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.