The M3 is back home safe and sound after our last race of the season. The shop is still messy since it was cold and dark when I unloaded after returning from Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Oklahoma. With no major trips planned and only Kansas City BMW Club’s December “cars and coffee” coming up, I will have time to clean and organize the M3’s stable. Or at least as clean and organized as a working garage can be with many projects already lined up.
For example, the M3 and trailer need their post-race cleaning. The snow thrower attachment has to go on the Wheel Horse tractor. Betty’s ’97 528i is hemorrhaging windshield washer fluid and may or may not need a new fuel pump. And all the vehicles need some tender loving application of Griot’s Garage products before winter sets in.
The race weekend at Hallett went surprisingly well, considering the temperature on Friday morning was 26°F. This event, called No Excuses XII, is a high-performance driving school coupled with a BMW CCA Club Race, hosted by the Sunbelt, Lone Star, Kansas City BMW Club, and St. Louis BMW Club chapters. The five-hour tow to Hallett is my shortest racing trip. Thanks to Dave Tedeschi and Bruce Heersink for putting the race together as well as BMW CCA Club Racing stewards Ty Noles, Steve Roepken, and Roland Nieves, and all the No Excuses XII volunteers and racers.
Speaking of towing, this trip reminded me again of why I am so angry about Volkswagen’s diesel-cheating treachery and BMW’s decision to stop selling diesels in the U.S. For the entire trip, my 2016 X5 35d achieved 20 mpg fuel mileage. I don’t think there is a gasoline SUV out there that can beat it. Heck, my first X5, a gasoline-powered 2002 4.4i, didn’t even average 20 mpg on the highway. I’m really gong to miss that diesel fuel mileage one day.
My ’95 M3 once again proved it’s an excellent track car, and by excellent, I mean fun and after almost 25 years, it’s still faster than I am. No longer the dominant car that it was in 1995, it’s a momentum car these days since the engine is still bone stock and doesn’t generate the horsepower that other more developed Prepared and Modified E36s do.
My M3 resides in the I-Prepared class, but it is what we affectionately call an “IP-Lite” car. The front splitter, rear wing, and front big brake kit moves it out of the Sport (previously Stock) class, but with the stock engine and at 200 pounds above minimum race weight, it is almost certainly the slowest I Prepared car out there.
At Hallett I was no match for most of the other cars, but fortunately, my friend John Barhydt from St. Louis showed up with his green E Mod 2002. John is a great driver who has built his ’02 to the Nth degree. It weighs about half a ton less than my car so the power-to-weight ratio is about the same as my M3. The result is that we often have very competitive and exciting races with each other while the more powerful beasts are fighting up front.
That’s one of the great things about Club Racing; you can almost always find someone to compete and have fun with.
No Excuses XII capped a busy BMW CCA month for me that started in the middle of October with a trip to Greenville, South Carolina for the Club’s 50th anniversary celebration and the 50th Oktoberfest.
Betty and I attended our first Oktoberfest in 1995 in Breckenridge, Colorado and I’ve managed to get to all of them ever since: 25 in a row.
The Club went all out for this party and it looked to me like most of the 1,300+ attendees were having a great time. If the usual driving and social events weren’t enough—and they normally would be—three more attractions made this Oktoberfest even more special.
First was the grand opening of the new BMW CCA National Headquarters. Almost 20 years after moving to South Carolina from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Club finally has enough room to conduct business, administer its programs, operate the Club store, hold meetings and events, and still have room to grow. I saw the building shortly after it was purchased and I was amazed at the grand opening during Oktoberfest how Executive Director Frank Patek and his staff and volunteers had transformed it into a facility that the Club deserves and of which BMW CCA members can be proud.
The second special feature was the BMW Performance Center, down the road from the new BMW CCA national headquarters and right across the street from BMW Plant Spartanburg—which is the largest BMW factory in the world, by the way. Mike Renner of the Performance Center put on a great show on Friday with modern and classic BMW demos, BMW race car rides for charity, and one event you simply never see: an Isetta race with seven of the now-quite-valuable microcars going wheel to wheel on the Performance Center track.
The other feature that has never before graced an Oktoberfest was the BMW CCA Foundation Museum, mainly because it’s in Greer, right next to the Performance Center and not portable. But this year, hundreds of Oktoberfest-goers visited the Foundation to view the museum’s latest exhibit titled “Passion: 50 Years of BMW Cars and Community.” The Passion exhibit was created to celebrate the BMW CCA’s 50 years by displaying 22 BMW cars that are owned by or associated with people, mostly BMW CCA members, who are passionate about their cars and the club and sharing their enthusiasm with other like-minded BMW nuts.
It wasn’t just the cars in the Passion exhibit that were spectacular; the artifacts and memorabilia that adorned the walls and displays constituted an incredible collection that told the story through pictures and words of how the BMW CCA came to be 50 years ago and how it grew to become the largest BMW club in the world as well as the largest single-marque car club. This is the Foundation’s third major exhibit in three years. Museum Curator Michael Mitchell, Foundation Executive Director Scott Dishman, Trustee Jackie Bechek, and many other staff and volunteers have created an attraction that will also make BMW CCA members proud to be associated with our Club.
The “Passion” exhibit runs until January 18, 2020 so there is still time for a trip to the museum. It’s worth it. While the Club member in me wishes it could run longer, the car owner in me is anxiously waiting for the exhibit to conclude and release the cars. I was happy to loan a car to the museum, but going without the i8 for almost a year has been a lot harder than I originally anticipated.
The 50th Oktoberfest is also the last Oktoberfest. BMW CCA officials announced that the event would undergo changes, one of which will be the name. I don’t know any details other than the time and location of next year’s gathering but I am certain that BMW CCA’s annual celebration will still have its most important component, without which neither the Club nor Oktoberfest would have survived for 50 years: the people, our fellow BMW enthusiasts, friends we have made and friends we have yet to meet will be there.
That’s why I attend Oktoberfest, and local meetings, and go club racing. (Okay, the adrenalin rush that racing provides is another reason, but you get the idea.)
Thanksgiving is coming up in just over a week, but I’ll take this early opportunity to wish everyone a happy holiday and let you know that among the things in life I am most thankful for are my car club friends. Thank you, and I hope to see as many of you as possible at the next race or next September’s big BMW CCA celebration—whatever it’s called—in Palm Springs.—Scott Blazey
[Photos courtesy Scott Blazey.]