Friday, September 17, 2010

Brushes with Fame

Friday seems like a good day to get things officially started. This tale begins in 2002 in Blacksburg, VA where I went to college.

I lived in a typical, sprawling college apartment complex at the time. I've always been fairly obsessed with cars and have an eagle eye for spotting noteworthy iron. I began noticing a steady stream of nicely dialed in BMWs going in and out of the complex from one of the buildings behind me. One afternoon, while sitting in my room doing some homework, my curiosity was pushed to the limit. I could hear something mean downshifting as it came around the corner of my building, so I got up and went out back to check things out.

It was a worked over E36 M3 convertible making all the right noises. I caught the owner as he was getting out of the car and struck up a conversation. It turned out he was a few years older than I was and had recently started up a BMW shop in the area. He knew what he was talking about and clearly knew how to turn a wrench.

Over the next few months we'd bump into each other and BS from time to time about cars, until one day he came up to me and asked if I'd be interested in helping out when he and his partner took their SCCA ITB class e36 325is down to ViR for an event that weekend. Spring semester classes had just ended and I had nothing to do, so it was a no-brainer. I'd started going to ViR a couple years earlier when they re-opened, so I was familiar with and loved the track/setting. I was extra stoked to get a behind the scenes experience.

They did not disappoint when it came time to leave. They showed up outside my apartment in their dually tow-rig with 40 foot trailer in tow. I climbed in and we were off. After making the 3ish hour drive down there, we arrived at the track in the late evening. We BSed for a bit and went over some things for the next day while enjoying a few beers. I eventually settled down to what would be my bed for the weekend. A sleeping bag on the floor of the trailer next to several large jugs of race fuel.

The wake up call came around 6am, and we immediately jumped into action. I was put in charge of checking tire pressures and a few other small jobs. After getting the odds and ends taken care of we hopped in the truck and drove a few laps of the track so the guys could get a feel for things.

The weekend went by quickly. In between practice sessions and qualifying I would take tire temps after they got off-track. I helped move the car around and grabbed tools. Mostly I soaked it all in and enjoyed every second. During the races I was stationed at several different "hot" areas of the track to act as a spotter. I had headphones on and was hooked into the intercom system so I could communicate directly with the guys while they raced. It was a great experience, something that's captured my imagination since I was a little kid. To make things even better, they ended up winning the race on Sunday. And the entire series by the end of the season.

The shop they started kind of blew up, too. It's called Bimmerworld. My neighbor all those years ago was a guy named James Clay.

I still regret turning down an invitation to go to Daytona with them over Thanksgiving weekend the following year.

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