Driving Through the Night
We all ran night shifts. We ran VisionX lights this year and it wasn’t a problem. It was basically like driving during the day. Those lights are super bright and it was a pleasure to drive with them. In years past we didn’t have as good of lighting and it was always a challenge because you can’t see the apex and you usually turn in too early. It’s just much tougher to drive. They’re coming out with new lights and we can’t wait to try them next year.
(Almost) Halfway, the Second Crash
At the 10 hour mark Vic was in the car and he was tagged in the right front tire by one of the Miatas. The wheel held, a big shout out to Apex Race Parts on that. The steering wheel got a little cocked but we decided to leave him out there and at about the 13 hour mark when Ralph was in the car he radioed in that the car would not turn left. I was joking with him that he’d just been in the car too long and Ivan decided to make a driver change and tire change, then I got in the car. The left tire had become uncorded and they checked the right front tire and noticed that the bolt that holds the outer ball joint was loose, so they tightened it and sent me out there.
So I go back out and in turn one I had to turn the wheel about 270 degrees…I knew something was wrong. In turn 2 the control arm broke and the tire went into the fender, but I could still drive it so I radioed that I was bringing it back in. The Nitto’s are great tires, and are probably the most durable tire you can run. We put on a stock control arm as fast as we could and got back out there. It drove surprisingly well for having mismatched control arms…it actually turned left well and that’s a predominantly left-turn track (laughs)!
We drove it like that for the rest of the race and made up some good time. We were down 46 minutes and made up over 20 of them, finishing runner up. We were also the fastest BMW at the race. The feeling at the end is an awesome sense of accomplishment, regardless of where you finish. No one who finishes this race should feel down. We took 2nd in our class, but we were the fastest BMW there and finished in the top 10 overall. Given what was thrown at us during the race I couldn’t be much happier. It wasn’t a bad day.
Sleep is for Pussies
I didn’t really sleep during the race. I put this pressure on myself, but I think as the owner you are expected to deliver, and I want to deliver. The money you collect doesn’t even cover the cost of the race. It’s not about that. You just want to deliver.
What’s great about our team is that it’s really a team and everyone did what was in the best interests of winning. But it doesn’t take the pressure off. I wanted to know where we are at in the race the entire time. I did sleep for two hours from around 4:30-6:30. I think it was out of pure exhaustion. But our Motorhome is on the back straight so you can hear the car going by every time…you know your car (laughs). The mental prep is pretty insane. I think everyone kept it together pretty well. No one lost their focus and that’s why we were able to come home with second even after everything that happened.
If I was to offer one piece of advice on doing this or any other endurance race it is that preparation is everything, and even with that you could be the most prepared and still could not finish. Luck plays a role, but you can also create your own luck. You need to have the right crew and drivers, guys who will work together and check egos at the door. You are going to have problems. The question is can you get through the problems quickly. Even the Luxury: Don’t Crash Racing Mustang (the EO class winner) had a problem. They had to change brakes and if they had dealt with that issue before they went they wouldn’t have had to change them. The key is not stopping, even if you are slower.
You get to Thunderhill and you see all these bad-to-the-bone prototypes and pro divers who are going so fast, but none of them are there at the finish. The same thing happens every year. The group grows—this year was “the battle of the big rigs”—but those cars weren’t there at the end. We aren’t a multimillion dollar team or even a million dollar team, but we finish. I’m as proud of that as anything. And while it wasn’t cheap, we did it on a fraction of the budget of a lot of other teams.
We are going after that elusive win, and will be back next year for sure—DW.