While this year resulted in even less racing than the “virtually none” I had predicted in last year’s report, it was actually more interesting than I would’ve thought. For example, and as Eric mentions in his write-up for mid-October’s Cascade enduro, it was my first race of 2005… despite having owned 3 race cars this year!
Looking back at 2005
This is going to do nothing but make me look incredibly flaky, but here’s how the race season went:
- The Integra had been sort-of for sale for most of last season, but I decided (for several financial and personal reasons) early in the year that I was done with racing and race cars once the Integra was sold. Put additional effort into advertising the car.
- Watching race videos and having discussions about the upcoming season got me to reconsider my intention to drop racing, so my next thought was to build a ’95-’99 M3 (BMW code E36, and the closest thing to racing my BMW 330Ci as it’s currently modified) while still trying to sell the Integra. I asked questions, did research, and came up with a 3-year plan for the build, much of which I intended to do myself and as cheaply as possible. “Cheaply” being an extremely relative term, of course, when talking about a BMW race car.
- Reality soon set in and I faced the fact that spending another pile of time & money building another race car was pretty stupid. Since I was now unwilling to totally give up on racing, I decided to continue racing the Integra, but only when I was in the mood. In other words, race to have fun, not to get results. I also made some improvements to the car (removed some additional weight, worked on better cooling for the front brakes, installed a rock guard for the oil cooler, etc.) and bought a hitch so I could tow a fuel/tire trailer. Yep, back to the “old school” days of 2003!
- Early in May, I went down to Portland for 3 days to work as crew for Eric. On the way home, we talked about what I like about racing and what I was hoping to get out of it. Two days later, I made a deposit on a Spec Miata and took delivery about a week after that. (I had finally taken my own advice: see the “Phase 1” section of the car build page.) I bought a used Featherlite open trailer to tow behind my wife’s X5, did some work on the car (including a partial repaint), and excitedly signed up for a race in early June.
- Six weeks after buying the Miata, and without ever racing it, I sold it to someone moving up from autocrossing. Basically, it was just too small and uncomfortable compared to the Integra.
- I returned to the M3 idea, but I wasn’t going to do a thing about it until I sold Integra. Since I might not be able to sell it before 2006, and I didn’t want to have to re-vinyl the car for new numbers, I planned to race it once (maybe twice) to ensure I could keep my car number.
- Once again, I decided that building an M3 was just not prudent, considering I already had a perfectly good
—race car sitting in my garage. By this time (late June or early July), even I had noticed that I was floundering about and that the best thing to do, short term, was run the Integra at least once, but not to spend a penny more on it than I had to. This meant, for example, that I’d continue to run on last year’s tires. I’d already bought the trailer and spent the money getting the X5 prepped for towing, so at least I wouldn’t have to drive the Integra to whatever races I ended up doing.
- Earlier in the year, while developing my plan to build an M3, I spent quite a bit of time on the “for sale” pages of the BMW Club Racing site to get an idea of what equipment people were putting into their cars, but also to keep an eye out for something close to my envisioned M3 that I could buy pre-built. One of the cars I saw there was the rolling chassis (or “roller;” a car without a drivetrain) of a front-running M3 that had campaigned in the C-Modified class. It looked to be a really well-built and sorted car, but the idea of buying a non-running car from across the country (it was in Rochester NY), buying an engine and transmission, and then having them installed, etc., with all the potential issues and complications… well, it all seemed more than a little risky, not to mention far too expensive.And then something unexpected happened: The “for sale” section of the Web site for my local BMW Club chapter had an ad for a low-mileage 3.2L M3 engine, and for about half what I would’ve expected. I ran some numbers in my head and started thinking about that roller again. The way I calculated it, for the same or maybe slightly more money, and in 3 months instead of 3 years, I could end up with a much better race car than if I built something up from scratch. A ZIP file of pictures and many e-mail messages later, the owner agreed to my offer and I became the proud, if slightly nervous, owner of a 1997 BMW M3 race car in early August.
- Although the car didn’t arrive until early in September, I had already lined up parts and services such that I had hopes of making the last race of the year in early October. The car wasn’t ready in time, though, and I was unwilling to risk the Integra on track just to keep my current car number, which led to…
- My first and only race of the year, running the middle two stints of the Cascade 8-hour enduro in Eric’s Porsche 968.
Although there was no racing until the middle of October, I actually spent a good number of days on-track this year in the course of instructing and lapping. In fact, I probably racked up more track miles than I did during my whole 2004 race season:
- In order to get approved by the BMW Club (and, through a cooperative agreement, the Porsche Club) as an instructor, I attended a two-day Instructor Clinic in late February. Day 1 consisted of class time and several exercises on the handling course at Bremerton Raceway, where it was freaking cold and overcast compared to the be-yoo-tifully cloudless day back home. Ah well. At the end of the day I got to drive an autocross course for the first time and had far more fun than I would’ve expected. I won’t be giving up time on the track anytime soon, but I wouldn’t say no to a “real” autocross event one of these days. Day 2 was spent at Pacific Raceways, mostly acting as instructor while current instructors role-played from the driver’s seat and evaluated my performance. Although I have a fair bit of general instructing experience, and I’ve done enough high-performance driving that I was confident in what I was talking about, it was still a genuine pleasure when I passed my “check ride” and was signed off as an instructor with BMWCCA.
- After the enjoyable time I had instructing with IRDC in July of 2004, I was happy to instruct again at their High Performance Driving School in mid-March. For those so inclined, and who pass the written test and have their driving signed off, it doubles as the school for obtaining a Novice license with Conference (ICSCC). For the instructor who’s also a racer, it’s a fun opportunity to pass along any racing wisdom to the potential “n00bs.” 🙂 At the end of the day, instructors had the opportunity to go out on track and show “the kids” how it’s done. Or not!
- Although I didn’t own the Miata long and never raced it, I did take it to the track for a lapping day with ProFormance in early June. It was noticeably slower in a straight line than the Integra, but certainly not any slower in the corners. As much fun as it was to drive, I’d say the high point of the day came when I maneuvered a 180-degree spin coming out of Turn 8 at Pacific Raceways into a tidy little 360, popped the car into 2nd gear, and continued on my way. Fun!
- Between conflicts with races I thought I was going to do, some other commitments, and being sick, I was only able to instruct at one BMW Club school this year, in early July. I specifically requested one student each from an intermediate group and a novice group (both terms are somewhat misleading, in that someone from the novice group can, in fact, have quite a bit of track experience) and ended up with a former autocross champion as my “novice” in a BMW 318ti (that most uncommon of American-driven BMWs, a 4-cylinder hatchback) and an “intermediate” driver in a Triumph TR-3 race car he competes with in vintage racing.
- The week-end following the BMW school saw me back with IRDC for their second High Performance Driving School of the year. My student was someone I was acquainted with from my wife’s work and who was very interested in getting his Novice license with Conference. With oodles of high performance riding experience on motorcycles, he certainly wasn’t new to a track environment, but he still impressed the hell out of me with how good he got and how quickly he got there. Eager-beaver James also crewed for us in the enduro.
- Partially to get me some more seat time before the enduro, but also just for the fun of blowing off work to spend a day at the track, Eric and I took his 968 to Pacific Raceways in late July to run with some customers of Speedware. These days are very relaxed and pretty unrestricted, yet are generally incident-free. The best part, though, is the sheer variety of awesome cars, ranging from race cars with famous pedigrees, to vintage sports cars worth many hundreds of thousands (and sometimes millions!) of dollars, to supercars like Porsche Carrera GTs and Ferrari Enzos, as well as “everyday” sports cars like Porsche GT3s, Ferrari 360s, Corvette ZO6s, and the like.
Looking forward to 2006
As you might expect, I’m extremely excited about 2006. Not so much in any expectation of results as in anticipation of playing with, getting used to, and competing with the new car. In fact, 2006 is really all about playing with the M3 and recapturing the fun that I seem to have lost over a couple years of stressing out over the non-driving aspects of racing. It’s even looking like I’ll have a couple of named sponsors on the car, as well as the “usual” cast of kind businesses that provide small-but-very-helpful discounts on goods & services. In addition to all the fun I hope to have with the M3, Eric and I will be competing in the first-ever (first of many, one hopes) running of the “Four Hours of Pacific Raceways” enduro put on by IRDC as part of the new Northwest Endurance Racing Series (NWERS).