Off to Spa-Francorchamps

So far 2017 has been a very quite year for me as far as racing goes.  This year is the first time since 2004 I haven’t been traveling the country racing a BMW or Porsche with my friends from BimmerWorld.  I have ran a few club races at tracks I have raced at at some point in the past with some of my racing friends.  In most of those races we found success and a lot of fun.  There was the 6 Hours of the Ridge where Dan Rogers, James Colborn, Tyler Clary and I shared 2 different cars in the pouring down rain.  Both cars were leading the race 1-2 until an electrical issue popped up on the #82 SpecE46 with 10 minutes left to go.  In another SpecE46 NASA race at Barber Motorsports Park with my friend Sam Siemon we were able to gather 2 wins and set a track record for the class in Sam’s newly built SpecE46.  These are a couple of the highlights for the year but I am about to embark on the next part I am most excited and a little nervous about.  This weekend, October 7th-8th, I am driving in the 12 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in a BMW M235iR with Sorg Rennsport with Dan Rogers, James Colborn and Chris Wadle as my co-drivers.

All of us are very excited about this race since Spa is such an epic track and one that I have wanted to run a race on for a very long time.  Its a track with a winners list of drivers such as Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Juan-Manuel Fangio, Tom Kristensen, more recently Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.  It is a track that has been around since the 1920s and has been promoted as one of the world’s most challenging race circuits.  It is a track that hosts Formula One races, WEC races, WTCC races, and more.  It features more elevations changes than any of the tracks we have been to in North America.  In the most famous turn on the track, Eau Rouge, there is a 17% uphill grade after you turn in from going downhill down the straight leading up to it.  Once you get to the top of Eau Rouge, there is a brief rest until down the long straightaway and once you hit the brakes for Les Combes it is all downhill from there.  The legend of this track has it as one that requires constant thinking about how to approach each section of corners as they all build off of each other.

BMW M235 Racing Customer Car with Sorg Rennsport

This race weekend is going to be very different from anything I have done since I first drove a race car in 2001. First I will be traveling to work with a new team I have never worked with and I don’t know anyone who has driven with them before.  They have come highly recommended from some different contacts and their results at Spa this year have been very consistently on the podium.  Second is packing for this trip.  This is a lot different than when racing with BimmerWorld.  With BimmerWorld I could leave my stuff on the trailer in the Seth Thomas Lost and Found Bin until the next race.  There wasn’t a need to think about packing every little item myself or my co-drivers might need for video, data, race suits, helmet connectors, etc.  With the BimmerWorld team, all the drivers were always close enough that we would lend a hand when needed and borrow stuff from others in a pinch.  Spa will be similar since Dan, James and Chris are going but we all collectively have worked together to make sure we each have what we need.

The main part that will be very challenging and something I haven’t had to do a lot of in the last few years is to learn a new race track in a new car in a short period of time.  At 7 KM long and a 2 min 40 sec type lap time there isn’t going to be a lot of track time leading up to the race.  So when I am on track I am going to have to learn the track and make sure I maximize my time not making a mistakes.  Then while I am learning the track I am going to have to learn how the M235R is as a race car.  Since BMW builds it as a race car and delivers it to customers I am going to make the assumption it will be quick right and the handling spot on for a smooth, F1 style track like Spa.  It does have an 8 Speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters so focusing on being in the right gear should be fairly easy.  To learn the track I have spent a lot of time on my simulator at home.  Leading up to the race this week I have put in about 35 to 40 hours driving Spa on iRacing and Asseto Corsa in a couple different cars.  This is really going to be interesting to see how well spending time on a home simulator translates into being proficient on a race track.  I know it will definitely help me in knowing the rhythm of Spa but will it help me to be fast right out of the box.  We will see this weekend.

Okay it is time to board my plane for my flight from JFK to Brussels.  I will post more this week as we get up to speed in Europe and Belgium.  Also I will post some about some of the World War 2 sites we visit while we have some time to tour around.  I can’t wait to see the areas of Belgium visited by our American and Allied Forces in the Ardennes Forest area.

2 Responses to “Off to Spa-Francorchamps”

  1. Jeff Honea says:

    Looking forward to hearing all about it. Drive fast and you guys have a blast.

  2. chris turner says:

    # one Have fun, # 2 show them how q good old can kick ass.

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