2014 was another fantastic season. Once again, a season full of excitement, frustration, achievement and failure. From my 1st PRO3 win, to winning 3 of 4 endurance races to the launch of a new car class and being part of something brand new with the inception of Spec E46, 2014 was a superb year.
The Ridge 6 Hour Enduro (Spec E46 Inaugural Race)
In January, Dan Rogers and I started a serious dialogue about being one of the first owners of a newly created car in the Spec E46 class. We gambled and going 50:50 each on a new build we commissioned BimmerWorld to build us our first car. After watching with fascination as the car was pieced together the inaugural race was in Shelton, WA at the 6 Hours Endurance Race at The Ridge Motorsports Park.
Our competition was another Spec E46 built by Chuck Hurley and Grip Racing and we went into the race hoping to win our class and to see how competitive the cars would be. Dan and I had invited James Clay from BimmerWorld to race with us and we had ding dong battle to the bitter end with Grip to finish one lap up and not only first in class but also first overall. At this point, with Spec E46 finishing 1st and 2nd in the race, it was clear that we’d stumbled upon something pretty amazing.
Lime Rock Park – CTSC #1 – BimmerWorld E92 ST No.82
Subbing for Dan Rogers who had a family commitment, I got to race with Seth Thomas in the Continental Tire Series Challenge driving with BimmerWorld. To have a race that I can commute to from New York was such a treat and because I’d never run at Lime Rock before, Seth and I went the weekend before to test in old Spec E36. After learning more driving technique and race craft in a weekend than I had for months - even years - beforehand I was ready for my first pro race of the year.
The races at Lime Rock are always over a short period of time. They are also one class races with the ST class running separately from the GS cars. Practice was good, I wanted more but I was fast enough, but with qualifying being rained out I was starting based upon Dan and Seth’s ranking. On the start we had a small issue with the radio so I started from pit lane. As luck would have it there was quite a pile up in turn 1 on lap one and after driving through car parts I did exactly what I was supposed to, not get lapped, and I handed the car off to Seth who was epic and we finished 5th overall and 2nd in the non MX5 class that, at the time, was the car to have with them winning 5 of the previous 6 races.
Virginia International Raceway – CTSC #2 – BimmerWorld E92 St No.82
Acting as substitute again for Dan Rogers this time it was at a race track I’d visited but never raced; Virginia International Raceway (VIR). I was excited to race but knowing just how hard tracks were to learn with GS and ST cars passing you left right and center, it’s a hard thing to do. Luckily I’d done my research and with VIR being BimmerWorld’s local track, and Seth Thomas being one of the fastest drivers on course, I was hoping for a good showing.
As per usual, track time was limited to just a handful of laps. With qualifying being rained out and track time being a premium, I was excited to start in the top 15 on track, however, also quite apprehensive to start surrounded by drivers who were clearly faster than I was. The start was pretty clean, nothing bad happened in the first few turns and after a couple of laps of allowing folks to pass me when and where needed, I got into a rhythm and in the excessive heat and humidity (it was 85f and 90%+ humid) I drove 40 minutes before a full course caution gave me the perfect opportunity to swap out drivers with Seth and watch him race to 6th overall. Another weekend in CTSC was amazing and a huge weekend of learning and experience for me.
2014 PRO3 Season
The 2014 PRO3 season was a fantastic one. It should have been from the 1st race, however, a poor decision on my part resulted in one of my worst finishes for years. The opener was, as always, at Portland International Raceway. The weekend was typical of the time of year with days of rain and sunshine. An hour before the race there was a deluge of rain, so, we all opted for wet tires, in the following 30mins the warm spring sunshine warmed the track and on the installation lap I realized that I was one of only a handful of drivers using rain tires and a softer setup. It was disastrous and my 2014 PRO3 campaign started with a 12th place.
Then the season got better and I started to drive better. Spokane yielded a couple of 2nd places and a 3rd and despite an engine failure at Pacific Raceways we got to ORP feeling pretty good about the season. We were driving the track counter clockwise for the first time so I practiced there on the Friday really starting to like the rhythm of the track in the opposite direction. In race 1 I managed a 4th place, losing out in the braking zones to my fellow competitors. A change of brake pads the next morning and I went out to qualify. My times were good for the conditions and with fresh brake pad I was braking much better however, I had no context as to how anyone else was doing. On coming back in people were pointing at me and I wondered why, then, getting out of the car, Hank and Sam came over and said “you got pole”. Amazing, my first and a very special feeling. The race was equally rewarding after fending off Dan Gavrila and Cody Smith to take my FIRST PRO3 WIN! Brilliant.
The penultimate season race for me was in Portland where, after a pretty decent qualifying (3rd) I fought hard with Jason Vein in his newly purchased Tic Tac car (Dan Rogers sold his to concentrate on Spec E46) and finished on the podium again.
The season rounded out at The Ridge in what was a frustrating race to 4th place. In places I was fast enough in others I just wasn’t and despite having some of the best and most enjoyable racing over the weekend I was frustrated to finish just outside the top three.
In the end though, 8 starts to PRO3 races had secured 5th spot for me in the PRO3 championship and something that I feel pretty proud about as those around me all had excess of ten races and could drop their poorer performances.
2014 Endurance Season
My favorite time of year is the endurance season. I have a particular passion for the longer haul races where strategy plays out over time and consistency and good judgment weigh more than all out speed and high risk and high gain maneuvers.
Things kicked off in Portland at the 8 hours of the Cascades. Dan Rogers, James Clay and I partnered up again to race together in the BimmerWorld #82 Spec E46. The weekend started out rainy but the track was drying up for the race and we were set for a fantastic event. There were four total Spec E46s entered and it was stiff competition, which included Grip Racing in their Red Bull #95, Strictly BMW in their newly built #166 and Advanced Auto Fabrication in their brand new and gorgeous #4.
We started out poorly, with the LeMans type start putting us 30 seconds behind. This is when Dan Rogers went to work and slowly and surely, putting in faster and faster times, managed to get to us to the first pit stop in 2nd place. Then it was my turn and with the pit stop rotations working in our favor I was out in front and managed to get at least half a lap on our closet competition (Strictly BMW) handing off to Clay who put on a master class. Through the rotations we increased our lead and by the end of the race we were not only two laps ahead in the E2 class but also the second placed car overall. So, that made it 2 for 2 in the Spec E46. Amazing!
Next up came something brand new for me; racing an SCCA race on the East Coast! Back at VIR for the 13 Hour Charge Of The Headlight Brigade and this time I had a chance to drive a completely different Spec E46 owned by Ryan Schuster from BimmerWorld. This race was of particular importance as we were driving to raise money for Cancer Charities (Susan G Komen and American Cancer Association). My co-drivers were Ryan (car owner), Tyler Cooke (BimmerWorld pro) and Lyonel Kent, a local racer with tons of experience at VIR.
The format wasn’t conducive to practice and, yet again at VIR, I ended up with one hot lap in practice before I had to start the race on Saturday morning. Tyler had qualified us well, however, my lack of experience at VIR put us down a few positions in the first few laps. Luckily, my speed reappeared half way through my stint and I started to lay down some great laps (2nd fastest in our team and 3rd fastest in the 8 drivers BimmerWorld had running the event). As we cycled through the drivers we got higher and higher in the positions when, after a power steering malfunction on our closest competitor, we ended up in 1st in class and we kept it all the way to the end, after a close battle, to finish 1st in class and 3rd overall in the race. Another amazing showing for the Spec E46 platform.
December flew around and it was time for the big race and my favourite event of the season; the 25 Hours of Thunderhill in Northern California. This is a grueling event and a really good test for the Spec E46 platform. After three class wins and some amazing overall showings I was feeling really confident for the race. I’d done some work on our competition and we had a great shot of winning the L1 class.
The weather wasn’t cooperating on the practice day, Friday, and we struggled to find a good setup for the dry. James Clay put in an amazing few laps in qualifying to put us in a good starting position so we felt great for the race, despite not having the dry running we needed.
Dan Rogers started our race and he immediately found the car to be handling poorly. Turns out we didn’t reapply a dry setup to the car and he was running around with wet settings on a bone dry track. This put us back a bit and after three hours and a 5 minute penalty for a fuel spill we were 2 laps down. Unfortunately from there things got progressively worse and with a few bangs and brushes here and there, by the time I got in the car it was handling very badly. I was struggling also without having any daytime laps before I had my first real stint in the car and as a result I was having a torrid time. About half way through my first stint the thing that every driver fears at Thunderhill, I went off at T8, the very fast, almost flat left hander on the back section. I was touching 100mph when the rear of the car came around and I had two choices, straight or try and correct and risk spinning (which would be a certain roll). I opted for straight and unfortunately the ground was so soft I broke a tie rod and had to be towed back. We went down 8 laps from that incident, not great for our chances.
As I ended my session, embarrassed and annoyed, I went off for some sleep and hoped that luck would favor us now and James Clay could put in some of his amazing consistency to put us back in contention. After about three hours I returned to our pits to hear Hank say “didn’t you hear about Clay’s off in T8”, thinking he was joking around he showed me a photograph which was disappointing as it wasn’t a joke. The car had a problem and James was unable to save it going into T8 and he too had a run through the mud. This time he got stuck and in the ensuing tow/recovery the front bumper was torn from the car.
Needless to say, by the time my 2nd stint came around, it was a case of just finishing the race. The car had experienced a series of additional issues, however, I got my absolute favourite session of the day, dawn. I got in the car around 5:45am and with sunrise around 7:00am I got to go from pitch black to the light through to full sunlight. It was amazing. The car, having been through hell, was in a place where it was an absolute delight to drive and with the light enabling me to see my marks and the predictability of the car being as good as it was, I had the most amazing couple of hours. It was the highlight of my Thunderhill for sure. My stint only came to an end when the alternator failed and we had to come in to replace it.
I’m not sure where we finished, I don’t really care, but we finished and that’s what really matters to me as we were due some bad luck, we learned an absolute ton and I have to be honest the folks I raced with and the camaraderie made it so much better.
2014 Wrap Up
I loved my 2014 racing season. I had highs and lows but above all it was thoroughly enjoyable. I learned a great deal about racing, I got to be part of a brand new car class series and I got to meet, work with and race with some of the best people in racing. A big thanks to Hank and Sam Moore for their continued fantastic friendship and service, to James Clay, Seth Thomas and Dan Rogers from BimmerWorld especially for giving me opportunities abound in the year and thanks to everyone else who I raced and competed with. I can only hope 2015 is as good!