 24 provides us our first IMSA sponsored on-track testing opportunity each year. I enjoy Daytona as we’ve settled into a routine. Same moderately crappy hotel, but right on the beach with a nice deck where we sit, talk, drink beer, and a few smoke cigars from the cigar shop across the street.

One night is everyone dining together at the mom and pop style Italian eatery Porto-Fino. Most of the wait staff are, um, “mature” women, mostly from the New York area. They claim that they’ve been in Florida for 20 years, yet still have accents that definitely identify them as New Yorker’s. With about 28-30 people sitting at one long table they handle the orders well, and the kitchen does a great job getting the food out quickly – even though the rest of the place is also packed. After awhile they bring out deserts and sides, “Who got the cannoli”? No one answers up quickly, so they just start putting stuff in front of you and tell you to enjoy.

Another night is usually wings at the Neptune Sports Pub, known for the booths made out of former NASCAR race car shells. The place is a dump, but they have good food, so everyone’s happy.

BimmerWorld 81 and 84 at Daytona
By Halston Pitman for Motorsports Media

 

One big change this year is that after 10-11 years of faithful service “Big Blue” moved on to a quieter life. The tractor is being used by a local business near the shop. The trailer went to a Porsche race business at NOLA Motorsport Park.

BimmerWorld Big Blue
Farewell old friend. Phil Wurz photo.

 

There are also a number of crew changes. Darius moved on to work on his beloved Hondas in Ohio near where he trained. Tyler left for a government job.

We have several crew who I am sure will make some blog-worthy contributions later in the year. One is a recently retired cop from Long Island, two are Army Veterans and one is Air Force. That makes at least five Vets on the team, so I like that.

BimmerWorld Heading Home
See you on the road… Liane Cooke photo.

 

Race results have been posted on various other sites. I only wrote this short post to reintroduce the blog.

Please follow me on my travels with the team this year. Next stop – Sebring.

-Dave Taylor


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