Every other year we make the trip back to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. This year we went back for the Weathertech International Challenge the weekend of July 18-21, 2019.
Road America is by far my favorite track in the US. I have many fond memories of going there in the 1960’s and 1970’s watching some of the most famous names in racing compete on that track.
This year we made the trip with the Swift S2000 and my M3. I was looking forward to racing both cars on this fast and flowing track. I had also entered the M3 in the Friday night parade and concours.
I ran the Swift in the practices and did a best lap of 2:32 and change. The car had a tendency to trolly track in the cracks in the pavement going down the straights which was a challenge to say the least. Jim said it has enough downforce at that speed that it won’t go anywhere, but it still was not comfortable.
Road America has 3 places per lap where the car reached its maximum speed. It also has several long high speed turns that really stretch your neck.
I decided to let Jim run the car in the feature race on Sunday as he was about 4 seconds a lap quicker in it than me. He had also blown out the diff in his Datsun on Friday so he was without a ride.
He ended up finishing 16th after the race was shortened because of an incident involving several cars.
As I mentioned, I entered the M3 in the Friday night parade and Concours. This is an incredibly fun event that is unique. The race cars line up outside Turn 12 at the track where they are inspected by the judges. Following that they head into town behind a police escort.
Someone told me that as many as 20,000 fans line the route into town and winding through the city streets. Once the cars are parked the fans descend on them en-mass. After a couple of hours the judges announce the awards for each division and the cars fire up and drive back to the race track.
The M3 was the winner of Group 4 so I was invited to present the car for the Best in Show judging on Sunday in Victory Circle at the race track.
I had some great laps in the M3 before the alternator fully broke and the motor overheated because the fan belt disappeared. In the interest of not making the problem worse we parked the car for the rest of the weekend.
I managed a 2:34 and change with the car in qualifying. It is a real joy to drive on this track. I really want to bring it back sometime soon. I bet I could get into the high 2:20’s with it.
On the weekend of May 3-5 we raced in the SVRA Trans-Am Festival held at Laguna Seca Raceway outside of Monterey, CA.
I took the NSU and the E30 M3 down for the event. We enjoyed great weather and a lot of fun racing.
The NSU raced in Group 1 which has small bore sedans and sports cars built before 1972. It has one of the smaller engines in a group made up of highly developed Minis, 356 Porsches, TVRs, Austin Healys, and Sprigits.
I was still trying to feel out the car after my crash last summer. I am still just a bit tentative with the swing axel rear suspension and the short wheel base. As the weekend progressed I was starting to pitch it into the corners with much more confidence, and my lap times showed my improvement.
I did have one scary moment in the car. I was going up the hill into the Corkscrew right beside a Morgan during practice and the throttle stuck wide open. At first I just jammed on the brakes but quickly realized that wasn’t going to hold the car, so I quickly reached over and turned the kill switch. Frantically waving to the cars around me I coasted down the hill and back into the paddock. Jim quickly diagnosed the problem as a broken internal return spring on one of the Weber carbs. The piece that broke off had fallen and jammed the throttle open.
I finished 16th out of 24 cars in the Feature Race on Sunday. I had a great race with the Morgan, a TVR, and a Spitfire. Great fun! My best lap for the weekend was a 1:57.9.
The M3 was put into Group 10 which is made up of GTO and tube frame Trans-Am cars from the 1980’s and 1990’s. They have engines that are 300 CI and larger. Jim and John Murray also had their Datsun 240 GTU cars in this group. Unfortunately John had a transmission issue on Saturday and was unable to run on Sunday.
This was the first race for the M3 with the rebuilt engine. Terry Tinney did a great job with the rebuild getting over 280 HP at the rear wheels. It was immediately noticeable driving the car. I spent the test day sessions logging miles on the motor, keeping the revs below 7,200.
On Saturday I began to take the motor to 7,500, and then 8,000 RPM. What a glorious sound! And what power. The motor really switches on about about 5,500 RPM, and pulls hard all the way up to where I shift it. THANKS TERRY!
I qualified 8th for the Feature Race on Sunday. I got a great start and came out of Turn 2 in 6th place. I was able to hold my own until about 2 laps from the end when I spun in some oil in Turn 5. I managed to finish 9th overall with a best lap of 1:39.04. Jim finished 3rd overall with his Datsun. We finished 1-2 in the 12B small engine class.
This was the first event for SVRA at Laguna Seca. They brought along their West Coast Trans-Am Series. These cars are pretty quick with the leaders turning mid 1:20’s. Their races are 70 minutes long so tires and brakes have to be nursed to go the distance. The T2 race was won by the car that started in last place. They put on a great show.
I’ve put the video from the weekend up on YouTube. The link is below. If you enjoy these videos please give them a ‘Like,’ or subscribe. Your comments are always appreciated as well. Thanks for watching!
Last weekend we traveled down to Sonoma to run the NSU and the K2002 in CSRG’s spring race- The David Love Memorial Races.
CSRG is sponsoring a B sedan series this summer called the John Morton Cup. It seems like every time a sanctioning body puts on a B sedan only race it provides a great spectacle for the public. It is not uncommon to hear, “That was the best race of the weekend.” I hope more vintage groups will schedule some B sedan only races.
For Saturday’s qualifying race I lined up 5th behind Troy Ermish, Jim Froula, Jon Norman, and Dave Stone. John Murray was 6th, and Keith Lippiatt was 7th. It was a nice mix of Datsuns, Alfas, and a bunch of BMWs.
Just before our race a Formula Atlantic car managed to dump its entire dry sump system full of oil all around the track. Just to make it more interesting the driver stayed right on the racing line while the gush occurred. This made for some exciting racing during the opening few laps.
The green flag waved in a cloud of oil dry. The cars at the back of the field were flying pretty blind. My windshield was coated with oily kitty litter by Turn 3. I managed to get by Dave Stone and was running 4th behind Ermish, Froula, and Norman. Going into Turn 11 the first time I was a bit too conservative under braking and John Murray got inside me. As we powered off the turn my engine started to have a slight miss and John pulled past me into 4th.
Behind me Keith Lippiatt and Terry Forland were having a good battle in their BMWs. Terry eventually got by and ran 6th. Henry Schmitt had to start at the back of the field because he only had slicks for his car. He came through the field and finished 12th.
The miss caused me to lose touch with the lead pack so I had a rather lonely race until the checkered flag. My best lap of the weekend was a 1:58.9.
Back in the paddock Jim noticed the left rear wheel had a bit more camber than the right. He jacked up the car and found that the left rear trailing arm had split and cracked. I thought the car felt a little funny but attributed it to all the oil dry on the track.
It meant the car was done for the weekend, but I am very glad we found the problem in the paddock and not going through fast Turn 10! He will be welding reinforcing plates on 2 new trailing arms before the next race.
This event marked the return of the mighty NSU. You may remember that I crashed the car in the wet at Seattle last July. Jim and Ted at Racecraft repaired the car over the winter. It looked good as new sitting in the paddock next to the K2002.
The NSU ran in Group 2 which is made up of small bore production cars and sedans built before 1972. The class is dominated by English cars- Midgets, Minis, Elvas, Austi Healys, TVRs, and Sprites. There are also Morgans, 356 Porsches, and a few Alfa sedans.
I began the weekend taking it a bit easy with the car until I had some confidence that the swing axels weren’t going to bite me again. In the end I qualified 16th out of 34 cars. I was pretty happy with that.
The race went pretty well. I held off an Alfa GTV but was passed by a couple of faster cars that started at the back of the grid. I ended up finishing 17th. My best lap for the weekend was a 2:05.9.
Here’s the video from the weekend. Hope you enjoy it!
Our last race of the year was in Austin, Texas at the Circuit of the Americas for SVRA’s Vintage National Championships.
I took my Luigi CSL and the Koepchen 2002 back for this event. SVRA has been promoting a BS championship all year with regional championships culminating in this national event. The CSL ran in Group 12B- the historic GTO/GTU group.
This was our first time at COTA and I must admit it is a world class facility. The one thing that was unexpected was how rough the circuit is in a couple of places, and how low grip the surface is.
Because the BS group was scheduled to run with the GTO/GTU group my CSL was allowed to run with the big block cars on Friday’s practice sessions and Saturday’s qualifying race. This is always a bit nerve racking as those guys can be pretty scary to race with.
For the Feature Race on Sunday I was gridded 4th based on lap times. It was nice of SVRA to do that rather than making me start at the back of the field. I won’t spoil the story but just watch the video for the result.
The BS Group was filled with great cars and determined drivers. Many were from the southeast and had driven COTA before. They had a bit of a ‘home field’ advantage on us. But we still had the best race of the weekend in our Group. here’s the video:
I think this was probably the best race I have driven. I was able to complete the race without any mistakes. The pressure put on my by Tim on that last lap was amazing. He drove a great race, was clean, but didn’t give me a moments rest. Thanks Tim!
I want to especially thank Mary for her support and the great trackside video she gets every race.
I also want to thank the Crew from Racecraft. They are such professionals, and at the same time they make this so much fun!
In August we made our annual pilgrimage down to Monterey for Car Week. With only 2 cars entered in the Rolex Races we looked forward to a relatively quiet week.
The featured marque this year was Datsun. In the program they had a picture of John Morton’s BRE Datsun 510 racing at Laguna Seca in about 1971-72 and coming into the frame is my #34 BMW 2002 when it was raced by Hyde Park Motors.
I also had consigned the Cobra I took in trade for the Chevron B16 with Russo & Steele. The car went across the stage on Friday night but barely reached the reserve I had on it. I decided to drop the reserve at the last moment so the car went to a new home. I didn’t get what I hoped for, but we also didn’t have to pay to haul it home. Auctions are a crap shoot!
As I said, I had 2 cars entered in the Pre-reunion races as well as the Reunion Races. During the Pre-reunion races the right front strut mounting broke in the CSL when I was forced up onto the cement berm on the inside of Turn 6 by a slower competitor that didn’t see me. The problem didn’t show itself until the Saturday morning race the following weekend. The result was that we had to park the car. It is not a difficult fix but Jim & Terry didn’t have what they needed to accomplish it.
The M3 ran flawlessly during the Pre-reunion weekend. The car was in the group with the GTO and IMSA GTP cars. I spent most of my time watching my mirror as the GTP cars closed very quickly from behind.
Still, I managed to finish 13th in the Feature race during the Pre-reunion weekend after some great racing with Phil Mendelovitz in his Datsun 240 SX GTU car.
For the Reunion Races SCRAMP allowed me to move from the GTO/GTP Group to the same group the CSL was to have been in. They even let me start where my lap times placed me in the group.
I had a great race going with Richard Goldsmith in his Dekon Monza until I started smoking heavily. It turns out there was a large crack in the block that developed and oil was seeping out onto the headers.
I ended up with a DNF. Here’s the video from the week:
We raced the Koepchen 2002 and NSU 1200TT at the 2018 PNW Historics on June 29- July 1. The weekend turned out tube a real mixed bag.
The 2002 ran well all weekend, but the driver was off his game just a little.
The NSU was a lot of fun to drive, but its run came to an abrupt end on Saturday afternoon in the rain.
This was the first outing for the NSU. I had purchased it last winter and had it shipped to Seattle. After its arrival Jim did a thorough inspection and came up with a list of items needing attention.
I had him work through the list and get the car ready for this event. It needed new seat-belts, an updated fire system, some electrical sorting, etc. Nothing major.
I was pretty excited to get to the track and see the car all ready to go. I was even more excited to get in it and have a go.
I last drove an NSU back in 1971. I had a car just like this that I autocross, ice raced, and did my first SCCA Driver’s School in. I then sold it and built a Mazda RX-2 to race.
I should have kept the NSU!
Everything went well with the NSU until Saturday afternoon. I had entered it in the USRRC race to get some extra seat time. After about 3-4 laps rain moved in from the west end of the track, which means Turn 2 got wet first.
My first time through the turn I spun. The second time through Turn 2 I started to spin, caught it, but the car snapped back the other way and went straight off into a dirt bank. OUCH!
The K2002 had a better weekend. It had no problems and ran perfectly all weekend. I just was not on my game for this event.
in my defense, I did get hit by another competitor in the first race. The other driver wanted to blame me for everything. I wanted to call it a racing incident. You can watch the video and make up your own mind.
On June 1-3 we raced at the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival held at Sears Point Raceway. There were over 300 cars entered for the event. We brought Luigi and the K2002.
Luigi ran in a combined Group 12 & 13 which was made up of 1980’s-1990’s GTO cars along with IMSA and FIA cars from the 1970’s. It was quite a mixed bag of fast and slow cars.
This was only the second time we’ve had the car out since we solved our mysterious braking problem. It turns out that the hats that have the brake discs mounted to them were not allowing the front rotors to “float” just that little bit so when I pressed the peddle they caused a severe shaking. Not something to inspire great confidence going into Turn 11 at Sears Point!
I was gridded 13th for our feature race.
The start of the feature race was pretty ragged with cars still coming down through the esses when the green flag was thrown. I was about 20 car lengths behind Ransom Webster’s 935 Porsche going full throttle trying to catch the pack when it was waved. I think they were worried about the Pro Trans-Am race which followed our race running past the curfew so they just waved us off.
I was about 1-1.5 seconds a lap slower than the group of cars right in front of me, and about 3 seconds quicker than the group just behind me. I was anticipating a lonely race, but that didn’t happen.
Several of the GTO cars had problems right from the opening lap. 2 of them went off and a couple broke. I found myself chasing Walter Brown in his 1987 Camaro along with Gordon Johnson in his 1991 Cutlass.
Gordon pulled off with some issue after about 4 laps leaving Walter and I to duke out 8th place. I was able to sneak by him when he went wide in Turn 2. He fought back and for the last 3 laps he hounded me until he finally cooked his rear tires and I was able to pull away and finish about 2 seconds ahead of him.
My best lap was a 1:50.1.
The K2002 ran well all weekend. I let Terry drive the car in the Qualifying race on Saturday. He broke his gearbox on Friday, plus the Qualifying race was back to back with the Qualifying race for Luigi. He finished 11th which was much better than I would have done starting at the back and trying to work my way through the 35+ cars in the Group.
The feature race went very well. I was able to get by a couple of the Lotus S7’s that started in front of me and held them off until the very last lap. I missed a shift coming out of Turn 7 and one of them got by me.
I finished 6th over all, 3rd in BS, with a best lap of 1:57.2.
The only dark spot for the entire weekend came late on Sunday afternoon. While waiting for Mary to come back to the paddock I left my cameras on a friend’s golf cart while I went in to Driver’s Services to get results sheets. When I came out the cameras were gone. Some low-life had taken 4 GoPro’s. So I have no in-car footage from the 2002.
Last weekend we travelled across the country to participate in the 2018 Classic Motorsports ‘The Mitty’ races held on the beautiful Road Atlanta circuit just north of Atlanta, Georgia. This is perhaps the biggest vintage race on the east coast with over 300 entries.
The featured marque for this year’s race was Nissan/Datsun so the paddock was full of 510’s and Z cars. My 2002 was the token German in our paddock, which was also home to the cars of John Morton, the Grand Marshal for the event, and Adam Carolla.
Our weekend began on Thursday with the red-eye flight from Portland to Atlanta. With only 4 hours of troubled sleep our next challenge was morning rush hour traffic up I-85 through the heart of Atlanta. YUK!
We had been invited to visit the BMWCCA Foundation Museum which is located across the street from BMW’s mega-plant outside Greenville, SC. The museum is preparing to open their new exhibit called “The Icon,” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the 2002.
My car was invited to participate in the exhibit. I had shipped it back to SC a month or so ago and was excited to break it out for the weekend to go racing.
I found a local race-prep shop, Vintage Racing Co., to transport the car from the museum to the track and to do a race prep on the car. The owner, Michael Eberhardt, was incredibly helpful and competent.
Our visit to the museum was great. We met the curator, Michael Mitchell, who is responsible for putting the exhibit together, as well as Scott Dishman, the Director of the Foundation, and Jackie Bechek, who is on the Board of the Foundation.
We toured the facility and saw how the exhibit is coming together. There are 24 other significant 2002’s being readied and set in place for the exhibit. Around the outside are photo’s, paintings, dealer signs, and a wide array of memorabilia associated with the development, manufacture, and introduction of the 2002. The exhibit is scheduled to open on May 18, 2018.
Following the tour we were taken across the street to have lunch at the Performance Driving Center. Our lunch included a quick tour of the school and a ride around the track in a M2 with Mike Renner.
It was time to head back down to the track and get registered for the weekend and find our car in the Road Atlanta paddock. Because of the huge number of entries HSR was utilizing both paddock areas at the track. The Racecraft truck was located in the Pro paddock on the inside of the Start/Finish straight.
Thursday morning began at 7:20 AM with a quick driver’s meeting. Since I have never driven Road Atlanta I had signed up for the Track Orientation Program. This program, run by Jim Davis, started with a van tour of the track. Jim talked us through car placement, turn-in points, landmarks, and a host of other helpful information. Following the van ride the TOP group had their own test session on track.
Jim’s tour was very helpful, but there is nothing like logging laps in your own car to learn a new circuit. Road Atlanta has several blind turns, most notably Turn 11. You approach the turn from one side of a steep hill, and then crest the hill and turn while passing under a bridge. The back side drops steeply while still turning down to the very fast Turn 12.
On my first lap I followed another BMW that drove straight off the track his first time through Turn 11. I almost followed him, but was going slowly enough to turn and stay on track. Believe me, television does not show how steeply the track drops as you plunge down to Turn 12.
On Friday our group had 2 practice sessions. My lap times got better each session as I gained confidence and familiarity with the track. My best lap in the first session was a 1:50.7, and 1:48.8 for the second session.
In the afternoon they put several groups together for a sprint race sponsored by Sasco Sports. It was a large group of over 50 cars, and I started 31st. The race was only 8 laps and with that many cars on track it was very hectic the entire race. I managed to pass a few cars and finish 28th with a best lap of 1:47.9.
I will say that the racing is more aggressive than we have on the west coast. I had a Porsche dive bomb me turning into turn 3 several times, as well as a few cars that blocked as I was trying to pass them, even on the straights.
On Saturday we had one Qualifying session in the morning and a sprint race in the afternoon. I was able to get my lap time down to 1:47.0 in the morning session which put me 32nd on the grid out of 44 cars. I was happy that my times were still improving, but not so happy to be buried so deeply in our group.
The race went better than I thought. I passed 6 cars in the first couple of laps, but got blocked by a lapper on the last lap and finished 28th with a best lap of 1:46.8. Considering the higher afternoon temperatures and some grease on the track from all the cars running, I was pretty happy with that.
We only had our feature race on Sunday. Several cars in our group either broke or left early so we had 21 cars take the green flag. I started 13th and again passed several cars in the opening laps. After 4 laps I found myself right behind Jim Froula in his 240Z and was able to stay with him until the checkered flag for a 9th place finish, and a best lap of 1:45.6.
I’ll be posting the video in a few days.
Both Mary and I really enjoyed the weekend and our time in the Atlanta area. The people were warm and friendly, the weather was perfect, and the BBQ was spectacular. Road Atlanta has been on my list of tracks that I wanted to drive. It is fast, technical, and intimidating, but rewards lots of laps and familiarity.
The best part of the weekend was the fact that #34 worked flawlessly all weekend, and was driven onto the truck on Sunday night with no issues. He will get a well deserved rest in the BMWCCA museum until next January.
I want to thank Scott Dishman and Michael Mitchell for their help and hospitality; Michael Eberhardt for his help and expertise; and David Hinton at HSR; and Jim and Austin from Racecraft. Without these folks we couldn’t have done the event.
We had our first race last weekend with the M3 at the HMSA Spring race at Laguna Seca.
Let me first give a big shout out to Pall, Luis, and Kevin for coming down and cheering us on. It was great fun to meet them and talk about all things M3! And if you haven’t looked at Pall’s Flicker album yet- don’t miss it. He got some really great shots of the car.
This was my first time in the car and I always approach a new car with the idea of just getting comfortable with it, the controls, the feedback its giving me, and making sure everything is operating nominally.
Saturday morning was cool and damp. The track was dry, but off-line there were damp patches. I used the first few laps of the session to just get comfortable in the car and to build a little heat in the slicks. I also needed to scrub the mold release off their face.
After a few laps I began to build up my speed. The gearbox in the car is pretty amazing. It is a Getrag 265 case with Samsonas innards. The cluster features straight cut gears and it has a dog ring so the clutch is not necessary once you are moving. I chose to use the clutch for now so as to not add another complication to my learning the car. Later I’ll work at shifting w/o the clutch. The gear throw is VERY short; just a flick of the wrist and you’re in the next gear. Really sweet.
The car felt very neutral and I kept having to push myself deeper into the corners before braking as they are much more effective than any of my other cars.
Saturday afternoon the rains came. It started just as I was sitting on pre-grid for the qualifying race with my 2002. By the time our race was over there were puddles starting to form on the track so I decided not to take the M3 out.
Sunday morning was sunny and warmer. I took the car out for the morning warm-up session. The second time in a new car is always better. I feel like I at least know more what to expect, plus I am more comfortable with the steering, pedals, and shifter. So I turned it up another notch.
As I began to push the car harder it began to show more of its personality. The first thing I noticed was a little bit of under steer on turn in. As I reached the apex and added power the car instantly neutralized and came off the corner like a freight train. There are in cockpit adjustments for the sway bars and brake bias. I will begin exploring those later. I have left them at the settings the previous owner recommended.
The engine in the car is great. It dogs below 4500, which you would expect. Once you reach 5500 it really comes alive and pulls hard up until the red line. I was choosing to shift at about 8000-8200. red line is marked on the tach at 8500.
I was gridded for the feature race in 4th behind 2 2018 Porsche GT3 Cup cars, and a 1990 Olds tube frame GTO car. How did we get 2 brand new GT3 Cup cars on the grid of a vintage race? Good question. I asked but never got a straight answer from HMSA. I’m guessing the reason was financial. There was also a 2012 GT3 Cup car in the field. He was gridded at the rear of our group because he didn’t have a qualifying time.
As the 2 GT3 Cup cars sailed off into the distance I chased the GTO car. I decided I would just follow him and keep him honest while I was still learning the car. My best lap was a 1:40, about 2 tenths quicker than the GTO’s best lap. A few laps into the race the other GT3 Cup car came forward and passed us both so I finished 5th overall, but 2nd in the ‘vintage’ class.
I also raced the Koepchen 2002 in Group 4. The car was just plain ripping all weekend long. We had the new Ivey engine in the car and it performed very well.
In Saturday’s qualifying race I had a great dice with Dennis Racine in his yellow Mini. I was finally able to pass him in Turn 11 on the last lap to finish 2nd.
In the feature race I was able to pass the lead Datsun 510 going through Turn 2. He missed a shift going into Turn 5 and I opened a lead on him that I was able to keep throughout the rest of the race.
My best lap was a 1:49.7. The best I have ever done in the 2002 at Laguna Seca.