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.