On January 18th and 19th I attending a Bimmerworld BMW CCA Club Racing School at Texas World Speedway in College Station, TX.  For those not familiar to this program (like I was just a few weeks ago), it’s essentially the first step (and a prerequisite) towards earning a competition license with the BMW CCA Club Racing organization.  BMW CCA Club Racing is essentially a one-make racing series, where BMWs compete in various classes of preparation.    I found out about the school while attending the Lone Star Chapter’s Fall Drivers Education event at MSR Cresson back in October.  The organizer, Bruce Heersink, let all the advanced students know it was coming up and a quick idea of what it involved.  I was still in the yellow run group, solo qualified, but not for open passing yet.  That said, I didn’t want to give up this opportunity to attend, as the schools come around maybe once or twice a year and are spread out over the country.  I asked my instructor to see if I could get a check ride or possibly vouch for me, and he did just that.

Unfortunately the MR2 doesn’t meet the BMW CCA‘s strict convertible regulations (download the 2013 rule book here), so I would have to take the M Coupe.  Not such a bad thing, other than my fear of inflicting damage on such a rare car.  The other issue was the brakes, but I fortunately resolved that problem just prior to the event.  Making the event even better was that my father came out to visit, becoming my crew chief for the weekend.

The event started much like any other track day, with the exception that we were a much smaller group (11 I believe) and were there much earlier for academics.  We were piggybacking on a PDS event, so there were plenty of other cars there, but we would go out for our own sessions.  While there were only 11 students, there were also many instructors there as well, though they wouldn’t be in the car with us.  They were there to replicate a larger field of cars on track and to facilitate different types of exercises.

We started with basic academics, covering things like flags.  But unlike a DE where there is controlled passing, we would be passing where and when you could without signalling.  This, of course, adds a whole new dynamic to driving.   So for the first session we simply did a warm up, with normal DE-style point by passing.  Then back in for more classwork.  We talked about where to place the car, setting up for a pass, going through turns several cars wide, etc.  Then we went back out and did exercises that involved driving the entire course three wide.  The center car would set the pace, then on the straight the right car would drop back and the other two would shift right, so that everyone drove several corners in each position.  This was much harder than it sounds, as the instinct is to rattle your eyes back and forth checking distances to the other two cars when you are in the middle or trying to not run someone off when you are on the inside.

After more academics and lunch, we practiced passing in groups of three cars.  This was much easier, or perhaps it was just that I was getting the hang of it.  It really is surprising how much things change when you have other cars surrounding you.

The following day started at the same time, with more classroom.  The academics weren’t very regimented, it was more of a way to facilitate discussion.  Topics ranged from racing etiquette to draft passing.  Having all the instructors and students in the same room helped spark some good conversations.  The second day’s focus was on forming up for rolling starts.  Again, a bit tougher than it looks.  We ran around the track under a yellow until we caught up with the safety car, which paced us around from about turn 7.  Around turn 12 or so, everyone began to form up, two columns with two cars per row.  Then the safety car would dive into the hot pits and around the front straight we would come, looking for the green.  We did this several times, a few of which we got a head shake and were forced to go around once more and form back up for another try.  When we did get the green, we raced to about turn four, then picked up the safety car out of 6 and came back around to do it again.  It was actually very fun.  As we came down the back straight between 6 and 7, the lead cars would pull off, shifting to the back.  This way, everyone got an opportunity to see the start from a different perspective.

The last session of the weekend was a mock race.  We would be grid up, be split coming onto the hot pit lane, and form up along the back straight like we had for the practice starts.  We all followed the safety car around again, then waited for the green flag, and it was on!  Of course we’re adhering to vintage race rules, basically no contact, but even more so.  There was no trophy at the end and many, such as myself, were driving street vehicles.  It was a blast diving into turn one, three (perhaps four) wide.  It definitely wasn’t the quickest set of laps, well actually I somehow beat my personal best during the practice, but it was on a lap where there wasn’t much traffic.

The school was well worth the price, and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering club racing or just to anyone who would like to try a different aspect of high performance driving.  In the near future I hope to complete my E36M3 so I can begin taking part in club racing, as I really enjoyed the difference having other cars around you makes.  For more information, be sure to check out the CCA Club Racing website, which includes an events list showing upcoming school dates.


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