We would like to thank FCP Euro for supporting the BMW CCA and this column. With so many BMW owners and fans at this event and throughout the community, we know many will need new parts and resources.  Check at the end of this column for a discount code to get your FCP Euro discount code good for the week!

What if you had—in one location—the only global ambassador for BMW M Motorsport, the first BMW M4 GT3 to win in competition, the winningest driver in American sportscar racing, multiple BMW M Motorsport Works drivers, the extremely rare new 3.0 CSL, free simulator fun, great vendors, free coffees, ample parking, fantastic sponsor support, discounted merchandise, giveaways and more?

There was plenty to see for plenty of people at the event.

For the third consecutive year, Samantha Tan Racing and the BMW CCA pulled together to present this springtime event, this time punctuated by the livery reveals for ST Racing’s GT3 and GT4 racecars.

The variety of cars outside provided even more interest for guests.

An estimated 300 people attended with more than 200 pre-registering. More than a third of those were BMW CCA members, all of whom received special ST Racing gift bags, including four times the raffle tickets, free Hot Wheels, free ST Racing merchandise, and more. The event was again held at the team race shop, filled with team race cars—three of which were covered until the mid-day reveal—personal cars, private client cars, and a few stored gems peeking out from a few other lifts, too.

There were fun things to see in every corner of the shop.

It was essentially a car meet but with a loose agenda and a lot of awesome. Show up, park where you want outside, come on in, check out the ST Racing merchandise, meet the vendors, look at the racecars (and then some!) inside, grab something from the coffee truck outside or the food truck, meet people, stay for the livery reveal, win something in the raffle, and watch Tan’s father test the Ferrari 812 Competizione outside (oops…).

Bonus time: Ken Tan exercised the 812 a little after the event.

It’s fair to say everyone there would have been there regardless if Tan were the global ambassador for BMW M Motorsport. Her fan base has been growing with all ages, genders, car tastes, and even countries and continents. Similarly, fans and friends came from different countries, coasts, and states for this event.

“This year’s event was even better than the previous ones; they keep getting better,” Tan says. “People really wanted to see the CSL and the new liveries. There was such a variety of activities for everyone. People could get up close to the cars and meet the drivers and representation from BMW M Motorsport. I liked running my own car against Neil [Verhagen] in the World of Racing sims—even if Neil beat me.”

Co-drivers in the number 38 GT3 car, Samantha Tan and Neil Verhagen prepare to face off in the World of Racing simulators on hand for the event.

We can forgive her for coming in second in this case. Verhagen, a BMW M Motorsport Works driver, raced mostly in Europe last year and now joins ST Racing for the entire season. He did drive with ST Racing for some races in 2023, but is looking forward to starting with Sonoma this coming weekend. “We have high hopes for this year, anticipating building off what we established last year with race wins and fighting up front,” Verhagen says.

Gabriel Munoz takes a photo of his daughter, Jasmine, with Samantha Tan. Jasmine has been a big ST Racing fan for several years and does sim racing at home, aspiring to be a racecar driver some day herself.

While this will be his first full season with ST Racing, that wasn’t his only first that Sunday. “I had never been a part of a car meet like that,” he adds. “It was cool to see how enthusiastic everyone was and how many cool cars came out and people came out to support the event and the team. There was so much great energy there. It made it really fun and got me even more enthusiastic for the season, especially seeing the race cars and how excited everyone else was when we unveiled them.”

Guests started gathering ahead of the unveiling of the new liveries.

As the mid-day livery unveil approached, the covered cars stared back at the guests as the crowd grew. The ST Racing liveries are always unique and have evolved fluidly over the years. These continued the trend. “The best part of the day for me really was unveiling the 2024 liveries and getting to see everyone’s reactions,” Tan adds. “These are great evolutions for the cars, now going with a twilight and sunset twist on them. George Bucur is our creative director and keeps executing my vision fantastically. Not sure how we’ll top these next year!”

Hovercraft mode engaged. Rumor has it there will be wheels for the races.

Verhagen echoed the same enthusiasm for the liveries. “I think the cars looking amazing,” he echoes. “People really enjoyed seeing them revealed. I had never pulled the cover off of a car, so that was really fun.”

It’s not every day you get a tour around a GT3 racecar by the winningest driver in American sportscar racing. Bill Auberlen shows where he’ll be sitting in the number 28 car.

The liveries were not the only “reveals” for the ST Racing team. While it had been announced that Bill Auberlen would be racing with ST Racing this season, this was sort of the first “unveiling” with Auberlen and the team.  There are certainly a lot of superlatives aligned with the team now, but you could see the buzz in the shop when Auberlen arrived and even more as he pulled back the cover revealing the number 28 BMW M4GT3 car he and Varun Choksey will be driving in the PRO class in the SRO GT World Challenge America Championship in 2024.

Charles Kuhnau (SoCal Drivers Club) talks with Gustavo Lopez (Detailing by Gustavo).

“This is really incredible that we’re here with our own race shop here in California and now two BMW factory drivers joining the team,” Tan says. “Bill is a legend, and icon, on the track and in the entire motorsport community. It was really great that he was able to join us for the event and help launch the season. When I think of the team now with Bill, Neil, and Varun, it’s surreal at times.”

Even with all the racecars, the 1M still demands to be photographed. Mike Gessner obliged.

This was a big event for Southern California car fans—after all, Tan’s personal car is the fan favorite and more. Bay Area residents and BMW CCA members Mike and Bessie Gessner proved the event’s broad draw and impact, driving down six hours for a repeat appearance at the event. “We first got wind of the event through connecting with Sam about a Golden Gate Chapter car corral for the SRO race at Sonoma Raceway,” Mike Gessner says. “Having met Samantha in person five years ago at Laguna Seca, we’ve been long time supporters and look forward to her events. Last year’s GT4 livery reveal was great, so we were looking forward to seeing the team top that event. And they did! Can’t wait to see new merchandise with the new liveries for the GT3 cars. We look forward to seeing them in action at Sonoma (and we’ll attend two more races with the team this year!).

John Porter of Keeping Up With The Bavarians couldn’t contain his excitement seeing the 3.0 CSL.

For others like John Porter, set up as a vendor for his popular Keeping Up With The Bavarians brand, meeting Tan and seeing the CSL were highlights. “The 3.0 CSL right at the front really set the tone!” he says. “I had never seen one in person and between that and the 1M, you know her and her family have to be true BMW fans.  And I finally got to meet her. I was a little intimidated at first because here’s a real racecar driver but just like all her fans had said, she’s super approachable and a real down to earth person.”

Getting time in the simulators was fun, but so was capturing Samantha Tan square off with Neil Verhagen.

“I was very thankful for being there,” Porter continues. “This is truly what I imagined a race shop to be. And this was the most going on at a garage open house event I had ever seen. After the reveal of the liveries, then the other cars there, plus the other vendors and the World of Racing simulators. It was awesome with so much activity and entertainment packed into those few hours. Her entire team was great, and it really showed the benefits of being in BMW CCA with her, Bill Auberlen, and others being members and supporting the club. This has been the best show of the year.”

BMW CCA members Richard Liam and Aiden Arvizu‘s cars welcomed guests into the event.

While Porter “parked” his display and wares just inside the shop, Aiden Arvizu parked his E30 325i vert just outside the shop as a perfect welcome. “I came to Samantha Tan’s reveal event last year and had an amazing time and saw she was having another event this year,” Arvizu says. “What I liked most was the selection of unique cars that was on display, as well as an environment of friendly people sharing their passion for cars and racing. I think the World of Racing simulators being open for people to try out was a great touch. That alone was very different from other events that I have attended recently. The energy and prizes with the raffle were a lot of fun, too.”

BMW CCA members Jarrod Coleman and Jon Otterstedt capture amazing content out front.

One guest who will agree with that is Jon Otterstedt. BMW CCA members got four times the raffle tickets so it’s no surprise that members cleaned up a lot of the prizes. One of the grand prizes was pit passes to ST Racing’s upcoming races at Sonoma and Long Beach Grand Prix and Otterstedt, an avid (and awesome!) photographer, won the Sonoma passes.

Jon Otterstedt won the Sonoma SRO Pit Passes raffle prize and will get to be up close to the action next weekend.

“I’m super stoked on winning the race weekend pit pass for the Sonoma race!” Otterstedt exclaims. “I can’t wait to watch BMWs at a beautiful track there while supporting a racing icon like Samantha Tan.  I’m excited to get a lot of pictures of the whole race, but will definitely be cheering on Samantha and the team.  The event overall was great, too. It was different than other meets because of the energy around seeing the liveries and being there as the team’s season was launched.”

BMW CCA LA Chapter board member Patrick Avakian shows off a fresh autograph from Bill Auberlen on his BBS wheel.

Further proving that this was not a simple meet or one banking on a pretty location for the benefits, we also saw BMW CCA national, regional, and local leadership on hand. Most of the board of the LA Chapter attended along with Brian Thomason from the national board and James Crivellone, Pacific Region Vice President. Crivellone knows events, having been involved in the E30 Picnic for years, and knows racing, and was glad he came down from Washington for this event.

After the event wound down, James Crivellone hosts a podcast segment with Neil Verhagen and Samantha Tan.

“Professional racing is usually not within reach of the masses, especially the fans who are sometimes required to pay hundreds, thousands or more for behind the scenes action,” Crivellone says. “Samantha Tan Racing is different. Frequently hosting events for CCA members, it was awesome Samantha opened her race shop to the club for this amazing behind the scenes and unveiling of the new racecars. Simulators, merch, and even the drivers were around for folks to mingle with and enjoy. Giveaways as well including some slick stuff from Samantha, sponsors, and BMW. Members young and old enjoyed the event with socializing, filming quick blurbs for social media, and even setting up a few booths to sell cool stuff they brought with them. Right outside the shop was busy with BMWs of all models including a few unique models from other marques, including an Alfa Romeo 4C, a Ford GT, several Porsche GT3s, and a few Ferraris as well.”

With only three known to be in the US, the 1-of-50 3.0 CSL was a highlight for many throughout the day.

“The highlight of the show for me was one of the 50 built BMW 3.0 CSL’s. Only three exist in the United States and we were able to walk all around it, peak inside and admire what was truly a piece of art and engineering from our friends at BMW AG. Thanks to the LA Chapter and Samantha Tan for putting this event together. It was a real treat.”

Dilan Bandaranayake with Die Cast Support Group had fun with his wide range of die cast cars (but for the ST Racing die casts, you need to go directly to st-racing.org.

Thanks also to the sponsors for the event, including BMW CCA members Dilan Bandaranayake and his Die Cast Support Group, the aforementioned Keeping Up With the Bavarians (and member John Porter), Charles Kuhnau with SoCal Drivers Club, and CocoMats. Additional sponsors included BMW, Crevier BMW , SRO, Motul, and World of Racing. Attendees enjoyed great coffee from Coffee Dose and everyone is already looking forward to more from West Coast Hibachi!

Eddie Hernandez with West Coast Hibachi serves up some of the best food you’ll find anywhere.

Thank you, Samantha and team, and best of luck for this upcoming weekend and race season!  Tune in to the first race this coming weekend, April 5-7, in Sonoma with the GT World Challenge America!

Thank you again to FCP Euro for supporting this column and the BMW CCA. Visit fcpeuro.com and use code ‘Bimmerlife’ to save 10% on your next order. The code is good through April 5, 2024.

Enjoy this gallery of additional pictures.




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