Planning for the Race
You talk about the race for 3 months with everyone, making sure your team is available because without your team there is no chance of finishing. Once the decision is made it took a month and a half of preparation, from getting the car ready to getting everyone logistically organized, scheduling and doing testing…all of it. My business suffers during this time but I don’t care because I want our team to win.
Prepping the Car for Endurance Racing
For this race, everything is brand new. We literally replace everything…the wheel bearings, axles, bearings, rod ends, control arms…basically anything that is breakable. You have a spare of everything too, there’s just no other way to do it.
Almost every partner we had we’ve already put through the paces and we know they work, like MCS Suspension, Apex and Nitto. We’ve always had good luck with the tires when we use Nitto, and look forward to using them again next year. We use Performance Gearing out of AZ for our transmissions and rear ends. Jim Blanton is the owner. He’s been doing BMWs for a long time and is by far the best diff and trans builder I know of. He offers unlimited mileage warranty in a racecar, which I think that says it all.
The new parts were the AEM fuel pumps and the Infinity ECU. We ran the E85 fuel pumps so they could run dry a little bit and they worked awesome, especially considering that our fuel pump cost us the race last year. Along with the fuel pumps only new thing in the car was the Infinity. I never doubted it would work in endurance, and we proved it. I’m amazed at the price point. The stock ECU can only be flashed 14 times and you can’t log anything, and it’s about 2k. Everything else on the car we have used for years.
One lesson that we learned this year is that certain racing components aren’t as vital because you aren’t going to win 25 Hours by one- or two-tenths of a second. We had a True Race front control arm and when the Miata hit our right front wheel it bent the control arm. If we had the stock piece it wouldn’t have been as fragile and probably wouldn’t have been a problem, which would have saved us a lot of time in repairs. But these are learning curves that you have to go through. Of course the best thing would be not to have had an impact at all, but you can’t always control that. In the future, anything stock that is easily removable will definitely be on the car.
We did a Livestream this year using a Replay XD and Teradek Cube and it worked great. Next year they are coming out with an all-in-one system so it should be even better.
I have 14 guys on the crew including the drivers…and I would say it wasn’t enough. What’s really cool is that everyone on the crew is friends of the shop. Everyone had specific responsibilities. Ivan Zwart is our Crew Chief, Tom Paule and Tim Nichols were tire guys, Scott Carey, Craig Arnold, Flavio Sora and Ron Wilson were fuelers, Matt Kayne was the Car Chief which means he’s responsible for the general condition of the car. Everyone had a specific job and executed it quite well. We could have used an extra fueling guy and extra tire guys just so everyone could get some rest, but the more people you bring the more expensive it is.
Our drivers included Brett Strom, Mickey Miller, Vic Pizzino, Ralph Warren, Greg Neuwirth and me. Brett and Mickey are Grand Am divers and have won the 25 Hours before. Vic and Ralph both have multiple class championships in BMWCCA and can drive in the rain. Greg is the new guy. I met him when I was at AEM after they released their Infinity stand alone for the E46 M3. I was working with their marketing guy on an editorial piece because I really wanted to see if this new ECU could do what they said it could. They had just released it. Greg introduced himself, and while we were bullshitting I found out that he raced and had a championship in H2. When a seat opened up I decided to invite him, both because he was a cool guy and his company’s product was working awesome on the car. Greg brought Beau Brown from AEM with him to the race, and Beau turned out to be invaluable.