The Question most fans want to know the answer to!!
9/3/08




As questions from our BimmerWorld fans have come in, one has stood out-


"How did you get here (WC)?"


We've modified several of these reader submissions into a group of all encompassing queries for the guys.

We'll make each give their own account and send everyone a T-shirt that helped us come up with these! Thanks for the great questions and keep them coming. The team is busy prepping for their season finale at Road Atlanta and since that is BW home turf and a fast track with lots of elevation changes. Don't miss it - the final race is sure to be exciting!

Send a question, if we use it we'll pay you back with a T-shirt. questions@bimmerworldracing.com

(ALL) Your driver bios on the site give a small glimpse into your background, however it seems that everyone is eager for more information. Specifically can you talk about how you got started, previous series (club or pro) that you've raced in, any autocross experience you may have, and any other experience / training you think has prepared you for racing at the pro levels.

[James Clay] I got my start with the BMW Car Club of America, working up through the ranks of their driving school program. I had a friend that invited me to my first track school and since then, I was hooked. In my first year of driving, I worked up to an instructor in schools and started racing with the BMW CCA, then SCCA the following year. I took a break from racing for about a year after a bit of frustration with mechanicals and so that I could resolve all the problems with my - then private racing effort. When I came back, I had started BimmerWorld and the team that is with us now, the company, and I all grew together through various club racing into World Challenge.

I have autocrossed in the past, but it just wasn't enough time behind the wheel for the effort. I ocassionally do an auto-X event more to hang out with friends, and I am happy to say I have gotten a lot better!

Working through the ladder of development from one series to a more competitive one, and so forth, I have spent a huge amount of time instructing and coaching (invaluable seat time), and of course continually working on physical and mental conditioning to stay sharp. One of the things I figured out early when I was racing jetskis - if you aren't in shape so you are working to keep your head above water, you are wasting your time. Same in a car - if after the intense concentration for a straight hour, plus all the heat and physical work in the car, you get out tired, you need to hit the gym!

[Nick Esayian] Someone posted a flyer at my college for an SCCA autocross in 1989. I showed up as a novice and won the novice class as well as a the F Stock class... This “old guy” PD Cunningham had everyone kissing his a$$. He told me, “Nice job” and when I found out who he was that really got me going.

I’d never even been to a car race and PD Cunningham asked me to bring my street car to use as a pace car at an SCCA National at Blackhawk. After seeing the start I was sold. Got my novice permit and waiver... Won my first eight races, Rookie of the Year in CenDiv, and things started rolling from there.

Among all the club racing, Dodge sponsored the Neon Challenge Series, which really gave me a boost. I did well and there was generous prize money to fund my effort. We used that car to win some NASA pro races and then I realized I really was going to need some help, as I didn’t have the cash to get to the next level. I certainly was on my own financially, so all the help I got along the way from guys like Ralph Porter, Gary Johnson at Dodge, PD, Nathan Bonneau, Acura, Robert Davis, Mazda Motorsports, TRD, Rick Gilhart, Bill Banner, Sandy Silverberg, Al Thom and Autotechnica (really dating myself) made all this possible. Without these guys dotting the timeline of my career I would be at home watching on TV.

[Seth Thomas] When I was in college a couple of my friends had started doing driver’s schools with the local Porsche Club chapter. They kept telling me how I should do it but being a college student my money was being spent in other places. Finally I gave in the day I bought my first BMW M3. I signed up for the local BMW Clubs driver’s school at Road Atlanta. I had always thought I was a pretty decent driver on the street and would be able to hold my own.

At my first school I did a decent job, showed some improvements and potential but I was schooled by my instructor in his E30 325. After this I was hooked and kept doing any school that I could find in the southeast.

From here I hung out with some guys that were building an E30 318 to race in SCCA Club Racing. They wanted me to help drive in some of the enduro races. That is how I started racing and it hasn’t stopped since then. The challenge is to always try to make yourself faster and better driver.

(ALL) What do you feel are the biggest challenges / changes in going from a club race series (BMWCCR, NASA, SCCA) to the professional levels?

[James Clay] It is tough to go from being king of the hill to the back of the bunch. That is all part of developing yourself as a driver or developing a team though - if you are surrounded by a high level of competition and work to meet it, you improve by default. Most drivers in the World Challenge field could go to a club race in any competitive car handed to them and win. The trick is going past that level, with the diminishing returns of everything in life, and figuring out how
to set your car up to get on power earlier - 10' earlier, carry 1 more MPH, etc, or how to do the same as a driver.

[Nick Esayian] Pro Racing, more specifically World Challenge is just way more competitive. At Mosport the entire field was .8 second apart. It’s silly. There are guys that have a better change of winning but the top 15 guys could win a race and no one would be surprised. I used to go to club races and expect to win and come home with a trophy. The level of competition in World Challenge is probably closer than ANY type of auto racing in the US.

[Seth Thomas] Details. In a pro level setting there are a lot of details that help to make the good teams as good as they are. It starts with the car prep and ends with the drivers. Everything makes a difference. If you are 1% off the mark with your setup then you are going to be 10th instead of on the pole or 2nd in qualifying.

The same goes for driving. It is a different level of drivers you are competing against. Instead of always racing the 3 or 4 guys in your class that you are always around it is all the drivers at the track that weekend. Every driver in the race has shot at winning and getting around them in not as easy as driving past them. You have to work on passing them and you have just as tough of a time keeping them behind you. Driving at this level is 100% about consistently driving the car as the maximum level of grip for the entire time.

(ALL) What are your future career goals as it relates to racing?

[James Clay] Excel and win! I have always loved World Challenge and it is really where I want to be. It is hard in road racing to look very long term because it is a fluid landscape. Certainly I keep my eyes open for opportunities, but it isn't in my nature to go to a series just to win more races with less competition. BimmerWorld as a company also thrives on the development of a technical series like World Challenge where engineering is done at a fairly high level.

[Nick Esayian] I love World Challenge. It’s competitive, the cars are cutting edge, and the series is growing, we race with NASCAR/IRL/ALMS, it’s on TV, big crowds, and the standing starts are awesome. If I could run a car in Touring Car and GT at the same time I would be fulfilled. We will see next year. My goal is to win a championship in WC. For that to happen you need to be in the right car during the right year, be consistent, finish all the races, and have a little luck. I’ve put some of those components into each season but I need to be more focused and put them all together.

[Seth Thomas] The number one goal for me is to win the driver’s title in World Challenge. I feel this is certainly possible with the BMW and the BimmerWorld team.

The other goals I have are to drive in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the Petite LeMans. Both of these have been races I have watched for years. They both feature some of the best drivers in the world that I would like to compete against. The Petite LeMans is at my home racetrack where I would definitely like to drive at night.

(James) Everyone is aware of the critical role sponsors play in keeping teams afloat. Without naming specific sponsors, what are some of the specific ways in which they provide support, i.e., cash, materials, research or some combination of these? Reader: Dave Taylor

[James Clay] There really is no set formula. The best sponsor relations are as beneficial or more to the sponsors as they are to the team, and of course it really depends on the nature of the sponsor's business. For example, product sponsors, or sponsors that make a product associated with the car would typically supply more on the parts and engineering side than cash, and in return get race testing of their components for durability or design/tuning as well as the marketing support, etc - and those benefits are also specific to the need. On the other hand, M&Ms likely doesn't supply their NASCAR team with product to use or test - that is more of a straight money deal. Some deals are incredibly convoluted as far as who pays, what benefits are included, etc, but it is all about making sure everyone benefits for the effort. If it sounds confusing and you have some corporate money to spend, my door is always open :)

(Nick) What changes do you have to make to your driving style switching between a front drive and rear drive car? Reader: Kurt Ristow

[Nick Esayian] The laws of physics are the same for front and rear drive cars... The biggest differences are power application and the different setups between the RTR (Real Time Racing) cars and the Bimmerworld cars. In the rear drive cars you get a much better start and coming out of the corners you can go to partial throttle a bit quicker. In the front drive cars you have to wait a bit longer to get on the pipe but when you do you can roll it on faster. The BMW’s were really stiff and low at the beginning of the year and now we have moved away from that a bit.
In the end I think the rear drive platform will ultimately be the fast way around. The front drive guys can pitch it in there and if you get loose you mash the throttle and as long as you are on dry ground you can gather it in. If you start throwing the BMW around, albeit may have similar limits, you are going to experience much more “dramatic” recoveries.


(Seth) Who is your favorite non-Bimmerworld WC driver to race against and why? Reader: Jesse Clark

This is a tough one. Every driver in World Challenge is a great driver who is tough to compete with. Nobody is your favorite to race against because in the best case scenario you are out front not really worrying about racing somebody. I guess though if I was racing a guy in the middle of the race or on a last lap scenario I would prefer Charles Espenlaub.

I think he is a great driver who really drives his car to the limit at all times. One of the things you know with Charles is that he will race you fairly and cleanly. At the same time he will make you earn your position. It is funny because when I see him as my next guy to pass I actually don’t look forward to it. He is one of the toughest guys to pass on the track. At the end of the day when you have battled with him in a race you feel like you earned the spot and results of the race.

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