Driving Schools – Fall 2017: Freude am Fahren – mit Freunden


By Jeff White

For those of you who read this column you know that it generally recounts our just transpired track events and looks to the next round. I’ll do that briefly but then there is something else I want to discuss. So, our return as a support race to the NASCAR K&N series at Thunderbolt on Sep. 16-17 was a tremendous success – actual paying fans to watch us race – followed by a Sunday session with racing and a special driver school for Advanced Solo students. Look for Ross Karlin’s report in this issue. Our seasonending weekend driver school on the Shenandoah circuit at Summit Point Motorsports Park on Oct. 7-8 reinforced the fun and value of learning to drive this track. A day in the sun and, matching the rest of the season, a day in the wet. This is always the perfect track on which to end the year – plenty of interaction among the attendees and great times. If you haven’t experienced this track, you owe it to yourself to try next season.

Running on the bridge straight at Shenandoah. Photo by: Bill Hughes

Now, to the title above. Freude am Fahren is a phrase that BMW has used in its marketing materials for many years. While the translation is imperfect, let me use “Joy of Driving” for what I want to discuss. It is this joy that prompted each of us to take the plunge and join the Club. Whether it is the joy of feeling connected to a machine, the joy of driving up a rural winding road while the sunlight streams through the bright yellow and orange leaves of fall like a soft-focus Hallmark Channel movie, the joy of putting the top down on the convertible on a summer’s night and enjoying the warm air and the stars or the very basic joy of driving your family in a vehicle that you know will keep you safe and give you the capabilities to help avoid an accident. We all share and celebrate this joy.

There is no shortage of written words in which driving is nominally involved – think of Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon and countless others. However, these works are generally solitary journeys in which the driving is merely a means to an end. In some, the author is searching for America, as if it had somehow become lost (perhaps in Middle Earth with the Entwives), rather than admitting it is the author who is lost. Others are an existential journey to find one’s self by slowing down and actually talking with and listening to people met along the way (a worthy goal but not really about driving). Ross Bentley, Carl Lopez and Mark Donohue have each written (and, in some cases, continue to write) about how to become a better race driver but these works focus on the mechanics, physics, physiology and psychology of driving. In racing, the joy comes with winning not the driving per se. However, we are a club. We belong to a club because we enjoy doing things and conversing with other enthusiasts – this is a shared activity and the pleasure of these activities is enhanced by sharing with others (the “Hermit Club” never really caught on). What makes social media powerful is sharing your experience with others, sometimes over great distances, but what makes our club meaningful is that we share experiences together, in person, side by side. As Jeff Caldwell and JT Burkard wrote in the last issue, we join for the cars but we stay for the people.

This brings me to the full title above – Freude am Fahren mit Freunden: Joy of Driving with Friends. This is what we as a club are all about. Much of what I have written about over the years has been about driver schools. I attended my first driver school event as a spectator in June of 1999 at Lime Rock Park– the annual club race and driver school. I watched Ross Karlin, Gary Bossert and Don Salama battle on the race track and then walked around the paddock where Vic Lucariello saw me and said “Hey, let’s get you a helmet and go for a ride with an instructor.” Before I knew it, I was belted in next to Wade “Cold Trail” Wilson, taking corners at speeds I did not believe to be possible. Wade kept asking me if I was ok, because I wasn’t talking, and the truth was I was having so much fun and trying to absorb what was going on, I wasn’t able to speak. I got out of the car and had a grin that didn’t go away the rest of the day. Deb Kolar convinced me to stay for the BBQ; I won a shirt as a door prize. I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to do more of and these were the people I wanted to do it with. By August I was enrolled in the Summit Point school and then in September back at Lime Rock. I was hooked.

There is no doubt that there is joy in driving your car at the track as you challenge yourself and begin to fully appreciate how truly capable your BMW is. It is both rewarding and exhilarating as you improve the smoothness of your braking, master heel and toe down-shifting, trail brake as you hit the apex perfectly and get on the power as you unwind the wheel. Doing it turn after turn and lap after lap is not boring because there is always something to improve and something more to enjoy. Importantly however, this joy is magnified when you share it with others. Maybe it is when our dear friend Geoff Atkinson is sitting in the right seat at Shenandoah and says “there’s something I want you to try on this next turn” and then when you do it, you magically execute the turn better and in your E30 you pull away from the E36 M3 behind you to a chorus of “Yeah baby!”. Maybe it is when you’re at Lime Rock and Vic Sr. is in the right seat and guides you through taking the turn onto the main straight off the downhill without touching your brakes (that was a “pucker” moment!) and then whooping it up down the main straight. Maybe it is when Barry Stevens is taking some laps with you on Shenandoah in the Mini and you’re both laughing as the car goes exactly where it is pointed, and catches M4s in the turns. Maybe it is when you’re sitting in the paddock with your friends talking about a particular turn and you mention a little something that you do and then after the next run group that friend comes back equally thrilled that your suggestion worked. And maybe it is when you’re not driving at all but are sitting in the right seat helping a new student discover a whole new world and seeing that same grin that you had at your first school.

The joy that comes with driver schools comes in the quiet moments too. It’s when you leave the hotel with Mark Derienzo in a mini-caravan for the track and pass the manicured lawns and picture postcard New England colonial homes in northern Connecticut, pass through the wooden gates and over the bridge at Lime Rock where driver schools started in 1974 and then roll down the hill into the paddock and see the clouds still in the tops of the hills surrounding the track. You look around and everyone agrees this is going to be a great day. It’s when you drive the local roads in Watkins Glen then up to the track and get out of your car looking over Seneca Lake and think about all the great races and drivers who have been here before. So, in your momentary fantasy, you happen to be at a track or at the bar in the Seneca Lodge and meet Mario Andretti or Jackie Stewart, and you talk to them about driving the Glen and what F1 was really like back in the day. It’s when you get the chance at NJMP to sit in the paddock and talk to a first-time student who just happens to be a combat pilot, test pilot, and two-time pilot of the space shuttle and wanted to give driver schools a try now that he’s retired. It’s when you and Warren Brown leave the hotel in West Virginia, drive past the old hewn log homes in Middleway, through the rolling countryside where George Washington’s brother was a surveyor, past the small farms with sleeping cows and apple orchards and into the paddock at Summit Point remembering that Paul Newman raced SCCA here. Then, at the end of the day, after the barbeque (you shouldn’t have had that second helping of brisket), you walk back into the woods and enter the modern version of a Civil War encampment, pull up a chair under a tent with the campers and tell stories.

The joy of driving with friends (and family) comes off the track as well. If you ever have the chance to take delivery of your BMW in Munich, then do so. It is pure joy to climb into your car at the delivery center and start out on the roads across Germany. Whether you drive through medieval cities like Regensburg, past castles in the countryside, take laps on “the Ring” or find your way on the winding back roads of the Black Forest, you get the chance to understand the heritage behind your car and understand the passion of the engineers to build a machine that connects you to the full experience of driving. The joy also comes from climbing into your good friend Larry Engel’s M235ic on a cold, early morning in January, turning the car south and heading down I-95 past Baltimore harbor, around the beltway of Washington DC (while hoping that dysfunction is not contagious), through the grand old city of Richmond with its complicated role in US history, down through North Carolina and into the low country of swamps and palmetto palms of South Carolina. After a stop for dinner at an odd seafood restaurant (and a memorable waiter) across from the hotel, the morning brings sunshine and open road down through the pine trees of Georgia, past the new economy and glistening towers of Jacksonville then finally turning onto International Speedway Boulevard where the top comes down and we both feel alive with sunshine on our faces and the wind through our receding hair. We turn into Daytona, pass through the tunnel, marvel at the banking (how do cars not fall off?) and then greet Sharon and Jeff Caldwell (among others) in the paddock and find it to be completely normal to once again be among fellow club members a thousand miles from home together watching a 24-hour race. Sometimes the road is anything but joyous but when you are headed to an afternoon game Yankee Stadium with Ross Karlin, it’s the company and the occasion that matters and you count the little victory of avoiding traffic by clever use of streets in Manhattan. Similarly, the joy of the drive can be packing the dogs in the car with Trisha, the person who has shared and humored my automotive obsession with more support than I deserve, and heading north up the NY Thruway through the gentle mountains of Adirondack Park, realizing that sometimes a road trip includes water passage via ferry and then a drive into the White Mountains ending at a summer cabin of a friend overlooking Lake Champlain. Yes, joy can be either exhilarating or quiet and equally satisfying.

I am sure that each of you has your own magical memories of drives shared with friends and family. I am equally sure that the memory is all the more vivid because of who it was shared with. The point is that we don’t need existential journeys to find ourselves; we are blessed with a group of like-minded friends and family who are on the journey with us. We don’t care about political, religious, occupational or any other affiliation, we are here to share the Joy of Driving with each other.

This is my final article as the Driver School Chair – Jamie Kavalieros is taking over the reins next year and will provide much needed fresh vision to our programs. You will still see me at the track and I will stay involved with our instructor training program. If our editor needs some content and I have something worth writing about, then perhaps another submission is in the future. Let me close with words I used at the end of each driver’s meeting: be smooth, be safe, have fun and embrace Freude am Fahren mit Freunden.

See you at the track,

Jeff White

Club Happenings – Summer 2017: Westlake School Students visit BMW CCA Club Race at NJMP


During breaks in the the HPDE and Club Racing event held by the NJ Chapter at New Jersey Motorsports Park in June, students from the Westlake School were given parade lap rides in participants’ cars. This is a thrill for these students.

Photo by Brian Morgan

The NJ Chapter supports the Westlake School in Westfield. The Westlake School is a school for students with special needs that provides opportunities for them to create connections between school and everyday life through hands-on academics, vocational and transitional skills, social/emotional coping skills and behavioral intervention strategies.

Photo by Brian Morgan

Driving Schools – Spring 2017: Bridgestone, DelVal and NJ team up to start the season


By Jeff White

The 2017 driving season began with a very special 4-part, 3-day event at NJMP Thunderbolt on the weekend of Mar 31 – April 2. In an effort to both increase participation and reduce financial risk for everyone, we teamed up with our friends in the DelVal Chapter to make this a joint event. We then received a welcome email from the national office informing us that our event had been selected to be part of the Bridgestone BMW CCA 2017 HPDE Tour! More on that later.

So, what made this event so special? Well, last fall some deranged person decided it would be a great idea to start the season with the most logistically difficult event we’ve run since O’fest: 1) our annual Instructor Training School, 2) a new category of Advanced Solo students (aka Group S), 3) a standard driver school and 4) the return of our Introduction to the Track group. In the best of all possible situations this event would require smooth, incident-free running for three days so just to add a further level of uncertainty, it was being held at the time of year when the weather is the least predictable. Tell me again whose idea this was…

Think back to the weather we had in March. The month started with temps in the 70’s (break out the mojitos!) was back to the 20’s-30’s by mid-month and then back up to 60 the week before the event. We had no idea what to expect. The plan for Friday was that the new Advanced Solo group would have the track for 6 hours with 4 sessions of the Instructor Training School taking the remaining 2 hours. The Advanced Solo group is relatively new to BMW CCA events. It was conceived of by Genesee Valley and has been implemented by GVC, Patroon and Boston Chapters. This group is for students who have been signed off as solo drivers on several driver schools. GVC recognized that there was a population of students who did not want to, or weren’t ready to commit to, become instructors or club racers but did want something more from driver schools than the typical advanced run group provides. Running in this group is by invitation only and requires the student to have been signed off solo on multiple occasions, have very good situational awareness and be courteous. Instructors also run in this group so closing speeds can be fast and passing in corners is both allowed and expected as a way to keep the group running smoothly. Students in this group have the benefit of a group of Mentors who are available to go out with the student and provide input on refinements the student can work on. There are also classroom debriefing sessions in which students meet to discuss what they are working on and provide observations on how each other is doing. We are grateful that David Gelardi and Al Dimisko came down from Patroon chapter to help us get this program off the ground and instill in the students the mindset that each time you go out on track you should have a specific goal to work on and have a way to measure your progress against that goal. With 6 hours of track time scheduled, this should have been a driver’s dream.

Not Your Typical Garage. Photo by Thomas Lawrowski

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas. Friday started off cold and rainy. The 12 ITS candidates and mentors got to meet each other and then the candidates began their classroom instruction. The Advanced Solo students and instructors who actually showed up took the track with appropriate caution. By mid-morning, the rain had lifted, the ITS candidates had their first on-track session and we had hopes for usable day. Those hopes were dashed all too soon as the rain and wind returned and became progressively worse during the day. By late afternoon, the conditions had deteriorated to the point where all the corners were filled with water, there was water running across the track in several places and drivers were literally navigating just to stay on the track. Meaningful learning had stopped and the ITS groups were not able to conduct the exercises they needed to for the school to progress. We had no choice but to end the day early – Saturday’s schedule now had to be revised and the weekend was looking to be a scramble.

We awoke on Saturday to cold temperatures and gray skies but the rain was receding and hopes were rising. All the student run groups were full, which speaks to the wisdom of holding this as a joint event and on the weekend, and we added something new for this year: the ITS candidates would be running in the advanced student groups as the candidates completed their incar exercises. Also of note, of the 28 students in the Beginner run group, over 20 were either new to the track or new to the NJ and DelVal Chapters. We were happy to have them. Fortunately, the weather improved all day, the run groups were incident free and we finished the day with a terrific banquet at the Officer’s Club.

Sunday was the final piece of our 4-part puzzle as we welcomed 20 students in our Introduction to the Track run group. The clouds parted, the sun came out, temperatures rose; this is what a driver school is all about. Four of our newly minted instructors were immediately put to work with a first-time student. The first timers had their own classroom sessions and run group and, this year, Victor Abdy from DelVal organized a lunch for the Intro students so we could gather in the classroom and become better friends. The regular driver school students ran smoothly and the advanced students were happy to have a small run group with the graduation of several instructor candidates. By the time the final checker was shown, we had finished a great weekend.

BMW CCA member Luis Geronimo with his instructor. Photo by Luis Geronimo

I want to again thank Bridgestone for their support. Chris Welty, an experienced racer and all-around great track day guy, along with his staff spent two days dispensing advice at their truck, talking with students in the classroom, handing out shirts and other goodies and providing tire mounting and balancing. They brought along a very “trick” device borrowed from their Indy car program that allowed you to determine the accuracy of your tire gauge – turns out my well-worn gauge is still pretty good. Chris also gave us some prizes to help raise donations for Westlake. Bridgestone’s cash contribution will greatly lessen the financial burden of this school and keeps us on sound footing for the season. We cannot say thank you enough for their sponsorship.

Let me return to the theme of the headline for this article: teamwork. Pulling off a three-day event with as many overlapping parts as this one required the efforts of a large number of volunteers. Scott Reiman, Mike Dion and Lisa Mellot coordinated efforts from DelVal. Blake Smith, Geoff Ehrman and Ross Karlin managed the ITS logistics (screening candidates, recruiting mentors, updating and printing materials, buying a new projector, etc.), Warren Brown, Dave Somma and their crew of Tech workers took care of Tech inspections on 4 different days, the aforementioned Dave Gelardi and Al Dimisko came down and helped us lay the foundation for the Advanced Solo group, Tom Fitzgerald handled classroom sessions for all the regular driver school students while Lou D’Angeli stepped up and took care of classroom for the Intro students, Jamie Kavalieros and Barry Stevens took care of a highly complex registration process (including garage rentals) and instructor-student assignments and finally our corps of instructors did whatever was asked of them to keep all the students on track while still learning. Please remember that these events don’t happen without a large and dedicated group of volunteers.

This was an event when we celebrated the “new”: 8 new instructors with 4 more on the horizon, a new student run group and 40+ new students. We look forward to seeing them all at future events. As a reminder, our next event is the June 19-20 charity driver school and club race at Lightning to benefit Westlake School. This is a premier event for Club Racing so we anticipate a full field; we will have the usual 3 student run groups and a Monday banquet. Come on down, enjoy a great time and let the kids bring a smile to your face.

And the winner is… Photo by Elizabeth Kramer

Driving Schools – Summer 2016: Driver School and Club Races at NJMP and Summit Point


By Jeff White

In June, the chapter held its annual Driver School and Club Race to benefit the Westlake School. This year we welcomed Flemington BMW as our primary event sponsor. This year’s event was held on Lightning Raceway and was well supported by both driver school and club racer participants. Sixty-eight driver school students and 42 instructors were spread among three student run groups so that everyone had plenty of open track. Thirty-three club racers took the track on Monday for the first race with the second qualifying race on Tuesday morning followed by the feature race on Tuesday afternoon. Thanks to Flemington BMW for providing the i8 pace car for both days as well as plenty of water to keep everyone hydrated.

On Monday evening we held our banquet and charity auction in the Officer’s Club at Thunderbolt. Close to $3,000 was raised through silent auctions with prizes including an i8 RC car (Bridgewater BMW), Watkins Glen race tickets (DelVal chapter) and team shirts (Turner Motorsport) and regular auctions, led by master auctioneer Mo Karamat, of items including “slightly used” race car body work (from Jerry Kaufman’s Daytona car and from Turner Motorsports), an entry to a future Jeffapalooza event including coaching from James Clay, a child’s bike (Morristown BMW) and an adult bicycle (Flemington BMW). Door prizes for participants included watches, shirts, umbrellas, hats, car care products and gift certificates. We want to thank all our sponsors: Flemington BMW, Bridgewater BMW, Morristown BMW, Circle BMW, VAC Motorsports, Turner Motorsport, Bimmer- World and TireRack.

On Tuesday, we marked the highlight of the event when the students and staff of Westlake School visited. On their arrival, everyone was presented with a shirt and gift bag from Flemington BMW. Students and staff were treated to parade laps on the track in a colorful and multi-marque set of participant cars and then the students enjoyed watching the spirited feature race. See Brian Morgan’s article in the Roundel for a full race report. The students then helped out with the trophy presentations before heading back home.

Thanks to everyone who came out to make this a great event and thanks also to our race stewards (Barry Kaplan, Bruce Smith and Larry Fletcher), Tech workers and pit out workers. Without our volunteers none of this would be possible.

In July, we held the 3rd Annual Geoff Atkinson Memorial Driver School and Club Race at Summit Point Motorsports Park on the Main Circuit. For those of you who may not have known Geoff, he was an instructor, ITS mentor, club racer and all-around great guy who contributed much to the NJ chapter and we take this event as a way to celebrate all he brought to us. This was a sold-out event with 69 driver school students, 40 instructors and 32 club racers. All participants and volunteers were challenged by the heat and humidity of the weekend. In fact, driver school students were asked to run their A/C during their track time to help keep both students and instructors cooled down! Despite the challenges, all the school sessions and all 3 races were incident-free. Our race stewards (Bruce Lummis, Todd Massagee and Larry Fletcher) made sure the racers were well looked after. Once again, look for a full race report from Brian Morgan in the Roundel.

On Saturday evening we held our traditional track-side BBQ buffet including a very nice Kolsch beer from a local brewery (Escutcheon in Winchester, VA). Thanks to on-site payments from a number of BBQ guests we were able to raise an additional $300 for Westlake. Special thanks also go to VAC Motorsports for their sponsorship of the event.

As this issue of the Bulletin hits your mailbox we will be very close to our special event at NJMP Thunderbolt. On Friday and Saturday Sep. 16-17, the NJ Chapter will be the host of a special advanced driver school and Club Race in support of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race. This is the first time NASCR has come to NJMP and they asked us to participate! The driver school is open to solo advanced driver school students and instructors only. There will be 3 hours of track time on Friday and an additional hour on Saturday. The registration price also includes a VIP ticket that provides a special viewing area and BBQ buffet during the day on Saturday. The club racing portion will feature a warm-up, qualifying and a single sprint race on Friday afternoon and then warm-up, a qualifying race on Saturday morning and then the feature race in the afternoon just before the NASCAR race. This is a tremendous opportunity for Club Racing: two days of racing at a professional race series event. This is the chance to showcase Club Racing to an audience that may not be familiar with what we do: sports car racing that has cars in different classes on the track. For other fans, this is a chance to see where current racers such as Will Turner, Bill Auberlen, James Clay, Jeff Segal and our own Jerry Kaufman started. For our participants, we get to see the up and coming NASCAR racers of the future, and maybe teach them a thing or two about road course racing. We are also planning a special car corral for club member spectators – be sure to watch for announcements on the website and in chapter email blasts. This will be a unique event.

We wrap-up the season on Oct. 8-9 on the Shenandoah Circuit at Summit Point. Shenandoah is a small and fun event. A great time of year to be in West Virginia, small run groups, a paddock where everyone is close, skid pad for two days, a track walk and, most importantly, a chance to practice virtually every type of turn you will ever encounter on a race track. Driving Shenandoah will make you a better driver on every other track you visit. Come on down.

Registration for both the Thunderbolt event and Shenandoah is open on Motorsportreg.com, just click on the logo on the chapter website home page.

We’ll see you at the track.

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