Monkey is off my back

What an amazing race. So far 2007 has produced some amazing racing for my #38 BimmerWorld E90. We have seen lots of passing action along with lots of speed. In both races this year I have had the fastest race lap along with two top-10 finishing positions. It is looking up for our BMWs. But back to the important race so far, VIR!

I love this track. It is awesome to come to BimmerWorld's home track where both James and I can put on a show in front all our family and friends in attendance. We both were very disappointed after qualifying as we definitely left some time on the table. We were both also scratching our heads as to why we couldn't go faster. At that point though we knew we could race well.

As James has said the weather was looking iffy for our race. It was looking like rain was inevitable and we were going to test out the new Toyo R888 tire for the first time in the wet. We both knew the race was going to start off dry but at some point it looked like we would have to make the switch.

As we are sitting on the starting grid I was waiting for the lights to come on. They are on, I rev the engine, the lights are out and I blow the start not getting the start I thought I should. This didn't hurt me though as I put my head down and headed off to T1 as quick as I could. The first lap was very tight racing as VIR is a very narrow track with all these fast cars hurling through the uphill esses. I had good run up the esses and had my eyes set on picking off somebody at the top of the hill. The door was open to get around PD and I took it. We has some small contact as I was squeezed to the inside but I came out ahead. This allowed James to get a good run out on us both and away he went in front. We continued on in this order until the front straight where I had a big run on James and asked him to let me by. He kindly did and we worked together catching up to the guys in front of us.

James and I caught the leaders. I got around Espenlaub and was catching up to the next 3 guys. It was funny as I caught all the cars I kept watching the black clouds moving towards the track in the distance. This is not the sign I wanted as we were having the race we finally wanted. Even though I could see the clouds moving, I knew I had to work my way up to the front as fast as I could because if it did rain I needed to be in a position for the lead. And being in this position is what paid off. I ran my race right behind the leaders doing everything I could to pass them. Fortunately the guys in front of me made mistakes that cost them the lead. Chip spun it in one giving me a spot. Pierre did the same in Oak Tree giving me another. The next spot was to pass the new race leader. Kuno and I went after it lap after lap. I would be faster in certain sections of the track. He would be faster in others. We were pretty much dead even. I could use his draft to catch him on the straights and pop out to attempt a pass. He would defend the position and keep it. Kuno made a couple of small mistakes that helped me to get up beside him in several spots on the last lap. Every time though I would be in a spot where I could not capitalize on the position. We cross the line bumper to bumper with my first podium.

As for this weekend the BimmerWorld crew did an amazing job giving me the setup I needed to be up front. They changed enough springs to break in their new GearWrench tools. We also had a lot of fun visiting with the home crowd. It really did mean a lot to put on this show in front of the BimmerWorld home fans. Spraying champagne for the first time in my career at VIR is a perfect situation. Having James there beside makes it even better. We predicted a BimmerWorld 1-2-3 and we nailed that down pretty close.

Making this weekend better we headed home on Sunday to help celebrate my nieces' second birthday on Sunday. Maybe if this were her first birthday I might have won. ;-)


VIR Race!

Round 2 in the books. Saturday was raceday and started out awesome - but hot, especially for April. At around 10AM on the way to the track, we were at 75 and the weather was saying thunderstorms (70%) at 5PM - right in the middle of the race. I spent the day hanging out with friends and customers that came to cheer us on while the guys went over the final small details on the cars.

Sure enough, around race time, the sky started getting hazy. We can't change to rain tires once pre-grid is closed, which was about the time the sever weather warning came over the PA - 60 MPH winds and mixed hail. Nice. We went over the rain proceedure in a quick meeting and then rolled off the grid to do our parade and warmup laps and get the race going.

I got a good launch on the standing start but really couldn't find a hole to the right, so I took my chances on the left of PD Cunningham who slowly was moving to the track edge and me into the grass - not good for traction. I ended up moving back over and settling in, but dropping a spot to Seth in the process. The first few turns were wild with 2-3 wide and bumping for position, but no one was way out of shape and I even avoided any rubbing - not that it was my goal... Seth and PD got together slightly at the end of the back straight and loosened both of them up and I slipped by moving me up to 5th. Seth got a better run onto the front straight and I let him by going into T1 for the start of lap 2. Another lap or so went by and I reeled in Espenlaub who let me by going into T1 again under braking. Unfortunately, this shuffling put me about 10 car lengths behind of the front pack and out of the draft which was so critical. I managed to pick up a few feet on a couple of laps but there is no way the big frontal area can be as efficient as a pack of cars working together, so at some point I had to stop using up the tires, settle in to where I was having gotten some breathing room from Charles and PD behind me, and hope for some mistakes as I watched the battle in front of me.

Luckily for me, the mistakes came in the form of a couple of offs by Herr and Kleinubing - not something I would wish for karma's sake if nothing else, but I moved into 3rd on the second to last lap of the race. Seth and Kuno were really going at it and there was really no way for me to catch and plenty of room behind me, so I took an easy last lap or two and rolled the #36 car in safely in 3rd spot.

The podium celebrations was awesome - Seth's first in World Challenge and long overdue for him. For me, 3rd was kind of the old hat - I need to get it in gear and take the top step. Instead of heading out to celebrate, we hung out waiting for a surprise dyno of all the cars in the field. At about 10PM we were finally free to go and headed out of the track.

Round 3 is in UT in 3 weeks, followed the next week by 4 and 5 at Lime Rock the following week. I leave for One Lap of America this Friday, so I will have plenty of track time (and time stuck in a car) leading up ot these.


The mad rush of VIR

Well it is pre-race night and I am FINALLY getting a free minute to pop my head in here. This week has been absolutely nuts busy... Not that I am not accustomed to the pace.

In my "off" time between Sebring and VIR, I have done testing for World Challenge, some club races to stay sharp, driver coaching, the international media release of the X6 for SpeedTV, some work with the new 1/3 Series cars with Grassroots Motorsports, and visited a few tracks for our upcoming One Lap of America assault with the 135 (which I also found some time ot wrench on in an all-nighter - drivers can have value!). Kind of my own whirlwind tour of the Southeast US. Through that, I managed to get in the office a few days as well even!

We showed up to VIR after having tested last week ready to go. This weekend has been interesting. We have really continued to learn a lot about the cars. We have had a good setup since we rolled in, and a lot of track time, so we felt pretty comfortable really experimenting in an effort to make things really perfect. We have had this loose problem that is livable, but with rear tires wearing at Sebring, we were hesitant to leave it in. We have tossed spring, bar, shock, alignment, geometry changes, and every other trick we have at it and were making a little progress until today! Finally, we had the breakthrough with a little more rear spring and a tick more shock - odd to control an oversteer, right?

My car was really close for the second practice session (when I added the rear spring) and we made a couple more changes to work on the bumps/curbs. Overshooting that session was perfect - for qualifying, we dialed it back a little and hit it really pretty dead on. I went out behind Seth with Nick a little further behind (rushing from a last minute setup change). Unfortunately, we dropped the ball a little and didn't use the last 2% or so of the tire in the first couple of corners so we left time on the table. I ended up 6th and Seth a couple of hundreths of a second behind - both of us 0.4 behind pole. Nick was balked on his flyer (you only get 1-2 with these tires) and couldn't get it much better with a second outing later in the session.

Looking forward to the race tomorrow. With some front-wheel cars ahead of us, we should get a good start and if we can stay in the draft on the long straights here, we should have a good race. We will know when the flag drops at 4:20 tomorrow!