First Time Experience With RMC Autocross

This letter came from a first time autocross racer and tells the story of her experience with the RMC.

Auto crossing was never in my radar. I never knew about it until I attended the 45th annual Oktoberfest in Beaver Creek, Colorado this year. Having joined the BMW CCA 2 years ago I knew there was much more to the club than just Roundel.

Mike Miller was a huge catalyst in me going. We emailed several times with much encouragement on his part, I then registered and realized that many new doors were going to be opened for me. I signed up for the car control clinic, Dinan classes, The Eagle show and shine, Michelin tire test drive and wondered in the back of my mind what the Autocross thing was all about? I had no idea what is was or what it meant. Throughout the week at Oktoberfest I met many wonderful people. Asked a billion questions and talked with as many people as I could. Sometimes I would get that look after asking a question. You know the one where a head tilts and the eyes are like deer in the head lights? I realize that I have a lot to learn and that this whole wonderful world of BMW and cars is going to be in my blood and my passion for many years to come.

On Friday morning I wandered down to the Autocross I just had to see what this was all about. I heard that you could sign up and take out the BMW 228 that Bridgestone had brought. I sat on the sidelines watching the different groups run through the track and I was very intrigued. My heart was racing and I was thinking this would be something I would like to try, maybe, one day. I had the great opportunity to meet Chris Welty from Bridgestone and Michael Washington. Chris offered me a ride on one of his runs. He was driving the White 228 Bridgestone car. I borrowed a helmet and I was in!!! My heart was beating so fast that I had to really focus on not having a heart attack. Chris was asking me questions and all I could think about was “what am I doing?” “this is crazy!”… Chris explained some things to me and we pulled up to the starting position. Before I knew it we had started and were off! The track was a shorter tighter track due to the parking lot configurations. Chris had that car redlined the entire time and within 33 seconds it was over. When I got out of the car I was literally shaking from top to bottom. It was the most exhilarating experience I had had in many years! I was dancing around like a person gone mad and wanted more!! At that point I talked with Michael Washington and got to jump in his car and ride with him. He encouraged me to give it a go and that he would ride with me. I was able to run the track 3 times and dropped 5 seconds total from my first to last run!! Being a perfectionist by nature I would sit prior to each run and visualize the track in my mind. Being such a short track it was pretty easy to do. The hardest part for me was calming my mind and my heart rate. I was able to apply some of the things I had learned at the Car Control clinic the previous day to my autocross runs and realized that I have so much more to learn. Each time I ran the track I was able to understand better where to place the car, where to brake and where to give it my all.

After having left Oktoberfest I went through a major withdrawal period and missed all the social car interaction that I had experienced. I realized I needed more. Looking up my local chapter I saw that there was going to be an Autocross at the Pikes Peak International Race Track in Colorado Springs! Being of the nervous type and thinking that I needed to learn more in order to run my own car I emailed Michael Feldpusch who runs our Autocross and Chapter. Silly me, I asked him if I could just work the whole day as I was nervous to run my own car and I just wanted to watch! His response thankfully was, “I doubt that you are going to want to watch all day, enroll in the autocross and run your car.” So I did. After enrolling I told no one. I walked around for days thinking what have I done? I have no idea what this is all about I am so not qualified for this. I have a 2011 335 xi manual with the M sport package. My car is a beast for me. I have never had a car that drives like this nor goes this fast. I am in love with this car. My previous car was a BMW 328xi wagon manual 2003. I called it my snowmobile. I live at 9000 elevation above Jamestown, Colorado. Directly above where the massive flooding took place last year.

I got up the morning of the Pikes Peak Intl. autocross at 4:00am. I had decided that I would get up early and drive the 3 hours to get there as it would help calm my nerves. I took the back way of course and was able to really think about what was ahead for me. Upon arriving to Pikes Peak Intl. Race track my heart was a flutter. I pulled in to where the autocross grid line ups were and immediately saw many guys, many different fully set up cars, along with race cars and a 2014 Nissan GTR. The guy had just got it 2 weeks prior. In my mind I was thinking oh my gosh what have a done now? There was gear everywhere, Mini pit crews! and more car stuff strewn everywhere. I had pulled up in my car with my cooler and chair! That was all. I went in and registered, got my work assignment and grid location along with my number. I never even knew I needed to put a number on my car… We then had time to walk the track and when I first walked out there I could not believe the size of the course. It was so much larger than the track at Oktoberfest. Much larger.

I walked the first part of the track by myself and the entire time I was trying to figure out a way to tell Michael I was just going to work and watch. We then had a first timers meeting and walk with our novice coach and I found that to help alleviate some of my nerves. Finally it was time to take our places on the course and the first group to line up their cars. I worked turn 2 which was just after a tight left turn and three slalom cones with a straightaway and the ability to get the speed we all love and desire! Working the autocross really helped me to watch what everyone was doing. Where they were going and what to try not to do.

Finally, it was time for the second heat to line up and we switched places. We had four runs in the morning and then we had three in the afternoon. I was able to have several different people ride with me being a first timer and I am thankful for each person who rode with me. The course was longer than I had expected and really tricky at a couple turns and corners. I had only one DNF as I missed the one cone that haunted me all day. I think it actually was alive and purposefully moved each time. Really!

After lunch we did a repeat of the morning only this time it was for real. I got back in my work position and I have to say it was awesome! Everyone was in it for the best time they could get! Speed was a huge factor in the afternoon and my heart was racing! In the beginning a few guys ran off the track right at my area where it was a straightaway. I finally saw that these guys were not perfect and that we were all in this together for each of our own experiences.

During my afternoon runs I was able to drop my time each time that I ran. I was able to navigate the long track better with help from various riders who came along and realized that I needed to take some corners wider and others tighter. The wildest concept for me was that at the end of the day after my last run I was able to take 30 seconds off my time! I cannot stop thinking of what my possibilities are once I really have a clue what I am doing! I am very thankful that I took Michael Feldpusch’s advice and at the end of the day he even said “see, you would not have wanted to just watch!” No indeed. I realize that I am as Michael Washington told me, “a young autocross Jedi with much to learn”, and I am ok with that. My first time experiences with autocross at Oktoberfest in Beaver Creek, Co and then at Pikes Peak Intl. Racetrack with my local Rocky Mountain chapter have created a monster so to speak. I feel very lucky to be involved with the BMW CCA finally and thankful for all the wonderful car enthusiasts who have helped me begin this amazing new journey down the autocross road of wonderfulness! Drive fast and take chances is what I say.

Christine Foley