Event date: 24 July 2021
“Greame has a solution for everything, doesn’t he..?”
That was Payton, my seven year old daughter after I told her about our day of racing at the AROCA Super Sprint Day at Phillip Island on 4 July.
If you imagine Phillip Island in July as being cold, windy and wet - then you have imagined the weather on that day perfectly. It was all of those things. Squared.
It was our first time with the new E30 (you can read about our first day out here) at Phillip Island. Dad (Wayne) and I were both excited and a little scared- the track and conditions on that day were sure to be a challenge for even experienced steerers, let alone newbies like us.
We had attended the BMWDCM Come and Try Day and learned a lot about our car and how to drive it, so we were looking forward to Phillip Island as we continued to learn about the car. We were looking forward to the dry version of the Island though, not so much the Antarctic version that was served up to us!
Anyway, with the preliminaries done, and some advice from Graeme about how to tackle the first practice session, I doddled out and gingerly lurched from corner to corner getting familiar with the conditions, the car and the track. Trying not to get too over enthusiastic and keep the car on the black stuff. Easier said than done!
I did enjoy the challenge though of driving in those conditions though and tried to focus on learning the track and lines.
Next it was Dad’s turn. Buckled in, again some advice from Graeme, and off he went…
Graeme, Tim and I waited on the pit apron - huddled up to keep warm - for him to come around and complete his first lap… which he did. And then we waited patiently again. And waited and waited. “Where’s Dad?”
Then the red flag came out. “Ah, that’s why he hasn’t come back around!” As we started to walk back to the pit area, expecting Dad to meet us there, we noticed the Ambulance go out onto the track. Never good.
My heart sank. My pulse raced. Dad’s not back. The Ambulance is out on the track. It’s wet. It’s our first time here…
“But it might not be him.” II tried to reassure myself.
At this point, no one knew which car or driver was involved, or even what they had been involved in. So, it was a tense few minutes, until we were told that it was indeed our car that had caused the red flag, It had been in an accident. And of course it was my Dad in the car.
Still, I didn’t know how bad the incident was, or how Dad was. All I could do was wait. And wait I did. It was a really worrying and nervous 10minutes or so.
The AROCA team at race control, gave me as much information as they could, assuring me that Dad was ok, and the damage wasn’t too bad either. He had hit a fence they said… Reassuring? Hardly. Until I saw Dad in person, I couldn’t relax.
Soon enough, the ambulance escorted Dad back and he was fine. His ego was bruised, he was embarrassed and worried about how bad the car was. But medically he was fine, which is always the main thing.
Dad explained that he had hit some standing water coming out of Siberia and slid off the track and into the safety fence. Ouch! He was very worried about the car and how bad the damage was.
We didn’t have to wait too long to find out. The car arrived back on a tilt tray soon enough. And, just like the AROCA crew had told me, the damage wasn’t too bad. The left-hand side front guard had peeled back, and it had some front spoiler damage. No mechanical or structural damage that we could see.
As we stared at it and listened to Dad tell his post-mortem, the next thing I remember hearing was Graeme saying “Righto, let’s get it fixed.”
And before I could blink, he had started getting the front panel off…. Over the next hour, our garage was a flurry of tools, hammering and race-taping. And coffee, of course. And we mended the E30 as best we could.
Graeme was determined to get us back out there- more ‘backside in the car’ time he said.
His resolve and help were amazing and to be frank, quite unexpected. He had come down to the track to support the competing BMWDCM members. Given the weather, I wouldn’t have blamed him if he stayed home in bed! But that’s not the kind of bloke he is- and his dedication to all of us in the club was there for all to see in that cold Phillip Island garage.
Remarkably, we only missed one run each and I was back out there for my next run in the patched-up car. By this time, it was really raining, sideways and all ways. It was horrible weather… but again I was determined to get out there, see how the car felt and keep learning.
The car felt great, as much as you can get a sense in near blizzard track conditions, no noticeable impact from Dad’s incident. So, it was valuable track time.
And next it was Dad’s turn again. Not surprisingly he was bloody nervous about getting back in the car but determined to do so. Oh, and the weather just kept getting worse…. Some coaching from Graeme and instructions to Dad just to drive around, rather than race around- and off he went.
Like the first run we all waited patiently on the pit apron for Dad to complete each lap. I was really nervous. Graeme explained that feeling is similar to the one he has when any of his kids are racing.
Dad completed a few laps, then brought the car back. Safely and straight this time. No ambulance or tilt tray required.
After Dad’s run, the weather had deteriorated so much that they cancelled the rest of the day. So that was that. Our first racing experience at Phillip Island.
Clearly, it didn’t go to plan… but the experience was valuable.
The reason we decided to go E30 Racing was because of the camaraderie of the people involved, and the real level of care they have for each other. And if we needed any more proof of it, we got it down at the Island.
To everyone who helped and supported that day; Rod Martin, Darryl O'Neill, Alan Rodgers, Jim Tucker, Tim Oh and especially Graeme- Dad and I say “thank you.”
A shout out too to the AROCA team, the ambulance crew and all the flag marshals for showing care and doing such a great job in tough conditions.
So yeah, Payton, even if your E30 is a crinkled mess in a pit garage, Graeme does have a solution for it- and will do everything get it back on the track for you.
Shannon Cooper | Member #599
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne