Overcoming the Blues

WGI has never been my favorite track. I realize that sounds blasphemous since most people love the place. My first ever W2W race was at Watkins in April of 2016. It was with American Endurance Racing in a DriveGear Racing SpecE30. I had never driven an E30, never been to Watkins, and never raced W2W. I went into the weekend as a relatively confident driver as I had always been on the quick side in my E36 M3 track car. Definitely was not prepared for the rude awakening.

First time renting a car, first time at the Glen, first time W2W racing. I sure did dive head first into this.

The E30 was a big adjustment in itself. It was my first time driving a rental, and with the freshly signed agreement, it made me a bit nervous because I didn’t want to be the one to ball it up. E30s need to be flogged to be driven fast. The blue Armco and a rental racecar didn’t make that easy for me as I took my first few laps in the car. SE30 gets classed in Class 1 with AER. This is the slowest class, one of the slowest cars, and I was definitely the slowest driver on the team. The weekend was spent watching my mirrors as the closing speeds between the SE30 and Class 5 cars differed by 50mph at times. I never got comfortable during the weekend, and I left rethinking my goals for w2w racing if I struggled with this weekend so much.

Photo: WindShadow Photo Studios

I put the traumatizing weekend behind me and eventually went W2W in my E36 M3 the next year. In 2017, I returned to WGI in September to race GTS2 with NASANE. Now I was in a car that I was comfortable in, had already raced a few weekends, at a track that I’ve now been to before. I had done well in the previous race weekends, and was hoping to do the same here at WGI. My first experience at WGI still lingered in my mind as the green flag dropped. I couldn’t get my previous doubts out of my mind, even though I had driven my E36 M3 racecar quick at NJMP and Pitt Race. The two WGI races turned into 35 minutes each of overthinking and memories of the AER weekend. I couldn’t get it out of my mind, and it showed in my performance in my E36. I was off pace, inconsistent, and pretty far back in the field. I left WGI frustrated again and disappointed that I wasn’t able to put on a better drive. In 2018, I didn’t get the chance to race at WGI with NASA as I sold my E36 M3 to build an E46 M3.

Third time is the charm. Back at WGI for the SCCA Hoosier Super Tour at Watkins for 2019. When I got to the gates Thursdsay evening, the fog was heavy and dense. Going up the hill, I could only see a few feet in front of the truck. The weather had been terrible all day long but we were due for some sunny weather for the weekend.

With a lot more experience under my belt, I went into the weekend a lot more relaxed and mentally prepared. While in previous years I stressed myself out by watching race video nonstop, I watched a couple Touring 1 races and focused on having a good time. The practice session on Friday was easy and I was quicker than I was in the E36.  At least we’re off to a good start. By qualifying in the afternoon, I found a few seconds but got caught up in traffic on the last turn. 2.04 was my best. Didn’t improve on my time by  much Saturday morning and was starting P7 in a field of 14. After comparing some data with Hugh Stewart, I picked out low hanging fruit to work on. Namely exiting the bus stop, and T10, a fast left hander. The race was good, I managed a 2.03.0 with no ABS and some good close racing with two other E46 M3s. While it wasn’t track record shattering speed, we had fantastic racing and pulled into impound with smiles.

Photo: James Candelaria

Sunday’s race start was a bit of a mess. I had moved up thanks to my quicker race time to start P6. A car behind me jumped the start by several seconds and the rest of the field followed. Before we got to T1, there were several cars that started behind suddenly in front. While it made for a challenge to now have to pick through the field, there was good close racing with one of the E46 M3s and one of the Mustangs in class. I wasn’t able to improve on my time, but the track might have been slower on Sunday as nobody else went faster either.

Evening maintenance consists of tire rotation, nut and bolt, and checking wear on the StopTech pads.

There is definitely more time to be found for me at WGI. Hugh Stewart’s E46 M3 did an easy 2.00 several times during the weekend. I’m finally satisfied with my drive at WGI, and left with a smile. I feel like I can finally leave my first W2W experience ever behind, and stop letting it haunt me every time I go to the Glen. The blue is to be respected, but not feared. Fear makes you slow.  

Race of Champions Mid Ohio SCCA Hoosier Super Tour – 5/31-6/2/19

Mid Ohio is an important track this year. It is where the NASA Championships will be held, and its also a track that I have never been to before. With NASA Champs on my schedule, I figured it beneficial to try to get to the track before Championships weekend in September. Having had a great time at my first two SCCA Majors weekends, I signed up for the next one on their schedule which happened to also be a Hoosier Super Tour.

The first practice session was good, I went out on old tires to get the lay of the land. Many people watch video or play iRacing in preparation for a new track. I do the same, although I feel like everything always looks totally different from what I expect once I actually get to the track.

Four BMWs in T1 is an uncommon sight for the entry list, T1 is usually dominated by the Amercian V8s. We had a total of 11 in class so a sizable field. We had Hugh Stewart, Matt Gaetano, Jonathan Vasquez, and myself. Hugh was the only one who had been to the track before, it was new to the rest of us. I threw on a slightly newer set of Hoosier A7s for the afternoon of qualifying. In Friday qualifying I almost matched Jonathan’s time, we were both in the 1.34s. Hugh blew us away with a 1.32 for provisional pole, and it was Matt’s first time on track due to skipping practice and he put down a solid 1.38.

Another round of qualifying Saturday morning. I was sloppy and didn’t improve my time by much. Jonathan found enough to push him into the 33s. A T1 competitor John Buttermore bumped me to P6 as he improved his time into the 33s as well.

Saturday’s race was one of my favorites to date. I didn’t have much in terms of expectations but hoped to at least maintain my starting position and maybe make up a spot or two. When I got to grid I was dismayed to see that there were almost 8 out of class cars between myself and the next fastest T1 car of John Buttermore. Crazy what less than a second does to you. When the race started, Hugh got pushed off by another car. He got turned around and faced us on track as the entire field came at him. Scary moment! Hugh managed to get through unscathed.

I turned a few laps, got past some out of class cars, and quickly caught sight of Buttermore’s C6 Corvette. Hammered down to clear the last two A sedans and then did my best to stay on his bumper. The Corvettes have tons of power over our cars so he would gap me on all the straights. I was able to make up most of my time in the turns. I watched the rear bumper of the Corvette slowly get larger as I closed the gap. Finally I got my chance, he went a smidge wide going into one of the last turns. I stuck my nose in and kept him on the outside. He got a poor run out of the last turn which allowed me to get side by side and out brake him into T1. From there I held a defensive line to the key hole and through the back stretch until T5. Managed to grow that gap a bit but then we hit an out of class car. Buttermore followed another car past the traffic and I thought all my hard work was gone. There was gap as we turned up the hill and I dove for it, putting the out of class car and Buttermore behind me once again. Managed to hold my position for the rest of the race. This was one of the most fun races I’ve had to date. Finished P4, but a post race change of positions put me in P3. Vasquez took home a win, and Gaetano a P8. Not bad in a field of 11 T1 cars.

Sunday’s race was longer, and started with some cars off in T1. By T2, we were still three wide when I felt a car hit the rear of mine. Not quite sure who it was or where they hit, we continued on. When we came around to the keyhole again, Buttermore’s car was in the tires. I assumed it was some sort of brake failure as we had contact well into the brake zone. My car didn’t turn as well after that, so I just held on for an uneventful P4 finish. Hugh and Jonathan had a much more exciting race as they chased Bill Baten’s Camaro for the entirety, with only a second or two separating all of them. Matt Gaetano improved on his previous times and finished a solid P7 for Sunday.

It was a very successful first outing to Mid Ohio. The almost 8 hour tow home through the mountains was less painful after some good results. I’m very much looking forward to coming back in September for NASA Championships in ST2.