Well…we just wrapped up our first HPDE event for 2022, and I’d like to thank everyone who joined in. Most importantly, to the many students and the dedicated crew of instructors and volunteers that make such an event possible. I know it’s an old saying, “that it takes a village,” but it does, and all of you are part of that community.
I was also pleased that we had quite a few first timers, both young and older. I even had the opportunity to chat with many, and all expressed having a great time. Yes, a few had reserved expressions on their faces first thing in the morning. But everyone had cheerful faces after their first stint on track and glints in their eyes after taking rides with their instructors. I do believe we’ll be seeing many again.
The event also included our ITS (instructor training school) program, where all eight candidates faced the grueling challenge and are now qualified BMWCCA instructors. Many may not know this, but our BMW club has developed and set the highest standard for HPDE instruction. So I’d like to welcome the new graduates to our instructor corps and tell anyone considering an HPDE event you are in absolutely the best hands.
Indeed, the weather threw us quite a mix, from occasional light rain, some sun at times, to a good bit of chilly wind. Aside from that, we had a great weekend of on track fun. What more can you ask for?
Please keep tabs on the events ahead, and I look forward to seeing everyone again soon, and hopefully, many new faces. As I’ve said in the past, I assure you that you’ll have a great time.
Hello, Bimmerphiles! Pursuant to a number of recent inquiries, this time out I am going to talk about brake fluid flushing and brake bleeding. What, you say, they are the same thing? Ahhh, read on…..
The hydraulic brakes found on any modern passenger car depend upon a principle of hydrostatics that pretty much states that the pressure in a hydraulic system under static [non-flowing] conditions is the same throughout the system [given no elevation changes]. So when you step on your brake pedal and pressurize the brake fluid in the brake master cylinder to, say, 1000 psi [pounds per square inch], this same 1000 psi pressure is applied equally to each of the brake calipers via small pipes that connect the master cylinder to the calipers via the ABS module, thereby applying the 4 brakes. This might sound pretty simple, but the adoption of hydraulic brakes in the 1920s was one of the most significant advances in the development of motor vehicles. Some manufacturers, like Ford, resisted the adoption of hydraulic brakes, continuing to rely on mechanical brakes with their system of levers and linkages under the car.
An important factor in the performance of hydraulic brakes is the incompressibility of the brake fluid between the master cylinder and calipers. Most liquids are virtually incompressible, at least at room temperature, while gasses, such as air or steam, are quite compressible. Hence if you have any gas bubbles in your brake system, the result will be a “spongy”, or soft, low brake pedal. Or in an extreme case, a brake pedal that goes to the floor. Depending upon where in the system the gas is, it can also cause the vehicle to veer right or left while the brakes are being applied.\
How does air get into a brake system? While in rare cases, air can sneak in through a bad master-cylinder or caliperpiston seal, air mostly enters systems when a component is disconnected for repair or replacement. Regardless of how air has entered a system, the procedure known as “bleeding the brakes” is intended to remove said air.
As a side note, brake calipers are in many cases physically interchangeable side-to-side. However, if a caliper is installed on the wrong side, usually the bleeder screw is in the wrong location. This makes bleeding the brakes either extremely difficult or impossible. I have read reports that professional technicians have made this mistake.
The polyglycol-based DOT 3, DOT 4 and DOT 5.1 brake fluids found in virtually all cars today are hygroscopic, meaning that they have an affinity for and tend to absorb moisture. A typical DOT 4-rated brake fluid still in the can might have a boiling point of about 500 degrees Fahrenheit, while water of course boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. As you might expect, a mixture of the two will have a boiling point below 500 degrees Fahrenheit. According to a graph in Brake Handbook, by Fred Puhn [HP Books, 1985], a typical brake fluid will boil at only about 350 degrees Fahrenheit after it has been contaminated by only 1% water. According to another graph in this same book, this 100 degrees Fahrenheit reduction in boiling point will occur before the brake fluid has been in service for 6 months. My own brake fluid-boiling-point data, collected for more than a decade now, suggests that a 100 degrees Fahrenheit drop in boiling point in only 6 months would be quite unusual. In fact, I have never seen new fluid degrade that much in 6 months.
How does this moisture get into the brake fluid? Mainly through the vent in the master-cylinder-reservoir cap. [Some cars have a “rubber” diaphragm under the cap to minimize contact of the brake fluid with air.] Some say that a lesser amount gains entry through the brake hoses via osmosis. Regardless of its point of entry or method of entry, moisture does infuse the brake fluid, and this is a bad thing.
Although water in the brake fluid foments corrosion of ferrous components in the brake system, for performance driving [or driving in hilly terrain] the boiling-point suppression is by far the more diabolic villain. When the brakes get hot enough to exceed the boiling point of the brake fluid, gas pockets begin to form in the calipers and brake lines. Remember: gas is compressible. Although you might get a warning in the form of a “spongy” brake pedal, in some cases the driver’s first inkling that something is wrong is that the brake pedal goes to the floor! Then, assuming you don’t crash in the interim, after the brakes cool and the gasses condense back into liquid, the brake pedal is magically restored – until the next time the brakes get hot…………
Obviously, the only way to keep your brake fluid at or near its rated boiling point is to flush out frequently the old fluid and replace it with new, quality fluid from a sealed container.
So there you have the difference: Brake bleeding is intended to remove entrained air from the brake system while brake fluid flushing is intended to replace contaminated fluid with new fluid. In many cases, such as the replacement of a caliper or brake hose, the brake bleeding procedure only involves expelling a few CCs of fluid from one caliper – just enough to get the air out. Proper fluid flushing, on the other hand, will require putting at least a liter of new fluid through the system; and of course opening up all the bleeder screws. So, as part of your driver-school-car-prep regimen or normal brake maintenance, you need to flush out the brake fluid,not merely “bleed the brakes”. Some shops, if you bring in the car and ask them to “bleed the brakes”, will do just that: bleed the brakes. The fact that you are not getting a fluid flush won’t be their fault, either.
If you have a shop do your brake fluid flushing, I recommend that you bring the brake fluid of your choice in an unopened 1-liter container and tell them you want the entire contents put through the system. A labor charge of 45 minutes to an hour is appropriate.
What methods are available for flushing fluid and bleeding brakes? I’m glad you asked. More on this next time!
Anyone wishing to contribute to Philes’ Forum can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m interested in tech tips, repair /maintenance questions, repair horror stories, emissions-inspection sagas, product evaluations, etc.
I hope this message finds all of you and your families well. The last few months have become a difficult time physically, mentally and financially for many. How have you been spending your time? Perhaps you have been home schooling your loved ones, working remotely, finishing projects you had been putting off or just laying low hoping to emerge when the time is right.
Personally, I think I have found my biggest challenge of all the years of my being President of the New Jersey Chapter — what to report when there is very little to report. Normally I use my column to fill you in on events that may have occurred recently or events that may be coming up on the horizon. Right now we are dealing with a great amount of uncertainty. Many world events have either been canceled or postponed until a later date; it will be strange not watching the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix on the Memorial Day weekend but I will be happy to see them later in the year.
We are now almost 3 months into a governmental induced shutdown caused by a pandemic of the coronavirus. I am not going to write about that, I’m sure you’ve heard enough about it already and are probably either no longer watching or listening to the daily news other than to hear when state and local businesses will reopen and yes, restaurants.
For their members’ safety, the BMW CCA National Office has suspended all Chapters from holding any events until June 2nd. No word yet on whether they will suspend events past that date. This will depend on governmental mandates; it may even be by region. There is also no indication from our own governor as to when he will let us all get back to work. I certainly don’t expect life, or business for that matter, to be the way it was for a very long time.
All we can do at this time is to prepare for when the stages of reopening happen. Currently it is difficult to plan for events when we don’t know to what capacity our events can be or whether we can be indoors. Most of our events except our monthly meetings are outside so that may not be a problem, weather cooperating.
Let me start with some things I do know. The Driver School and Club Race that was scheduled for June 8-9 has been canceled. There were too many unknowns with what protocols we would have to follow to have a safe event while maintaining social distancing. There is also is the possibility of the governor extending the quarantine past June. It would have been a major financial loss to the Club if we were to have proceeded with the event.
Another event that is victim of the pandemic is the Street Survival School that was scheduled for Sunday, June 28th. We still have the September Street Survival School on the calendar; we’ll know more about holding the school later in the summer.
The 50th year celebration of the New Jersey Chapter founding has been postponed until next year, 2021. There is currently no date or venue scheduled but expect it to be in the warm weather months so we can enjoy an outdoor gathering of people and cars. It just didn’t make any sense to try to have it later this year; we need to return to some kind of normalcy, whatever that may be and it needs to be something that we can all enjoy.
We also have some events on the schedule for July. First up is the Biergarten at the Deutscher Club in Clark, Friday July 10th. The following weekend of July 18-19 is the 6th Annual Geoff Atkinson Memorial Driver School and Club Race at Summit Point, West Virginia. Finishing out July is an Autocross on July 26th at the TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater. You will be able to find more information about these events and their status on our website.
If you haven’t been looking at our website the last few weeks, check it out. You will find the updated version is finally here. We are still working some of the bugs out of it but I think you will find it more user-friendly. Our goals are to be able to have more pictures, personal interest stories and after-event posts that are timely. You may find you can connect to some of our sponsors through their advertisements. Many thanks to Mark Hulbrock and Colin Vozeh for getting the “new” website done.
Last year I had mentioned buying a 2007 328Xi. I still have and love my 1988 E30 iX but wanted a car that had cup holders. As an update to the story, I had mentioned how great the seat heaters are; the other feature I like very much is the stereo volume control in the steering wheel. I have gotten so attached to it that when I push the same spot on the wheel in my work van I just end up blowing the horn. I’m also impressed with the mileage I get at keeping-up-with-traffic speed.
The main reason the previous owner wanted to sell the car was the run flat tires or the RFTs as they’re known as. Unexpectedly I had to deal with this issue after several months of driving the car. The tire pressure monitor system was telling me I had leak in the right rear. Adding air would last a week or so before the system light came back on. After checking the Tirerack website for what run flats were selling for, I needed to confirm what the issue was before purchasing a tire. I removed the wheel from the car and placed it in a big vat of water. With that I found I had some good and some bad news, the good news was the tire was okay, the bad news was the rim was the problem. There was a crack on the inside of the rim that was not visible until after seeing air bubbles coming out of it in the water.
I contacted another member with a similar vehicle for advice and it was conclusive that eBay and Craigslist were the way to go. I watched a set of 4 very, very low mileage Bridgestone RFTs mounted on the same style rim I had for a week on Craigslist and realized the owner was anxious to sell since he had lowered the price when I had checked on Saturday morning. After making contact with the seller, I had negotiated a counteroffer which was accepted. The downside of the deal was they were located about 2 hours away in South Jersey but it was a trip well worth taking. For a little over what 2 tires would have cost from the Tirerack I now had a set of rims that were in much nicer shape than the ones that came with the car along with tires that had low mileage. Eventually when I find another rim I will have a set of tires that I can use for autocrossing.
To those of you who are essential workers and first line responders, I would like to express my gratitude and say thank you for you have been doing the last several months. I look forward to when we can all be together with minimal restrictions.
Hello and welcome to 2020. Where do I start? There is so much going on right now and I have a lot to cover. You are now reading this through your electronic device of choice; we are no longer printing a paper version of the Bulletin. Currently this is in a PDF format; we are planning to change that when we roll out our new website, another one of the many changes in store for the upcoming year. The last issue of the Bulletin is now a collector’s item; I should look on Ebay to see what they are going for.
Before I get into what’s upcoming, I have some housekeeping to do. The Board of Directors of the NJBMW CCA remains mostly unchanged from last year, thank you gentlemen. I had filled the position of Director of Social Events last year with Richard Altman, and he has been reelected to the position for 2020. Rich has taken charge of the Chapter’s 50th anniversary party, more on that later.
I have also found a new Business Manager, technically not a Board position but just as important, nonetheless. Allison Mack, who also happens to be a regular participant in our Autocross program, will now be handling the Club’s business. I must thank Matt Baratz who had been our previous Business Manager even after moving to the left coast. I am relieved to have a manager now in the same time zone.
As you may be aware of by now, 2020 is our 50th year of being a Chapter of the BMW CCA. We were the 4th Chapter to join the Club and are among a handful of Chapters that has our geographical location in our Chapter’s name. The BMW CCA had originated in the Boston Massachusetts area so it make sense that the states close to the New England region were among the early Chapters to join the CCA.
The date has not been set yet for our celebration party, although we’re planning the location to be at the Deutscher Club in Clark, the place where we hold many of our regular Club meetings. We are in the early stages of planning it but I do know it will run from mid-day to the early evening, and yes, it will be rain or shine. There is plenty of parking; we hope to have a showing of the many car models throughout the years, BMWs, Minis, and BMW hybrids just to name a few.
Not only do I expect to see some great cars at the 50th anniversary celebration, I am looking forward to seeing some of the members and officers who were here before me and built this Chapter into what it is now. I had the pleasure of meeting former NJ member Scott Hughes a few years back at a Club Race School we were holding at Summit Point. Scott is credited with being instrumental in starting the Driver’s School program for our chapter way back in 1974. In my conversation with Scott, it turns out that he had attended an elementary school in the town I grew up in, obviously a few years before me. There is no word yet on whether he will attend but I would be thrilled if he and his wife Fran did. We may also expect to see some of our National Officers but that is unconfirmed also. I am also looking forward to seeing all of you there too.
So what else are we up to? In addition to our traditional slate of Driver Schools, Club Races, Autocrosses, Rallies and Street Survival Schools, the Chapter once again will be participating in a one day M-School on September 6th at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, North Carolina. We had done one several years ago with great success and when we inquired about holding one last year, all of the dates were already booked for the year. The cost of doing the M-School through our Club date is about half of what it would cost you to do it on your own. When we were there previously, we were able to tour the BMW CCA Foundation and have dinner at a local brewery, I would expect we will plan something similar this time also. If you would like to attend, you will need to book your spot by late June. If we don’t sell this event out by then, we may cancel it since it would be an extensive loss for the Chapter. You can find more information about the event and register for it at Motorsport.Reg.
As you may be aware by now, there has been a change to the BMW rebate purchase program. For the last 2 years if you had a friend or relative join the Club with a 3-year membership they were eligible for the rebate immediately if they were purchasing a new BMW or leasing a previously owned one. This program was so successful for BMW and the BMW CCA that they now have changed it to where you now need to join the Club with a 3-year membership and must wait 6 months before you can purchase a new or a leased BMW to qualify for the rebate. The other option is having your friends or relatives join the Club with a single year membership and waiting a full 12 months to purchase a new or a leased BMW before they can receive the rebate benefits.
Now getting back to the website or hopefully the updated version of it by now, it will be a fresh, mobile-friendly design that highlights all of your favorite features like the forum and the calendar of events. It will also help facilitate our new digital news delivery model. All of the familiar columns and contributors will remain, sharing new content on a recurring basis, in full color and unconstrained by print requirements. Vendors and sponsors will continue to be featured with easy links to their products and services. I’m sure there will be some tweaking to it after it’s out.
As an update to an event we held last Fall, the Whack Your Turkey Rally, we were able to donate $600 to the Food Bank of NORWESCAP with the proceeds. The Food Bank distributes over 2 million of pounds of food annually throughout Warren, Sussex and Hunterdon Counties. Thanks to all who participated in the Rally for making it the success that it was.
Enthusiasts’ Thoughts – Fall 2019: Adventures In Throttle Response
My Journey From American Iron to The Ultimate Driving Machine
When I bought my first BMW 11 years ago this month, the seller, Mike Perrino (owner of the late lamented Beverly Hills Auto Spa in Basking Ridge, the best auto detailer in NJ) told me that the throttle response on BMWs is different from what I might be used to from driving large cubic liter American V-8s.
It was, and is, a 1996 E36 328 automatic convertible, with a removable hardtop (which was the main reason I bought it, thus being able to drive it year round in New Jersey, though regrettably not on any NJ BMW CCA track).
He was right. It is a very fast car, capable of a speed-limited 124 MPH. But boy, do you have to lean into the pedal to get it to pick up! And it does, if you do.
But you have to know that I was coming off more than 30 years of driving two specific American cars, a 1970 Mopar 440 high performance unmarked detective car, and a 1977 440 high performance state police highway pursuit vehicle. Both of these cars were specifically designed for “spirited” driving in excess of 80 MPH (shifts out of second at 98 MPH), but they were also great for everyday driving between 30 and 70 MPH because they had gobs of torque at the low end. (For a long time in America after about 1971, you could only get real performance in a family sedan by buying a police car.)
I drove these cars in a very relaxed way, even at high speeds, by having the seat as far back as possible, being very light on the throttle, but expecting and getting instant response from the slightest “curling of my toes” on the throttle pedal, let alone actually depressing the pedal to any noticeable degree.
My 328 was different, and I’ve only recently come to realize why.
Firstly, all BMWs that came to America up through the 90s were routinely detuned at the factory (because BMW AG maybe thought that Americans didn’t know how to drive — after all, they drink coffee while driving!).
Secondly, European sports cars are designed for people who like to continuously take corners and shift gears, so throttle travel is designed to be much longer in general, thus providing more precise throttle control, especially when cornering hard under power.
And thirdly, I was forgetting that my beloved American big iron automatics had never heard of overdrive. Top gear was 1:1 – which is only 3rd gear in my 328. My 328 goes into 4th gear (overdrive) at 30 MPH around town. Even though the 328, at 192 HP, is probably quicker through the gears and at the top end than either of my beloved old Mopars (at 250 corrected BHP, down from the factory-claimed 350 of the 1970 car), I shouldn’t really have ever expected comparable throttle response under similar driving conditions.
So I set out to fix all this.
The first thing I did was to flash the DME with Jim Conforti’s Shark Injector, which made an immediate difference to power, torque, and throttle responsiveness.
The second thing I did was to learn to drop a gear when desiring to pass fast above 80 MPH – which made an astonishing difference at the top end. The car leaps like a shot out of a catapult if you drop a gear and floor it between 80 and 90 – precisely because power and torque are designed to be all the way up there, rather than having big torque at the low end.
But neither of these things really affected pickup in Drive between 40 and 50 MPH, where there is to be found the notorious BMW 6-cylinder torque “flat spot.” (Intake VANOS in 1996 helped, but it wasn’t until the 1999 TU and later E46 engine when exhaust VANOS was added, that this was relieved.) But only recently, and purely by accident, I discovered the final and most effective performance improvement technique of all for this car. And it’s totally free.
I just happened to be giving a ride to some friends with the top down, one of them tall enough that I had to move the seat considerably forward to give him sufficient room in the back seat behind me. It was then I noticed that, while my leg was a little cramped, the car was suddenly performing MUCH better, even with the weight of 3 extra people.
And so it hit me! If your leg is more tightly angled when you drive, your foot movements on the throttle pedal are sharper and more aggressive, and even a light touch produces more pedal travel. And presto! Much snappier performance!
Dear Mike, I love you. But when you told me about the pedal response, you forgot to tell me how to solve it.
We concluded our 2019 season at Shenandoah Race Track in Summit Point West Virginia. This track is my personal favorite. It is a very technical track where a nimble momentum car can rival a higher horsepower and heavier car.
One of the other reasons I enjoy Shenandoah and going to the track is camping and hanging out with my track buddies. About a decade ago I started camping in my trailer at the track. There are a large number of drivers who do so. It ranges from guys in a tent to people who have a dedicated RV. I, like most of the guys, fall in the middle. I tow my enclosed car trailer that has a few comforts added: A/C, heat and electrical hookup with a bed strapped to the wall over the wheel well. It is home for the weekend. Along the way I have picked up a few strays. Greg was a tent guy but when the weather turned to heavy rain, I invited him to throw his sleeping bag on the floor of my trailer. Now he is a permanent fixture. Kevin is a friend who started coming back to the track about 5 years ago. He had 2 (now 3) children and to save a bit of money he stays in my trailer as well. There are many others that do the same: Dave, Bill, Mirril, Jim, Greg, Mark, Scott, Vin, Ron and more. As you can see the list has grown over the years and I am sure I forgot a few.
We started an email chain to see who was bringing what food as well as some post track refreshments a few years back. It started simple with who will bring breakfast, yogurt and pop-tarts, dinner burgers and dogs. Shenandoah was the place we started to cook a real meal. Buffalo wings, soup, penne pasta, ice cream, cake and much more. Over the years other groups formed and enjoyed camping. We cross over and share food, drink and stories. Many of the camping participants remark half the fun of going to the track is camping.
This year we decided to expand part of the experience to everyone at Shenandoah and had our first ever Pot Luck Dinner. The amount of food was incredible. There were 50+ participants. Stories were shared food was eaten and drinks were had. It was great to see new students listening to veteran drivers swapping their experiences and knowledge. The Pot Luck was a huge success and I hope to see you next Season at the track!
2020 Track Season Schedule:
April 17-18-19 Thunderbolt: Friday A-Solo open track and Instructor Training; Sat-Sun Driver School and Sunday New to the track Intro School
June 8-9 Thunderbolt: Club Race and Driver School Mon-Tues
July 18-19 Summit Point: Club race and School Sat-Sun
I’m baaack! Or as the late great 20th century philosopher Yogi Berra once said, it’s like déjà vu all over again. For those who joined the Club in the last 10 years and don’t know what I am referring to, I previously served as NJ Chapter President for 3 years, 2006-2008. I have still been around since then serving on the Board as a Member-at-Large and more recently as Driving Events Chairman for the last 6 years.
For a little background, I bought my first BMW, a 1985 325e in 1991 and joined the club in 1995. I think my biggest regret was that I didn’t join the Club sooner! I currently have a 1988 325 iX as well as a 1987 IS that I use for our driver’s schools. I attended my first driving school in 1979, I’m sorry to say it wasn’t with the BMW CCA; rather it was with the Jim Russell School in Mt Tremblant, Canada using Formula Ford cars. I was pretty certain that I was going to get a full-time ride with either Williams, Tyrrell, Ferrari, or Penske at the time. To make a long story short, life got in the way of my driving career so I decided to start attending the BMW CCA driver schools in 1996. You might be able to find me there now checking your wrist band as you pull out of pit lane.
Now before I get into what’s going on in the Club, I must first thank my predecessor Jeff Caldwell for his five-year commitment to the Club. Jeff joined the Club when I was President many years ago and it didn’t take long for him to decide where he wanted to go with us. I have to say I admire his tenacity; he let us know his thoughts about what we should be doing without sugar coating it. Five continuous years, by the way, is a record for the Club by any president, one I’m sure that will stand for a very, very long time. Jeff is not going away, he is just stepping back from the top spot and will still be around as a Member at Large.
Another Jeff I need to thank is Jeff White. Jeff has served as our Driver School Chairman for the last 11 years. As it happens to be, I had appointed him as Driver School Chairman in 2007. Jeff is stepping down from that position and has transitioned over to be the Driving Events Chairman. He is the main reason that the Driver Schools have run like a well-oiled machine the last 11 years. Jeff had also spent a lot of time orchestrating the driver schools at Oktoberfest in 2015.
Now it seems that fate has brought me back to the Presidency to appoint our new Driver School Chairman, Jamie Kavalieros. Jamie has served under Jeff as Registrar for our Driver Schools the last 9 years. Jamie is one of only 4 Club members who have won the NJ BMW CCA Club Championship Trophy 4 times, a feat he was able to accomplish with his autocrossing skills. In addition to having been the Registrar for our driver schools, Jamie is the skid pad instructor who had either you or one of your children holding their hands straight up while driving around the skid pad at our Street Survival Schools. Club member Mark Mallory will now be taking over the position of Driver School Registrar.
Some other Board changes – Paul Ngai has moved from Business Manager back to Vice-President. Paul had served previously as VP for both Larry Engel and Jeff Caldwell. Moving into the position of Business Manager is Matt Baratz. Matt was instrumental in starting the VDC Tour, now in its 6th year. It’s one of our events that fills up quickly and we use the proceeds from it to make a donation to the BMW CCA Foundation. Those are the major changes in personnel on the Board for 2018. I’m fortunate enough that the other Board members have remained in their prospective positions.
I would be remiss not to give a shout out to Vic Lucariello Sr., our Technical Advisor who is no longer in NJ but is just an e-mail away. You can keep up with Vic through his Philes’ Forum in the Bulletin. Vic has been contributing his column to the Bulletin for over 30 years now, which could be another record for the Club!
So what’s different now than when I last served as President? Communication is the main thing; the Bulletin now is a quarterly publication. You will only get to hear from me 4 times this year unless we get a chance to speak at one of our Club events which I hope to touch upon further in this column. We now use a very effective tool known as the e-blast; we can send out up-to-the- minute information regarding events. The important thing with this is you need to provide an e-mail address in which you can receive the e-blast. You should have provided an e-mail address when you joined the BMW CCA. If you need to update your e- mail address you may do so through the National BMW CCA office at www.bmwcca.org; we still have our own website with features like the Events Calendar and the Forum, which I find useful for either buying or selling parts or cars. You can also look for us on Facebook at New Jersey Chapter BMW Car Club of America.
We have many events already in the works for this year. There are 4 Driver Schools scheduled along with 2 of them holding Club Races: 1 at NJMP and 1 at Summit Point. There are 6 Autocrosses scheduled with the possibility of 1 or 2 more. For our rally enthusiasts, we are looking forward to once again joining the Northern NJ Chapter of the SCCA for a spring rally along with our annual Whack Your Turkey Rally in November. Have a teenage driver? There are 2 Street Survival being scheduled as I write this.
For our non-driving Events, something new we are trying this year is the Winter Social. Social Chairman Vic Lucariello Jr has put together an event at the Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit NJ to be held on March 10th. It’s intended to be a more casual event without any schedule of activities. You can find out more about it elsewhere in the Bulletin. Another event happening on March 24th is the VDC (Vehicle Distribution Center) Tour. This is where BMW prepares their cars before being shipped to their dealerships. It’s always been a no camera event; they always have something of interest we get to see first.
Chartering new territory for me as President is having to inform you of the passing of a fellow Club member. Albert Drugos, or as we more affectionately referred to him, Big Al, passed away in early January. Big Al joined the Club in June of 1995; during his time of membership he served the Chapter as Vice-President for 2004 and 05 and then went on to serve as Social Chairman from 2006 through 2013. Al had an intimidating presence but once I got to know him I realized that his best interests were for the Club. He was well-traveled and had many connections that he used to help make our events great, either putting together a Club meeting or Banquet.
Al participated in the Driver School program where he drove his E30 M3 as often as he could. He was an integral part of the program working both the Tech Inspection line and Pit Out. I was fortunate enough to work with him there where he taught me the fine art of pulling cars off the track safely with the tow truck. Although he hadn’t been able to make it to the track the last several years, his presence was surely missed. Godspeed Big Al.
Driving Schools – Fall 2017: Freude am Fahren – mit Freunden
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.
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,
Driving Schools – Summer 2017: A Great Day for Westlake and a Great Race at Summit Point
In June and July the NJ Chapter holds two of its longest tenure events: the June driver school and club race to benefit Westlake School and the July driver school and club race (now the Geoff Atkinson Memorial Driver School and Club Race). While both events were tremendous fun, the recurring theme of this season could be “Mastering the rain line”.
The June event is now in its 22nd year and the 20th anniversary of being a benefit event for Westlake School. The driver school portion of the event was down on registrations this year and so we ran only 2 student run groups. The students and instructors did an admirable job of managing the variable skill levels in each group but the event organizer was unable to manage the weather. As the schedule rolled into the late afternoon, lightning in the area forced cars off the track. No sooner than we had decided to stop for the day, the skies opened up and everyone made a dash for the Officer’s Club for the evening banquet.
Monday’s rain meant Tuesday’s schedule had to be modified to give the racers their time while still maintaining the school. Everyone was understanding and made the best of a difficult arrangement. Many thanks to the school volunteers who lined up at lunch to provide cars for the Westlake parade laps.
We chose a new method to raise donation funds for Westlake this year. Rather than relying on a single large sponsor we turned to our members and other small business to use a crowd-funding approach: The Kid’s Koalition. 16 members, friends and businesses stepped up to help and contributed over $4,300. We were also fortunate this year to have excellent support for our Monday evening banquet auction with a watch provided by Hamilton Jewelers, race-used body work from BimmerWorld, and a race car rental from new racer Tyler Pappas of Tyspeed Automotive. Silent auction items were provided by Turner Motorsports and Cora Kiceniuk. Door prize give-aways came from Circle BMW, VAC Motorsports, Turner, BimmerWorld, Bridgestone and the Chapter. Thanks to our hobbled but still enthusiastic auctioneer Mo Karamat, the auction donations combined with garage rentals from April upped our total raise to almost $7,000!
As for the races, the first race on Monday afternoon saw Todd Brown take an early lead in his C-Mod car, and he never looked back, taking the checkered flag with no one else in sight. Coming along next was Jeffrey Bruce (CM), Asher Hyman (CM), and Robert Solomon (BM). The rest of the field included seven IP cars, 4 IS cars, and a variety of other classes. The end of day race on Monday afternoon had to be postponed as the rain clouds moved in, and reports of lightning nearby required bringing in the corner workers. So, lightning at Lightning Raceway shut down the track!
Tuesday morning’s practice then became the first of three races for the day. A blown engine gave up all its fluids under the bridge, causing several cars to spin off, and ultimately bringing out the red flag and ending the race. The second race of the day was able to be run to completion, with the three CM cars of Jeffrey Bruce, Asher Hyman, and Robert Mager taking the checker for the top three. The students and staff from Westlake arrived, enjoyed lunch and then took their pace laps courtesy of our students and instructors. Their smiles lit up the day. The feature race lived up to expectations, seeing several close battles among different classes, right up to the checkered flag. The overall winner was Jeffery Bruce (CM), followed by Asher Hyman (CM) and Robert Solomon (BM), and rookie Vinh Chau (GTS2).
The Westlake students participated in the trophy ceremony, enthusiastically thanking all the club members for a truly exciting and memorable day and went home with their own event shirts and gift bags from VAC.
In July we celebrated the 19th anniversary of racing at Summit Point and the 4th Annual Geoff Atkinson Memorial Driver School and Club Race. Geoff must have been smiling on us as we had a full driver school with 3 student run groups and 47 club racers! Everyone agreed that this was the largest turnout of racers we have ever had at Summit Point.
The one thing Geoff could not help us with was the weather; once again rain played havoc with the schedule. Saturday was forecast to have only a chance of rain but at lunch the skies darkened, the wind got fierce and the rain came down in buckets. By the time it stopped, we were behind schedule. A little gerrymandering and we managed to complete both the third set of school run groups and get in racer qualifying and the race. The race grid was a welcome sight with 45 cars taking the green flag.
This time the pre-race activities focused on the radar maps. More rain was coming…. but when? When the cars came to grid, you could tell who was careful and who was hopeful: dry tires or rain tires??
Once the race started, the pace was fast, although those on rain tires had to dial it back a notch so as not to heat up or chunk away their tread. But, at about two-thirds through the race, the rain came, a few drops at first, then steady. Several drivers on dry tires had the sense to call it a day and exited the track. Of course, some others on dry tires (this author included) stayed out and skated around until the checker flew for Todd Brown, followed by Vernon McClure, Bob Perritt, and Jerry Kaufman.
No sooner than school cars were back on track after the race, the skies really opened up again. It became clear that we were not going to resume and so we had to cancel the final sessions for the students and instructors. Fortunately, our friends from Jordan Springs Market were ready with our BBQ and set up in one of the classrooms. This was a first for us but the food was great and everyone managed to find dry places to eat between the classrooms and the picnic tables. By the time the BBQ was finished, so was the rain. We had a larger than usual number of motorhomes and campers this year so Saturday night became Camp Summit in the wooded portion of the paddock. Pop-ups, camp chairs, beverages of all sorts and recounted stories – this is what track events are really all about.
Tuesday began much better – school sessions went off without a hitch and the early race had 42 cars take the grid with a fast pace starting to spread out the cars, when a fullcourse yellow brought out the pace car to assist towing a car off the track. Once the race leader took the green flag again, there was a mix of fast cars and slower lapped traffic, all jockeying for position and corners. This created some of the best, tightest racing of the weekend as the field sorted itself out. Once again Todd Brown took the checker, followed by Mark Lounsbury and Vernon McClure. The driver school continued to run smoothly and then after lunch, it was time for the feature race.
Thirty-seven cars took the green flag, with Todd Brown pulling out a comfortable lead, which he did not relinquish despite another stint behind the pace car for a full-course yellow and car cleanup. He took the checker with a 10 second lead, followed by a close battle for second and third position, where Mark Lounsbury edged out Vernon McClure at the start/finish line.
Class winners included Jerry Kaufman (IP), Charles Harding (HP), Peter Kerekgyarto (IS), Vinh Chau (GTS2), Vasil Vykhopen (GTS3), Steve Liadis (HP), Patrick Harris (Spec E46), Keith Primozic (DM), Tyler Pappas (JP), John Sanders (JS), Michael Saul (Spec E36), and Bob Gilberg (Spec E30). The third set of driver school run groups went well but the rain gods were not finished with us. After a 30 minute torrential downpour (there were white caps in the water in the paddock) we were left with a flooded track that was not safe to drive on. Our weekend was over.
We have two events remaining this season. On Sep 16-17 we have 2 days of club racing with the Sep 16 portion being run as a support series for the NASCAR K&N race at NJMP Thunderbolt. This is a terrific, fan-friendly spectator event so come one down, watch your favorite club racers, watch the big engine cars from NARRA and then see the future of NASCAR with the K&N drivers. On the 17th club racers will share track time with our Advanced Solo students and instructors. This is the second time we are running a Solo student day and we are looking for a good turnout. Six hours of track time at a price that cannot be beat. If you believe you qualify as a Solo student and want to attend, please contact us.
We finish the season on Oct. 7-8 on the Shenandoah circuit at Summit Point. We will say it again, if you drive Shenandoah it will make you a better driver on every track you visit. This is also the only event we run with skid pad for all students on both days. It is the perfect event to finish out the season.
We’ll see you at the track.
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.
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.
Driving Schools – Spring 2017: Bridgestone, DelVal and NJ team up to start the season
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.
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.
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.
Driving Schools – Fall 2016: NASCAR Comes to Town and We End the Year with a Great Shenandoah Event
If you happened to read my submission in the last Bulletin or read the email blasts from the Chapter announcing September events, you know that the NJ Chapter participated in a unique driving event on Sep. 16-17. We were the support racing series for the NASCAR K&N race at NJMP Thunderbolt and we held a driver school for advanced solo drivers at the same event. The event was a huge success with every driver remarking how much fun and how relaxed the atmosphere was despite the large spectator turnout.
We started Friday morning with a 3 hour unstructured driver school for advanced solo students and instructors. With a lighter than expected turnout, everyone had plenty of open track to hone their skills and experiment with new driving lines. The unstructured format allowed participants time to discuss technique among other students and instructors in the paddock and then return to the track to put suggestions to the test. In the afternoon sessions, Club Racers had the track for warm-up, qualifying and then the first sprint race. In that race, Will Vanjonack sprinted to the lead and then ran away from everyone and eventually lapped the field! Lou D’Angelli and newcomer Eric Magnussen filled out the podium.
Interspersed between the club racing sessions, the K&N drivers took their practice sessions. The tremendous talent of these young racers (the drivers ranged in age from 16 – 23), none of whom had ever driven Thunderbolt before, was rapidly apparent. During the afternoon sessions each team would go out, run a series of laps and then return to their garage for further suspension tuning. The cars were clearly a handful to drive as the drivers worked to learn braking and turn in points while also managing how the cars turned in vs. oversteered. As a measure of how quickly they improved, their initial laps began about 1:35 per lap and by the end of the afternoon, the fastest drivers had shaved 10 seconds off that lap time and were turning laps at or better than Will Vanjonack’s fastest lap!
Saturday morning started with the driver school participants taking to the track for an initial hour of time and then they gave way to racing for the remainder of the day. Once again club racers alternated time with K&N racers. In the morning sprint race Will Vanjonack again was the overall winner but he had some closer competition from Mark Lounsbury and Jeff Bruce finishing second and third. In the afternoon feature race, Will made it a clean sweep followed by Jeff Bruce and Eric Magnussen. This simple report of the race results does not provide an adequate description of the day’s activities. During the course of Saturday we had several club members join us in the car corral area as spectators. The general attendance throughout the day grew steadily. NJMP arranged for BMX cyclists to put on a stunt show, monster truck rides for kids and a BBQ buffet with the purchase of a VIP ticket. Spectators walked thoughout the paddock and club racers were happy to oblige and allow parents and kids to take photos and have the kids sit in their race cars. There is nothing better than the joy of a young race fan getting a chance to see a “real race car” up close. Race fans were also enthusiastic and careful observers of our races – proving once again that a true fan just likes good racing regardless of who is driving. Special thanks to Tony Salloum and VAC Motorsports for providing event shirts and track-side support and to Retail Performance Company for sponsorship.
The day finished with a fan walk in pit lane with the K&N cars and drivers and then an exciting near two-hour race. An interesting aspect of the K&N series is that there are no pit stops. At the half-way point, there is a full course double yellow flag and all cars come into the pits to refuel. Cars exit the pits in race order behind the pace car and then the race resumes to the checkered flag. This was true road course racing with plenty of close passing and clean driving. Keep your eye on these young racers, we will see them soon in NASCAR weekends.
What started as a leap of faith to try something new (think of Indiana Jones stepping out onto the stone bridge in the Last Crusade) ended as a rousing success with every participant hoping we can repeat the event in 2017. Stay tuned!!
We closed out the 2016 driving season at our now traditional event on the Shenandoah Circuit at Summit Point Motorsports Park. This was the 11th year for us at Shenandoah (how time flies!). With each year, the word spreads that Shenandoah is truly a terrific driver’s track and the number of people who say that it is their favorite track grows. Saturday was rainy and so speeds were low and everyone learned car control both on the track and on the skid pad. On Sunday, the sun came out, the track dried out and everyone got to see what driving Shenandoah was really all about. I have said it before and I will say it again to anyone who will listen, Shenandoah will make you a better driver on any track you visit. The patience and attention to good technique that it demands translates to any venue. We also want to give a special thanks to our skid pad instructors (Yani Avrahami, Rod Hahn and Mike Saul) and to classroom instructor Gerry Chan who, quite literally, went the extra mile and gave track walks on both Saturday and Sunday. If you really want to learn how to read a track, you must take one of Gerry’s walks.
Let me close out this year by once again thanking all of the people who make our driver schools and club races a success: Jamie Kavalieros as Registrar and keeper of the helmets, Barry Stevens as Chief Instructor and all our corps of instructors, Warren Brown as Chief of Tech and our Tech workers who come out in the dark of night and the dawn of early morning, rain or shine to keep everyone safe, Doug Feigel, Mark Mallory and Ron Gemeinhardt as pit out workers and Ross Karlin as our Club Racing Chair. None of our events would be possible without the hard work and dedication of all our volunteers. As I write this, we are in the final stages of setting our 2017 track dates with NJMP and Summit Point. Expect a full announcement in the Winter Bulletin and on the chapter website.
One final reminder, if you are looking for a holiday gift idea, remember that Snell 2005 helmets will no longer be accepted next season.
Have a great off-season and we’ll see you at the track next April.
Driving Schools – Summer 2016: Driver School and Club Races at NJMP and Summit Point
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.
Driving Schools – Spring 2016: New Jersey, Auto Racing, the NJ Chapter, and Club Racing — What’s the Connection?
You are all familiar with the historical logo of the NJ Chapter – an “nj” within the outline of the trademark BMW kidney grill. This logo adorns this newsletter, the chapter website and the front of our driving event t-shirts, among other things. What you may not know is that several years ago we were mandated from National to have an “official” logo that contains the BMW corporate roundel and has very specific dimensions and typeface (very Germanic – dictated by BMW AG). Board member David Allaway developed the design that was adopted by the Board and it is shown here (the color version is red, blue and black checkers).
So, you may ask: what does a checkered flag have to do with NJ? Well, I’m glad you asked. In fact, that checkered flag reflects the history of both the NJ Chapter and the history of auto racing in the US, a history in which NJ played a significant role. Those of you with a longer memory may recall that the NJ Chapter was the first BMW CCA chapter to hold a driver school. The date was June 14, 1974, the venue was Lime Rock Park in CT and the registration fee was $15!
The founders of the driver school program were Scott and Fran Hughes – NJ Chapter members. As I’ve written before, a concern at the time was whether the screaming 100+hp 2002’s with their high cornering speeds would break the mounting bead on the tires so everyone had to run with tubes in their tires! Instructors were gathered from club members who held SCCA racing licenses. Instructors were not assigned but flag stations were. Yes, students had to man the flag stations but with only two flags, red and green. Now, fast-forward 21 years, Scott and Fran once again are innovators and start BMW CCA Club Racing. The NJ Chapter begins hosting a club race in 1996 at Lime Rock, then adds a second race at Summit Point in 1997. Now fast forward to June 2016 and the NJ Chapter has hosted 174 track events plus the 2015 Oktoberfest, comprising 279 total track days and 41 club races over 82 of those days. Clearly, the checkered flag is an appropriate logo for our chapter.
Now let’s roll history back a bit. How does New Jersey figure into the history of auto racing in the US? As the late, great Phil Rizutto would say, holy cow you ask good questions. Auto racing in NJ began in 1900 at Trenton Speedway in Hamilton. The genesis was that NJ was home to a large number of horse racing tracks. Betting on horse races was made illegal in the 1890’s but when autos came on the scene, these tracks became the perfect place to hold a car race. Over the years NJ was home to 75 different race tracks including the aforementioned Trenton Speedway that hosted races until 1972 including NASCAR races won by Bobby Allison, Richard Petty and David Pearson, Ho-Ho-Kus Speedway where Chris Economaki learned to love racing, Union Speedway was a half-mile oval track on the edge of Farcher’s Grove (another NJ Chapter connection as we once held monthly meetings at Farcher’s Grove Restaurant), Morristown Speedway where Lee Petty won, Flemington Fair Speedway which was in operation from 1917-2000, Old Bridge Stadium was another NASCAR venue where Junior Johnson, Lee Petty and Fireball Roberts won races, Wall Township where Ray Evernham and Martin Truex, Jr. learned to race, Vineland Speedway, a 1.5 mile road course where Mark Donohue and Roger Penske raced (you might recognize the racer/actor in the photo from Vineland), the Meadowlands where Indy cars raced from 1984-1991 with Mario Andretti, Danny Sullivan and Bobby Rahal among the winners and, of course, NJMP where Grand Am/ALMS raced.
For anyone who wants to read more about the history of auto racing in NJ, the following websites have terrific information and old photos, including tracks with a racing surface constructed with boards set edgewise into dirt:
Let’s cycle back to Club Racing. This year we are holding our two traditional club races at NJMP and Summit Point. On June 6-7 we will hold our 20th anniversary Club Race and Driver School event. As we have done for the past 19 years, this event is to benefit The Westlake School – please see the photo elsewhere in this issue of our presentation to the Westlake Board of the chapter’s donation. This year we also welcome Flemington BMW as our event sponsor. This is a fantastic spectator event that is an easy drive for our members to take during the day, come down and watch some racing. On Monday you can stay for the banquet and auction or come on Tuesday and experience the joy of the visiting Westlake students; here’s a picture from a Lime Rock event as we take the kids out for a few parade laps. If you make the trip to the track we can even get you a ride with an instructor. This is how I was introduced to track driving; a few laps with Wade Wilson driving his E30 M3 at Lime Rock and I was hooked.
On July 23-24 we have our 18th annual race and school at Summit Point on the Main Track with this year being the 3rd Annual Geoff Atkinson Memorial event. Geoff was the epitome of everything that is great about driving events and the members who participate; Geoff was always willing to lend a hand to a driver or racer in need, a tremendous instructor who could get an immediate feel for both you and your car and give you those nuggets of help to make you better and he was a terrific racer (that’s him leading in the photo). I realize that WV is a long drive as a spectator but for any of you who have never driven Summit Point, you really need to make the trip down. The track is fantastically fun to drive and we have a Sat. eve BBQ at the track.
Sharp-eyed readers, or at least those of you who have not dozed off by this point, may have noticed the several references to NASCAR racing in NJ and wondered what that had to do with Club Racing and its checkered flag logo. That brings us full circle (pun intended) because for the first time, we will be hosting a 3rd Club Race. This time we are running as the support series to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at NJMP on Thunderbolt on Sep. 16-17! We have the opportunity to be part of a true professional race event. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series, which includes the East and the West, is the top step in NASCAR’s developmental ladder before drivers progress to the three national series. NASCAR K&N Pro Series veterans include 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne, 2015 Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano, and 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott, along with Ryan Blaney, Austin and Ty Dillon, Kyle Larson, Ryan Truex, Darrell Wallace Jr., and others. We will have Club Racing on Friday afternoon and twice on Saturday. We are also planning a BMW CCA corral and coordinating with NJMP to make the VIP spectator package available to our spectators (includes special viewing area, designated parking, BBQ and beverages all day on Saturday, private racer autograph session, swag bag and commemorative lanyard and ticket). This will be a terrific event and should not be missed.
Well, there you have it. Auto racing history, New Jersey, NASCAR, Club Racing and checkered flag logos all tied together like a group of contacts on Linkedin. We look forward to seeing you at the track, we know you’ll have fun if you come.
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