Epic BMW Adventure
Petit Le Mans, O’Fest & Tail of the Dragon
By Kim Crumb
It’s Wednesday morning in early October, North Star Chapter member Chris Tadevich and I headed south in our two E46ers. We planned an epic BMW trip. First, we’ll attend the IMSA finale, Motul Petit Le Mans, a 10 hour sports car endurance race held at Road Atlanta. Thenparticipate in the 50th Annual BMW CCA O’Fest in Greenville, near BMW’s Spartanburg manufacturing plant and BMW CCA headquarters. On the way home, we’ll drive the fabled Tail of the Dragon in eastern Tennessee. The weather report is ominous here in Minnesota for the upcoming weekend; we’ll be long gone. We make our way to southern Illinois by evening, averaging 71.7 mph and 29.1 mpg. You gotta like that BMW efficiency!
Thursday, we are in warm southern temperatures, traffic in Nashville is heavier than expected,and Chattanooga is a standstill. We improvise our route and cut across delightful backroads, enjoying the special qualities of our Ultimate Driving Machines.
Friday, we head to Road Atlanta with BMW CCA hospitality tickets and infield Corral parking passes in hand. Plus, we have wonderfully over-the-top hospitality provided by BMW NA.
Pre-race highlights on Friday include meeting the BimmerWorld Racing team owner/driver James Clay and driver Devin Jones, and a BMW-only Road Atlanta parade lap in my DINAN 3. During the parade lap, I recall my previous experiences with the 2.54 mile, 12 turn track. Chris and I discuss the combination of elevation changes and various radii that can be initially daunting versus most Midwest racetracks that are usually flat. The Dodge Viper I once drove here would go over 160 mph on the back straight, and the Porsche GT-3 RS was only a few mph slower, and then there was that special 7.4L V-12 Mercedes-Benz SL too. My most special time at Road America was during the 2000 BMW CCA O’Fest when I was lucky to have a friend loan me a new E39 M5, a car with both magnificent power and poise. During a driving education track event, we promptly showed the instructors what it could do on this famous tack. And the next day, we earned its very first O’Fest win, in Class 7A, with the competition held at the (then new) BMW Performance Center. Since then, this car became a veritable legend as one of the greatest sport sedans of all time, I quite agree…contributing to that reputation early-on…back at O’Fest Y2K!
Saturday, the day of the big race. Chris and I are joined by North Star Chapter member Davis Nygren and Chris’s family for the highly anticipated 10 hour IMSA Motul Petit Le Mans.Coincidently, the 2019 season marks the 50th Anniversary of founding the International Motor Sports Association.
The Minnesota contingent is treated to premier viewing overlooking the diving heart-in-your-throat turns 11-12 combination that leads to the front straight. We’re comfortably seated on snazzy white leather sofas as racecars fly by behind the glass wall only yards away. Cappuccino for you? Need your cell phone charged? Yes, BMW has a secure kiosk for that! Thank you very much BMW NA hospitality!
We walk the grid before the big race and capture photo moments with BMW Team RLL’s GTLM Class M8 car and Turner Motorsport’s GTD Class M6 car. During the race, we have time to move about the track, checking out various vantage points throughout the race. To make seeing the sights easier, Chris cleverly gets a BMW CCA golf cartto tour the entire infield!
There is huge drama as the race nears the end. The Turner BMW M6 passes the AMG Benz on the last lap. There might have been a little nudging, as the Benz was running out of fuel, and this earns BMW the GTD class win. In doing so, driver Bill Auberlen matches the IMSA seriesrecord for most wins, at 60.
On Monday we head to Greenville and begin the intense task of getting road grime off my DINAN 3 to get it ready for O’Fest Concour competition on Wednesday.