Dateline: Thursday, May 19, 2022
Remember how Sonoma really sucked last month?
Q: Here we go again…NOLA sucked too, I suppose?
A: No, no, no. Wait just a minute. Stop being so negative. NOLA only sucked in part.
Q: Which part sucked?
A: The part commonly known as “the majority of it.” But there was clearly a part of our NOLA experience that very much didn’t suck.
Q: How are we supposed to tell the “suck” from the “not suck” part of the weekend?
A: Let’s make this interactive. Looking at the picture below, guess if this would be categorized as “suck” or “not suck.”
In case you are wondering, that’s me getting harpooned off to the far left.
Q: Clearly “suck.” Looks like it didn’t end very well for you.
A: Good job. You’re one-for-one. How about this one?
“To suck” or “not to suck.” That is the question.
Q: Oh goodness. That’s clearly a lot more “suck.”
A: Great. We’re on the same page here. How about this one?
Welcome back to the podium, Devin. We have been expecting you.
Q: You guys made it to the podium?
A: You didn’t answer the question. Is this “suck” or “not suck?”
Q: Clearly “not suck!” But where is the Speed Stubble?
A: The Speed Stubble wasn’t keeping up its end of the deal, so it was unceremoniously shaved off and rinsed down the Homewood Suites sink on Sunday morning.
Q: But I liked the Speed Stubble! And rumor was that your wife did too.
A: Let’s talk about that for just a second. Normally when I write these missives, I can count on the same three or four people replying and saying something along the lines of, “Wow, what a great weekend, guys!” or “Man, seems like you need to shake that off and move on.” But the 2022 Sonoma newsletter apparently struck a nerve with the scR readership – I received dozens of opinions regarding the Speed Stubble. I’m simply perplexed at how many people had such strong opinions about my facial hair. Equal parts intriguing and disturbing.
Q: What was the consensus?
A: It doesn’t matter. With the Speed Stubble, I was crashed out of Race 1 before the starter’s stand. Without the Speed Stubble, we landed on the Race 2 podium. That’s hard science, right there! Good riddance.
Q: With all that carnage, was there an opportunity for Hello Kitty to make an appearance?
A: I am pretty sure that we used more Hello Kitty Duck Tape (that’s HKDT for the uninitiated) on the car this weekend than in the past four or five race seasons combined. And she rose to the occasion in splendid fashion.
Zach is now a card-carrying member of the HKDT fan club. Tyler remains skeptical, however.
Q: So now that you have set the stage, get to the storyline. This was your first time at NOLA, right?
A: Correct. But in advance of the race weekend, I was able to spend a test day driving an unspecified GT4 racecar around the place that may or may not have been a Porsche 718 Cayman. Or something like that that might not have been that.
Q: Where does one rent a car like that? I can’t imagine Hertz has one in the fleet.
A: Well, you know, just as a hypothetical here, there is an outfit that operates out of NOLA called Nolasport (I know, creative, right?). And they rent racecars like GT4 Caymans. Or something like that that might not have been that. And somebody could do something like that, I suppose. Or not.
Q: So you tested a GT4 Cayman? Isn’t that in conflict with your BimmerWorld contract?
A: We’re just talking in generalities here, right? Purely speculative scenarios?
SCANDAL ROCKS BIMMERWORLD! WALKER TESTS GT4 CAYMAN!
Q: Ok, you’re busted. But it’s actually pretty cool they let you do that.
A: Oh, I know. I really need to thank Jon and the whole gang over at Nolasport for the opportunity to play with their car in their backyard for the day. It was a huge advantage coming into the race weekend, and even more so given that they have a GT4 America Pro-Am car on the grid competing directly against us. It was either a massive display of sportsmanship or a clear indication that they didn’t view us as a legitimate threat come race day.
I also need to shout out to fellow GT4 America Pro-Am competitors JCD (don’t ask me for his full name, it’s long, complex, and French) and Tom Capizzi who were also there testing a GT4 Cayman. Without any hesitation they shared their video and data from their previous two days of testing to accelerate my learning curve. It again was either a massive display of sportsmanship or another clear indication that they didn’t view us as a legitimate threat come race day.
Q: What did you think about the GT4 Cayman? Do you like it better than the BMW?
A: My BimmerWorld contract prevents me from commenting. Next question, please.
The greatest GT4 racecar EVER, no matter what those Porsche guys might say!
Q: Understood. So were you instantly fast during the two Thursday test sessions?
A: Sadly, no. Both Devin and I struggled to find the times needed to be up towards the front of the grid. This continued into Friday, where we were only 10th in class and 18th overall in the morning practice session. Friday afternoon we fell even farther, posting times only good enough for 11th in class and 19th overall.
Now, to be fair, all of the BMWs were off the pace on Thursday and Friday. In fact, the universe of racecars that seemed capable of setting fast lap times included everything except the BMWs. We were not sitting very pretty for qualifying on Saturday morning but Wayne had a few tricks up his sleeve to try to move our car towards the front.
This is Wayne, now with tricks up his sleeve! Unfortunately he needs longer sleeves.
Q: Did the tricks work?
A: Well, enough. It still wasn’t the fastest car on the grid, but in my qualifying session I was able to lay down a personal best lap time and secure 4th in class and 11th overall. Devin also put in his best performance of the weekend and qualified 7th in class and 12th overall.
If you want a front-row seat to my qualifying effort, you can click here to watch it on YouTube. If enough people also subscribe to my channel, I might eventually have more people following me than my dog does over on Instagram.
Q: Put your qualifying efforts in context. How large was the field?
A: There were 31 cars in total, and of those, 13 were Pro-Am competitors. So, while our qualifying results might not sound incredibly impressive, we were in fact quite happy with our progress. This was some “not suck” for sure.
Still the greatest GT4 racecar EVER! But where did all the Porsche guys go?
Q: I’ll buy that. So great momentum going into Saturday’s race?
A: Yes. And now let’s skip to Sunday’s race.
Saturday’s grid, mere moments before disaster would strike.
Q: You know I can’t let you do that. We already know you crashed out at the start.
A: As a major point of clarification, there is a world of difference between “crashing out at the start” and “being crashed out at the start.”
Q: Explain what happened, then.
A: Train wreck. As we just discussed above, I started the race 4th in class and 11th overall. I didn’t get a particularly good start, but nevertheless I was able to move into 10th overall almost immediately when the BMW to my left missed a shift. And then it went really, really badly.
As I accelerated to the starter’s stand, I noticed both the #53 BMW to my left and the #15 Aston Martin to his left coming my way. They appeared to be coupled together, which was my first indication that this was going to suck. The BMW first hit me in the driver’s door, pushing me towards the grass. The Aston hit me next in the left-front fender, pushing me farther into the grass and starting a counterclockwise spin. All at about 90 miles per hour.
Due to a modicum of driving talent and a hell of a lot of good luck, I was able to catch the slide and redirect the car back onto the racing surface in short order, but the Aston wanted more. Just as I was hoping to get on with my race, I was hit hard by the Aston a second time in the left-rear quarter panel, spinning the car to the left and directly into the path of the charging back half of the field. I simply closed my eyes and waited for a competitor to drive into my door.
Q: What happened next?
A: Thankfully, nobody drove into my door. The seas parted and everyone was able to safely divert around the injured, errant BMW, leaving me sitting there peacefully in the middle of the track wondering what to do next.
Everyone in this picture is getting a Christmas card from me. Thank you.
Q: That’s amazing!
A: Amazing, yes, but not entirely factually correct. There was unfortunately one car at the back of the pack that was not able to stop in time, and he drove squarely into my left-front wheel as I sat there completely helpless. It was almost comical, as he was probably only going about 5 miles per hour when he hit me, but it sent me into a verbal string of colorful adjectives, the likes of which I am confident I have never deployed before. I apologize to everyone on the radio that might have heard me explaining in graphic detail just how I felt about the whole situation.
If you want to see the whole thing go down from the in-car camera’s perspective, explicit comments included, just click here. Just don’t have any small children in the room listening.
Q: Do you have any idea what caused the whole thing to go south in the first place?
A: No idea. But maybe this contributed?
Saturday’s secret pre-race preparations.
Q: You had made a voodoo doll out of an old sock and a BSPort racing sticker?
A: Why not? We were racing in New Orleans, after all. Needed every competitive advantage we could get.
Q: This seems to have backfired badly. Maybe you should use less pins next time?
A: Absolutely. I completely overdid it, but in my defense, this was my first time dabbling in the occult. There are not a lot of good online resources for this sort of thing, and I was frankly playing it by ear. Sorry, Bryan!
Q: How bad was the car?
A: Pretty bad. See above. But the BimmerWorld crew was up to the challenge. Essentially the entire left side of the car was creamed, the front suspension was broken in half, and both the front and rear fascias got jacked up. A variety of coolers, brackets, linkages, and several other things with great Dana Equivalency Unit value were also taken out, but by the next morning the guys had her back up and running. She wasn’t pretty, but she made it to the grid on time.
Daniel, seen putting on the finishing touches on Sunday morning.
Q: Is Dana already shopping?
A: Oh, hell yes.
This is Devin hoping for better fortunes on Sunday. Is there an echo in here?
Q: Was the car OK for Devin on Sunday morning?
A: Ok enough. She had a black eye, but she was fast. And angry. As you might recall, he started in 7th in class and 12th overall and was able to hold his own against a gaggle of faster cars (i.e., those without a BMW Roundel on the hood). He was actually running in the top ten at one point, but due to some shuffling around we were sitting comfortably 7th place in class and 13th place overall when he came in for the driver change. And then, for the first time this season, things started to go our way.
Devin, motoring down pit lane for the driver change.
Like we had done at Sonoma, we nailed the pit lane time, putting down the second best stop of the entire field. All that driver change practice is paying off, I guess. Because several of our closest competitors did not execute their stops quite as well as we did, I spurted away from the box with a significant gap to our next closest Pro-Am rival. Without any pressure from behind, I put my head down and drove as well as I could to try to improve our 7th place position in class.
Q: We already know you finished on the podium, but how did that happen?
A: The old-fashioned way. Just drove as well I could and stayed out of trouble. Without the benefit of any caution periods, I simply did my best to stay consistent and in front of those behind me. My lap times were nothing special, but with each lap we gained a little more and slowly crept up the leaderboard. And that’s when more Aston mayhem began.
Go, Hello Kitty, go!
Q: Oh no, not again?
A: I really can’t explain what exactly was going on, but in the final five laps or so, no less than four Astons were involved in car-to-car contact – with each other, no less – that left them all on the sidelines. Maybe the Aston voodoo doll still had some lingering effects? Some were in front of us, and some were behind us, but with about 12 minutes to go in the race they had all pretty much taken themselves out of competition and we were 3rd in class and 7th overall. The only thing giving me worry was the #52 BMW who was camped out on our (brand-new) rear bumper. Knowing that the final podium position was on the line, I was pretty confident he was not planning on sitting back there and just watching the show.
Thankfully, there was yet another Aston (yes, they’re everywhere) camped out on the BMW’s rear bumper. And once they started to scrap it out, I was able to pull away to a three second margin at the checkered flag. But I’ll tell you, it was a nail-biting 12 minutes as they were always there in the rear-view mirror just ready to take advantage of any mistake that I would make.
Q: That doesn’t sound glamorous but it was apparently effective.
A: Yes, you’re right. In the end, it was nothing if not a team podium, as everyone did their part to put us in a favorable position as the final laps of the race played out. Devin and I drove as best we could, but the crew knocked it out of the park in getting our wounded racecar to the starting grid that morning. BimmerWorld clearly knows how to get it done.
Trophies. Beads. HKDT. Next up, a trip to the body shop and day spa.
Q: Are you generally happy with the overall weekend result?
A: Oh, heck yes. A podium for the team makes up for a LOT of crap along the way. We have now moved up to 10th in the championship standings, which doesn’t sound too noteworthy until you consider we were in 14th or so before the weekend started.
Ok, so it still doesn’t sound too noteworthy, but it’s a long season and next up are a trio of tracks that should play to our advantage: VIR, Watkins Glen, and Road America. If we can’t haul in some points there, something is truly amiss with our season. And if something is still amiss, well, I still have that Aston voodoo doll…and I can make more. Anyone have a Porsche sticker I can borrow?
See you at the track!