“Fall Finish Line” at Summit Point and Year-End Results

As the seasons (and clocks) changed in early November, those of us vying for one final race weekend met up at Summit Point Motorsports Park. NASA Mid-Atlantic hosts their final “finish line” event of every season at Summit Point. Weather was cold but the racing was still hot, as multiple race classes had season championships that would be determined by the two points races held on Saturday. My German Touring Series 2 (GTS2) class was part of that group.

I’ve always said Summit Point didn’t feel as comfortable to me as VIR, ever since beginning my on-track career in 2010. The two tracks are quite different, with Summit Point feeling much more like a “large, fast autocross” of sorts and VIR offering longer straightaways with more space to process what’s coming next. While my personal record of lap times has indeed become faster and faster, I’d felt like I had stalled a bit with this year’s personal progress. We had a practice session, qualifying session, two points races on Saturday, and a fun race on Sunday that provided ample opportunity to change that “stalled” feeling.

My weekend started off with a mild downer. I had pulled the BMW out of my trailer, just to set things up for the weekend, and planned on parking it inside with a small space heater going overnight so the cooling system wouldn’t freeze. As I drove the car back in to the trailer (slowly), I heard a crunch and stopped to investigate. Somehow, the trailer’s fold-out ramp/flap had been pushed up and took a nice chunk out of my plywood front splitter. Oops. Feeling very much like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, I borrowed a Sawzall on Saturday morning and rounded-off the front of the splitter, figuring an even cut would be better than jagged bits of wood out front.

Final Points Races

Saturday morning came quickly, and as my friend Matt and I departed the hotel, his BMW 330ci’s dashboard read a balmy 21°F. It was set to be a chilly day. Grip in our practice session was hard to find, with tires and brakes taking most of the 15-minute session to come up to any sort of useful temperature. Qualifying did not provide much more in the way of heat, and I only managed to set a 1:24.7 lap time. Unfortunately for our GTS2 family, Jeremy’s engine let go sometime before the competition really got heated. He never made it to the grid for either race, which saw our field of nine starters reduce by one.

Summit Point grid with E36 M3 in mirror
Keeping an eye out for Bill started on grid, prior to our second race.

Our first race was right before lunchtime, and the sun finally poked out to help warm things up a bit. I had a decent start and worked my way past Mark, holding him off for the entirety of the race. I’d started to chase down Bill, but couldn’t make it past his bumper after one attempted pass that didn’t quite stick. No matter, I had a second opportunity coming with our next race, later in the afternoon. I finished the first race in seventh place.

The second race went much better, as I had a bit better start and temperatures encouraged just enough extra grip to add some confidence. Again, I stayed ahead of Mark, also reeling in Bill after a few laps. I set my sights on John’s black E36 M3 coupe, but he kept enough of a gap between us that I couldn’t quite pull it off. I finished the second race on Saturday in fifth place.

GTS2 Season Points

With both points races out of the way on Saturday, our season-ending awards could be presented as part of the Saturday night dinner and party. Front-runners Jason and Scott took first and second for the 2019 season, respectively, but third place had been a closer match between myself and Jeremy. With Jeremy’s car out of commission, I cinched the third place position on the “season podium” for our GTS2 class. I’ve competed in my E36 M3 for six full seasons (2014 to 2019) and taken a seasonal podium position every year. Speed, consistency, and reliability are all key factors that contribute to earning those points throughout the year.

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Some of the GTS2 crew at our Saturday night awards party!

Speaking of Speed

I approached Sunday’s fun race with an open mind, ready to push myself and the car but as safely as possible. I had very little interest in doing body work over the off-season and the car looked good going into the race – so why ruin that with the final 45 minutes of the year? We ran Sunday’s race in the “Beast of the East” format, in which cars were racing in classes determined by lap time alone. So, I was competing against a few GTS2 M3s, a Spec E46 330i, and an American Iron Ford Mustang.

The green flag flew and I got past a few of my direct competitors with ease. While holding them off, I came upon Clayton, who purchased Scott’s old GTS2 M3. His best lap time on Saturday had put him one class ahead of me for Beast of the East, but I was reeling him in regardless. Finally, I pulled alongside and attempted the pass, but felt that I was being squeezed off the track with a bit too much reckless abandon. So, I backed off and let Clayton have the space. As I said, there’s no point risking anything with the car for the final fun race of the season.

In my attempts to reel people in, though, I managed to find a wave of confidence – primarily in later, heavier braking and earlier throttle application – and set a new personal best lap time of 1:22.6 – not far off from the front-runners’ times in the mid-1:20s. Finding the additional time will take work, but it’s attainable.

The attempted-and-not-worth-it pass starts around 10:30 in this video:

What’s Next?

As I look to off-season planning and the 2020 season, my to-do list is relatively small. Our GTS2 class rules shifted for 2020, and we are now allowed a 13.5:1 power-to-weight ratio. This means I can either gain about 10 horsepower or lose about 100 pounds of the car’s curb weight. Given I still have a few “easy win” items that can be removed from the car, I’ll start by losing some weight. My friend Taylor has offered to help with weight reduction and splitter repair (to be fixed, likely, with something new from Bimmerworld). 

After Taylor and I are done with our work, the car will head to Kevin of FlimFlamSpeed for a full inspection and replacement of anything worn. Given we did quite a bit over the last off-season, I’m hoping Kevin doesn’t find too much that needs fixing. He’ll also get the car on the scales so it can be re-corner-balanced and officially weighed. It’ll get time on the dyno to verify the engine is producing power as it should. And it’ll get an annual safety inspection for the 2020 season as the cherry on top.

It’s hard to believe I’ve finished six seasons of competition in #404. When I purchased the car in September 2013 from Pierce, a recent Wake Forest graduate, I never thought it would end up as a bright purple, caged racecar. Everything has snowballed in the best of ways, and I’m already excited for what 2020 has in store for both me and the car.

E36 M3 sunset at Summit Point

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