With Sonoma and Laguna Seca in my rear-view mirror, my thoughts are now focused on what happened in the paddock rather than on the track. Even though I finished on the podium for all the races (2 at Sonoma and 2 at Laguna Seca), it was the many conversations I had with fellow racers, like my friends Steve Walker and Troy Ermish, that made the weekends extra special. I was able to sit down with both for what will be an upcoming series of interviews. More details to follow.
Steve has what I consider to be the best collection of vintage BMW race cars. The Luigi BMW CSL is my favorite with his newly acquired GS Tuning Fischer Technik BMW 2002 race car coming in as a close 2nd. That said, it is Steve’s other BMW race car that caught my eye a few years ago - the Hyde Park BMW 2002, #34. Hyde Park BMW was a dealership in the Los Angeles area that supported 2 BMW 2002s in the under 2.0-liter group during the Trans Am era which ran from 1966-1972. Carl Fredericks drove the #34 car while Jeff Kline and Nels Miller drove the #35 car. But before I say another word about the #34 car, I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to reflect on all that happened during the back-to-back races held by SVRA.
I do not like to show up unprepared for anything. Before the more difficult tracks that I have less seat time at, like Sonoma and Laguna Seca, I like to review the Track Walk tutorial by Speed Secrets. Ross Bentley and Peter Krause do a great job of preparing me for the nuances of each track. They give detailed tips and instructions on apexes, even giving exact landmarks to look for. Their commentary is unmistakable experience at its best. If you haven't watched one of their Track Walks, you should at www.speedsecrets.com.
Prepping for my race lines is just one of the many items on the checklist before a race. The list was quite long for this double-header. I needed to secure good spots in the paddocks with race officials, organize my tires to determine which were to be used for practice, which need to be heat-cycled, and which were going to be used for quali or the race, register for practice sessions and the race itself, and make sure all equipment was prepped and ready for load-in day at the shop in Long Beach.
The team behind BSedan was hard at work preparing for two weeks of living in the Renegade motorhome and organizing travel details for the crew – for example, securing full-access media credentials and crew passes for 2 of Eibach’s marketing guys and B Sedan team photographer Kyle VanHoften. This trip was a first for me as a newly permitted Commercial Class A driver. Although I can drive the motorhome with a regular class C license, a Class A is required when we tow the triple axel, +12,000 lb stacker trailer. My amazing friend and mentor Michael McCarthy has had a commercial license for 50 years and is also a racer. He rode shotgun with us so that I could gain valuable experience in preparation for driving the rig myself. More information to come on my year-long deep dive into commercial licenses and how and why someone might need one.
(We took delivery at Sport Truck RV in AZ on May 20th, 2018)
We decided to put up both coach and trailer awnings for the race which requires the assistance of several people. Fortunately, Kelvin Blasko was available for two weeks. Kelvin helps me in the paddock, takes great photographs and is the Director of Awning Set-up and Tear-down. There are many benefits of having a 65'x20' awning that can be enclosed. The family benefits, my fellow racers benefit, and the race cars benefit. It should come as no surprise that we did the same at Laguna Seca.
(Sonoma Set up with cars, tables and chairs)
Fortunately, the Hot Wheels #002 ran great at Sonoma but I missed a couple shifts going up the hill toward turn 2 that hindered my race performance but, nevertheless, I was on the podium for the races on Saturday and Sunday. It was fun to be running similar times as my friend Keith Lippiatt. He is someone I look up to so to have qualifying times in his realm was rewarding. Sonoma is probably my favorite race track because you really have to stay focused and be smooth so that you can carry speed onto the straight sections. The weather forecast for Sunday was 90% chance of rain starting at 1:00 a.m., but when we woke up, there wasn’t a drop on the pavement. So we unloaded my car from the trailer and prepared for the last race of the weekend. I was able to stay with the lead cars until I missed another shift at turn 11 and again at turn 2. So what was a close race turned out to be me just making sure I didn’t miss any more shifts and coming home in 3rd overall and 1st in class. That said, some of the B Sedan drivers went home early or didn’t brave the elements so the field was a little thin compared to Saturday. After talking it over with Ken, we determined the missed shifts were driver error more than mechanical problems. As you go up the hill into turn 2, the car’s chassis is twisting one way while the drivers arm and hand are moving further from the shift knob. The amount of movement, along with adrenalin, can make shifting more of a precise action that regularly needed. I took that bit of wisdom with me to Laguna Seca and that seemed to solve the problem.
(Podium at Sonoma: I finished 3rd overall and 1st in class)
We left Sonoma for Laguna Seca on Monday April 26th. The 2 days off in-between races meant that we were going to (theoretically) have a nice time camping in the Can Am circle. Anyone who knows Laguna Seca knows what the campgrounds are like – twisty and narrow. There was no way we were going to try to drive the Renegade into that campsite! A leisurely 2 days off was not total wishful thinking though. The Lakebed staging area at the track was designated for rigs arriving early. We were able to park in a wide-open space abutted to a huge grass field with geese and goslings. The family was able get out and play and we actually put out the lawn chairs and enjoyed the moment for what is was – nothing short of amazing.
Ken Blasko, who built my race car and overseas all the tack support, had his hands full. Because he had 7 cars to support, including his own, he brought in a crew of guys to help cover all the racers’ needs. The paddock was busy but always under control because of the talent and character of each of these helping hands.
We ran in group 8 at Laguna, combining the B/S and BSL. It was a huge, competitive run group with roughly 35 cars. My times were competitive and I found myself on the rear-end of some of the fastest B/S Datsuns. Sunday’s race was unfortunately cut short, with only 3 laps completed due to a Datsun leaking oil all over the track. As a result, a couple of the BMW 2002’s hit the oil patch and spun into each other. It didn’t help that the driver of the Datsun who leaked the oil, got out of his car during the race. That is a big no-no unless your car is on fire. With little option left, the race directors black flagged the race. Regardless, it was a successful outing for the Hot Wheels #002. I beat my lap time goal of 1:50 with a 1:49.389 and ended up on the podium for both races. Check out @bsedan.racing for snippets of each race while full footage can be found @B Sedan on Youtube channel.
(Laguna Seca set up complete with 7 BMW 2002's one 911 RSR)
(The race tracks are great but the people make the experience)
(World famous Corkscrew in a Hot Wheels)