Dateline: Friday, May 17, 2024

Welcome to the highly-anticipated (and oh-so-tardy) 2024 scR motorsports season-opening newsletter! I know, I know, y’all have been on pins and needles waiting to hear about our plans to dominate this year’s SRO GT4 America Pro-Am Championship, but, well, sometimes life gets in the way. Nevertheless, here we are embarking on our 28th season of reckless spending in pursuit of incredibly fragile, yet unbelievably heavy, solid glass trophies, three of which I have already managed to damage in some way or another while transporting them back home.

Q: Wait, you have already collected three trophies this season?

A: Five races, three podiums. And frankly, it could have been five podiums had Sebring not sucked so bad (more about that below). Here’s a little photo burst of the celebrations the team has enjoyed thus far.

Round one at Sonoma. We freaking won at Sonoma in a BMW!

Round two at Sonoma. More success, more champagne.

Round five at COTA. Back to the top step of the podium.

Q: As James Clay would say, that’s pretty solid!

A: Ah, yes, Mr. Clay. Can I take this opportunity to say how much I enjoy reckless spending in pursuit of incredibly fragile, yet unbelievably heavy, solid glass trophies with him and the team he has pulled together?

Q: Sure, you can. It’s your newsletter.

A: Boy, do I enjoy reckless spending in pursuit of incredibly fragile, yet unbelievably heavy, solid glass trophies with him and the team he has pulled together!

Don’t even tell me Mr. Clay isn’t a doppelganger for that Heat Mizer guy.

Q: What a great picture! Are you able to share your SRO headshot with us as well?

A: Well, I was going to, but turns out that Charlie photobombed it.

Here I was going for some levity and Charlie had to get all serious on me.

Q: Naturally, we now have to ask for Tyler’s SRO headshot, don’t we?

A: Please don’t ask.

Q: We’re asking. Nicely.

A: Well, I warned you.

Tyler’s headshot is a bit like an angry T-rex / Walk Like an Egyptian mashup.

Q: We should move on from the SRO headshot cabaret. What’s in store for 2024?

A: As you may recall from our final newsletter of 2023, our 2024 theme was previewed as, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in your shoe.” Let’s start with the “something old” reference. “Old” this season could certainly relate to this being my fifth season racing with my BimmerWorld friends. “Old” this season could also relate to this being my second year being teamed up with Tyler in the incredibly awesome G82 BMW M4 GT4. But while those are reasonable associations, “old” this season clearly is…me and Charlie! While neither one of us appears to be slowing down much in our advanced age, our between-session naps surely are becoming more and more frequent. With our minimalistic trailer footprint this year it’s not unusual to find either one or both of us out cold on the floor, laying on the engineer’s bench, or slouched over a folding chair for hours at a time.

Q: So what’s the “new” in reference to this season?

A: “New” is the attitude that I intend to bring to the table this year. Here’s a little haiku to get the discussion rolling.

Twenty-eight years in.
No longer just a hobby.
Treat it like a job.

For these guys, weekends at the track are not for fun and games. It’s as real as it gets.

Q: Wait a minute. Are you quitting your day job or something?

A: No, it’s not that at all. But for the past 27 years I have been telling myself that this whole racing thing has been a sideline gig. You know, something there only as a pleasant distraction from work, mowing the lawn, and stuff like that. A take-it-or-leave-it activity. And while in 1997 that might have been true, crying my eyes out after missing the 2023 Championship by one freaking point (I promise that’s maybe the last time I will mention that this season) made me realize that I am clearly way too invested in this whole thing to dismiss it as a casual outlet that allows me to unplug for the occasional weekend here and there. At this level of competition, I owe it to my teammates to commit to this as if it were a full-time endeavor, because, well, they already have. They’re not out there looking for a pleasant distraction, this is their daily reality. It’s their livelihood. It’s their job. For me to approach it any differently would be disrespectful of their efforts.

Q: So, what does all of that actually mean?

A: It means that I unfortunately missed my daughter’s high school graduation to race in Austin last weekend. And while nobody, and I mean NOBODY, at home was happy about the situation, that’s the kind of commitment this sport demands to succeed as a team at the highest level. The sacrifice is real because the goal is real. The passion is real. The effort is real. And now I have to buy Shelby that pony she has wanted since she was in the fourth grade to make up for it.

This picture was taken about 30 minutes before Shelby got her diploma. Love ya, girl!

Q: Hold on. You bribed your daughter with a horse?

A: No, not really. She actually gets it and didn’t give me a guilt trip over the decision I had to make. There was a serious discussion, in fact, about her bringing her cap and gown to the track to do her graduation walk across the podium so we could share the day as a family. It was probably best that it didn’t end up playing out that way, but it was amazing that she would even consider something like that.

Q: Given your results so far this season, maybe this new mindset is paying dividends?

A: For whatever the reason, yes, 2024 is off to a simply magnificent start. Want some race details?

Q: Of course. Thought you would never get around to it. Start us off with Sonoma.

A: When we showed up to test at Sonoma before the season began, we quickly realized that the new asphalt laid down over the winter months had completely changed the nature and character of the track surface. All of a sudden, we were remarkably quick at a track that historically was a challenge for anybody running a BMW. The only downside was that the new asphalt had a lifespan of about, oh, six hours. Before our first day of testing was complete, the facility was forced to shut down all on-track operations because the surface was literally coming apart at the seams. Ultimately, the scope and magnitude of the repairs necessitated the cancellation of all sessions on Thursday and Friday while the crews worked as quickly as possible to tear up and repave (not patch, repave) about five separate sections of the circuit.

Spy photo of the track repaving that took place on Thursday and Friday.

Q: That sounds like a logistical nightmare.

A: Clearly it was, but SRO did a remarkable job coordinating with the teams to remedy what could have easily been a complete disaster. Hats off to them for the effort. With some creative schedule manipulation, we managed to get in our races on Saturday and Sunday without any added drama or delay. I started Saturday’s race P2 in Pro-Am / P8 overall and by the end of the first lap had moved up to P2 in Pro-Am / P6 overall. I basically held on to that position until handing off to Tyler at the halfway mark. He subsequently managed to hunt down the leading Pro-Am Nissan and drove #82 into the winner’s circle about 20 minutes later. It was a remarkable result with textbook execution by the team on all levels.

Sonoma Turn 3. No Photoshop. Just cool physics.

Q: That’s a strong way to start the season!

A: No joke. On Sunday Tyler started P6 in Pro-Am / P11 overall, but very quickly made up a few positions. I forget the specifics (and I can’t reference a lap chart because this year’s timing and scoring data is virtually useless), but I’m pretty sure after the driver change, I was P4 in Pro-Am / P8 overall. If not, that’s close enough for the newsletter. I spent way too much time circulating behind the #24 Aston, and by the time I passed him for P3 in Pro-Am / P7 overall we got our first race-ending full course yellow flag of the season. Boo! We had pace on the #7 Porsche running P2 in Pro-Am / P6 overall, but that was for naught as the checkered flag flew without an opportunity challenge him for the second step on the podium.

Driver change in process. We’re getting pretty good at this part of the operation.

Q: Two podiums at Sonoma is pretty unusual for a BMW, correct?

A: Well, for our BMW, anyhow. I had never been on the podium at Sonoma, and let me tell you, the view is fantastic. But let’s take this space to pat the entire BimmerWorld Racing crew on the back for the remarkable job they did adapting to the truncated schedule and getting us a car that was just plain fast by the time the green flag flew on Saturday afternoon.

Until next time, Sonoma.

Q: Were you able to carry that momentum into your next race at Sebring?

A: Not exactly. Sebring kind of sucked.

Q: Yeah, you said that earlier. What went wrong?

A: Unfortunately, a lot of things. I qualified P7 in Pro-Am / P16 overall for Saturday’s race. It was just a poor showing which was highlighted by me getting a drive-through penalty for crossing over the blend line prematurely at the start of the session. I subsequently could not find a decent gap in traffic in which to put in a decent lap and, well, it only got worse from there.

Q: Hello Kitty involved?

A: Yeah, break out the Hello Kitty. At the start of the race on Saturday afternoon, several drivers directly in front of me were on and off their brakes as the green flag was displayed. This is unfortunately is becoming a normal thing in GT4, but this time the accordion effect was more pronounced than I had ever seen before. This caught me out and resulted in me going to full throttle just as the car in front of me slowed down by about 20 miles per hour. I slammed into his rear diffuser, causing various (and certainly expensive) pieces and parts of #82 to get semi-dramatically rearranged. It also punctured the radiator, which, in turn, emptied its liquid contents onto the windshield. All of this badness combined to end our day before the end of the first lap.

Yes, that’s coolant all over the windshield. No, I can’t see a thing in front of me.

Q: Were you able to get the car repaired for Sunday’s race?

A: I am racing with the best team in GT4, you know. Before the crew left the track for dinner, they had our car back up and better than new, allowing us to head into Sunday’s race with full confidence in our ride. We spent the rest of the evening eating Thai food while watching this show called “Clarkson’s Farm” where I learned about some of the more graphic details of breeding pigs. I’m sure professional sports car drivers all around the world do the same thing after a rough day at the track.

The photo that needs no caption.

Q: Sunday turn out any better for you?

A: No. I would have been better off trying to breed pigs on Sunday morning.

With eerie symmetry, Tyler had qualified P7 in Pro-Am / P14 overall for Sunday’s contest, but we knew we had significant better race pace than our qualifying times suggested. This actually came to pass, as by the time he handed me the car we were sitting in a hugely respectable P2 in Pro-Am / P8 overall. And then things just sort of went wrong for me. As the car was coming through Turn 17 (you know, the bumpy one) with one lap to go, the car just came around. Nothing in the data or video looked particularly out of the ordinary…until it did. The car spun about 90 degrees, I locked up the brakes, and the entire field (and likely a few cars traveling on I-95 as well) passed me as I sat there trying to get the car facing the right direction. It was comical if you were not the one sitting there in the driver’s seat knowing that you had just thrown away a podium finish while staring at the white flag.

This Sebring photo was taken before all the bad stuff happened.

Q: So, move on. Sounds like you rebounded nicely in Austin.

A: Yes. Forever remembered as the race I attended in lieu of my daughter’s high school graduation, SRO contrived a new format for this event. Instead of two one-hour races, our lone competition at COTA would be a three-hour endurance race complete with driver changes, refueling, and tire changes. You know, real sports car racing stuff.

Q: We already know from up above that you won this race. Was there any drama along the way?

A: Too much, unfortunately. It started with a tactical issue where I ended up qualifying the car for the race instead of Tyler. This resulted in a rather embarrassing P11 in Pro-Am / P22 overall starting position. It wasn’t all bad news, though, as my pace was more than OK among the rest of the Am side of the grid. We just needed time to settle into the race and let the positions come back to us.

I know we are in the COTA section, but who doesn’t like racecars with airplanes?

Q: Did the positions come back to you?

A: Oh, heck yes. I started the race with bubble wrap around the car and consequently gave up about three positions at the start. However, by the time I turned the car over to Tyler 45 minutes later, I had moved us up to P5 in Pro-Am / P11 overall. As James Clay would say, it was…

Q: …solid?

A: How did you know I was going to say that?

Tyler then went out and only proceeded to set (to that point) the fastest lap of the race. He used all of that speed to his advantage, marching his way forward and giving me the car again at the race’s halfway point P2 in Pro-Am / P5 overall. A bit of a snafu during our pit stop shuffled me back to P4 in Pro-Am / P12 overall, but within about five laps I was able to rely on equal parts talent and good fortune to find us P1 in Pro-Am / P5 overall. Tyler took the wheel in the lead position with 45 minutes to go and drove a masterful final stint, finishing the race P1 in Pro-Am / P4 overall. Not a bad day at the track.

Tyler managing the lead as the sun went down. Great shot, Halston!

Q: I suppose that softened the blow of missing Shelby’s graduation?

A: Well, it didn’t hurt. And although I don’t remember all the details, apparently midway through the race I was interviewed by Amanda about the whole situation. Tyler was still moving his way forward and there was a lot of racing left to do. In spite of this, as I spontaneously welled up on camera wishing my baby girl a wonderful graduation day, I sort of proclaimed that we were going to win it for her. Which was quite bold, and perhaps why I don’t remember doing it after the fact. Thankfully we pulled it off, as it would have been super awkward on multiple levels had the fairytale finish not played out like I had predicted on live TV.

This is me calling my shot about 10 seconds before I started crying. Both were firsts.

Q: That was a strong move.

A: Yeah, and I sort want to apologize for being so forward about it. The moment caught up with me, and there you are.

Q: So where does this put you in the Championship?

A: We are currently sitting in second place in Pro-Am, 15 or so points behind the leading #7 Porsche. But there’s a ton of racing left on the calendar, with only 5 of 13 events completed at this point. If we can avoid any more Sebring-like performances, we should be in the hunt and in full control of our destiny for the duration of the season.

You didn’t ask for it, but here’s Hello Kitty’s 2024 SRO headshot.

Q: Now that I have thought about it some more, maybe you should buy Shelby that pony after all.

A: She already got her consolation prize. About 30 seconds after I got home from the race on Sunday morning, she marched into my office and asked where the incredibly fragile, yet unbelievably heavy, solid glass trophy was. As I pulled it out of my gear bag, she leaned over, claimed it as her own, and marched it up the stairs to her bedroom to display on the bookshelf as “her” trophy. And I absolutely love that.

In case you can’t tell, that’s a green Shelby on the right.

Q: What does the rest of your season look like?

A: You can click here to get the whole 2024 GT4 America schedule in living color. Or, for the link impaired, you can just check it out it below.

Virginia International Raceway July 20-21
Road America August 17-18
Barber Motorsports Park September 7-8
Indianapolis Motor Speedway October 5-6

Q: Any parting thoughts?

A: You know, just this:

Why we do it, job or otherwise. Thank you, guys!

See you at the track!

#82 GT4 America
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