Q&A - Mosport Recap and "Did you win a T-shirt?"

Today is our first round of reader submitted questions. Keep checking back since we'll be posting more of these during our down time and as the guy's schedule's permit. Special thanks to everyone that has submitted a question for the team so far. Please keep them coming! Lots of good stuff we'll be addressing in weeks to come.

You can submit your questions to:

Also take a look at our media page for selected photos from each event. This isn't the podium shot the BimmerWorld team wanted, see what they had to say about the race below.

(James) You had a strong race until the car broke. Half shafts have been a problem before, typically these break on starts due to the shock. Any speculation on what caused this one to go?

[James Clay] Absolutely! Unfortunately, this is the first time we have broken one of these race-spec shafts. We have broken stock shafts, two versions of diff flange, one diff pinion gear, and one stock and one race version of CV cages (ed. - pretty much evey driveline part). We are balancing a huge amount of stress in the driveline and this is the next weakest part. Anyway, I broke it in what was to be my passing move for the lead – I was on the leaders bumper hard into turn 5a, took a good line and got on the gas (in torque 3rd gear) with authority, and tracked out farther than normal on the exit curbing to maintain my extra speed. The front-wheel cars break axles with the added stress of bouncing and slipping on curbing, and this was the first time for us. When we say our parts our "Race Proven" this is what we mean!!

(James) You had a strong start and were in second place before the incident with the car, was it a matter of deja vu? Give us a prediction for the outcome if things had gone a little differently with the car.

[James Clay] You bet – just like Road America 2 weeks earlier – same qualifying position, better track position during the race, but the same feeling that the race was mine and it was a matter of time until I decided to make a real move for position. We had good cars and should have won this one. Next prediction – a repeat without the mechanical issues at the finale (Road Atlanta) in a few weeks.

****Reader submission****
(James) viewing the in-car video from Road America, it appears that there is quite a bit of deflection in the steering column. Can you tell us what modifications have been made in that area, and why the deflection may be present? Submitted by: Scott Lang

[James Clay] The steering columns in our cars are lightweight replacements. We use a collapsible shaft for safety, then extend it to fit the driver, and support it with a bearing in the firewall and one close to the wheel instead of the heavier stock configuration with a full length housing. The tubing has a little give to it and as far back as we sit in the cars (plus I like my wheel closer to me for better control), my extension is longer and probably deflects more.

(Nick) Do you feel that drivers repress some of their personality for fear of offending potential sponsors? And if so how do you think this ultimately impacts their marketability. Some of the biggest names in NASCAR are pretty outspoken at times.

[Nick Esayian] I do and it is unfortunate. The F1, Indycar, and NASCAR interviews are so predictable it is almost painful to watch. Look at Boris Said... He runs a handful of races per year and people love him because he doesn’t script everything and talks like a real person. John Force, same thing... You don’t need to be obnoxious or rude but all these guys sound the same. You need to simply be yourself, have fun, and realize people at home watching on television want to know what you are feeling - not to hear about how the Widget Winding car was running great...

(Nick) Your fast race lap wasn't even a second off the fastest time for the day. What needs to happen to improve your finishing order? The speed appears to be there, is it a matter of luck, timing, car setup, competition, or all of the above?

[Nick Esayian] I’m pretty comfortable with the car now. It has been silly going from the front at Sebring to struggling. Every weekend we have been close but half a tick off and I’ve been unable to break through which is frustrating. I’ve been a little slow on my set up changes in the practices and will usually notice a single area I need to improve on when reviewing data. The three of us all review data and learn from each other. There is no question I can win... It is on me at this point.

****Reader submission****
(Nick) The best part of a race weekend is no doubt the racing itself, but what would you say your least favorite part of a race weekend is? Talking to the press? Pre race butterflies? Submitted by: Peter Tyson

[Nick Esayian] The worst part of the weekend is certainly the travel to and from the events. The airlines frankly stink. Every company in the US with a big union influence is a disaster... Airlines, public education, auto industry.... There is nothing worse than flying across the country with a late departure, on a dirty plane, served by rude people, only to land and then have to wait to get my now damaged luggage. Last weekend I flew on Mike Davis’ new 747 (ACS Microsystems and GT driver) and I’m sold that is the way to go. Adoption papers are on the way to him as we speak.

(Seth) The race won't be broadcast until Wed. Can you give us a play by play on the final lap?

[Seth Thomas] I don't know if Speed will allow that!! It was basically a 4-5 lap ordeal of me trying to work on getting around Chip. His car was a little bit better than mine coming out of a couple of the turns but mine was significantly better through 8,9, and 10. I had been working getting the pass through there but couldn't make it happen. On the last lap I thought to myself, "if he leaves the door open in T10 I will try to get in there since it would be for a 2nd place". He left the door open and I went for the pass. I had the position but bounced off his car. This caused the rear to step out into the dirt coming out of T10 and that was all she wrote. It was a tough move that I know I could have pulled off but I didn't plan on making contact.

(Seth) Does the fact that you already had a podium finish (at VIR) change how aggressive you were going into the last lap, or does that even play a factor in how you apporach a race?

[Seth Thomas] No, that doesn't change it. I knew spraying some champagne with the guys at the end would have been awesome but I also knew I had a better car than Chip's. So I wanted to prove it. It is late in the season with no championship hopes in sight so it was a move you have to go for. I settled at VIR and I didn't want to settle at this race.

****Reader submission****
(Seth) – You’ve had a great season so far with some near wins, you seem to be consistently in the hunt for a win, and Road Atlanta is obviously a strong track for you. If you do what we all know you can and you pass the checkered flag at Road Atlanta in front of the pack, do you have any plans to upstage Clay’s smoky burnout at Road America? Submitted by: Ryan Staub

[Seth Thomas] I have a few thoughts on that (which are top secret). I think the best answer is Clay set the early example for how this type of celebration should be done. As we all know Clay and I generally try to one up each other. I would say it is safe to say when this does happen I will definitely leave my marks at Road Atlanta! Stay tuned!!

Labels: ,

Q&A with the BimmerWorld Drivers – Mosport Momentum

The World Challenge Touring Car guys face a hectic race schedule with Mosport hot on the heels of Road America. Before the team heads back up north they took some time to answer our questions.

Check out their comments below, and be sure to send us any questions you might have. We’ll get the guy’s thoughts, and give you credit!

(James) TV and Movies would have us believe that when you're ready to pass the car in front of you, it simply requires a downshift and stepping on the gas. In reality it probably isn't that easy. Can you tell us a little bit about getting past a car in World Challenge? Is it a matter of being aggressive enough to make the move? What does it take to get past and make it stick?

[James Clay] Not quite that easy... The cars are so evenly matched in World Challenge that your position is given to you when another driver makes an error or you spend several laps evaluating the car in front, deciding where you have the most advantage, then execute. It is a real chess game and it isn't about being aggressive - certainly you need to be to a degree, but you can't pass just because you want to. If we were any more aggressive I think any car in the field would go flying off the track - they are being driven to the limits every turn, braking zone, and straight.

(James) Put your team owner hat on for a second. World Challenge is all over the map with its schedule. What type of logistics does it take to get the team, spares, and cars up to an event? Has the high price of diesel made any difference this year?

[James Clay] Well this has actually been an easy year with 9 of 10 races east of the Mississippi. This year the transporter costs us about $0.75 per mile for fuel alone to run! Plane tickets aren't getting any cheaper either and with 15 people to shuttle around the country it adds up. To support a team at the level needed for this series takes good guys and a lot of them - one of the biggest expenses for any race weekend for us.

(Nick) Since James is crediting you with the Junior Engineer title, can you tell us some of the keys to making a car handle in the rain? Will rain at Mosport negate any advantages the BMW's might enjoy?

[Nick Esayian] I am certainly no engineer but softer seems to be the ticket in the rain. The key is to balance softer with transition and how quickly the car takes a set... Wayne’s got a plan so I’m confident we will be ok unless it snows. Even with last years super stiff setup in the E90 Clay was all over the bumper of my front drive TSX. That’s proof the BMW is a great platform to start with. Certainly rain negates (a bit) our ability to start feeding throttle as early as we usually do, but these rain races have so many variables it’s difficult to predict what is going to happen.

(Nick) You're part of the WC Vision LLC, which is looking to improve the overall marketing of the World Challenge series. If you could wave your magic wand what changes would you make to the series?

[Nick Esayian] There is no question the first three things we would change...

1.) A more attractive TV deal – Better production (more resources), better on air times, better format... Whether that be a reality type show, live TV, etc. I can’t tell you the answer yet. The economics will make that determination.

2.) Boosting the TC field – TC is great racing... Boosting the field is really the result of building confidence in the series with those potential teams that may be considering building cars, a tight and consistent rules package, and the series profile attractive enough to make it worth stepping up from Grand Am to WC.

3.) A title sponsor. Video game producer, energy drink, electronics retailer, or an auto association like SEMA.... It makes no difference to me who it is. We have a great demo and can provide a package that makes business sense in terms of ROI. We just need to get in front of some of these folks and get a deal done. Right now WC is like a blue chip stock in a down market. We are undervalued. If someone buys in now, as the series matures, they are going to get a huge value for their money. I can guarantee that.

Now get me that wand so we can get onto the rest of our list.

(Seth) You've had some great starts this year with a few holeshot and hardcharger awards. What are some of the keys to getting a good start in WC? Or is it simply your cat-like reflexes and reaction time?

[Seth Thomas] That is a simple answer, RWD BMW. The fact that our cars have a great 1st gear along with the great drivetrain of the BMW's help out tremendously. Every time I am lined up for the start of the race it is time to focus. Staying focused on the lights and getting a quick drag launch from the car is the key. I have been known to attempt a few of these starts on the streets from time to time when the local law enforcement isn’t around. The only problem there is usually a little bit more tire smoke. ;-)

(Seth) Mosport is a high speed track with some pretty scary corners. How does this track stack up on your favorite's list? Do you prefer faster tracks, or something that is maybe more technical?

[Seth Thomas] My preference would be the fast tracks. It seems that most drivers are g-force junkies. The faster tracks give us the g-force fix we are all looking for. The feeling I get when I top the hill at T2 in Mosport at over 100 MPH with the rear sliding out... of course you need to do this to get a good run through the turn all while going down a hill can’t be beat. Same with Road Atlanta and T12. There is nothing like it!!!

Labels: ,

Q&A with the BimmerWorld Drivers – Thoughts on Road America

We checked in with the BimmerWorld drivers a few days after the Road America race to get Clay’s thoughts on his first trip to victory lane, Seth’s predictions for the future, and Nick on what not to order from hotel room service.
Check out their comments below, and be sure to send us any questions you might have. We’ll get the guy’s thoughts, and give you credit!


(Clay) You've said that you've driven harder to finish worse than at Road America. What were the one or two key breaks that you got during the race that made it all come together?

[James Clay] That is definitely the case, but it wasn't race breaks that made it work. Really, the whole team was just on it all week. We made a big jump in setup early in testing and the car was just good. I was a little worried when I got hung out on the start and shuffled back to 6th, but having a car that was dialed in, and finally ending up on the positive side of contact in turn 1 at the restart made the run to the front smooth sailing. The fast laps of the top 7 cars were within a couple of tenths, and I wasn't the fastest, but this weekend luck went my way with proper track position.

(Clay) It is often mentioned that certain tracks favor different types of cars. Conventional thinking being that the larger engines of the BMW's have the advantage on the higher speed tracks. Can you elaborate on that and maybe describe the important pros / cons of the BMW at the World Challenge level as compared to a front wheel drive and / or double wishbone setup?

[James Clay] I do think that at this point, we have a slight power advantage, but we are also bigger with more frontal area (increases drag) so it really only shows up when we are in the draft it seems. Our Macpherson strut front suspension isn't as good as an a-arm for racing purposes, but it didn't hurt us as much this time without the fast back and forth transitions. I think the biggest thing that made the cars work this weekend was the brakes - I could consistently brake inside the 4 marker at Canada corner while the rest of the field seemed to be at the 4.5-5 marker. That is just a testament to the Performance Friction brakes and pads on the car more than a particular design-specific attribute.

(Clay) You seemed pretty confident for your first trip to the podium. Obviously anyone at the WC level isn't new to winning as they work their way up, but given the trials and tribulations you guys have all gone through this has to be very special. Has it hit you yet, or is this just the natural culmination of hard work and to be expected?

[James Clay] Not sure if confident is the right word, but I certainly do think the team deserves it, so I am not overwhelmed or surprised. If we didn't think we could win races, we wouldn't be working so hard to do it! Definitely this is good affirmation of all the hard work we have all put in and makes the guys feel better about the late nights fixing the stuff from weekends that didn't go as well.

(Clay) It probably isn't common knowledge but Seth's sister was in a bad wreck this year, and you've recently had a close friend in the hospital. Is it harder to concentrate on racing when things like that are going on away from the track? Does it put any type of perspective on racing for a living?

[James Clay] Certainly as much effort as I put into driving and racing, and as much as I put it in front of other things, the parts of life that are the most important aren't about a piece of metal. It was a busy week for me before this weekend and after with hospital visits, but I wouldn't have missed them for anything. Certainly to be passionate enough about racing to put in the effort required takes making it a priority, but in the end it is a job.

(Clay) You mentioned the important roles of Wayne Yawn your engineer and Jason Marks your crew chief. Can you give us any indication of the impact or changes these guys have made that has allowed you to get to the podium 3 times this year?

[James Clay] Well certainly Jason Marks, as the crew chief and team leader, plus all the other guys that have been with the team for years, make the opportunities so that we can go out and win. Someone pointed out that in our podium picture, Marks and Dave Simpkins (our two longest-term employees) weren't in it - they had continued on with their responsibilities to take the car to impound. That is dedication. Wayne just got lucky (kidding...). Honestly, Wayne has made big strides with the cars this year and they are nothing like what he started with. I also have to thank junior engineer Nick Esayian for pushing us out of the comfort zone and questioning some of our old setup assumptions which is also a big part of why the cars are currently as good as they are.

(Seth) You were right behind Clay's time in qualifying. Do all of you share a race setup, or are you still experimenting up to and including the race? Are there individual 'tweaks' based on driving style for each car?

[Seth Thomas] For the most part our setups are the same. We might differ in setup by some of the shock settings or possibly a slight variation in spring rates. These are our individual tweaks and ones that also suit the slightly different driving styles each of us have.

(Seth) Clay has been your teammate for several years now, is he holding out any speed secrets on you? Seriously a lot has been said about the team's bad luck, but 3 podium finishes for the year isn't too shabby. How do you feel about your chances for the rest of the year? You had a strong race at Road Atlanta going in the wet last year and that is your home track.

[Seth Thomas] This weekend he was holding something out on me. James qualifying ahead of me, and winning - then we definitely know he had some tricks in the bag. For the most part though, we don't have any secrets. The data we get shows us where all the speed is at.

The rest of the year should be awesome for the team and for myself. Mosport is a track that James and I always do very well at. Road Atlanta is my home track where I know all the speed secrets. Plus I owned the track in the wet last year and I look for a repeat this year. So the rest of the year should yield some very memorable finishes for us and include some champagne spraying ceremonies.

(Seth) To follow up on that, has he given you a hard time at all about getting the first victory?

[Seth Thomas] No I think he has been too busy surfing the internet looking at pictures of his smokey victory burnouts. Just kidding! He has actually been busy working on making the cars faster for a short turn around before Mosport.

(Seth) How closely matched are the E46 cars of Sofornas and Martinelli compared to the E90's, do you feel there is a particular area that the E90's enjoy an advantage?

[Seth Thomas] The E46 cars are still great cars in Touring car competition. They are still fast in a straight line and still brake well, since they have the same PFC (Performance Friction) brakes we do. Every year the suspensions get better and better which keeps making the cars faster. The E46 has had 8 years of development which makes it towards the end of its life cycle for development within the rules. The E90 is just beginning and is already faster than these cars in the corners. It is a lot more stable of a car now with all the development BimmerWorld has been doing. So put the PFC brakes, better motor, stiffer chassis, and better suspension and the E90 shines over the E46 cars and still has potential to get even better!

(Nick) You were able to advance several positions and had a solid race. Also it seemed like this race had less contact than we've seen recently. Did the SCCA say anything to the teams, or does Road America have more room than maybe other tracks?

[Nick Esayian] After the fifth time being collected from behind this year I blew a gasket at Mid Ohio in the pit lane after the race. My behavior was probably a bit over the top but I think the TC (touring car) guys collectively were tired of so much contact. Road America is not a place to be cavalier with contact as the Kink, Turn 1, and Canada hold severe consequences if you have an off. We all respect each other enough not to play rough at a place like that.

(Nick) Being the Road America expert would you like to take credit for giving James the tricks he needed to win his first race?

[Nick Esayian] James did a great job all weekend with little or no help from me. The only real advice I gave was related to some reference points to keep the distance driven between turns as short as possible. PD (Peter Cunningham) showed me the tricks almost fifteen years ago so I felt obligated to pass them on.

(Nick) You were slightly behind on qualifying was this a setup issue, or traffic?

[Nick Esayian] I had food poisoning and was in the hotel room sick up until about 20 minutes prior to qualifying. The guys poured me in the car, PD gave me a tow and one of the Mazdas decided to do some blocking which cost us a top six on the grid. This was unfortunate considering how close the top 12 cars were in the race. Starting position was everything. My bad for eating the quesadilla at the hotel. Clay tells me only bagels and pasta at Mosport.

(Nick) Mosport and Road Atlanta would seem to favor the BMW's any predictions or is that bad luck?

[Nick Esayian] I agree. Our cars don’t have the low end torque of the big four cylinders of the Mazdas and Acuras. Once we get up over 100mph the E90’s inline six likes to stretch it’s legs. Fortunately Wayne Yawn, our engineer, has done an unbelievable job of getting these cars to handle. Our crew, under Wayne’s close watch, put a plan together and executed it mid season to get up the cars to where they are now. A tough job to say the least with the schedule the way it was.


Q&A with the BimmerWorld Pro Racers!

At the start of the season we discussed how awesome it would be to have a behind the scenes blog that we would all contribute to during race weekend. It was a great way, we thought, to bring our fans along for the great ride that it is a Speed World Challenge race weekend. Well as with most ideas success lies in the execution, and it turns out we’re really pretty busy trying to win races during the weekend and too tired or busy before and after. So, since we value our fans we’re experimenting with ways that we can give you a behind the scenes glimpse of the action in a format that is schedule and race friendly. Here is our first attempt! Hope you enjoy.

Send your questions to questions@bimmerworldracing.com.

(Nick): At Mid-Ohio you seemed to be making good progress and moving up through the pack until you got tangled up with a Mazda that sent you off track. That driver received a stop and go, obviously that doesn't help you too much. Thoughts on your race?

Qualifying was disappointing after we started the weekend so strong. I made up about ten spots with a great start and the typical first lap chaos. The multiple yellows put the pack on my butt every time I managed to extend out and gain some breathing room. I was in 6th for more than half the race and struggled with oversteer in the slow stuff, but managed to gap the car behind me in the faster turns. He apparently got impatient and thought he could suspend the laws of physics for a few seconds. It didn’t work and he drove through the grass and into my door sending me to the back with yet again a bent up car. Needless to say Charlie (Putnam) is a brilliant guy, and was driving a great race, but he certainly was not at the top of his game at that moment.

(Nick) With almost a full season with the Bimmerworld team, how is the transition going? Has it been more or less difficult than you initially thought?

Our guys are top notch in terms of professionalism and putting the work in. That’s a big compliment since my benchmark is Realtime. Unfortunately our results don’t reflect their efforts. Out of the box at Sebring we were really in the hunt and my 4th place qualifying showed that. I’m not sure what the issue has been but we have been struggling to keep pace in terms of low and mid speed handling and frankly I’m a bit frustrated as we are getting beaten by guys we should be able to show our bumpers to. James, Seth, and I alternate at being quick each session but we have consistently been off the pace. Our competition keeps raising the bar, we have to have faith that the (SCCA) tech guys have their thinking caps on, and dealing with getting hit every other race doesn’t give me cause to celebrate either. It has been tough and I’ve been struggling to stay positive but that’s racing. The worst are the calls from my old club racing buddies who see some of the new guys that they beat at the Runoffs jumping into a WC car and finishing up front... It’s really not that easy and being in the right car, at the right track, on the right team, and not getting cleaned out is a big part of the equation. The top 15-16 guys in Touring Car are all very talented. Everyone struggles but we know if we keep pushing and our guys keep up the good work the results will come.

(Nick) Given Bimmerworld's previous results at Road America you're in a position to have the most race laps and experience here. Have you shared any tips or tricks with your teammates?

My career started at RA in 1992 so I do have a lot of laps there. There are certainly some tricks to shortening the track and I’m happy to share any insight I may have with the boys. Unfortunately PD (Peter Cunningham) taught me most of them.

(Seth) You ventured off track during the Mid-Ohio race to avoid other cars and had to come in to clear the radiator and still managed to finish 6th with what amounted to a stop and go. That has to make you happy, thoughts in general on Mid-Ohio? It seemed like getting back to the front may have taken all the tires had to give?

I would say the tires on the car from Mid Ohio were very similar to the tires after Sebring. They were done! What a blast coming up through the field though. Patience and racecraft were being tested every lap.

(Seth) Was there any option to stay out with the radiator, or did engine temps force you to come in?

There wasn’t an option at all. The temps on the engine from the Keyhole to Thunder Valley went from 180 degrees to 225 degrees and rising. It was come in, or end the race early. It is so disappointing to watch all your hard work gaining positions disappear in a moment and then leaving pit lane knowing that you have to do it all over again! At that point it was staying focused and trying to make the best of it.

(Seth) You've gotten a few Hardcharger / Holeshot awards this year, and while not as satisfying as podium finishes, it certainly shows that the race craft and driving ability are there. Is it simple bad luck keeping you from the top?

I wouldn’t say it is bad luck, because we keep managing to finish in the top-10. I would say that it is more of getting caught out in qualifying with a setup that doesn’t quite suit the track, or the new tires we have on the car. And then when it comes race time we have the car dialed in. The rest of the scenario is my fault. At Mid Ohio, my worst qualifying effort this year, I made one big mistake on the first lap which was the lap to get the fast time on the tires. This was the difference in a Top-5 qualifying effort to 15th starting spot.

(Seth) How important is qualifying towards the top in this series? It seems that the closer to the front the less chance of getting caught up in traffic and having problems.

Huge! Qualifying in the Top-10 is the most important start to a race. The cars are so closely matched that if you aren’t close at the start then you don’t stand much of a chance to challenge for the lead. Plus when you have 5 Acuras and 5 Mazdas both going for the manufacturer’s points it makes it a lot tougher to move up through the field.

(James) Any consideration to adding a body shop to the BimmerWorld suite of services?

Certainly it would be profitable, but I don’t think Bassen Autobody, who is one of our great partners, would appreciate the competition. It is wild to have the level of contact we have recently, but honestly we came through a lot of races unscathed earlier in the season, which is equally if not more rare, so maybe it is good karma to call it even? And really Bassen’s shop does some amazing work to be able to put us in a position to race all 3 cars after Watkins Glenn and still have time for our team to do their work on the car as well.

(James) You had to visit the pits to fix some damage during the Mid-Ohio race after being an innocent bystander in an Acura spin out. How much power was your car down from the closed exhaust?

It was another disappointing piece of bad luck. I could actually hear the exhaust trying to blow air out – like trying to blow up one of those really long animal balloons and getting nowhere. I looked at data after the race and I was able to maintain my qualifying corner speeds through the race which was a good trick, but I was losing about 10MPH on the longer straights. Not sure how much power that equates to but it hurt about 3-4 seconds a lap.

(James) World Challenge is so competitive with less than a second between first and tenth. With the field that close what can you do to stay out of trouble and on the track? Does it change how aggressive you are during at least the first few laps?

Easy!! – start at the front and watch the fun in the rearview mirror. Mid-Ohio was really tough because we had done some productive testing and spent a lot of shop time on the cars, aside from the Watkin’s Glenn repairs. We had a good setup but just couldn’t get it to the front of the pack. If you don’t start at the front, you have to either be really lucky or claw your way up through traffic and take your lumps along the way.

(James) Road America seems to be a good track for the BMW's and Road Atlanta is almost a home track for BimmerWorld, how important is a strong finish to the team?

After a rough mid-season, a strong finish is super important for me, my co-drivers, and the whole team who has been putting in double-time to get a good result. If the complaints of the Mazda’s and Acura’s ring true, we should be lapping the field with the long straights of Road America, so I am certainly looking forward to it. For once I hope they’re right!

(James) Has it been difficult to keep morale up with the team after all the ups and downs this year or is it just part of racing?

It is part of racing, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. I heard recently that racing is a sport of losing and you very rarely win. But certainly I wouldn’t mind sneaking one in here.