The one I’ve been waiting for….
Finally the time has come. Finally I get the chance to compete at the track I have watched on TV for years, Pukekohe. The first practice session was going to be a big learning curve, I have never been around a corner like turn 1 before in anger and according to most people in an E30 you take it flat! That was a scary thought considering on the scholarship day we were taught to take the corner in 4th with a bit of braking, and even that felt pretty wild.
So my intention in the first session was to take turn 1 flat or almost flat by the time it finished. On the second lap of the session I gained enough courage to attempt it and thank God it worked. Otherwise it would’ve been a crappy start to the weekend. With that out of the way the rest of Friday was about working on car setup and finding the limit of the brakes and the grip, overall it was a successful day.
Saturday morning, time for qualifying. I’ve never had a good qualifying yet and today was no different. I can never get in a good spot on track to set a fast lap so, we ended up 10th. We had better pace than that so I should’ve been further up the grid but oh well, my mistake again.
The first race ended up being the only dry one of the weekend. Starting off 10th I was planning on making up a few positions, aren’t we all. After a relatively clean race I came across the line in 7th. Can’t complain with that. Now to head back to the Grandparents and pray the rain stays away.
It didn’t. It absolutely bucketed down right before our first race so that kinda changed everything. Dad gave me the encouraging “I don’t care where you finish just as long as you bring it home” talk. That was the plan. I got an average start and after getting a bad run onto the back straight and missing a gear I was back in 10th pretty quickly. Damn. But as it turned out that wasn’t my main concern when as I approached the hairpin. You may have ready seen the footage, but I had a pretty close call with a backwards E30 flying across the track. In the slippery conditions I could see a car in my mirror spinning in the inside grass and it didn’t look like he was slowing down. I waited to turn in and it was lucky I did. As the backwards E30 went firing across the track in between me and Ayden in front. That was a pucker moment! After that I got a couple positions back to finish 8th and after that race I was quite happy to take that.
The last race was interesting weather wise. The first lap was dry and from then on different parts of the track were getting wetter until we finished the race on a fully wet track. The changing conditions and hard racing caught some people out so after dodging a couple spinning cars and picking up some positions from others mistakes, I came home 3rd. It’s my best finish yet and I’m stoked we finished the weekend off with that result.
Puke is an awesome track and it’s been a dream come true to get the opportunity to compete at this awesome venue. Thanks as always to the BMW Race Driver Series especially Raewyn, Peter and Graham Ball for preparing the car and helping at the track, the volunteers who stand out in the rain to let us race. And of course, all the other E30 racers. It’s been cool making new friends and racing hard.
See you in 2020, back at Puke, YES!
The long road to redemption………
After a 13 hour long drive to pick the car up from Auckland, we finally pulled into the closest track to home but the most painful logistically, mighty Manfeild. Practice was mostly wet during the Friday so it was a good opportunity to learn some car control in the slippery conditions. By the end of the day I was feeling pretty confident in the car and my abilities to pilot it around the track in the wet weather, fingers crossed it was wet Saturday.
I got my wish and qualifying on Saturday was in the middle of a downpour, even I didn’t want to be driving in these conditions and I wanted it wet! Anyway we headed onto the circuit and I quickly found that vision out the windscreen was lacking, a lot. For a while all I could see was the tail lights of Arran’s car in front of me until the windscreen finally cleared enough for me to navigate the track on my own. Unfortunately as soon as I started to try and put in a good lap the session was red flagged by a car that was stuck in the gravel traps. Once we restarted I never managed to put myself in a good spot on the track to set a lap so I ended up 7th. I was fairly sour with myself as I knew that there was more in it and felt I could’ve put the car further up the grid. Oh well, more work to do in the races.
First race and I was on the inside of row 4 on a slightly damp but drying track. I managed to get a good start picked off 6th pretty early on. For the rest of the race I was in a tight battle with Sebastian and Arran, that blue and orange E30 was the widest car on the track! After some back and forward movement I came home in 6th and I’m stoked with that. A few tyre pressure adjustments should set the car up nicely for tomorrow.
After spending Saturday night at the speedway watching my brother Ethan have a skid in his ministock, we were back at the track. Race 2 I was starting off 6th, on the outside this time. I focused on the lights and was able to get the start I needed to round up 5th and be on the inside for the first corner. A couple of laps later and I had chased down that extremely wide blue and orange E30 again, I knew it was going to be tough to pass Sebastian so when the opportunity came to make a move going through the esses there was no hesitation. I managed to squeeze past and held onto 4th for the rest of the race. I’m still smiling at that result, it made my weekend!
The last race came around and we made some changes to the car hoping to dial it in a bit better as in race two we weren’t as fast as we’d hoped. This time I was on the second row starting from 4th. I got a blinder of a start and somehow found myself hanging on going around the outside of Matt and Dion to take second place after the first corner. Still not sure how I managed that! Unfortunately after a few corners I could tell we hadn’t quite got the set up right so I knew it would be hard to stay up this end of the field with the pace of the cars behind me. I dropped back to 5th in the space of two corners as Arran went underneath me on the final corner and Matt was underneath him, three-wide! Matt came out in front of us both and whilst I was trying to figure out how we made it through that all-together, Dion got me going into the first corner. I started to fall off the guys in front of me and could see Shane coming up behind me. We had a great battle swapping positions a few times and then Casey arrived out of nowhere to blast past both of us, he was damn fast. I held on to 6th ahead of Shane for the last lap and got another top six finish….. And it’s in one piece this time!!!!
Another thanks to the BMW Race Driver Series for running this awesome series and also giving drivers the opportunity to compete through the scholarship. Thank you to all of the competitors, I really enjoyed the close, hard racing this weekend. Thanks to the sponsors that make the scholarship possible, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be racing the E30 this season.
See you at Pukekohe – JOSH
Icebreaker – Josh Donohue
A game (weekend) of two halves!
So….firstly….let me talk about all the good things that went on over the weekend. We picked the car up from P&S Autos early Friday morning so that we could hit the track and make the most out of the practice sessions. It was a steep learning curve on the Friday, trying to learn a new track that I had never been to and a car that I had driven four laps in around Puke, whilst the weather threw everything it had at us. The E30 is quite different to the front wheel drive Mirage I’m used to driving. We did every session we could throughout the day, rain, hail or shine, which was helpful in a way as I got to turn a few laps in most conditions.
Saturday dawned and I was pumped to get into the action. Qualifying was a steep learning curve again. I didn’t really get myself in the best spot to get a draft and only managed to qualify 12th. I felt I could’ve done better. Oh well, no point dwelling on it. First race coming up.
I rolled out onto the grid Saturday afternoon and took my spot in 12th. The legs were like jelly. I checked I was in first gear and not reverse, don’t want to make that mistake. Five red lights then drop the clutch and off. I nailed the reaction time but got too much wheel spin. A little too eager getting the power down. But overall got away not too bad. I had some great battles and managed to get through to 9th place. Happy enough with that.
Day two and the nerves hadn’t settled much more. Off grid nine for the first race of the day. Dad and I thought about the car overnight and the pressures we were running on the new Dunlops. A couple of adjustments and we rolled onto the start grid. I nailed the reactions again and got away good. Found myself up into eighth place pretty quick. I settled into the race and picked off seventh place in the dying laps to finish in sixth. The car felt much better and we set our fastest lap of the weekend in the race. Stoked with that.
And, umm, now to the third and final race. I started off seventh and yet again I got a good get away. I dropped into sixth quickly. I was having some pretty hard and close racing with Luke Bradley. Fair to say we both weren’t giving an inch. About half way through Luke was in front and we were side by side heading into turn one. We both braked pretty late but I was down low on the inside of the corner and, damn it all, in the end just started running out of road and talent. The tail stepped out on me and I was working hard to keep the car from hitting the inside wall. Unfortunately in avoiding the wall I clipped Luke who was up high on the turn also wrestling his car around the corner. Gutted. Elvis has another hit. That was the race done with the front bumper and a few other panels stuffed. Lesson learnt. To finish first, first you must finish. And I feel bad for Luke who ended up in the kitty litter.
In the true spirit of the BMW series everyone was great when I came back in on the tow truck. I was pretty upset. The last thing I wanted to do was be known as the guy that crashed the scholarship car. But now I am, darn it. But everyone seems to have that story when they’ve done something not planned on a race track. To Graham Ball, Aaron Crighton Matt Griffin, Raewyn and Simon thanks for coming over and telling me not to sweat it, it happens. Thanks to Peter Ball and Graham for analysing the car straight away. Hearing that it doesn’t look too bad apart from cosmetics made me feel slightly better. To anyone I have forgotten sorry, but thanks heaps.
And massive thanks to Luke who came straight over and said don’t sweat it bro, racing is racing. Cheers Luke. I really appreciate it. And to all the people that have already offered parts to get Elvis back together, thanks heaps. Hopefully it is only cosmetics. We did drive it away from the race track and it felt fine which is positive.
For now I need to focus on the positives from the weekend. I was making progress every time we hit the track so I’m chuffed with that. I’m looking forward to racing at Manfeild. It’s our closest track to home so I don’t have to learn the track as much and can focus on more seat time in the car.
Thanks again everyone and see you next month for round two.
Josh (that guy, darn it again!)
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