by Neil Gambony
Before I get into what’s going on with the Club, I need to start off with a WARNING about a SCAM for all of our Club Members. There have been several attempts last year where “someone” pretending to be “me” had contacted Club Officers asking for some unspecific help ultimately asking them to send “me” gift cards for some charities with the promise of being reimbursed by the Club. When speaking with Officers from other local BMW Chapters, they had told me similar stories.
Let me just state for the record and I can’t be any clearer about this, you would never ever be contacted from me or any of the Club Officers to send a gift card to anyone in the Club. Should you ever receive an email to that regard, I was advised from the BMW CCA IT expert not to respond to them and to delete them from your files ASAP. I’m happy to report that no one had fallen victim of the scams.
Now that I have that out of the way, let’s get on to some good news. There are some coronavirus vaccines that have been proven to have a great effective rate; it will still be a while to get them out to the population. Don’t dispose of your masks and hand sanitizers just yet.
We are proceeding with our usual schedule of events for 2021, similar to the events that we would have held in 2020. As of now we have planned a Show and Shine, which will be outdoors in April since we are still unable to congregate indoors during the winter months. As always, we have to rely on what the BMW CCA and the governor will allow us to proceed with. We have tentative dates for our Driver Schools and Club Races; they are now posted on the website.
2020 was the first year in as long as I can remember (I’ve only been here 25 years) we didn’t hold any Autocrosses, for 2021 it will be dependent on the availability of the lot and the willingness of the Autocross committee to run them. They won’t happen until much later in the year. We’re going to reserve the facility for our Street Survival Schools however that too will depend on if we can return to in-car instruction safely.
We’re looking forward to once again having the Championship Series return in 2021, some Autocrosses, Rallies and the Pinewood Derby which were missed by many of our members. Something new we tried last year where we were able to social distance properly at were Scenic Drives which turned out to be hugely popular, I expect they will return for this year.
Speaking of the Scenic Drives, we had used them to benefit one of our charities, the Food Bank of Norwescap. We collected over $2400 which equates to more than 33,000 pounds of food. Thanks go to Jeff White, Rich Altman and Wade S. Howard who helped planned the routes along with the rest stops along the way. I want to thank all of our members whose participation in these made them a success.
I must take a moment to thank the Officers of the Chapter who have returned in 2021 to the Board positions they held in 2020. Paul Ngai-Vice President, David Allaway-Secretary, Ron Gemeinhardt-Treasurer, Jeff White-Director of Driving Events, Rich Altman-Director of Social Events, Colin Vozeh-Webmaster, our 2 appointed Members-at-Large- Ross Karlin-Race Chairman and Jamie Kavalieros-Driver School Chairman. There is also Bob Isbitski and Mark Hulbrock, both Members-at-Large. Some other members of my team who stayed onboard for 2021 are Allison Mack-Business Manager and Kevin Sheehy-Membership Chairperson. We have been holding monthly Board meetings by teleconferencing and I am at the point where I can tell who’s speaking by their voice. I look forward to when we can all meet in person once again.
The Driver School committee remains intact with Jamie Kavalieros as the Chairman, Mirril McMullen-Chief Technical Advisor, Bill Van Ocker-Chief Instructor, and Mark Mallory-Registrar. Elihu Savad is still in charge of the Autocross committee.
I would like to acknowledge longtime Club member Jerry Faber who after 17 years of being the editor of the Chapter’s newsletter, The Bulletin, has decided to step down. I would like to thank Jerry for his time and dedication to the Chapter for all those years. Eventually I’ll have a replacement for him.
With much regret, I would like to share with you the news that former Chief Instructor Blake Smith had passed away in December of 2020. He had served as the Chapter’s Chief Instructor from 1998 to 2008. Blake, who was a retired airline pilot, continued to do his flying on the ground. Although he had stepped down from the Chief instructor position, he did not step away from instructing. He was very involved in the Instructor Training School (ITS) program and was instrumental in how other Chapters trained their instructors.
I had the pleasure of having Blake as an instructor at one of our Driver’s School, My day with Blake was cut short when he was having a mechanical issue with his own car that he needed to attend to but there were instructions he had given me in the few sessions I had with him that I still use today when driving on the track.
He always took an interest in your car and what performance upgrades you may have done. At the start of one of our driving seasons, he had asked me if I had done anything to my car over the winter. I responded that I had placed a mousetrap in the car and I got the full chuckle from him that I was expecting, something that I’ll miss hearing very much. We are planning to have a memorial celebration in his honor later in the year when we are able to congregate again.
One event that we had to cancel last year but were able to reschedule for this year is the 1-Day M School at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It’s on the schedule this year for September 18th and is limited to 30 students. This school provides the perfect opportunity to thrash BMW’s M cars for the day.