19th August 2019 – Josh Donohue
After a week of not much sleep the day had finally arrived, August 17 and the 2019/2020 E30 BMW Race Driver Series scholarship day. I was excited but nervous about what the day ahead would bring. It wasn’t going to be easy. 24 other competitors were all keen to get their hand on the trophy and the keys to the BMW Scholarship car.
I felt as prepared as I could be. Don’t mention this to my teachers but I spent most of last week watching YouTube and reading articles all about the BMW series and the past scholarship winners, all during school time! Being prepared was a huge help although there were some things I just couldn’t prepare for. I’d never driven at Pukekohe and my race car experience is in a front wheel drive Mirage. The BMW E30 on Puke was a whole new package. And just to add more excitement to the day the Pukekohe weather comprised of rain, sun, wind, more rain, more sun, more wind and so on.
After drivers briefing it was time to meet my group manager Rick. Apparently Peter Bennett who won last year was in Rick’s group as well so Rick made it clear the winner was coming from his group again. No pressure!! We then headed up to get a run down on race control. It’s amazing to see the technology used these days and amazing to hear how many people (mostly volunteers) it takes to run race meetings. Then Phil (BMW Race Series El Presidente) had a chat to us about the E30s. It was great to understand about the 318 versus the 320 and all the things you can and can’t do to the cars. The limitations to modifications means it really comes down to the driver. And it makes it a great and affordable race class.
Next up for our group was track time with Rrrracing Ray Williams and then drive time with Mike Eady from Tracktime Driver Academy. These guys did 100s of laps all day. It was a mammoth effort. I jumped in the passenger seat next to Ray and said thanks for taking me out. Quick as a flash Ray replied “don’t thank me yet, I might bin the thing!” I nervously laughed at that. Rrrracing Ray was a wealth of knowledge. I watched, learned and asked questions as we ticked off four laps. What a legend. I wanna be like Ray! And he didn’t bin it. I jumped out of the car set for my drive time with Mike, but we were running a bit late and it was time to close the track for lunch. I’d have to wait. I paced around all lunch. Ray came over and said “just be cool, you got this kid”. That helped me calm down a bit, thanks Ray.
Soon enough lunch was over and I was strapped into the driver’s seat with Mike as passenger. I was concentrating so much the driving laps seemed like a blur. But I listened to Mike and did everything he said. Or at least I think I did. The drive time wasn’t about going stupidly fast but showing that you could listen and learn. Mike didn’t give much away but I felt I had done a pretty good job.
Finally it was onto the dreaded panel interview. Strangely enough the day had been so busy I wasn’t feeling as anxious as earlier in the day about the panel. And the panel were awesome, they put you at ease and it’s about a conversation that lets them get to know who you are and why you’re interested in this series. I came away feeling I had done well. But you just never know and now all I could do was wait.
Presentation time. Stuff was getting real now and the butterflies in the stomach were going crazy. Firstly a thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors that make the day and the scholarship possible. There’s never enough thanks you can give these people. Then announcement of the top three, Mark Holroyd, Sam Thomson and me, Josh Donohue. Oh man, I’m two steps away now. Third place was called out. It was Mark. That left two. Second place……..Sam. Which meant I had done it!! I couldn’t believe it!! I was super stoked. There were many great competitors that could have won but somehow I had taken the top spot.
I’d like to thank all of the 24 competitors who pushed all day to make it a really challenging event. Especially Sam and Mark. As Phil said, it’s sad they can only give away one scholarship because you guys would have been worthy winners also. I’d also like to thank Phil, Raewyn, Rrrracing Ray, Mike and all the interview panel. And of course all the other volunteers on the day. I’m really looking forward to representing the scholarship car and learning and improving my racing throughout the series.
Don’t tell my teachers but there will be more to read up about and more YouTube watching in the weeks ahead to prepare for the racing!
See you at the race track soon.
Photo Credit: Matt Smith