April 2022 Buttonwillow

NASA Buttonwillow—SVRA Laguna Seca

April 2022 Buttonwillow Raceway—NASA ST5 / Laguna Seca—SVRA Vintage Group 12

All has been going well for the team, but how can we handle a back to back weekend and prepping 4 cars for the trip? As Wyatt at Bimmerworld says, “You guys are crazy”.

I’m pretty sure that’s how my team feels sometimes when they see the schedule, but why not? It’s an opportunity to get some of our special cars out on the track, so it’s on the schedule. On Friday the 15th we hook up the stacker, pre-loaded with the #25 NASA BMW E36 as well as the 1969 BMW 2002 and head to Buttonwillow. Unlike a normal weekend there would be no practice. We want to put as little time on the car as is possi-ble so it can make both weekends with as little service as possible.

Saturday morning we wake up to the sound of a paddock coming to life and texts flowing in from the team on their way into the track.

Matt Million is scheduled to drive Saturday and right on schedule he is there and ready to go. The first practice he takes the #25 out and it feels good, the only real change this week to the car being a new rear differen-tial with a different final drive ratio and LSD.

We have been wanting to try this all year and we felt this was a good weekend to test it out. In Vintage racing you run different gear sets based on the needs of the track, but in NASA most just run whatever is in the car. We happened to obtain a 4.10 LSD from Diffs Online for the new #24 car currently being built, so we put it in to see how it makes the car behaves. Up until now we have been running a near stock 3.46 LSD. Matt likes the feel and he now has use of all gears on the track.

We put on fresh Toyo RRs and get ready for qualifying on Buttonwillow’s 13 CCW. Matt puts the #25 on the pole in ST5 and is 6th overall in front of all ST3, ST4 and the other ST5 competitors with a time of 1:57.571. We are here to keep the challenge moving forward and this result is defi-nitely making a statement: “We are here to win.” Apparently we are also getting more than a few competitors in the paddock to take notice, maybe a few question-ing how we can be this much faster than the field.

Later in the day we get ready for the race. After a reasonably unremarkable 13 lap race Matt brings it home in 1st place with a new class track record of 1:58.157. Pole, win, new track record; another great day for Team Palomar Racing.

We wind down the day with an amazing meal of tri tip and grilled veggies and then bed down for the night. Matt will be headed to Sonoma on Sunday while we await the arrival of Nik Romano to pilot the car on Sunday.

Sunday morning, time for Mr. FastSideways to get in the car and run his qualifying race. He made a call to Matt to ask for feedback on the new rear end package and off he went.

Nik took it relatively easy and finished on the pole of ST5 with a fast lap of 1:59.563. Not the lap he was looking for but he was saving tires for the race later. But our real question was how can we fill the field so Toyo Bucks would be available…

True to form we went to work and entered the vintage 2002 into the race. It technically meets ST5 spec, so why not! First hiccup, neither Andy or Mike have a current NASA license, so we need a driver. Within the hour we had a solution and began fitting Lucas Weisenberg to the car. Lucas is a young but accomplished E46 driver. Born after 2002, now he would get a chance to drive a vintage 2002 B Sedan with a fire breathing 8000rpm race motor. Nothing like a Spec46 with a smooth torque based engine and a solid ABS system. Our B Sedan has almost no torque and definitely has no ABS, no Power Steering, no driver assist at all. It is all vintage race car and nothing more. Keep the revs up!

Sunday afternoon, time to race.

Nik led the field to green and began driving away as expected until…something’s wrong. A loud, high RPM rubbing sound at speed means we’ve got issues. One lap later the call was made, “bring it in,” and our weekend in the #25 was over. Apparently the rear differentials have a known weakness, lower carrier bolts that back out or shear. Asking around and researching online, this is a well known E36 thing…just not a thing we had heard about. On a bright note, Lucas had a blast running our vintage BMW 2002 B-sedan car around the track. We had asked him to run at 80% and just have fun, and he did exactly as asked. He had so much fun we are pretty sure he is still grinning from ear to ear, just as he was when he brought the car in after the race.

The #25 needed to get fixed for its Laguna Seca debut the next weekend, made more complicated by the fact that it was heading straight there from Buttonwillow. Kevin wouldn’t have the luxury of the Palomar Racing shop to sort out the car’s woes. The good news is that by the end of Sunday night we have a plan, as long as we can figure out how to obtain an Active Autowerke diff bracket stat. We also found the distributor in the 2002 had given up – going to need to fix that as well, Murphy’s law at play again. By 10AM on Monday morning all parts are on their way to Laguna Seca as was Andy in the RV towing the stacker.

The following weekend; its time for some SVRA vintage fun.

On wednesday Mike and Kevin join Andy at Laguna Seca, and we set up our paddock with room for both Team Palomar as well as our good friends Team MF Racing. Mark Francis and his gang of Hooligans are always way too much fun to paddock with and as such we had the compound ready for a weekend of shenanigans and great food.

Team Palomar Racing brought their BMW “NASA” E36, the BMW 2002 B Sedan, the “Rock Vest” Datsun Roadster and their 1968 Ginetta G16. Team MF Racing added their BMW 2002 B Sedan piloted by the esteemed literary giant Sam Smith and Mark Francis in his Elva Mark VII.

After arrival we first had to fix the cars from last weekend. Thanks to Bimmerworld and Active Autowerke all parts had arrived and we were able to make repairs. As of Wednesday night, all cars are now ready to run.

Thursday is a practice day and we get the BMWs and Datsun out on track for some shakedown runs. All went reasonably well, though we did have an issue with the Datsun, possibly a blown head gas-ket. Time for some Kevin DeSirello magic. A short time later and the Datsun is back up and ready to continue the weekend.

Throughout the weekend we managed to get the cars to grid on time and all ran well thanks to Kevin, Blair, David and Dawson. No small feat running 4 cars. We really are becoming an amazing team!

The B Sedan group is always a fan favorite and our #07 found its way into the Livestream cams regularly. The Rock Vest Road-ster at the hands of Mike was able to put on a show and left a number of big block vettes running back to their paddock with their tail between their legs. The #25 was front of the pack as expected. We learned quite a bit about its abilities and found we needed a spring adjustment to deal with this particular track and the new more aggressive differential. A call to Swift Springs and voila, the new spring rates were on the car the next day.

Last but not least, the Ginetta G16 once again proved to be the belle of the ball in addition to being just flat crazy fast. But as with most vintage weekends the real reason to be here is the comradery in the paddock and our time with our friends from VARA and Team MF Racing defi-nitely earned “Most Fun in the Paddock” awards. Between Chef Wong’s catering box, the obliga-tory kegs of craft beer from San Diego, lamb lollipops and the 20lb brisket we definitely won best of the paddock show.

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