Esayian’s Sobering Sebring Satire

(taken from:

So my Sebring hangover is starting to fade.  Racers at all levels can attest to the mental weight you carry after a missed opportunity or poor on track performance.  It makes it all the worse when the next race on the schedule is six weeks away.  In this case the headache lasted longer than normal as if I had inhaled a big bottle of Jack Daniels... The jug with the thumb hole handle.  You know the one.

The BimmerWorld team arrived at Sebring with high expectations…Our E90’s had tested extremely well and we were confident in our ability to stand atop the podium at the opening round of the Speed World Challenge Touring Car Championship, Round #1.  Unfortunately the victory does not always go to the swift or the strong.

The first few test and practice sessions have a feel like a high school dance where the boys and girls sit across from one another waiting to see who is going to make their first move.  At Sebring, BimmerWorld was the stud at the dance and we made a good showing… After the pre race dust had settled and my teammate Seth Thomas was on the pole.  I was 5th for the time being.  Unfortunately the glow of our arrival at Sebring had already started to fade as James Clay’s E90 suffered a mechanical issue in qualifying and failed to make a lap at speed so he was relegated to the back. 

Little did we know that this was the first of many coming disappointments...
Within 30 minutes of the conclusion of qualifying Seth had been disqualified by SCCA tech as his exhaust hangar had broken during the session and the hanging pipe was a few millimeters under the legal ride height.  Granted the infringement wasn’t performance enhancing but with the crew unable to touch the car to determine the cause of the problem the team was left to ponder why they didn’t have the opportunity to investigate while the car was in tech.  Vladamir Putin stories aside, the rules are the rules... Our guys were disappointed and I really felt bad for Seth but there is really no time to lament the unreversable.

So all the rest of the BMWs are sent to the back for a variety of reasons like a band of Tibetan Monks before the Olympics in Bejing.  I’m the sole holder of the BMW marque and sitting in 4th place on the grid…Behind my three Realtime Teammates from last year no less.  Pierre Kleinubing, Peter Cunningham, and the Frenchman, Kuno “the K-nuck” Wittmer.

Taking into consideration Mr. Pierre Kleinubing has hit all four of his teammates in the first turn of a race I knew that the start was going to be interesting. Now I don’t want to give up any company secrets but it is no real surprise that rear drive BMW is going to get a better launch than the front drive Acuras.  At least that is until you put one of Bozo the Clown shoes on my foot instead of my handsome Alpinestars racing shoe.

So unlike years past when Caligula (Peter Cunningham) used to take us out the night before in the stretch MDX with all the flag girls and a case of Opus One, I decide to get some sleep before the night of the race.  My James Hunt and Eric Curran days are over!

The morning comes quickly and the events of yesterday are behind us.  I’m confident my teammates will be quickly working their way through the field to support my charge into the lead.  I may have a chance to win this thing.
The 45 minutes running up to one of these races is a unique life experience. No matter how many of these races you have participated in you are little more alive in those 45 minutes leading up to race time.  Walking down the isle before you wedding, the feeling in your gut when the state trooper is walking up to your car after getting pulled over… You get it.

Se we are all getting suited up in the transporter and I know James is still a bit low after yesterday’s poor qualifying outcome.  He’s optimistic but I know he is disappointed.  I can’t keep my mouth shut, “Just remember, there are a few million people that wish they could do what we’re about to do…” James smiles, nods his head and we hop in a vehicle to drive us up to the grid.
After the typical meet and greet of drivers, team owners, crew, officials, and media in the grid we all strap in and roll out onto the grid.  Sebring is a special place… WWII bomber base, historical track, 150,000 fans, etc.  Look at the names of the drivers above the pit wall, the marques, the history.  The colors are presented, the National Anthem is played… What other sport does a pastor come and say goodbye....

Back to the reality of the situation that there are roughly twenty maniacs that are going to accelerate from 0-100mph, run four our five abreast, jam cars worth about $150,000 each into a narrowing track while braking, all on cold tires….  Sounds like fun, right?

FANTASTIC!!!  We run a warm up lap, Grid up… The start lights illuminate, the revs go up, and then...

I s**t the bed….  My hopes of a Herculean start are dashed as I rev my E90 BMW to about 5000rpm as opposed to the 6500rpm recommended by my teammates.  I listen about as well as my two year old son Troy and ignore the fact that guys that have raced these cars for four years know their stuff.  I am an idiot.
I bog the car down and it feels like I’m in second gear… I see the animals behind me, Herr, Altenberg, Espenlaub… All gaining ground and my mindset goes from attack to full defensive.  I’m getting passed, pushed around and by Turn 7 I am just trying to stay in the top ten when, WHOOMAH… I get hit by, you guessed it, a Realtime car in the back left wheel.  I fight to gain control and then watch my good friend Mike Galati pass me.

Needless to say I am unhappy and bark out at least a dozen words of profanity on the radio.  I apologize to the fans that may have been listening on the scanner… I’m sure I sounded like Barack’s angry pastor on an angry rant again the “man.” I this case the “man” was poor Glenn Bocchino who tried to share the same space with me at the same time.  Love the guy as I do I have to admit that the track just gets narrow there and we both were pressing.  The only difference was I was pressing backward and he was pressing forward.

The rest of the race was, for the most part forgettable… I managed to hang in the top ten until the ill handling car put me in a position to burn the front right tire to the ground and I had to pit.

As much as I wished and hoped for a better day I was going to spend the next 40 minutes driving around, disappointed, angry, and struggling to focus on maximizing the use what I had left.  The pit stop, which was masterfully handled by the BimmerWorld crew, still left me nearly a lap down and a comeback was next to impossible.  I did what I could and hoped for the red flag that never came…
After the checker I rolled into the pits and shut the car down.  One of our crew guys, Chas, comes over, hands me a water, gives me his best effort at a smile and then, thankfully gives me a moment to reflect.

I failed today… This is professional auto racing... The television coverage and data from the car will not allow me to come up with a story to excuse this away. America in its truest form, personal accountability, fortunes won and fortunes lost… That is Speed World Challenge...

Today the hallowed names of past Sebring winner that run above the pit late shine brighter than mine and rightfully so.  My two teammates made triumphant charges from the back but also suffered disappointment.  So we change out of our Nomex Superman suits and back into our normal lives… Stories told to a friend…
There is Bobby Thomas, Seth’s dad, with a smile on his face.  He is happy to just be at the track after almost losing his daughter in a car accident three weeks ago.  We still got to do something a few million other people would have given almost anything to do.  Life is not so bad.


One down

What more to say about Sebring other than we had good fast cars. I have driven 3 months without putting a wheel more than 4" off of my mark and then I make two costly mistakes this race. Certainly it is hard to be satisfied knowing that I should have been at the front of the pack, but the guys did a stellar job and our first week with the 2008 team was very positive - what a great group to have with us.

VIR is next on the schedule. Every time I think about braking too late last lap/last turn at Sebring, I am following the thought with the checker at VIR.


Sebring: What a wild ride! (Spoiler)

Talk about some crazy ups and downs to start off a new season. As most of you guys know we were fast all week long. James, Nick and I were always in the top 10 in times in every session. The last practice session had James 4th and me 1st. The cars were amazing every session we went out. The BimmerWorld crew had the cars at the track ready to go with the hot setup on the cars from the start. All we had to do all week was make very small adjustments to the cars. Qualifying rolled around on Thursday. Things started out great as we had come up with a plan and a setup to get us up to the front. Our setup proved to be fast as I qualified on the pole and Nick was 6th, going the fastest he had in the E90 since he has first driven it. James had some bad luck but it was nothing anybody could have seen. His motor started overheating on his flyer and he had to pull into the pits. The crew did all they could to get the temps under control but time expired before they could get everything done to get him back on track. So with James' qualifying woes things only got worse from there. My car was found to be too low during qualifying. We are required to have the cars at a 3" minimum ride height which includes anything that hangs down underneath the car with the exception of approved suspension bits. The problem with my car was the exhaust had suddenly dropped down below this 3" minimum. The reason for this was a broken hanger that happened during the session. The rough track of Sebring had just bitten us.

Now starting at the back of the pack for the race was not what I had in mind but it would prove to be exciting. I knew at the start I would have to be fast and efficient passing other cars as soon as the lights went out. And this James and I did. We passed over half the field on the first lap. In the next few laps I picked off a couple more cars and was within closing distance of the top 5. I was passing a car for the 5th or 6th spot at the entrance to Turn 1. I made the pass with no issues and had a good run coming out. The car behind me had a slightly better run and so he hit me in the left rear. This caused me to go into a huge slide that I tried my best to recover from but I couldn't. The car snapped around on me and I found myself sliding into the path of oncoming traffic. Luckily no one hit me and I got the car pointed in the right direction before losing too many spots. I was back to 12th or so. All the cars I had just passed I had to do it again and I had to really start pushing the car. This is when I put my head down to get back to where I was. It took me the remaining laps of the race to do this and I did. I made it back to 6th while setting the fastest lap of the race.

Sebring was great and I can't wait to go back. It was one of the tracks I always look forward to and I can't wait for next year. I think it will have different results for our BMWs then.


Today was the first day of on-track testing. Everything went smoothly and all of the development and work we put in over the winter is showing. Official sessions start tomorrow and we will start to see where the field is shaking out. Rain tonight, but the weather should hold and we expect sun the rest of the week - except for the normal monsoon after the race of course.


At Sebring, ready to go

Load-in today. The cars are ready to rock after a quick shakeout of the new gearboxes at Roebling on the way down. Testing starts tomorrow AM, so time to get rested up.


4AM - sounds about right

Final decal additions and prep work. Headed to Savannah/Roebling Road for one final shakeout on Sunday, then straight to Sebring!


The days get longer

2AM - nice. Working on the final preparations and modifications for the cars tonight - should have one ready for a final dyno run tomorrow morning then begin loading up the last bits on the transporter. Standard rule of racing - you always run out of time and never things to do. Second rule - the car is never as good as it is when it rolls off the trailer, so the extra time spent now will pay off next week in Sebring.


1 day gone and UPS loves us

We do our share to spur the economy with overnight shipping. We had some new parts to install and as usual things arrive late, don't fit quite right, or we need to go in another direction. 3 more shipping days until final transporter loading for Sebring...


Less than 100 hours until Sebring...

And no shortage of things to do. Getting pretty fired up about the season here! I just got back from 4 days at VIR, after 3 days last week. We are set to go test one final time at Roebling in GA this coming Sunday (new goodies to try out!) on the way to Sebring. I am really happy with how testing has gone so far and Nick is a great new addition to the team. The racing dreams have started at night - so let the season begin!


One Week!!!

Roughly a week from now we will traveling to Sebring for Round 1 of the SWC TC Series.  Expectation are high and the team is anxious to get rolling and see how we measure up.  Reliability will be as critical as speed this year if we are to make a run at the championship.  Thank you in advance for your support.