BMW Club day at PIR, 3/29/02

Well, yesterday was the first BMW club day of the season, and the first track day for me. I didn't run yesterday... I just wanted to take the whole track experience in and see what it was like before going out myself... I was also hoping to bum a ride around the track with someone to get a feel for it. Thanks a lot to the Lewis's for making my first track experience lots of fun!

First, let me make some excuses about my photos. First, I used the wrong film. I just shot a wedding last weekend and I had a roll left over so I just used the wedding film, which naturally is low contrast; not the best film for shooting shiny cars! So that's why the pictures are kind of boring. I also wanted these pictures back really quickly, so instead of taking them to the pro lab I usually go to, I just went to Target and did their one hour processing. Not only were the prints HORRIBLE (totally incorrect color), but they managed to scratch EVERY SINGLE negative! I bet they do that every time and just get away with it... So, just about every single one of these pictures has some clear scratches on them on the larger versions. I wanted to whip this out in a hurry, so I didn't bother trying to remove the scratches in software. And oh yeah... all images are copyright 2002 David Paris, and all that good stuff. :-) Anyway, on to the event! For those of you unfamiliar with Portland International Raceway, here's a map. Click on it so that you can actually read the turn numbers.

The first session was for advanced drivers, so that meant RoyL in his 1999 Estoril Blue M Coupe. Roy was nice enough to bring an extra helmet for me to wear on the ride along (and so was dp! I really do appreciate you bringing the helmet, Dennis, even though I didn't need it!). My first impression after the first set of curves was "Holy shit! I can't believe how fast we're flying through these corners!" I was totally blown away with how fast we were going, and how the car stuck right to the track. Very impressive. Roy seemed to be the fastest guy on the track this first session, as we were passing just about everyone on the front straight (I forget what they all were, but there were some C5 vettes in there, an E46 M3, a Dinan badged 330i). I really have to tip my hat to Roy, even though he loves agriculture (more on this later), he is quite the driver. It's going to be a LONG time before I'm comfortable driving anywhere near the way he was. At the same time, with him driving I felt perfectly comfortable and safe... just wouldn't have if I was the one driving those speeds. :-)

After about 18 minutes on the track we were coming around turn 7 on what turned out to be our last lap, we noticed a car way off in the grass by the fence. As we got closer we noticed the passenger side door looked pretty smashed in. We proceeded on our cool down lap and when we came around again we saw the driver was out of the car and walking around; a good sign! As we pulled off the track the ambulance was sent out to him, but he was okay. He actually drove the car off the track and parked it in the paddock area. Here's what it looked like...


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Pretty damn bad. At the bottom of the door, below the bent up sheet metal, you could see the bent frame of the car. On that back straight speeds hit about 110-120mph, and I think I remember seeing Roy's speedometer around 75-80mph when we entered that turn 7... so this M3 probably flew off the track at about that speed. This was at around 9am, and there was plenty of dew left on the grass.. he probably didn't slow down very much before he hit that wall. I asked the driver how he was and he said he was fine, and that "eh.. these things happen." He even said it with a smile and a laugh. I wouldn't be that together! He commented, "I have a good body shop." Hmm.. I'm not sure a body shop can help this one.. it was pretty bad. Check out the vertical shot below. I do believe the horizon is level in that picture. The car just ain't sitting right, is it? You can't see too well in the scan, but check out the passenger seat. It's totally shoved over to the right, and at an angle. Check out the front bumper... it sure seems to be totaled... Someone asked the owner how it happened, and he commented that he was just going into the corner too hot. After a few minutes, he wound up putting his street wheels/tires back on, and... then he disappeared. Did he drive back home to Seattle?!?! Does anyone know? Does anyone know who this is? Better yet, are you reading this? If so, how are you feeling now? Have you taken it in to a shop and had it looked at?

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Anyway... certainly a major bummer... it's horrible to see things like that. And naturally, that's one of the major reasons I'm still a bit weary of going on the track.

Next up was the novice group, where Roy's wife, Paulyne, took the M Coupe out, and Roy's son, Tristan, took out his Ford Focus. Paulyne started in front, and even passed a Honda S2000 (1.4 meg wmv movie)...


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... but soon enough she saw that blue passing flag as Tristan was allowed to BLOW past her on the front straight...


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Okay, so maybe he didn't blow past her, I just had to razz her a bit for letting a focus pass her! :-) Actually though, she was just trying to obey the rules (they were actually told to only go 65mph down the front straight for that first session!) A cool picture is them hot on the tail of an E46 M3 a few laps later (probably on the track for the first time).


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Do you notice Tristan's one eyed Focus? He got a spare headlight assembly, cut a hole in it, and is running a tube from the eye socket directly into his air filter! A jerry rigged cold air intake! It's pretty sweet.

For the second advanced session, Michael (MO) rode with Roy, and I drove down to the chicane to take pictures (the only two good places on the track where you can get any decent pictures are at the start of the front straight (turn 9 above) and at the chicane). Here's a nice sequence of shots (taken over several laps) of Roy's progress through the chicane.


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In the first one he's slowing down from about 125mph on the front straight to about 45mph to enter the chicane. In the second picture, he has just hit the apex (seen at the very right of the picture) and is pulling out of the turn. In the third picture you can clearly see he is turning to the left (since the left side of the car is lifted up), finishing up turn C2. The fourth picture is really cool... this is once things are almost straightened out, just after C2, and he has floored it as he gets back onto the the straight (before gradual turn C3). With the wheels frozen like this, it just looks like he has blown his rear shocks, or he has 500 lbs of concrete in the back. :-) Yeah... the coupe (on stock springs) certainly squats when it accelerates...

On this same session, Roy decided that the track was just way too smooth for him, and figured he'd try his luck in the grass.


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Roy waits on the grass for readmittance to the course, and his subsequent black flag
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After this session was another novice session, and this time I rode with Tristan in his Focus. I was very impressed with the way this thing handled! He had aftermarket springs on there to stiffen things up, and Kumho 712s, but he was certainly going around the curves a lot faster than I'd feel comfortable doing right now in my M Coupe!! I guess I gotta just learn how to drive at those speeds gradually...

My last run of the day was with Roy again, in the advanced group. Again we were never really passed, but were just about the same speed as an M roadster. We were either directly in front of or directly behind the roadster the whole time out. At one point the roadster was blue flagged so that we could pass him. Just after we passed him, and were going through turn 3 and 4, Roy saw a grass hopper just off the track. I think Roy likes grass hoppers, because just as we saw this one Roy decided to chase it into the grass, as the back end of the coupe got a little wide, hit the grass, and we proceeded to do a 180 into the lawn, looking right at the BMW M Roadster coming at us. It was pretty fun, really... I never felt in any danger. Click on either of the two images below to download a windows media movie of the events leading up to the spin, and the spin itself! (4.6 megs)

Later in the day, when Paulyne was driving the coupe, the turn worker had this (1.6 meg wmv movie) to say about Roy's driving skills. ;-)

After that last run, we headed back into the paddock area and I took some more pictures. Scott N was there with his '99 black M coupe with ACS exhaust and springs... looked and sounded very cool! Check 'em out:


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Lastly, for some reason I brought my 18mm (rectilinear) lens, so I decided to put it to some use! I grabbed a couple pictures of my Imola Red coupe and Roy's coupe with the 18... check 'em out:


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Certainly some fun perspectives that I'll have to play with some more. I just recently got those SSR GT3's... I'm really diggin them... I took a lot of other pictures like a week ago with them on, but I haven't gotten around to dropping the film off at the lab yet... Oops. I'll try and do that this week and post those pictures as well, as well as the story detailing WHY I had to buy new wheels.. :-)

Well, it was certainly a very fun track day at PIR! A shame that M3 went into the wall... hopefully we can find out how things turned out for him. It was lots of fun seeing everyone out at the track, and I'm glad I met two more Portland coupe owners: MO and Scott N. Until next time, guys!!

Picture index


David Paris
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