So much for the afterglow - James Clay

Our team is accustomed to sprint races, but the 4 months leading up to Daytona were very much a mad, mad rush. It was almost surreal that we had round 1 of the season yesterday.
Great to be past this and let life settle out a little - 5 months until Homestead. And while that settles out, I will be thinking about what could and should have been in our race yesterday. Hoping for a lot more at Homestead and that Round 1 isn't an indication of how we will need to drive for the rest of the year.

the luck of the irish - James Clay

Or something... Before I complain, first I want to congratulate Bill and Seth for a great performance today. And equally if not more, the BimmerWorld crew for getting the 81 car back together, building such amazing cars in the first place, being totally on top of the situation this weekend and doing the massive amount of work required to be prepared for anything thrown at us. Awesome job.
Now about our race. Dave did an awesome job qualifying the car in 3rd and starting the race with a solid stint. We hit the needed yellow right in time, did a driver change, and came out in 4th. I played it safe for a good while. In a tangle with a MINI and one of the APR cars for a while that was hurting the cause to catch the leader, so I tucked in to work for the overall goal. Moving forward, 1 car pitted (we were good on fuel for the race) and I got past anoher shortly after another restart. So again in 4th, we came into T1 and things started to stack up a little which was good because my car and the 3 in front were all right together. Bad becaise when I got blasted from the back, I was close enough to the car in front of me to send me spinning into them sideways, bending a tie rod.
I spun pretty hard off in the T1 runoff and got it stopped and pointed back out quickly. With the car having a crazy toe issue, it would truck along and then violently move to the left when the right front tire got any loading at around 80mph. Not a safe car to keep on the track, so our day was done.
So weekend 1 is down, some good and some bad. The cars directly follow the development work we spent the last 4 years on in World Challenge so we have been able to get on pace with no head scratching. I can't wait to get to Homestead in March for another crack at the podium!

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My First Pro Race with BimmerWorld - Bill Heumann

After much anticipation and no small amount of anxiety on my part, we finished our first CTS race in Daytona with a second place finish.

Before I give a condensed version of the race, let me say that in fact the stickiness of Champagne does get rather irritating when it dries!

We had an awesome race and a some good luck that helped move us from 27th at the start to the podium. First on the list of things that worked perfectly was the BimmerWorld team. The cars were perfectly prepared without a mechanical issue all weekend. The team did not make a single mistake in our pit stop which is remarkable because we ended up pitting two cars at once. Our race strategy was solid. For those of you who follow endurance racing, you know that if you run a race without mistakes, your odds of success are very good.In my case, if you run a race without mistakes, and have Seth as your co driver, your odds of success are REALLY good.

The joy of our success in the #81 car is somewhat dampened by the poor luck that caught up with #80. For those of you who haven't been following the results, Dave White qualified in P3 with a 2:09.something. I believe this is the "team" best time. Dave started his first pro race in the front and was dicing it up nicely, and acting like he thought he belonged there! He was passed under yellow by at least one car that no corner workers witnessed so it was let stand. When he handed the car off to James, they were running in 4th. James kept the car in 4th and was patiently following 3rd when he was rear ended entering T1 and knocked into the car into the car front of him. The damage wasn't too bad overall but the tie rod was bent and they had to retire. Their car was perfect, the crew was perfect, the strategy were perfect, and the drivers were strong....but the luck was bad today.

In the #81 car the luck went the other way. I managed to make up some ground from our starting position and moved us up from 27th to about 17th at about an hour into the race. At that point, an incident brought on a Full Course Yellow (FCY) and our team engineer, Wayne Yawn, wisely called for both cars to come in during the pit window. I think Seth was about 20th when he took the car back out. Seth started right away knocking out 2:10's consistently and just chewed through the field. I am not sure what the tally will be but I think about 5-6 cars that were in front of him had various incidents or mechanical issues but the rest of them he simply drove past. He was closing on the race leader at about .5 seconds per lap when they stopped him by throwing the checkered flag. What a drive!

Seth will turn around and try to accomplish another heroic task tomorrow in the Rolex 24 driving the Autometrics Porsche Cup Car. He will be the starting driver from the back of the GT field since the qualifying co driver, Cory Friedman, had to rush home as his wife went into labor. Good luck to Cory and family. Be sure to watch the Rolex as Seth carves up that field.

Special mention for Steve Bassen and the BW crew for the heroic effort it took to get our car back together so quickly and perfectly after my prior visit to Daytona. Thanks to Jason Marks and Ryan Kuhn, crew and #81 car chief respectively. Thanks to Wayne for doing all of our thinking so the drivers don't need to. Thank you to every one of the BimmerWorld team for your part of this effort. Most of all, thank you to James for building the BimmerWorld team and giving me the opportunity to be a part of it. To a man, they are exceptional individuals!

Southbound and Down, Loaded Up and Truckin' - James Clay

Almost. A couple of busy days here to get everything ready. The plain blue cars that we tested at Daytona a few weeks ago (and arrived back as 1.5 cars) are now fully decked out in the 2010 BimmerWorld/GearWrench livery. Lots of vinyl laid down yesterday and today and they look great! Vinyl was my contribution, which is seemingly the best job for the team owner. "What can I do to help? Oh, go put on some stickers? OK, I'll do that"... At least I still feel important, and that's what matters.

Our team's good friend and miracle-worker Steve Bassen may deserve more credit than my decal job. In 1 week, he turned around our testing wreck that required a right side replacement (yup - all of the right side) into something straight and shiny. I can't express enough how important it is to our success to have a body shop that understands racing and will return our cars quickly and with all the parts we need.

The guys had to work Sunday to finish up the assembly and all the equipment. With pit stops now in the mix, we had to add some gear and to make it all manageable, we built more carts to have everything in its place and able to roll out of the trailer in an assembly with minimal digging.

I preach this so often at schools and to drivers I work with - get EVERYTHING ready before the event. There will be enough work that pops up once you get there so the notion of "I'll just do that at the track" is one to be avoided at all costs. We have about 10 checklists that have all been gone over to make sure everything in its place, including everything from a car nut and bolt and electronics systems to our decal list. I am pretty sure we won't be sitting on our hands trying to fill the time in Florida though.

Everyone here has done an awesome job with their part of making our team successful. I am headed out tomorrow morning, driving down. Lots of rules to re-read over and over so it all flows without questions out on the track. In about 36 hours, we strap in for real and I can't wait!

Pit Stop Practice - James Clay

Full dress rehearsal for drivers was this afternoon/evening. We felt pretty good at Daytona Test Days and the crew is very much on it. We have all done this before in club enduros, but we are looking at a minimum of a 2 minute mandatory pitstop in those, in which we do a driver change, dump more fuel than the CTC cars, and can do 4 tires easily with about 30 seconds to spare all at a leisurely pace - and not being able to do fuel and mechanical work together.

Now however, fuel should be the limiting factor due to the mandated hose size and restrictor - everything else has to be sped up to match 40 seconds of fuel flow (assuming an empty tank). So a little faster, not a ton. How does it change?

From a crew perspective, we added a second gunner/tireman, so we have one front and one rear with a jackman. The jack is a $750 3-pump, not the Harbor Freight deal. The guns are $500+ each and tuned up for speed internally with nifty features like a 40/60 split in power so 40% of capacity in the on direction, 60% off, you never should get it tighter than you can remove quickly. And the guys are on it, good under normal conditions, and now actually training more than a few runs a few times a year so they are awesome. Obviously damage and mechanical issues can play a part here, but hopefully that is a low percentage deal.

On the driver side, it is just a matter of a lot of steps done methodically. The cars are built with a focus on entry/egress speed so that helps. There are more goodies to deal with so that hurts - belts, radio, drink tube, helmet blower, pitlane speed limiter, nets x2 on the left (side head and side window). We use Schroth Enduro belts which are critical to the speed - lots of little features to make them work quickly. That coupled with some craftiness on component placement and surgical tubing and we can get it done in about 30 seconds.

Unfortunately our weather isn't cooperating and while we race in the rain, I don't go for hanging out in 40 degree rain as an exercise. Practice has been moved inside.

So after some driver dry-runs (full gear), we added in the rest of the guys and it looks like we can easily beat the fuel. A few more goes at practice without the drivers and more practice at Daytona before the race and we should be fairly tuned up. Bungling a pit stop to the tun of 30 seconds or way more is realistic and happens. If cars are evenly matched and at best a 0.5 second difference in lap times if you push really hard as a driver, you would be lucky to be able to recover from a bad stop in a stint. Hopefully with all the guys here putting in 110% effort for the last 3 months down to "little" details like this will pay off next week. I know I am getting fired up and I am glad racing starts in January for us this year instead of the March of years past - I wanna go fast!

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Racers, Rock Stars, Presidents and Impersonators - Bill Heumann

The last couple of days were supposed to be some intensive coaching from Seth and a lot of seat time at Sebring but "the best laid plans of mice and men..."

I probably should have stayed home given the way the trip started. After an agonizing 45 minute delay due to an accident on the expressway I got to the airport with 4o minutes before departure. Not a big deal for a little airport like Louisville. When I got to security, they wanted to check my helmet bag since the number of wires and jacks in the com system must have made it look like a bomb. They unzipped my bag and I see little plastic pieces fall out! The forced air nozzle on my brand new, beautiful, Arai GP5 lid which was newly painted (by Savage Designs) was broken.

Sitting at the gate in Charlotte waiting for my connecting flight to Orlando I was working on getting my zen back. I got a smile on my face thinking about what a great experience this is and that I very well could be the most famous person in the gate area now that I was a PRO racer. This lasted all of about 30 seconds before I see this guy sitting there.....

After a few moments he pulls out a guitar and starts singing a fairly good " West Virginia, mountain momma....."
At this point I realize he is impersonator...... and I still could be the most famous person since this is technically a DQ.

The cheapest car rentals in Orlando resulted in Seth driving a Nisan Cube while I was in a manual transmission Nissan Versa. I thought I had the better end of this deal until Seth took off and I couldn't figure out where reverse was. Fortunately, Florida is flat and I hopped out and pushed it back far enough to get out.

PBOC puts on a great event with Winterfest and they were super accommodating to our change of plans and special requests. Thanks to Joanne Schwartzman and all of PBOC for being so nice and helpful to us. Sebring is such a fun track I regret we are not racing there in the CTS this year.

I had rented the equivalent of JP lite (JPl) for Thursday coaching (with passenger seat for ride alongs) and the equivalent of an IP lite (IPl) for the 6 hour enduro that I was going to run with BMW Club Racer, Jean Luc Bergeron. Night practice at Sebring went well with Seth putting down a fast data lap that caused people to claim our IPl car should be bumped up 2 classes!

The coaching went well although we were hindered by not getting much use of the car we intended to use with two seats so we could jump back and forth. Randy Mueller was paddocked near by and coaching PBOC racer, Robert Chang in his beautiful E46 M3 (pretty similar to well built CM). Robert was super gracious and helped us out with a loan of a car which had a passenger seat. After riding a session with Seth, it was even more clear that there is a lot I can learn from him. He is super precise, quick and smooth. All of his techniques are textbook quality.
We did get about 10 minutes in the JPl on Thursday with Seth riding with me so he could see my driving style. He gave me some things to work on in the 3 hours of seat time I would get in the enduro.

Jean Luc qualified our IPl well then it's race time! He had a good start and had moved up a couple of spots in the field after two laps. All of the sudden he limps the car into the pits...... and we are out with an engine failure! So now I am kind of standing there with my suit on and realize that at this point I am kind like an impersonator of racer, at least for the day. For a few hours, I hang on to hope that either the IPl car will be repairable or that I'll get some seat time in the JPl, but at about the 3 1/2 hour mark, that cars dies with a mechanical failure!

It's now time to call it quits so before heading home. I go to dinner with Randy and Robert to get some time to catch up and thank them for helping with the use of Robert's car. Unfortunately Randy barely finishes the "turf" and about half of the "surf" before he has to give it back up due to Lobster Poisoning. I am glad to report that he has recovered and is mostly OK.

The final piece of weirdness from this trip was the return flight which had Elvis on board! Sorry no pictures of this one but you know what he looks like!

WINTER Testing - David White

VIR Shakedown - BimmerWorld arranged for a pre Daytona shakedown at VIR last Monday. It was roughly 15 degrees when we got to the track and it didn’t seem to warm up much from there. The cold temps delayed our start but we finally got underway and made some real progress. After the initial shakedown laps, we spent some time getting familiar with the cars and started making some suspension tweaks. A few things I immediately noticed about the new cars is that they have a little less grip than I am used to from racing BMWCCA prepared class cars (the spec tires are a little harder and the cars have no real aero grip) and they are very sensitive to driver input. I'll definitely be working on being smooth and patient with my inputs.

The cars are absolutely gorgeous and the build quality is second to none. This is a testament to BimmerWorld’s race car building experience and their intimate knowledge of the E90 chassis. We were all very happy with the cars and the progress that was made at VIR.

Hopefully Daytona will be warmer…

Daytona Test Days – So it was a little warmer in Daytona but not much. Apparently Florida is seeing unusually cold temperatures…greeeaaaat! If you haven’t already picked up on it, I’m not a big fan of cold weather…at all.

Friday – We stopped by the Grand-Am offices on the way to breakfast so everyone could pick up their credentials for the season (apparently I was the only one that had his credentials mailed to him). After breakfast, we headed over to the track. If you’ve never been to Daytona International Speedway (DIS), it’s MASSIVE! I’m pretty sure you could fit a few other speedways in the infield. Overall, the facility is very impressive. After separating and handing out all the crew and driver gear (the whole team is decked out in new Alpinestars gear – very nice stuff), we headed over to the driver’s meeting. The driver’s meeting was pretty brief and to the point (surprisingly nobody asked what the yellow flag meant).

James and I had visited DIS late last year to learn the track so we basically hit the ground running in the first session. The cars were fast right off the trailer and I spent most of my seat time the first day getting more comfortable with the car and driving in a new series. We worked on tweaking the car’s setup a bit along with figuring out what kind of fuel mileage we can expect. I felt like it was a very productive and successful first day in CTSCC!

Saturday – We left our hotel Saturday morning to find out it’s sleeting/snowing/raining…in Daytona Beach, Florida. Really? When we got to the track we heard that there was some ice on the track and the track officials were trying to thaw it out. A perfect way to start the day. The early morning Rolex series session was cancelled and we decided to skip our first session (at 11am) because the track was still wet, cold, and it was still raining/sleeting. Apparently this was a popular decision since very few cars went out in that session. The track was dry for our afternoon session and we picked up where we left off from the previous day, working on setup and any driver/line issues that needed to be addressed.

Sunday – After thawing out some Saturday night, we arrived to much nicer conditions (albeit still cold) on Sunday morning. The Sunday sessions were spent mostly on pit stops and driver changes since this is a very important part of endurance racing. We practiced several pit stops and I was very impressed with how well everything went. The BimmerWorld crew is on top of their game! I did discover during one pit stop that I have to unbuckle (not just loosen) my harnesses before I can get out of the car…who knew?

Overall I felt like the Daytona test went great. We have great cars, an amazing crew, and a solid driver lineup. I’m very optimistic about BimmerWorld’s first season in CTSCC and can’t wait to get back to Daytona for our race at the end of this month. Hopefully it will be warmer…

Photos courtesy of Curtis Creager of Creager Images

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Experiences of a Pro Rookie - Bill Heumann

Florida is not supposed to be this cold! Ok, it is North Florida in January but snow and ice on the track? Seriously? This is colder than Mid Ohio in October! I can’t wait to get back North where at least the buildings have heat.

My real awareness of making it to the pros was when I got to the hotel room I was sharing with Seth. The room was equipped with black lights for mood and plastic under sheets. To cap it off the HVAC unit wouldn’t blow hot air. To show that I am not the most inexperienced member of the team in all things, I called the front desk to find out that if you want heat you turn the rheostat all the way to cold as opposed to the highest temperature setting. Other, more experienced team members resorted to leaving the oven on and open if they were in an efficiency room or sleeping mostly clothed if they didn’t have an oven.

This was my first visit to Daytona and it is an unbelievable track and facility. I have driven some other famous tracks, but this one takes the prize for wow factor. It is so large and so impressive with so much history in evidence that it is simply in a category of its own. Furthermore, it is fast. Really fast. The track itself is easy to learn your way around but like most, not so easy to master.

I am really fortunate to have opportunity to race with BimmerWorld and to be paired with Seth Thomas. The team is so unbelievably serious and professional…at least at the track. Outside of work they are somewhat less professional, but certainly more… “entertaining.”

The Continental Tire Challenge Sport Car Series (CTC) is run by Grand Am. They run a very efficient and friendly organization. The guys in the paddock from the other teams that I met were very helpful and kind to the rookie (who is old enough to be their father if not grandfather in some cases).

My goals for this test and tune weekend were to figure out the car, the track and a little bit about what the heck I am doing. I had some success on all counts but not as much as I had hoped for.

My first event as a BimmerWorld driver in the Continental Tire Challenge Series started in a pretty normal fashion for my style of doing things in racing…by crashing our newly built BMW E90 328 into the inside wall of T1 at Daytona. I came on the brakes too hard while still on the banking…or maybe it was the wall’s fault?

Before this, Seth had set the fast lap of Session 1 in our car so the car is good and is capable of running where we need to run. The build quality is superb. My IP racecar was built by BW and I have been able to see several of the cars they have built over the years. While those were all great cars, these CTC cars are clearly the best. They are simply, works of art. Well ok, #81 is a little less artistic now!

We are back at Daytona the end of this month for the first race of the season. In the mean time, I am off to Sebring for a day of coaching from Seth then a run in the PBOC 6 hour enduro.

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