Sunday, April 21, 2013

2013 BMW Club Nationals

For us, the 2013 Nationals was a tale of excitement, hard work, elation, heart ache and relief. To start, it may seem to be a huge commitment to travel across the country to go to a car meet in Victoria, but when I actually decided that we'd go, it was a snowy Winters day in Salt Lake City, Utah. That left Perth to Phillip Island seeming quite simple. How very wrong I was!

The plan was never really simple, but it all seemed like it would work out back in February 2012. So the plan in basics: Fly to East Coast, take the '75 e12 520i track car on the trailer and drive the '81 e12 M535i down "road-trip" style. The devil's in the detail though and the detail was a little crazy. The 520i was down on power and probably wanted a new set of rings. What I wanted was about 100 extra horse power and that meant new engine. The tale of "How the new motor went from good to bad, back to good and finally to disaster" is for another day, but suffice to say, after a huge amount of effort (we're talking months and thousands of kilometres of trips to the city) for my Dad, the head gasket blew the day before we were due to fly over to Sydney!

Plan B: still drive the e12 M535i from Nowra to Phillip Island, but now also to drive the e28 M535i of Dad's. All they needed was a new set of wheels and Tyres for he e28 and some last minute caliper rebuilds for the e12.

That left Thursday to pack, wash the cars, make some last minute mods to fit the new wheels on the e28 and load up all the tools and spares we thought we might need. Friday morning, 5 am was take off and the fun started immediately. Less than 2 km from home we were dodging a big wombat wandering across the road. There was also the vaguely worrying smell of burning rubber from the e28 where the tyres were rubbing over the big bumps. It was pretty smooth sailing after that though as we thundered over the Great Dividing Range at Kangaroo Valley, topped the tanks up at the Hume Freeway and headed for Victoria.

It continued to go amazingly well through Yass, with only the Good Friday crowds being a pain and down to Holbrook for a break at the oddly situated, inland submarine. At that point, the 32 year old Recaros in the e12 were causing some pain in my rear! My dearly beloved wife swapped into the e28 and we pushed on across the border. A lucky call to the crew from BMWDCNSW saw us take the freeways and not join the 2 hour traffic jam at some place called Koo Wee Rup via the back roads and saw us pulling into the Silver Water Resort just after 5 pm. 12 hours driving and not so much as a misfire. I love the old e12!

Bit of a freshen up and it was off to the welcome dinner to catch up with everyone. It had been some time since I'd last seen the crew from BMW Clubs, but all the familiar faces were there. It was good to catch up with the old crew from NSW, hear all the latest stories, tell some tales about what we'd been up to for the last 2 years and, most importantly, swap stories about which BMW we were now driving and ones that had been through the garage since we last met.

Saturday's Celebration of Excellence was not exactly our strong suit. We'd entered the e12, but it does regular road and track duties, so it's no show pony. We didn't even bother for with the e28, ostensibly because we needed to drive it around on Saturday, but really because we hadn't had any time to clean it. The cars all looked wonderful and I had real pleasure in being in the "old car" area. I had a lovely JPS e21 323i on one side and a beautiful e24 635Csi on the other. All in black, it was a wonderful display of 3, 5, 6! We headed out around Phillip Island for a bit of exploring. It was a cute little place, but my god, there were a lot of tourists there.

The Little Penguins came out on parade on Saturday night. After a meal of dubious quality at Nobbies, we headed out into the rain to watch the little fellas waddle their way home. It was wet and drizzly and looked miserable, but just as we headed out toward the beach, it stopped raining and we had a great view as the little penguins walked by. We were within a metre of some of them and it was a bit of a effort to drag ourselves away from them and head home.

Track Day Sunday. The big one and the main reason for travelling thousands of kilometres! With the tracks tyres on, we headed out to the Phillip Island GP circuit. Frighteningly, it wasn't just a sheen of damp road, but a steady drizzle that greeted us. The drivers briefing was terrifying with the officials warning us of how dangerous the track was, especially in the wet. Oh, and by the way, watch out for the great big wild geese that wander across the track! The sighting lap was a wide-eyed experience. Wet track, cold tyres and geese the size of wombats standing on the track! The sun broke through before the first session and the track was virtually dry. Someone must have liked us, because it stayed that way all day.

All the hard work and frustration faded away as we motored around the track. What a joy Phillip Island is! Terrifying? Yes, but such amazing fun. The high speed corners at turn 1, Lukey Heights and the last turn were one of the best feelings ever. The e12 acquitted itself very nicely too. It was the oldest car there, but still managed to beat out a dozen other cars including an e46 M3 and an e39 M5. The e28 did pretty well too, at least up until the second last session. A blown clutch ended the day a bit prematurely, but Dad still had plenty of fun and was closely chasing the lighter and more powerful e12 all day.
We wrapped up our weekend with the presentation dinner and more chances to reminisce about apexes clipped, slides caught and late braking manoeuvres pulled off. If we were even half as good as we sounded, I'm surprised we're not all giving Sebastian Vettel a hard time in F1. WA didn't rate real well in the trophies (3rd in class) but Belinda did get first prize in the poker run, so walked away with 1 trophy!

The drive home was much more relaxing although a lot less glamorous. Driving a Toyota Camry back from the BMW Nationals was never really in the plan, but sometimes you've just got to go with the flow. We have to say a massive thank you to all the team at BMWCCV who put the Nationals together. It was a great event with a great location and, most importantly, wonderful people. I can't wait for 2015!