10 Oct Weekend Racing, Part 2
If you missed yesterday’s post, check it out first. This will make a lot more sense if you do.
When we last checked in on our….oh, wait, this is first person…When we last checked in on my adventure to Road America with Jeremy Cliff, Stefan’s Zima Motorsports E46 M3 had suffered a terrible fate. The front left wheel bearing had shit out, leaving Stefan with two choices. First, if his father (now out on the town) could find a replacement bearing assembly, Stefan would be able to race like nothing was wrong. Second, if the bearing couldn’t be found, Stefan could still run one lap per race with his busted bearing, solely to accumulate a small amount of points that would hopefully keep him at the top of the competition. Would he succeed, or would it be a rather uneventful end to quite a good season of racing? While we waited to find out, Jeremy and I hit the track again to snap some more shots of the other classes currently racing. Jeremy commented that, unlike the last time he was here for an American Le Mans Series race, the track seating was mostly empty. He’d be correct; while there were friends, family and race teams present to cheer on the competitors, there weren’t many for-the-love-of-the-game spectators sitting in the stands.
Upon returning to the paddocks, we found a fantastic sight — Stefan’s dad had returned with a new wheel bearing assembly! With some help from Stefan’s cousin, the two worked frantically to get the car in running order prior to the next race. And that’s exactly what they did — just before they were scheduled to stage up, the E46 M3 was back in working order, so it was time to get that rolling graffiti canvas back on the road. With that, we were off once again to snap pictures at one of the corners that brought us relatively close to the action.
Thankfully, the E46 was out on the track for the entire session, so we managed to grab more than one shot of it. There was also a stock car racing in this group, which isn’t something you see on the track every day. Did we mention how loud these cars are? With forests as far as the eye could see surrounding the track, there aren’t too many noise restrictions. If you’ve never been to a race track during an event like this, I highly suggest you check it out — your ears will thank you later, once they regain the ability to hear.
Thus marked the end of the practice sessions, and also the first actual race. Since the stakes were higher for the actual race, drivers pushed their cars to the limit. So much so, in fact, that vehicular casualties were bound to occur. And occur they did — the first such issue we noticed came from the crazy turbocharged Mustang, which missed its braking point, flew through the sand and promptly smacked into a wall, ending its fun for the day. A Camaro suffered a similar fate, but somehow worse — this poor specimen looked as if it were sideswiped by a M1 Abrams Tank, with both wheels completely destroyed and several body panels hanging off.
However, other cars weren’t the only ones to have problems. Stefan’s car was seen tearing around the track at full clip with a thin white cloud following it. Personally, I was worried that it was coolant spewing out and vaporizing against the hot engine bay. It ended up being something completely different yet still profoundly annoying. His power steering pump had decided to move to part-time from full-time, meaning his power steering was going in and out intermittently. Sometimes it would happen on a straight, and other times it would happen on a turn. Seeing as how that can be incredibly dangerous on a race track, Stefan’s dad promptly removed the offending items and Stefan had one more race to run, only without power steering.
Matt’s E36 M3 suffered an issue, too, but his was a bit more on the catastrophic side — a 4-5 upshift turned into a grinding fifth gear, and the subsequent downshift threw his tachometer over redline, resulting in a blown motor. Back in the paddock, they pulled the dipstick, which came out the color of chocolate milk (and had the same viscosity), meaning his day was over. Thankfully, this wasn’t until the last lap of the final race, so there wasn’t much lost in the blowing of the motor, but it’s still unsettling to see a friend’s car being dragged back into the paddock. We’re sure he’ll be back next season with either a whole new motor (S54 anybody?) or a whole new race car, so we wish him the best in the off-season as he figures out the next step for 2013.
Towards the end of the final race, Stefan’s arms must have been throbbing up a storm, but he played it off with professional nonchalance as he threw his M3 into every corner at ten tenths, as one would expect from a man currently leading in championship points. At the sharp left turn where Jeremy and I were stationed for the last race, the Elephant-sponsored E46 M3 came into the corner way too hot, and his back wheels thrust themselves to the side, causing an oversteer condition that he couldn’t correct. The car turned 270 degrees, pointing directly towards us on the track, while all the cars behind him were still coming in hot. Thankfully, there we no accidents, but there were plenty of close calls (and I assume swear words being tossed around) as a handful of drivers took to the outside grass to pass him.
After that, the races were finished. Cars were being stowed away in their trailers, and drivers were removing their Nomex suits in favor of more street-friendly clothing. Some, however, opted to keep their suits on, seeing as how it was unbelievably cold out. Either way, Stefan’s hard work paid off — he ended up coming in 1st place in the Midwest division, and 2nd in Great Lakes. Once again helping to cement BMW’s place as a perennial favorite for motorsports, Stefan stuck around for the final ceremonies while Jeremy and I packed up his Honda and headed back to Chicago. After all, we hadn’t had much in the way of New Glarus brew yet, and that’s one of the best reasons to visit Wisconsin.
Congratulations once again to Stefan and Zima Motorsports for a seriously strong showing in 2012, and we wish them all the best as we head into 2013. Thanks also go out to Jeremy for letting me borrow his camera, which I managed not to break during my time with it. I appreciate you all sticking around and reading the story of my photog weekend adventure. Your normal blog programming will resume tomorrow, but I’ll be back in the first person on Friday as Jeremy and I spend our Sunday at Lake Forest Sportscars’ Concours d’Elegance. See you then!