Hello everyone. Since this is my first post, I guess some background information is in order - I’ve been around racing for quite some time (~10 years) in various capacities, from track marshal to chief timekeeper, creating regulations for the events and occasionally as a competitor myself.
Sometime last year, I decided that it was time to turn that “occasionally” to “regularly” and began looking for a car to drive in some standard car races (called auto sprints, which are basically like AutoX, but a bit more awesome in that you actually drive on a track instead of around cones in a parking lot) for a relatively small budget. Having experienced the feeling of being way down in the standings due to driving an noncompetitive car, I quickly determined that I don’t enjoy having this particular excuse - if I’m going to be last, it is going to be because I suck at driving, not because my car is too slow. With that in mind, I understood that a rear wheel drive car is where it’s at - the competition in the RWD classes is tough, but you can get by with a nearly standard car as long as you are a really good driver. All that was left now was finding the actual car.
In a lucky turn of events (which might have not been as lucky as initially hoped, as you’ll probably find out in one of the next articles), the car of the 2014 national champion in minirally (this is pretty much a stage rally on slow, technical stages with cars that don’t have roll cages. Pretty great, right? Thought so.) and it’s actually at a price level that I can afford!
Well, if by “afford” we mean that I use literally all of the money on my bank account and live through the rest of the month as a plant, getting all my energy from the sun (as opposed to actual food which costs money). Nevertheless, a deal was quickly made and I got my new (albeit quite old) car - a 1997 BMW e36 compact with an M52 2.5 liter engine making somewhere around 170 horsepower.
A few of the other goodies that made me buy this exact car is that it had a 3.9 limited slip diff installed already, as well as Koni Sport Yellow suspension all around, and some other upgrades that I have already forgotten about. Overall, the car was in very good shape and there was very little rust, which is always good.
As for how it looked from the outside, well...
My first thought was along the lines of “holy sticker-bombed batman” - I didn’t know that a single car could have this many stickers on it at the same time. Naturally, the first goal was to remove nearly all of them (which involved extensive use of a hairdryer and many swearwords), taking a few hours of my life I’m never getting back.
Now the car was ready to actually be used - after doing a few practice sessions at the local track on asphalt, winter finally came and it was time for my first event in the car. Obviously, every race car driver, regardless of their experience and skill level, has a bunch of excuses ready for whatever happens in the race, and I’m no exception - we had really old winter tires with not much thread left, which is typically not a great thing when an event takes place on snow/ice. Also, and this can’t be stressed enough, I still sucked at driving, since the event was less than a month into owning my first RWD car. As much as racing simulators help (and they actually do a pretty good job of preparing you for what can happen on the road or track), it is no match for the real thing.
Having lined up my excuses, we were ready to head out to the event.
As for the race itself, it was pretty much ordinary in that I didn’t crash, was quite slow due to the tires and being new to RWD and nearly didn’t manage to start my third run due to the battery being flat. Oh, right, about that - turns out that if you have installed an electric fan with a switch, it is generally not a good idea to forget to turn it off after your run when the car just sits there for 30 minutes. We did manage to get to the battery after removing some ballast weight (my car has the battery in the trunk) and got it running at the last moment. The result? 17th of 21 in my class, which is quite terrible, but, as I will learn in one of the following events (and articles), the tires were actually quite a valid excuse, for a change.
Unfortunately I have just one picture from the event, but you can at least see what the track surface was like - ice covered with a very small amount of snow.
Some lessons learned in this event include that I needed to be more aggressive and use the inner and outer limits of the track a bit more when competing in events taking place on such a slippery surface, and that I really need some more practice to prepare for the following races if I don’t want to be at the bottom of the standings.
Well, this concludes my very first entry, hopefully it was at least a bit interesting to read, I’ll try to get some more articles up, as quite a few races have been done since the first one, with varying results.
P.S. While I do think that I did a pretty good job, English is not my first language, so the text is likely not as stylistically perfect as those of native speakers.