Motorsport Column

BMW_M235i_RacingCarPhoto350px225It is time to think about the Track Season! Okay, you all have read this before, but it is really true! The 2015 driving season has started and it is time for you to start thinking about this year’s track season. Rick Gulstrom has promised another five days of perfect, warm, and sunny track day for this year. However, I did overhear him say that a rainy one would not be so bad. What he means is that high performance driving in the rain will develop and hone your skills in ways that can only be experienced. Yes, a rainy track will not be driven at high speeds, but you will drive if differently. Modern BMWs have an amazing stability and traction control system that really is only appreciated under compromising conditions. Controlling your car in slippery and rainy conditions on the track is directly applicable to everyday driving. High performance driving is not just about going fast, but it is about precise car control. Regardless of the weather conditions, put the track days on your calendar now. Consult the Track section of the Puget Sound BMWCCA site for the dates, locations, prices, and registration information. Remember, our HPDE and CCC days are on Fridays!

May 29 Pacific Raceways HPDE and CCC

June 26 Pacific Raceways HPDE and CCC

July 17 Pacific Raceways HPDE and CCC

August 14 Pacific Raceways HPDE and CCC

September 13 The Ridge Motorsports Park HPDE only

Let me back up for a second and tell you all why you should attend as many High Performance Driving events sponsored by BMW as you can. In the Puget Sound region, there are two racetracks used predominantly by the three car clubs to hold High Performance Driving Events. Similarly, there are now two other organizations that sponsor lapping days or driving events with minimal opportunity for having an instructor in your car all day long. Why is this important you may ask yourself? Here are the reasons.

1. Participating in a club sponsored High Performance Driving Education event supports the overall mission of the club. The focus of the BMWCCA is to promote the marque and to promote driving, both street and performance. From this, several grass-root organizations have been born, such as Pro3 racing. Within this group of drivers, consists of a core group that is devoted not only to driving, but also to showing others how to do the same.

2. Instruction is required to become a better driver. You can read about it, you can drive the simulators at home, but the only to learn high performance driving is to do it in person and with the assistance of a qualified instructor in the right seat. Our instructor corps represents an amazing collection of real-life experience driving on the track, some racing, and teaching. I use the word teaching here to emphasize that being an instructor means that you have signed up to “teach” what you know how to do well. Last year, we transitioned from the teaching to coaching, a philosophical shift in the approach to in-car dynamics. Coaching is an operative word we instructors use on-track to guide you around the racetrack in a safe manner while providing ample opportunity for experiencing your Ultimate Driving Machine. Having an instructor in your car and with a communicator provides real-time feedback and coaching. We will push you past your comfort zones only if you are ready. Remember, our track days come with an instructor for you all day; you do not have to pay anything extra.

We will continue to allow open passing for A-group drivers this year. B- group drivers will continue to get more out-of-car coaching by several senior instructors. The debrief session after A and B group has been very helpful to drivers.

3. Club sponsored track days provides a community of drivers. For those who have attended our track days, you have most likely talked to other drivers about their cars, modifications, techniques, the weather, asked the “yellow shirts” instructors about how to drive better, or simply make new friends. It is a track day after all, an entire day where you are allowed to be immersed in nothing but driving and all things BMW. Turn off the phone and think about driving. Take advantage of these opportunities! And, you get a great lunch representing another opportunity to hang out with other drivers.

We also offer Car Control Clinics for those who do not have track experience yet, but want to experience the BMW driving experience at a slower speed. Jeff Butler and crew organize a set of driving exercises utilizing cones placed around the paddock of Pacific Raceways. The placing of these cones set up: slalom, accident avoidance, braking, autocross, and skid pad exercises. Each driver gets about 5-8 runs through each exercise with instructors at the beginning of the line to give quick instruction. These exercises start in the morning and last until 1:00pm. Participants are then allowed to get a ride in an instructor’s car around the racetrack. We are sure that once you get a hot lap, you will be signing up for an HPDE.

Does any of this performance driving really translate to everyday driving as I have mentioned above? Yes, it does. We recently received this post on the Puget Sound BMW CCA forum:

I just wanted to give a big thank you to the BMW CCA Puget Sound chapter for the Car Control Clinic that saved my life today. On my way into work, a tandem fuel truck took a right on red into traffic just as I was entering the intersection of the I5 off ramp to 4th Ave South near Spokane Street.

Thanks to the clinic, and the great engineering of my car, I was able to hit the brakes, control my slide and get my nose out of the way of the second half of the tanker without touching the cars in the lane next to me. I think it missed me by less than a meter. Before you ask, yes, I sent a complaint to the company the truck comes from.

So, it is time to start thinking about the coming season. Put the dates on your calendars. Come to a club sponsored track day and learn how to really drive. Your BMW CCA instructors are ready when you are.

Steve Libby, President and Instructor

Rick Gulstrom, Driving Events Coordinator and Senior Instructor

Dana Lantz, Track Registrar