February 2022 Willow Springs

Over the last month we finally decided on our engine program. The M54 we had planned to install is pushed into the corner, we are going to use BMW’s S52. This often misunderstood motor is perfect for our build. It was drastically detuned to meet US standards and produces power that is in the window we are looking for. In fact we will detune it even more. Running enduros will put a strain on our equipment, a detuned motor will last much longer as it is never having to work near its limits. And the torque will make for some happy drivers.

Was everything perfect, no. But we had made it after months of thrashing. Since last October we have been playing the 2 steps forward, one step back game with this car. Between body repairs and essentially replacing every significant piece of the car except brakes we finally just about finished. No longer was the #25 the clown car we bought last year and tested at Buttonwillow in October. Granted we won both events with the funny looking car, but after that event there was a list that just kept growing, in short replace everything on the car, including the motor.

Well in February it was time to drop in a motor that can let us compete, in went the S52 from a ’97 M3,but there was a catch. How do we get this OBD2 motor to talk to our OBD1 computer? Less than a week ago we were desperately looking for an answer. Thanks to Wyatt at Bimmerworld, I was on the phone later that day with Epic and a chip was sent overnight for us to try. Not yet perfect, but after a quick tuning session we were able to restrict the engine down to a declared 209 avg hp. It ran safely and with significant restriction and a bit of ballast and were able to make class rules. In reality, we were a bit lower than that, but compared to the 170hp we had at Buttonwillow we were excited to see what we had. We were coming to the track with a reasonably complete package.

We are ready for our first true race weekend with the car we had designed last summer. On the schedule we have 2 ST5 races and a 3.5 hour WERC enduro with NASA SoCal at the fastest track in the west, Willow Springs.

Friday practice went ok, lap times were very good but we had a huge problem with understeer. One of the current compromises on our backup car here is the shock package is just a street set. They just aren’t up to the task but it’s what the car came with so we were dealing with it. One thing we didn’t really think about was that most of the day we were using our backup wheels that were 17×9, same tires but ½” narrower wheels than our new forged race wheels from APEX. After lunch we decided we needed more data so we chose to burn a new set of TOYO RR’s on the correct 17×9.5” APEX EC7R wheels.

What a difference. Immediately the car became much more balanced, still a trend towards understeer, but nowhere near the dump truck push the boys were fighting earlier. Time to rest and get ready for a big day Saturday.

Saturday Morning practice went very well, the car is ready for a 12 hour day, we hope.

@MattMillion goes out first for the Saturday ST5 qualifying on yet another fresh set of Toyo’s and finally got some clear track on lap 7 where he lays down a 1:30.577, good for a pole position in class. Perspective is good here, the current “official” track record for ST5 was set last year at a 1:34.475. That’s right almost 4 seconds off the “official” record. We knew we were going to set a number but to actually do it makes it real. Again I like perspective, our veteran and driver coach Nik Romano should actually should have had the record that he set in 2019 with a 1:32. Anytime you can crush a time set by someone of Nik’s caliber you have done something special.

Another tire swap and @NikRomano goes out for the Enduro qualifying session in E2. Well how about a 1:30.151, but even more importantly a pole position in a class that is stacked. Also in class was Moorewood Creative who qualified P2, HQ Autosport in P3 and Technik Competition in P4. This is starting to look like an epic day.

In the afternoon @MattMillion runs his ST5 race and after a Million Dollar aborted start he runs away from the pack and finished P1 in class with a best lap of 1:30.619. Other than the misunderstanding at the start it was a flawless race. First win of the year for Team @Palomar_Racing.

No Time for rest, we have less than an hour to the start of our first WERC Enduro. Time to change tires, set up a pit and get ready. Good News race start is delayed by about 30 minutes, we used every one of them as we scrambled to have all that we needed behind the wall for our first enduro. At 4:30 cars roll off the grid and its time to race. In the first few laps we remind our starting driver, @NikRomano, to turn on his driving lights. Uummm we have a problem, the switch IS on. Uh Oh, this will be interesting. 3 hours in the dark with a pair of apex lights and mini floods set as pre apex lights, no real driving lights, basically stock lights with a bit of extra apex vision, this is going to be fun.

An hour and 10 minutes in of the scheduled 3:30 and the fuel light is on. We are P2 and on the same lap as MooreWood Creative, last years 25 Hour championship team. Time for our first pit stop, did I mention we ran out of time and never got to practice. Yes, lets practice on track because it is time to see what we can do. 2 jugs of fuel in via our new dry break system from @Hunsaker, then a front left wheel change, that’s right more @Toyotires RR rubber is needed. No mistakes of substance, a respectable stop with a driver change to @MattMillion and we go back out with just about an hour and 25 minutes of the race behind us, just over 2 hours to go.

In a few laps, in comes MooreWood Creative but they do fuel only. Back out on track and we are down a lap. Respectable but a bit depressing because we don’t know how we can make up a lap, both cars are turning 1:32’s. We are running a sprint pace just to stay even with each other. Just about an hour later and in comes MooreWood again just before us, again no tire change, fuel only. Our fuel light was on as well and we are stretching it as much as possible. We are ready for another tire change but during fueling we look at the tires and make the call to send it, there will be no tire change this stop. We join the track just behind MooreWood, exactly a lap behind and the decision is made to push them as hard as possible. For the next 30 minutes there is less than a car length between the cars. An Epic battle and folks are feeling the excitement. If nothing else we are here to race and we are definitely a part of this race.

Turn 9! MooreWood sent it wide in 9 and almost loses the car. Out of the dust comes the #25 with @MattMillion moving past our competition. Still technically behind but now we are gaining on them. About 5 laps later and we have cut the margin to just under a minute, but time is running out. They are coming in the pits! In goes 1 jug of fuel to the MooreWood car and then it happens, they throw a jack over the wall! Shortly thereafter we pass them while they are in the pits and we are in the lead, but how much time is left and do we have the fuel to make it? By my calcs we can go up to 12 more laps and we believe the race should end in less than 8. Well we only had to wait 6 more laps until the Checkered flies and we had done it, WE WON!

Thank God the checkered Flag flew, not sure we had much more left in our left front tire. Numerous competitors mentioned our Toyo RR’s may have been sending sparks for laps, I don’t know how they could have thought that.

Second goal of the day achieved and time for some celebration. After a very late dinner we go a couple hours of sleep and then back at the track in the morning for the Sunday races.

A short practice Sunday morning by @NikRomano to make sure our mismatched set of the best 4 tires remaining in the trailer will make the cut and its time to qualify. Without the fresh rubber Nik did what was needed, put down a 1:32.2 and took the pole.

Finally the last race of the weekend and we are ready, we even managed to get our live stream running and even had folks watching it, we will be working on this for the future. At the drop of the flag Nik was off and never looked back except to let the prototypes past him. We were actually 5th quickest car on track with a 1:31 led by 2 prototypes and a pair of ST2 cars. At the drop of the checkered we took a deep breath and let it soak in.

3 poles, 3 wins and 2 track records. I’m not sure how often we can achieve this kind of weekend, but someone told me, winning is fun. My thoughts, just being lucky enough to be able to do this is fun, but Winning definitely is pretty damn good.

I am so thankful to the entire Team Palomar Racing and to all those who are helping us achieve our challenge. So here goes…Thanks to my wife Roxie for letting me pursue this foolish goal, to my brother Mike for bringing me back to my passion of racing and helping me set a plan, to Kevin Desirello for all the sweat and blood given to build these cars our first unfair advantage, to our crew chief Blair Geil for helping me herd the cats and give us direction in our first true racing effort, to Dave and Jr for joining us on the crew and just getting it done, and to our unfair driver mod that just plain sets us apart form the competition with the “Veteran” Nik Romano and the “Rookie” Matt Million. We are working on sponsors, so far we are getting help from and want to say thanks to Apex Wheels, StopTech brakes, CounterSpace Garage brake pads and BimmerWorld; we look forward to expanding these relationships. We also plan to lean heavily on our contingency sponsors Toyo Tires, MCS Suspensions and Frozen Rotors for their continued support.

Lastly I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my company Palomar Solar and Roofing for giving me the ability to put together this marketing program. Which did in fact spur a couple discussions regarding Solar in the paddock.

Our goals and plan are definitely aggressive, but we plan to “Back it Up”

The car will only get better. The team will become even more solid, and well what can we say about that driver mod. We will be strong

Thanks to our Partners for their support

Actively seeking partners in addition to our primary Palomar Solar & Roofing.

Palomar Solar and Roofing
Apex Wheels
Palomar Solar and Roofing
Palomar Solar and Roofing
Palomar Solar and Roofing
Apex Wheels
Fast Sideways
Palomar Solar and Roofing
Toyo Tires Motorsport
Palomar Solar and Roofing
Apex Wheels
Frozen Rotors
Palomar Solar and Roofing