Highs and Lows from the Kia 200
The Roar Before the 24 To Daytona 200! By: John Henry Capestro-Dubets A.K.A JCD 1/29/2011
Coming into this I would like to say that I am new to Grand-Am and BimmerWorld. What a great team and awesome series to be in. The BimmerWorld Crew is one of the hardest working groups of guys I've ever met. I come from a small racing background and was lucky to be found by Exclusive Management Inc's Michael Duncalfe, who teamed me up with Gregory Liefooghe and the one and only BimmerWorld!
Coming into the Roar before the 24 I had only driven the BimmerWorld #81 ST car one time at a VIR test/tryout. The test went very well and I was invited to do the season with the team in 2011. Next thing I know I was landing in Orlando and driving to Daytona International Speedway. I had never been to Daytona before. When I first went through the tunnel under turn two and emerged in the infield I looked up at the banking with my jaw dropped… All I can say is it’s very humbling. I was very lucky because I was one of the first to drive the new surface that was very smooth and fast. We started the test with me learning the new dash that looked like a fighter jet cockpit! I quickly learned what buttons to push and which buttons not to push.
Once on the track it was straight to business, figuring out the car and how it responds to different circumstances such as braking, handling and how it would takes curbs. Next it came down to fine tuning the setup. I was very fortunate to be teamed up with Gregory Liefooghe, since I was the rookie all the setups felt great to me. I was
accustomed to a one set up car and just deal with it attitude. Greg quickly helped me to understand what we needed to work on and what we were ultimately looking for.
After a few sessions with Greg and David Wagner (our
ST engineer) to fine tune our setup we had a car that was ready to lay down some laps. Once feeling the car with a proper setup I was able to become very comfortable with the car and start to work on my driving! Once again Exclusive Managements Michael Duncalfe and Greg were able to get me up to speed to be competitive in our upcoming race in a few weeks.
After a couple long weeks of waiting I found myself back in action, but this time it was the real deal. The race week was now upon us. Greg and I headed to the track for our first drivers meeting and practice session. After spending the last week with the EM Inc. team preparing I can honestly say I have never felt so relaxed coming into a race weekend. The guys worked with me on every angle of what we needed to get done. After the meeting we headed out to find we still had some setup work to do. After a few turns of the wrenches led by Ryan Kuhn and his group of hard working mechanics we had a good race setup.
My first qualifying session began and we hit the track running. I found a few good drafts but found myself stuck in slower traffic. Another pack of cars was running together and we couldn’t seem to catch them. At the end of the session we found ourselves 7th out of 45. Not too bad for my first professional qualifying session, but could have been better.
It was finally here my first pro race! I was ready and could not wait for the green to drop. As soon as they cleared the fans walking I belted up and got a few last words of encouragement. I then dropped my visor and got in the zone. The engines started and we lined up, and before I knew it the green was out. Within a few laps I had made my way up to p3 before the first yellow came out. We lined up and did a few laps under caution then it was back underway. After battling with a Boxster for a few laps I earned my way up to p2 and found myself running after the APR car. The goal was to just stay in the top three and hand the car over to Greg in good condition and let him show his closing abilities. Then the APR car pitted, not the way I would have liked to earn p1 but still I was leading the race in my debut. Doesn’t get much better than that. After a few laps I was called into the pits under green, for my first driver change ever.
I came flying into the pits, without speeding and got out of the car like I was late for school. Greg hopped in and James Clay’s BWR crew
did their thing. Next thing I know Greg was back out there. He came out around p8 and made his way through the pack. With 20 minutes to go he was sitting p2 and another caution came out after a
BMW running in the top three hit the wall. Now we had a whole stack of cars behind us eager to sneak by us for a podium finish. The green fell and it was on again Greg was fighting a
transmission issue while trying to hold off the Kia. With a nice pass the Kia slipped by and we were in third with 8-6 minutes to go when out of nowhere another full course yellow! The race ended under caution and we had our first podium of the year at Daytona.
Greg and I met in pit lane and made our way to victory lane after talking to the press. We both stood there proudly as we represent EM Inc and BWR! This was the first time either of us had a podium finish in CTSCC. We held our trophy proudly and popped champagne. We look forward to Homestead and the rest of the 2011year in CTSCC!
MMP and the End of My Rookie Season, Bill Heumann
Miller Motorsport Park has the best "natural" scenery of any of the tracks we visited this year.
This picture is of James doing what everyone on the team that was not in, or under, a car did for about the last hour. "What and how can we pull this off?"
We knew going into this race that we didn't have the championship locked up and we tried to approach this race just like every other one of the season. Our goal for the entire season was to finish in the top ten for every race with an average of 6th place, which luckily we had been able to do. Even with this finish outside of the top 10, our average finishing position for the year was 5.1 while #74 averaged 5.7! We had four podiums which was comprised of two firsts and two seconds. Up until this race, our worst finish had been 6th place.
In addition, I won the Mesco Building for the Future Rookie of the Year award. I am very proud of this award but is somewhat bittersweet. It is one of, if not the only, individual award in the series. While I am very proud of the job I did this season as a rookie, the truth is that I wouldn't have won the award without the BimmerWorld Team and my stellar co-driver, Seth Thomas. This is truly a team sport and everybody on the team carries their load when you do well. Of course, any single screw up can ruin the race and it was a big effort on all of our parts to insure that I drove at a competitive level while not making a fatal rookie mistake in the process. In fairness it seems like the award should be to the team and called something like "The Proper Care and Feeding of the Rookie Award."
Although things didn't go as well for us at Miller Motorsport Park as we hoped, it added to the sense of pride I have for our team. The fact that they were able to get a diff swapped out that quickly under a hot race car, allowing us to stay in the race and retain a shot at the championship, is nothing short heroic. I think the real measure of a person's worth is how they handle adversity. The individuals that make up the BimmerWorld team have shown time and time again what they are made of under adversity. We fought as hard as possible up until the checkered flag of every race and in the end lost by the very smallest of margins imaginable.
As everyone has heard time and time again, "that's racing!"
Along this vein, I did want to make mention of the guys who won the championship. They are top drawer individuals and both great racers. They were always there to congratulate us and shake hands after our successes. Some of those times were after they suffered from their own bad luck. They raced clean and had superb strategy and support from the Compass 360 Team. No one likes to lose, but it is some consolation when it is to champions of this caliber.
With my rookie season in the CTSCC ending, it is interesting to reflect back on where I was at the beginning and how much I have grown during the season.
As a result of a lot of practice, coaching from Seth, and data analysis with Seth, Dave and James I have clearly become a better driver. It is clear that I still have a long way to go to be competitive in pure speed with the top drivers, but I closed the gap significantly and I know most of things I need to do (or not do) to fix it.
This picture looks like it shows us looking over data.... but from my expression it might be something from the Internet...... whatever the case, I am clearly thinking "I haven't ever seen THAT before!"
Another thing I have learned this season is that if you are going to put four drivers in a small space for a race weekend, you should have good ventilation!
I think the most significant growth for me as a driver was in the reliability department. For those of you who know me from club racing, this is a big accomplishment! I became much more solid behind the wheel. By the third race I was calm and cool during the race despite the jostling and pressure. I consistently was able to bring the car home in clean condition high enough on the lead lap that Seth could do his job. The biggest factor in becoming more solid was learning to let go of my mistakes (instead of dwelling on them) and focus on the immediate task at hand.
This picture is of #81 with Seth at the wheel going through/over "Bad Attitude."
Despite what happened in the last session, the last lap, or the last turn, what is in front of you has infinite possibilities. Those upcoming turns will be perfect. You will nail them and exit onto the straight faster than anyone has before.....
I have also learned to ignore that fact that all racers are "pathological optimists!"
This picture clearly shows that the "pot of gold" is somewhere between T5- T7.
The joy of racing well is a really big high and I am really grateful that I have gotten to taste it on occasion. Of course, the the addiction is something of a problem....
GP3R- Trois Rivieres , Bill Heumann
I skipped writing about the NJMP race mostly because I didn't feel like writing about it. I was pretty down after that race. Even though we finished well enough, I was pretty unhappy with my performance there. The Friday crash that put me into the wall had broken some ribs. Upon inspection of the video, I could see the things I did wrong that helped cause the incident. It was a good lesson that it is smart to keep your mouth shut when you want to blame someone else for an incident, at least you get ALL of the facts. At any rate, all of that when coupled with the heat, my efforts to try to drive faster than the car could handle, and a plugged drink tube resulted in a poor drive on part. Fortunately the crew and Seth took up the slack for me.
After a month off, my ribs had mostly mended and with some help from my friends and family got my head screwed back on reasonably straight. I hope I don't get a repair bill for that one!
3R posed several challenges for BW as a team. To start with, James, Dave and I had never driven the course before. We got two practice sessions prior to the customary 15 minute qualifying session on Friday then we raced Saturday morning.
Another problem was that due to the unique configuration of the street course and limited space, the pits were not accessible from our paddock. After the second practice we, and several other teams, left our pit carts in the "unused area of pit lane" that we were we thought clearly directed to use if we didn't want to bring them back to the paddock. It seems like clarity was an error on where they were supposed to be though and we incurred a team penalty of 5 minutes deducted from our 15 minute qualifying session.
Another pressure was that the #81 needed to finish the race, preferably in the top ten. With no room for error, Seth and I needed to be fast but not make any mistakes. For me this meant that when qualifying came around I put down a 1:16.4. Even though my best time by a full second, it was only good enough for P14 out of field of about 20 cars. Dave, on the other hand blazed off with a 1:15.0 which earned him P2. He missed being P1 by .005 seconds! I think this may have been on purpose so he wouldn't have to endure any "pole sitter" jokes.
Starting on the outside worked well for me. I got my best start of the season and got a couple of cars in T1, a right turn. T2 and T3 are lefts with T3 being the famous, and oh so narrow, "Arch Turn" shown in this picture. These worked out well for me also and by the time we passed our wrecked #80 team car and #75 Honda, we were well into the top 10.
Here is a link to the in car video from #80
From then on, I had a pretty solid race with some good lap times.
This picture gives an idea of the typical amount of run off room. This picture is the track out of T8 just before the brake zone for T9. I drove pretty well and put several laps around 1:16.2. I was able to pass the car off to Seth at a FCY. Somewhere in the top 10.
Our crew did a fantastic stop with fuel and right side tires in under 30 seconds and when he went back out he was P6. Seth drove as fast our car would allow without taking any chances and brought it home in fourth.
Here you can see that Seth really had a pretty easy race. He hardly looks like he broke a sweat....
oh yeah, we have a blog... -David White
At the beginning of the season, James asked me to blog about my rookie season and I told him "I'm on it". Even though I've never been much of a writer, I figured I would give it a shot since we thought it would be interesting for readers to "see" the experience through the eyes of someone making the jump from club racing to professional racing. I stayed somewhat on top of it through the first few race weekends but, as I'm sure most that know me expected, I've been way too slack about blogging since.
since my last entry:
VIR - I had never looked forward to a race as much as our race at VIR. It's my (and BimmerWorld's) home track and we would have plenty of friends there to cheer us on. Disaster struck early when our #80 car was taken out on the promoter test day (James covered that nicely in his blog entry so I'll skip the details). This was a crushing blow but we were fortunate enough to secure another car to use for the weekend thanks to our friends at RRT Racing.
I feel that we were very lucky to end up with a top 10 finish at VIR after losing our car in testing but I came away from that weekend very disappointed with my performance. I had my worst qualifying performance of the year so far (by a long shot) and a very mediocre race stint. Luckily, James was on it and with some solid pit strategy, we salvaged a decent finish. It was pretty amazing to see how hard the BimmerWorld crew worked to put both cars in the top 10!
Lime Rock - My first trip to LRP was in 2007 (before it was repaved) and it was a miserable experience. When I left, I said I'd never return...until 2010 apparently. My second trip there was an open test day where I drove my buddy Tyler's E36 328 ITR race car so I could re-learn the track. I came away from that test day really liking the track and looking forward to our CTSCC race there on memorial day weekend.
Our race weekend at LRP was a short one with no promoter test day so we had to work quickly to get the cars and drivers dialed in. Even with split classes, qualifying was hectic with 35+ cars on a 1.5 mile track for 15 minutes. I somehow found a decent gap and was able to qualify 5th, a few tenths off of the pole time. The next morning, the crew discovered a mechanical issue with the #80 car about an hour before the race and began thrashing to get it resolved. It's a sinking feeling when you're sitting in the car on jack stands as you watch the other cars go out for their recon laps before they take the grid. We missed the grid and lost our 5th place starting position but there was still time to make the start. The crew got me on my way during the formation laps and I had to quickly make my way to pit lane which is no easy task on race day since the paddock is crowded with fans. I make it to the end of pit lane in time for the start and I begin working my way forward from 35th place and pit from 15th place to hand the car over to James. James was forced to pit under green to replace a cut tire and we ended up a lap down. Another race for us where the result did not match the performance. Bill and Seth ran an awesome race giving BimmerWorld it's first CTSCC win!!
Watkins Glen - Our WGI race was the very next weekend but at least we were back to a "normal" schedule with plenty of test/practice time to dial the cars and drivers in. We are very optimistic that this race will be a good one for us since fast, sweeping tracks like WGI really suit our cars and the cars have been getting better each time we drive them. We have a great showing in qualifying and up with 2nd and 4th place spots on the starting grid.
I got a great start and ran strong in the opening laps but I was too focused on getting by the leader instead of running my race and conserving my tires so I started tumbling down the order. I think I pitted from 10th to hand the car over to James. Valuable lesson learned - focus on running smooth, consistent laps and don't worry so much about leading early on. I think my teammates have covered what transpired at WGI causing us to miss out on possible podium finishes, so I'll defer to their blog posts.
Mid-Ohio - Ready to redeem myself from my poor showing during my WGI race stint, I was focused on running smooth and consistent laps at Mid-Ohio. Our cars were pretty dialed in from the beginning of the weekend which made life easy for us. I was happy with my lap times and consistency right out of the box but found a few areas that needed some improvement. We spent most of the test day experimenting with very small setup tweaks and I made sure I was on pace.
Time for qualifying - Bill and I go out together and found a pretty decent gap. My first lap is a good one until i have a nice drift through the carousel...oops. Still a good lap and fast enough to put me in P1, briefly. Another car edges me out by less than a tenth of a second so I give it another go, focusing on being smooth and hitting all my marks. I dropped a couple of tenths on that lap and secured my second pole position of the season! I won't lie, it's a pretty big deal to me and worth all of the ensuing "pole" jokes...
Race day - One more short practice before the race allows us to make sure we're happy with our race setup. I think this might be the first time that everyone on the team has agreed on something - good sign! Mid-Ohio is a very tough track to pass on so I know I need to get a good start, then put my head down and click off some good laps to stay in front. I do just that and take the lead for the first 16 laps until I somehow managed to cut the main fuel pump off as I'm downshifting in to 3rd gear for the entrance to Thunder Valley. The car bogged down, I wondered if the motor had just let go, pulled to the right to avoid getting hit, noticed the low fuel pressure alarm on the dash so I turned on the spare fuel pump and the car came back to life. This all transpired in under 4 seconds and luckily, I only lost one position. While the situation sucked, it could have been much worse. I put my head back down and worked on reeling in the new leader. I caught him and made a few attempts to pass but was unable to get by before I got the call to pit for fuel, tires, and driver change. James ran a solid stint against some tough competition and we finished 4th. Congrats to Bill and Seth for picking up their 2nd win of the season! Great work everyone!
So there you have it - plenty of highs and lows packed in to 4 race weekends. This month has been a crazy one with 3 races in 4 weeks and a few other trips to race tracks sprinkled in. Going forward, I hope to be more "on it" with the blog updates...but I guess we'll have to wait and see how that pans out.
The End of a Driving Slump - James Clay
It comes as no surprise to a lot of my friends that the last month+ has been a little tense for me. On the surface, being the owner of a team in a new series is always a little intense for a while - compound that normal circumstance with the additional pressure of a 3 race run in 4 weekends - little room for error.
Now add the non-standard stuff that piles right on top. First Watkins Glen. Great weekend for us, all except the results. I have kept my mouth mostly shut, since running it at this point does nothing positive.
But without any shadow of a doubt, we had a couple of podiums in the bag in NY and an error by "not our personnel" yanked it out of our grasp. We managed a couple of top 10s out of it, but no one on Team BimmerWorld was happy. Seeing the TV show didn't make us any happier since in the Watkins situation, we were unfortunately severely aware and without being asked, a few folks felt inclined to theorize that we were clueless. Final word to all the blog readers - we know the rules and unfortunately make every effort to follow them... Anyway, this has been on my mind as a secondary stress point - or tertiary or wherever it falls - I am losing count.
First and foremost on my mind - my personal time behind the wheel has been a major disappointment for a few races. Others rely on me to get a job done and while I feel my strongest and maybe more unique skill is setup and I have been knocking that out, I can wheel the car and usually do so to a good finish. Our team doesn't work as hard as they do to watch cars go around track - they invest a supreme amount of effort and the payoff is a result - a good one. My co-driver has been a standout in his first-stint efforts, putting the 80 on pole once before this past weekend, otherwise typically close to the front, and then handing me a solid car.
Cue the designated hitter. Not for setup or tuning, but to bring home the finish - the final result of all that work. The season has been a little rocky, full of bad things happening to good people as my friend Jim Robinson of DTOM Racing fame would say - in a weak moment when he was being nice.
R1 - Daytona - strong start leading to strong finish, P5 headed up, SLAMMED in the back on a restart by a car that lost its braking ability...end of race
R2 - Homestead - strong start, first timing tower error puts us back, making up ground, hit and spun, recover, ANOTHER timing tower error makes us look silly, still manage a decent top 10
R3 - Barber - a little short to be a great track, but we can put down one lap, which DW does, putting us on the pole. A setup experiment we attempted plays out awesome in qualifying,poorly in the race, car fades, P6 finish. Still decent with the footnote - "for what it was"
R4 - VIR - Home track, cars progressing, an insanely stupid move by a new driver in the faster GS class puts me in the wall with major damage before the weekend even really starts. Find a spare car, awesome race strategy, salvage a 6th. Good result *for what it was...
Starting to see a trend? Well you're not alone. Too many footnotes.
R5 - Lime Rock - hitters slump has set in. Everything else going well, but I can't make anything happen when I strap in the CTC cars. Wildly frustrating and I won't know why until Mid Ohio, but in the meantime, I have a good race going headed for a higher top 10 (still fails to meet my expectations because there are no footnotes this time) and I force an issue in braking, cut a tire, lose a lap. Poor finish at the start of a 3 race stretch, James is grumpy.
R6 - Watkins - enough said on the obvious. The good news for me is I am driving well enough, but something still isn't right and while we seem to be headed for a top 5 before disaster strikes, still not up to expectations.
So now we are facing round 7. Why do bad things happen to good people? Keep in mind that by the law of averages, for every Jimmy Johnson that is having a horseshoe stuck season, there is one of us filling in as James Clay, taking the licks, not getting the finishes. And the more it happens, the worse it is. Thus the mid-season slump.
So it's Mid Ohio time. I get good sleep. I put away the normal BimmerWorld work early on Wednesday, and I focus on racing. I have spent a week pouring through data and I have asked our engineer Wayne to do the same thing, and we think we have found something. I approach the weekend like nothing has been amiss and plan to win the race. This is the test of positive thinking and hard work. Study hard but not too hard. Recognize mistakes but don't dwell on them. Focus on winning without putting too much pressure to get there. A driver's ego is a fragile thing and I have done this routine before, but not for myself.
The cars are good off the trailer. Minimum setup work required - instead we work on specific qualifying and race setups. I am also on out of the trailer. Take the positive reinforcement, study data but don't dwell. Learn and move forward. It is all working and by race time, we are ready to win. David goes out and kills it. I get the car in P2 but we lose a few out of the pits. Our strategy puts us at the back of the field to work up, but unfortunately for me, the traffic Seth cleared as single cars after the restart has now bunched behind the slower of the group and now instead of passing one at a time, I get caught up big having to work a group of 5 that is fanning out in all the braking zones. We move up, go for a final fuel stop under green, and keep working. Another yellow, we have passed more cars, some in front of us pit. More laps and Seth is leading, I am P3 and
working hard to get around a VW who is about as wide under braking where I have the advantage as the group of 5 I worked through earlier. Another caution, my gap behind is lost and a restart with the GS cars (who are slower on the back half) and the fading grip in T1 take their toll and I lose a spot to finish P4.
End result - team wrapped up the 3 race rush leading the points, the 80 car doesn't reach its potential once again due to an outside variable but this time that means one away from a podium. And more importantly to me, my slump is over! It has been a discouraging time and unrewarded efforts were getting old, but no one makes positive progress by burying their head in the sand. It is good to be back!
The reward - this blog entry was written entirely in my time waiting in line for the next coaster at Cedar Point. Next time I am looking for a top step for the effort.
- Highs and Lows from the Kia 200
- Barber 200
- The Roar Before the 24 To Daytona 200! By: John H...
- MMP and the End of My Rookie Season, Bill Heumann
- GP3R- Trois Rivieres , Bill Heumann
- oh yeah, we have a blog... -David White
- The End of a Driving Slump - James Clay
- Mid Ohio- Bill Heumann
- Watkins Glen- Bill Heumann
- Lime Rock Park - Bill Heumann