Name: Michael Starnes
Class: Open B
Chassis/Engine: E36 M3 Evo – S50B32
He’s no stranger to motorsport. In fact, being dragged from track to track at a young age meant that it was only a matter of time before he got the motor racing bug! Let me introduce you to Michael Starnes.
Running in the BMW Race Driver Series in his 8th consecutive season, Michael first started with the series back in 2007. With his father Ken running in the Mini 7s, then onto the North Island Endurance in his V8 Commodore, it was about time Michael sat in the driver’s seat.
At the age of 19, a clean example of a road-going E36 M3 was purchased and a mild build begun with just a brake upgrade and a roll cage.
Now was the time to put the car on the track where it belonged. A test day with his father proved to be quite competitive as Michael managed to beat Ken’s lap time by .5 of a second! It was decided then and there that Michael would run the car in an Auckland Car Club event the following weekend.
While this was his first endeavour into circuit racing, Michael had previously considered other forms of motorsport. Karting for a few years at school then dirt-biking proved to be enjoyable; however after breaking too many bones on the bike it was decided that Michael would stick to the “safer” side of motorsport.
With the 2016/2017 season in full swing, Michael’s current goal is to always improve at every meeting, in the aim of claiming the top spot at the end of the season. So far so good, as Michael was successful in winning the Manfield round recently in the Open B Class! On top of this Michael’s biggest achievement to date was wining the Open B Class in the 2012/2013 season.
Rewind back to his first ever BMW Series race meeting, and Michael has one of the most entertaining stories I think we’ve heard! “First BMW race meeting I competed in was at Manfield. I was nervous as hell sitting on the grid waiting for the flag to drop…little did I know that had the car in reverse. I have never been from 0 – 50kph backwards so quickly. I hate to think what the competitors behind me thought! “
As most of our competitors say, the BMW Race Driver Series is all about having fun, whilst competing for the top spot.
Michael describes the series as “the perfect series in my opinion. It covers every budget with a range of classes and the ability to develop your vehicle to move up classes. The E30 series is the perfect starting place for newcomers to build on their race craft. Don’t be shy to ask questions! Most people that I have had experience with in the series when I first started were very willing to share advice from track lines through to car setup”.
A huge thank you must go out to Michael’s long term sponsors: PlaceMakers Huntly/Te Rapa, PLB Construction, Elgas Ltd & Genus Pest Control.
Name: Andrew Nugent
Class: Open A
Chassis/Engine: BMW E92 M3 GT2 – S65B40 (stroked to 4.6L)
One could say that the passion for motorsport ran in the Nugent family – with Andrew’s father running the BP NZ Grandprix Support Program, he would often see the likes of Bonnier, Rhindt & Moss coming through the house when he was a youngster… and so Andrew’s excitement for motorsport began.
Being a spectator of the sport initially, Andrew first got behind the wheel of a racing powerboat at the ripe old age of 15. His “youthful lack of fear and no concept of paying the bills” meant he was reasonably quick at it! Though this wasn’t enough to keep the adrenaline up, so Andrew also started doing car club activities in his modified Austin A30 as well as racing stock cars in Christchurch on the odd Sunday afternoon.
Moving to Auckland in the 1970’s, Andrews’s main focus was his work life until…. The BMW Race Driver Series came along! An E30 was built and raced for a solid three seasons, however needing more of a challenge Andrew then purchased a half built E46 M3 race car.
Finishing this off with a stroked S54 engine built by Randell Edgell, this vehicle proved to be a success with Andrew managing third place in the 2011 Open A Championship.
But that wasn’t enough for Andrew, and with that the idea of the E92 M3 GT2 was born. Being designed from the ground up, an incredible two years was spent developing and building the new car. It was soon seen competing in the NZ Castrol BMW Race Driver Series – BMW Open A Championship – as well as the North Island Endurance Series amongst other GT events, with Andrew taking out a well-deserved first place in the Open A Championship last season.
With a championship win under his belt, Andrew’s over-riding goal going forward is to “learn to drive the car better, and to race better, and to have a heap of fun doing it. The people side of racing is really important to me” with the main challenge of “Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone to keep enhancing my driving performance”.
With the season now in full force, Andrew would like to extend his thanks “to all who have assisted, developed, or supported me along the way. You and I know who you are and I will be always grateful. And to my fellow Open Class racers and friends – keep the humour going!” To his sponsors, Buro Seating, Prophets Rock Wines, Eat Your Books.com, Neil Allport Motorsport, Motorsport Electronics and Sunoco Fuels, “thanks for your wonderful support”.
Name: Phil Smurthwaite – #47
With Round 1 at Icebreaker done and dusted and Round 2 coming up this weekend at Manfeild, only a handful of points separate Phil Smurthwaite and last year’s Championship winner Matt Griffin.
Known to many of us as Big Phil, he is easily the tallest in the field, but by no means a slouch behind the wheel.
Like most, Phil has motorsport in his blood. From ever since he can remember, he’s been around motor racing – from ventures out to Pukekohe Park Raceway to stock cars at Western Springs, Phil & his father went to events whenever and where-ever they could!
While the E30 is the first and only race car Phil has owned, the Nissan Silvia was his first love. A few modifications on the road-going car would see him attending track days with friends. While modifications certainly make a car go faster, Phil was more focused on improving his race-craft and skill and the decision was made to start looking into joining a race series.
After starting the NZ Nissan Silvia club and helping run the car club events, it was time to get a bit more serious. D1NZ was born; “A few of the guys wanted a drifting championship to compete in, so I said I would help organise and run the events with them and it just took off from there, I eventually gave up on it because it was getting too serious. I did do a bit of drifting myself, but never really enjoyed it that much or disliked my car enough to do it seriously.”
Having considered joining the series for some time, 2010 came to be Phil’s first season in the Castrol BMW Race Driver Series. Just getting started in the series was his biggest challenge to date “It’s quite daunting when you first start because there is so much information to take in, but once you get your head around what is required it gets easier.”
Though with challenges come achievements, and one of Phil’s biggest achievements is winning the last round at Icebreaker. “When I first started the only time I saw the faster guys was when they flashed past me in the reverse grid race, I never thought I’d get in the top 10 let alone win races”.
Moving forward Phil has some very valid and important goals – goals he still sticks by to this very day:
1. Have fun
2. Keep Learning
3. Bring the car back straight
4. If we get some Results along the way even better
With the new season now in full swing, Phil takes the time to thanks his incredibly supporting sponsors.
“A huge thanks needs to go to my Dad, he’s my Mechanic, Team manager, Driving Instructor, Nutritional Expert, the list goes on, he does everything but drive the car (Just as well he doesn’t because he would probably do that better than me as well).
Thanks also has to go to P&S Auto, Kayne Barrie, John and Scott at GER, Gavin from Hi-Velocity and the Boys at Moselle Panel and Paint. These people are all reliable, trustworthy and give excellent advice.”
All the best to Big Phil this season, drive hard, fast and fair!
Photo Credit: Media77
Name: Andre Mortimer
Class: Open A
Chassis/Engine: E92 M3/S65
Snowboarder, race car driver & professional chef, Andre Mortimer certainly has had some diversity in his young life. Starting off with Motocross at a ripe old age of 4 with great success, it wasn’t until he was 7 years old that his father Warwick started him and his brother Dion in Karting.
Fast forward a few more years and we would see Andre buying his first car at 14 – a 800cc Suzuki 4WD. This proved to be a cheap and fun car as Andre spent a lot of time rallying it wherever and whenever possible, the only way to keep him out of trouble – by his late teens, Andre was driving whatever he could get his hands on!
Come 2009, Andre thought for fun that he would run in Warwick’s old Benson & Hedges Celica for a couple of seasons, before eventually buying a damaged E92 M3 in 2009 from Japan – development started on the car and that’s the very same car we see Andre run today.
Of course it wouldn’t be the BMW Race Driver Series without the familiar last name of Mortimer – running for the last four seasons with team-mate & father Warwick, Andre has managed to pick up two Championship Second placings with the goal this season is to get even faster and to finally secure that first Championship Win.
The BMW Race Driver Series has been described by Andre as “super fun and always evolving and close racing with a great range of cars”, which is why Andre & Warwick believe that this is the best series for them right now.
Though the BMW series is not the only race series Andre has run in, also competing in quite a few of the North & South Island endurances over the last few years and the Bathurst 12hr in 2014 – “Lots of wins, lots of places, lots of fails, and lots of fun.”
Andre recalls some of his funniest and most intense race moments – “Funniest losing my door at Taupo, a wind gust ripped it off completely while sitting on the grid. Funny because I could not believe it happened”.
“Intense must be South Island Enduros at Teretonga, the heat shielding had been removed to save weight. The exhaust was glowing and paint was burning off the tunnel in the car. Interior temp got [email protected]#$%n hot – 2hr stint sweating salt crystals because my body was out of liquid”.
For any newcomers interested in starting in any type of racing, Andre has some wise words of advice:
“Don’t take yourself too seriously. But seriously race. Race with respect. It’s dangerous and expensive when it goes wrong and it will at some point you don’t want to be that guy!
So have fun with it and keep a cool head.”
Andre takes the time to thank his sponsors, as without sponsors racing may not be possible:
Mortimer Motorsports Ltd, Gull Force Ten, DSV Air and Sea, Te Manava Luxury resort Rarotonga, 1907 Water, Little Lot, Khumo Blairs Tyres, Motul Lubricants, Jerry Clayton BMW, Race Brakes & Velocity Dyno tuning
Name: Rick Donaldson
Class: 2 Litre
Chassis/Engine: E30 – M50B20
“For years I had always had a yearning to get out on a race track and “have a go”. A friend had told me that Pukekohe had open days that you could take your car around.
It wasn’t until some years later that I saw an advert about Play Days at Hampton Downs, so I looked into it further and thought why not!
I phoned Michael Kennedy and asked if he was keen to come along for the day. He was keen, so I booked the day and took the Holden Crewman Ute (6 lt V8) along for the day. We had a buzz, and it was here that we met John Mulrennan and got talking to him about the BMW race driver series.
At this stage, that’s all it was, just a chat about racing…….
Well that was it, from that day on Michael and I were hooked. We then went along to the Pukekohe open days and Hampton Downs Play Days with the Ute whenever we could.
Michael wanted to buy his own helmet, so along he went to the bike shop on Trugood Place next door to one P and S autos. The guy at the bike shop was not aware of the regulations on what was the correct helmet for race cars and suggested Michael go and talk to Peter Ball next door, as he was in to motor racing and would know what was required.
So Michael called in and spoke to Peter. Well Pete talked a good story, and next thing Michael phones me about going 1/2s in a car. So it was a quick trip up to Botany to meet this rooster called Pete, and the car he was putting together. And so it was agreed that we would go halves in an E30 320i, or “700” as it was to be known.
My first race was 4 years ago in the Brass Monkey, well what an introduction to motor racing that was! The event lived up to its name. It hosed with rain all day, and was bitterly cold. Luckily we had hired a pit garage with Pete, Graham and Andrew Walker. All that did was keep the rain off our heads, as the garage was flooded.
I remember being sh*t scared on the start line with so much going through my head from the advice Pete had given me. Here I am on the start line in my first race and it is raining cats and dogs! Well you know the saying, to come first, first you have to finish. And on the last race of the day, that’s exactly what I did, I was literally the last car standing, all the other cars had fallen off the track, or pulled out and I won the race. That has been my only win. Prior to this my only history with motorsport was getting speeding fines…..
A couple of seasons ago on the last race of the season, I got caught up in another driver’s incident that saw me have to do some repair work. Once the repair work was done, I gave 700 a new paint job for the coming season.
First event of the new season at Hampton Downs, last race of the day, last lap of the race and last corner of the race, I was about to find out just how good the roll cages in our cars are, and the value of listening to the advice of Tony Houston and purchasing a head restraint device.
A car ahead of me came back on to the track directly in front of me, I had nowhere to go, I tried to avoid him, but slammed into him side on, and the end result saw me and 700 roll 6 times before coming to a standstill on the grass at the sweeper and on all 4 wheels. The safety gear did its job and I was able to get out of the car and walk away. Someone was looking over me for sure!
The BMW drivers were fantastic; I had numerous offers of cars in order to get me back out on to the track and racing. My next car was to be Graham Balls old E30 with a stock standard m50, so it was into the 2ltr Championship, and my first race was Taupo. I think my Nanna could have driven around the track faster than I did in the first race!
Last season, my goal was to be in the top ten, and I managed to come 6th, so I was really pleased with this result given the guys I was racing against and the cars they were driving, The Guys and Gals that race in the 2 ltr Championship are a great bunch of racers, in particular I would like to thank those that I have enjoyed some great battles with out on the track, and as a result have made the racing great fun over the past two seasons, namely Chris Sparg, Stephen Lawrence, Ross Gardiner, Jon Tyler, Gordon Legge and Michael Kennedy.
This season will see a number of new entrants into the 2 ltr Championship, and once again I think if I can get in the top ten, I will be doing pretty damn good. The other goal is to be able to drive like the Balls; I know which one is the more realistic and achievable!
I have found the BMW series a fantastic group of people to be involved with.
Apart from 100 different theories on setting up your car on race day to get the best out of the car on the day, its like one big family, people are only to keen to lend a hand or parts when needed in order to help their competitor get back on to the track and race.
The other benefit I have found is one of being able to give back to the community. I have provided Hot Laps to charities and sports groups to auction for their fund raising events, In particular The Child Cancer Foundation, Westpac Chopper Appeal and Hamilton Boys High School rowing programme and others. It’s a fantastic way to give back, and at the same time provide members of the public the opportunity to experience the thrill of the Track!”
– Rick Donaldson
Name: Marty Irvine
Class: Soon to be Open B
Chassis/Engine: E36 M3 – S50B32
With the first event of the season only three weeks away, it’s only fitting that we welcome back one of the most successful BMW Race Driver Series champions to date – Marty Irvine. With a whopping four E30 class championship wins in his “green machine”, it’s certainly going to be a challenge for him when he returns this season in his recently purchased E36 M3. This year will mark his 9th season with the series, stepping up into the Open B class.
Rewind the clock back a few years and this would see Marty’s first motorsport endeavour, driving a yellow Datsun 1600 when he was 25. A few hill climbs to whet the appetite would suffice, to which Marty then sold the car to move onto bigger and brighter things.
Family life followed before Marty ventured into Thundercats (Thundercats involve wave jumping and tight competitive racing in a tunnel hulled inflatable boat) eventually taking to the thrill of circuit racing 8 years ago with the Castrol BMW Race Driver Series. I think we can all agree what a great decision that was!
With motorsport comes challenges, and the biggest challenge and most memorable racing for Marty was trying to win a championship against Brent Allen. He says “Brent and I had so much fun racing door handle to door handle for the entire season and the championship came down to who got the fastest lap, in the final race of the season. The difference between our times was only something like .01 of a second – it doesn’t get any closer than that. It was an odd victory as we both deserved to win but we did agree it was the most fun we’d had with our pants on!!“
After an awesome achievement of successfully claiming two back-to-back championship wins, it was time for Marty to hang up the keys to his E30 to follow on to what will be a huge challenge: Competing in the Open B class. The main goal being to chip away at improving his times with his long term goal being able to work his way to the front.
But who said you couldn’t make motor racing a family affair? Martin’s wife Michele and two daughters Maddison and Bayley have always loved to come racing, which is what the series is all about. Making some awesome friends over the years, the series wouldn’t be the same without all of the support from the “pit-crew”. Michele, a well-known face in the series, has put in a substantial effort over the years managing and supporting Marty. Michele has also ensured there are no hungry stomachs for the series drivers each weekend, and of course is one of the main masterminds behind making the E30 Scholarship Car possible.
Looking at the new season ahead, Marty has some wise words of advice for the many new racers in our E30 Series. Marty’s first piece of advice to newcomers is “There’s no such thing as asking too many questions with motor racing. There’s a lot of experience around the pits so don’t be scared to ask”!”
His second piece of advice, “Driver training is invaluable when you’re starting out – no matter how good you are” and lastly “Always, Always have fun with your motor racing”!!
Thanks Marty for his awesome words of support, and good luck with your endeavours this season – welcome back!
Photo Credit: Geoff Ridder
Name: Jordan Baldwin
Class: Soon to be E30 Class
Engine: M20B20 – Scholarship Car
Congratulations to one of our newest and youngest drivers – Jordan Baldwin. An 18 year old from Auckland who is currently studying Market & Finance, Jordan has already proven he has what it takes to win – winning the E30 Scholarship car for the upcoming 2016-2017 season.
Jordan got his first taste for motorsport when he was 11 years old, after his older brother Tony convinced dad (Marc Baldwin) to buy a mini-stock.
After sitting in the shed for three years, Jordan finally had the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat, and he’s never looked back since. Soon after, a more proven and competitive car was purchased, subsequently resulting in Jordan winning Rookie of the year for his first season in 2012/2013.
Jordan then progressed onto racing in the Senior Rotax Light karts. What a great move this was for him, as he is currently competing at top level in karting around the country, often seeing himself regularly on the podium or close to it! In just two years of karting, Jordan has moved himself up to within the top six drivers in the country in his class.
While Jordan has experienced many memorable achievements, his greatest achievement so far would have to be winning the E30 Scholarship.
Jordan expresses “The day was run superbly; everything was smooth and easy to follow. Getting the chance to drive and take part in a totally new aspect of motorsport was an awesome experience and to take out the scholarship is just huge.”
The main goal for his season ahead is to take out Rookie of the Year, as well as developing as a driver as much as possible. He hopes to improve over the series and battle for some competitive placing.
Welcome on board Jordan, from everyone in the Castrol BMW Race Driver Series.
Jordan Baldwin – 04/08/2016 – BMW Race Drivers Race Series Scholarship BLOG
The events of the last few days are still sinking in, Saturday Morning Dad and I began the day with a familiar early morning start, only this time we were heading down to Hampton Downs to take part in the BMW E30 race series Scholarship … 22 of us hopeful candidates all assembled in the pit area, anticipation filled the air.
We were told that we would all be going through the same vigorous selection process, 2 hot laps strapped into the passenger seat and driven around Hampton at race pace, then an interview in front of a TV camera to gauge our camera presence, an interview in front of a panel of judges would come next to test how we present ourselves and to get a glimpse of our general attitude, then 5 or 6 laps in the passenger seat next to legend ‘Racing Ray Williams’ who would give detailed instruction whilst driving us around the track, showing entry and exit points, breaking points, gear changes etc …. and then finally we would do 5, maybe 6 laps with one of racing’s elite, Mike Eady, who’s role it was to sit in the passenger seat and judge our driving skills …. No pressure!!
Well, after all 22 of us had completed every test put to us, it was now down to the judges decision, we all assembled under the Judges room, nervous chit chat could be heard all around …. about 30 minutes later, a decision had been made …. Third place was announced and awarded, second place was announced and awarded …. I hadn’t made it to 2nd or 3rd I thought to myself… then it was announced, “And the winner, of the 2016/17 Scholarship is …. Jordan Baldwin”.
It took a fraction of a second for it to register, in fact I had begun clapping for the winner before realising that it was actually my name they just called out …. Wow, what a feeling.
I’d like to thank everyone involved in making the Scholarship possible, the sponsors, the series drivers, the judges, the people in the background that planned it so well and the other competitors for making it an awesome day. I’m excited and really looking forward to competing in the series, See you out there!!
Name: Mark Crompton
Class: E30 Class
Lifelong friendship, the love of cars and a silver lining resulted in car #67 being born – AKA Kermit the E30.
After watching Ash Blewett compete in his first season, it didn’t take much convincing from long-time friend John Blewett to get Mark into a race car.
With great support from John and Mal Clark at ByGone Auto’s, Marks dream turned into a reality and in 2009 Mark competed in his first season with the Castrol BMW Race Driver Series.
Even though Kermit was his first official race car, Mark had been no stranger to the track. Prior to this he ran his old 1984 Audi Quattro Coupe turbo in the Classis Trial to see if he would enjoy it. Let’s just say, I’m pretty sure he did! An amazing piece of machinery until unfortunately it was involved in an incident at no fault of his own, resulting in the car being a write off.
More recently Mark managed to secure fourth place overall in the 2015-2016 season, an achievement to be proud of. He spent so many races behind the drivers he now keeps up with; it still seems a little odd to him to be up the front!
One of Mark’s most exhilarating race moments was being on the grid at Manfield – “In those days we only had one E30 grid and there were 45 of us lined up. I had qualified 44th and was half way around Dunlop and couldn’t even see the start lights. The race lives in my memory, I had a great start and battled hard to finish 41st!”
When asked about the series, Mark says “I’ve loved every minute of it. I have been very fortunate to get involved with a wonderful group of guys who have made the racing so much fun. Our weekends away mean as much to me as the racing. The series in general attracts a really good bunch and catching up with everyone is a big part of the race weekend.”
One of Mark’s biggest challenges so far is trying to keep in front of Passrite team member Gerald Fava! Becoming one of Mark’s great mates in the series, you will always see them pitted next to each other. “But once the flag drops, it’s all on! We have had some incredible races and I’ve learnt so much from racing with Gerald, and always a smile and a well-done after the race. “
Looking at the season ahead, one of Mark’s goals is to win a round. With his engine being swapped out from a 6 cylinder M20, he will be running a lighter 4 cylinder M40 1.8L. Peter and Graham at P&S have done a great job and the car is feeling very lively!
Mark would like to thank the support he has been given by his sponsors Vector Systems. Also special thanks to everyone at P&S, Steve, Aaron and Bryce at Moselle Panel & Paint, Transvisual Design and of course his two lovely daughters Jess and Kenzie.
We wish him all the best next season and can’t wait to see what the new “Kermit” is like.
Photo Credit: Media77
Name: Milan Klinac
Class: Open A
Chassis/Engine: Mini Challenge – W11B16
Let me introduce you to Milan Klinac, one of our seasoned drivers who first joined the Castrol BMW Race Driver Series in the year of 2006 – when the series made its big debut. This was the first time Milan was in a racing environment, prior to this only tackling track days with the BMW Car Club of NZ.
The love of motorsport and needing a hobby meant that Milan ended up buying a little E30 and turning it into a 1.8 litre machine. Of course when the series started ten years ago there were only seven E30s on the grid, alongside some very interesting cars such as Mike Delmont’s super-fast 2002 Turbo, the late Dynes McConnell’s E24 M6, not to mention numerous E30 and E36 M3s and other 2002s. This type of racing made for a very casual and of course exciting weekend.
One thing that Milan recalls as an interesting, yet entertaining experience was down the back straight at Pukekohe “seeing Mike Tubbs in his Targa e36 over taking everyone on the grass in the wet… he did really well!”
Since 2006 Milan has had the joy of racing not just an E30, but three other cars as well. An E34 535IS, an E46 Clubsport, and now onto car number four: The mighty Mini Challenge! Seems fitting since Milan’s race number is #4!
So now must be the time you ask about the Mini Challenge? This is not a BMW? The Mini Challenge cars were able to join the Castrol BMW Race Driver series in 2014, bringing something different to the field and opening up the grid for some spectacular fun. Come early 2016 and no one had purchased a Mini to compete in the series yet, so Milan thought “hell yeah…and here we are, very, very different to drive in comparison to the BMW’s but more track time will help”.
Milan’s 2005 Mini Challenge LHD, is a factory purpose built race car, built by BMW Motorsport in Munich. Running a supercharged W11B16 Engine, 6 Speed Getrag gearbox and Quaife LSD, the Mini Challenge packs all sorts of punch.
This was recently proven at the “Legends of Speed” event at Hampton Downs in April when Milan claimed a race win in the reverse grid handicap race and in the wet too! Milan says, “This car in the rain was just exceptional – plus I’ve always preferred the rain – I just seem to do well.” This had to be one of Milan’s greatest achievements, on top of getting his 50 Race medal in 2010.
We wish Milan the best of luck for the upcoming season, albeit missing the first round in September. The perfect time for Milan to head to Germany, to which he hopes to be going around the Nürburgring (and doing other boring stuff).
Name: Rob Wolff
Class: E30 Series
Here we have yet another driver who has caught the E30 racing bug! Rob Wolff, who currently races in the E30 class, first started in motorsport about 40 odd years ago. Driving a Datsun 1200 coupe, he competed in many gymkhana events with the Northern Sports Car Club. Hooning around obstacles on a grass field as fast as you can meant some serious fun!
Nothing stopped Rob from there, as he and a friend (Wayne) decided to go halves on a rally car – a 100e Anglia. The trouble was that neither of them knew how to drive very fast on gravel or even co-drive, but that sure didn’t stop them! Their very first Rally event was in the Maramarua forest, to which Wayne was the lucky driver – what a ball that was (apart from spinning out).
As Rob has said, they should’ve stopped there. Next up was a Rally in Woodhill, where Rob was the lucky driver. All going well to start with and with all of but 2 hours rally experience, Rob ran over a 1 foot high tree stump. That was the end of his rally career, but not the car at least. Well not quite… The car ended up stolen unfortunately but was later found in Manurewa. Then shortly after stolen again from there and found burnt out in Albany.
Rob’s next foray into motorsport was in 2010 in the Targa Rotorua road race, co-driving for an enthusiastic 21 year old driver. Even though they drove off the road three times in two days, they still managed a podium finish, ending up third in the E30 class.
More Targa events ensued, but one in particular stood out to Rob. A Targa event like no other, Rob had a week full of fun at the Targa New Zealand road race in October 2010 with good mate John Mulrennan (also an E30 class driver). Borrowing a Puegeot 106 XSI from his friend Mark meant that Rob and John were put to the ultimate test. “Having the whole road to yourself, being able to drive as fast as you dare, and sharing the whole experience with my mate John – Brilliant!” – Rob. To their complete and total Surprise, they were named 1st in Index of Performance (ie. best on handicap).
Rob has since been co-driving in Targa events for Donald Webster, who owns an Alpine Renault A110. While this has been and still is an immense load of fun, it also means that Rob can sit on the right side of the car, albeit missing the steering wheel and some pedals.
2013 was the year that would see Rob Wolff joining the Castrol BMW Race Driver series, after noticing how much John had enjoyed his first season. Great fun and a real adrenaline rush, Rob wouldn’t look back. “It’s a great series to be involved in, with so many like-minded drivers who are competitive on the track and friends off. I’m enjoying the challenge of learning how to become a better driver each year (well I think I am anyway).”
This season will see Rob in the same E30 with brand new silver livery, sponsored by Propella Software Ltd.
Name: Bruce Miller
Class: E30 and 2 Litre
It all started in the 1970’s at the Hamilton Car club for Bruce. Driving a 67 Fiat 1500, the Gymkhana’s on the grass, Sprints at Bay Park and driving Pukekohe in anger got Bruce hooked on our much loved grass roots sport.
A number of cars were driven before Bruce got into the trusty E30 though, ranging from a hot Anglia, 68 Cortina GT and a 69 Lotus Cortina which is still around to this day!
Marriage and children of course meant a hiatus for Bruce, who then returned to the track in September 2006 at the very first event ever for the Castrol BMW Race Driver Series. Hooked again!
The decision was made to buy a little red 318i. With some slight alterations made, the E30 proved for a zippy little race car and Bruce turned out to be quite competitive, often placing in the top ten. Back then there weren’t 3-4 grids as there is today, but rather only one which meant it could be scary as hell when the likes of Mike Delmont passed down that back straight at Pukekohe.
While Bruce loves his E30’s (having a few nice gems hidden away at home), next season will see Bruce running in the 2 Litre Class racing a 318ti compact with an M52 engine. This will prove quite a challenge compared to the E30, though it will be a fun exercise which is what this series is all about.
Name: Neville Findlay
Class: Open A (or occasionally B)
Chassis/Engine: 1999 BMW Z3 M-Coupe/S50B32
With a strong passion for motorsport since he was a teenager, Neville has had a taste of many different cars and events.
His first ever venture into the sport was in a 1953 MG TD, to which he competed at a spring event at the Ardmore Club Circuit. If his memory services him right, there were no such thing seat belts or crash hats back then!
Neville then raced an Austin Healey 100/6 and a series of Healy Sprites in the occasional club event. These events were mainly at the old Pukekohe Club Circuit but also involved a few hill climbs too. Up next was to compete in the Sports Car Championship in a Series Three Lotus Seven, which was a serious step up from the Healey’s, and a very quick car back in its day. Neville then sold the car to his Brother Ron who ended up second in the very same Championship the following year.
During the Early 1970’s times went quiet in the motorsport scene for Neville, children and the starting of Zambesi with his wife Elizabeth became the larger parts of his life requiring his full attentions. Fast forward some 35 years, Neville sees his brother return to racing in 2006 and his nephew Nikolas start racing in the BMW E30 series. The bug had bitten again and Neville felt it was time to return to motorsport. He looked at muscle cars such as Ford falcon XB’s and a few others. But in 2009 he purchased the exotic BMW M Coupe. It was modern, fast and easy to drive and different from the norm. The Z3 M Coupe and Neville have had some great results, placing regularly over the years in two different BMW classes.
2011 was the year that saw Neville finish an incredible 2nd place in the Open A Championship, not far behind rival Barry Kirk-Burnand who took out 1st. The following year he placed 3rd in Open B. Even recently Neville has managed to add to the excitement by winning the Open A BMW Endurance for this last season!
One interesting story Neville can recall occurred about five years ago at Manfield.
“It was Friday track day practice and I needed to scrub in some new slicks. Wasn’t feeling 100%… probably the takeaways we had the night before I thought… I’ll come right.
Well by lap four the heavy braking and cornering wasn’t helping my condition so I thought, better come in next lap. This turned out to be one lap too many and on pit road I threw up in my full face helmet and drivers side of the car.
The funny side is that Nik had to scrub more than just tyres that day as I headed back to Palmy and bed. Nik donned my helmet after a quick rinse and continued to set up the car. He still to this day can’t stand the sight and smell of my helmet. That’s dedication for you. Incidentally Nik drove the car to an Open B Championship win two years ago. Is that payback or what?”
Neville has a particularly laid back approach to a race weekend. Some even refer to him as a big, calm, Rocker Jesus. As long as the comradery with the other drivers in his class and the series continues, Neville says he’ll always enjoy it!
Of course, sponsors always help the fact and a special thank you goes out to ZAMBESI, Invivo Wines and Racelign.
Good luck to Neville for this upcoming season.
Name: Andrew Walker
Class: 2 Litre Class
Chassis/Engine: E36 M52B20 “standard as”
Andrew Walker runs in our 2 Litre Class and is what you call one of our “seasoned” BMW Race Series drivers, competing in five seasons to date. However he hasn’t always been in the 2 Litre class – he started of his main motorsport career in the E30 class after taking two years to build his own race car.
The first time Andrew had ever hit the track was in his newly built E30 as a passenger around Pukekohe Park Raceway. With Grant Scheuber showing him the ropes, Andrew was quite surprised at the intensity of how hard you had to drive the car in comparison to the open road.
It was only after two seasons in the E30 Class that Andrew decided to up his game. He’s spent the last three seasons in the 2 Litre class which has proven great for development as Andrew has recently secured two race wins.
Luckily for him he’s survived five seasons relatively unscathed so this is a bonus, plus he’s finished third overall in the 2 Litre class for the 2015-2016 season! Andrew is now onto finishing his third race car build, labelled the “Silver Bullet” so definitely watch this space for the upcoming season.
For Andrew going forward, his main goals is to continue having a blast in the BMW’s, and to learn and participate in other forms of motorsports such as hill climbs, rally sprints and Targa. More seat time will certainly help Andrew improve his skills, or in his words help him to “learn to drive”.
What struck a positive chord with Andrew in the BMW Race Driver series was the friendly nature of the competitors. He met the likes of the Balls, Graham Macdonald, Mike Moros and Fred Bardon and found that everyone is do friendly, helpful and willing to welcome people into the fold.
The culture of the series is to enjoy, have fun, race hard but fair and live to fight another day. It’s a culture like this which fits well with people’s budgets, skill levels and generally allows everyone to have a great time but yet be great mates after the race regardless of placing.
“I will always remember having an awesome race with Grant Metson, I think we were fighting hard for something like 15th and 16th place, he got me on the last corner after us having changed places maybe 5 or 6 times during the race. Even before I could get out of the car Grant came running over with a massive grin on his face to shake my hand for a great race. That sums up the series and its people in my mind.”
Good luck to Andrew for his upcoming sixth season!
Photo Credit: Media 77
Name: Team Passrite
Fred Bardon: 2L Class (M20B20)
Nole Irvine: 2L Class (M40B18)
Gerald Fava: E30 Class (M20B20)
Team PassRite is made up of Fred, Nole and Gerald who all have some background when it comes to motor-racing. All racing E30s with different specifications, the love of the sport brought them all together to make up one of our favourite racing teams.
The PassRite Driving Academy is owned by Fred Bardon, who started to play with cars back in the mid-seventies. Of course the E30 didn’t exist back then, and it was a brand new Escort 1600 GT that started his love of motorsport. Using this car also as a driving-school car, Fred participated in many Northern Sports Car club Gymkhana’s. A friendly push from now team member Gerald helped Fred make the decision to purchase a Peugeot 106 Clubsport which was used in Targa events – his first event being Targa Bambina in 2003 with a great friend and co-driver Ted Day. What a blast that was. Fred and Ted participated in Targa each year until 2006.
Gerald had since joined the E30 Series and Fred would go out to each event and support him. A year went by and Gerald finally convinced Fred to also get involved and buy one, so that’s what he did – a little 318i.
Of course Nole too had a history in motorsport before joining the series. His motor-racing career began in 1954 when he was involved in what you may call your typical “Tarmac Rally” – the open road as well as speed runs on the home driveway, his co-driver being none other than Curly the Spaniel. Sometimes a bit anxious and barking often, he was a great non-critical co-driver.
Finances eventually permitted Nole to also purchase a Peugeot 106, which was entered in many Targa events from 2003 with the instruction of his more human co-drivers.
Now, it was up to Fred to convince Nole to sell his Pug and buy an E30 too – though you wouldn’t have thought that would be too hard of a task, well – think again. After a fair amount of procrastination, in 2014 he finally purchased an E30 and became the third member of the PassRite team. Fred promised a large cheque for Noles involvement so he watched his mail box daily – he’s sure it will arrive any time now?!
However if it wasn’t for Gerald, Fred and Nole wouldn’t have even entered the Castrol BMW Race Driver Series!
Gerald was at a ripe old age of 17 when he started racing Mini Sevens and he did so for a few years. Later on, a purchase of a Ford Escort 1600 Sport saw Gerald end up third in the championship in his second season. Shortly after, Gerald and his brother Nicholas won their class in the Benson and Hedges 500 long distance race, a premier endurance race attracting drivers from NZ and overseas. From 2003 through to 2005 also saw Gerald enter in Targa with a Peugeot 106 Clubsport.
For the last six years, Gerald has been racing an E30 competing against all sundry (age groups that is). Money doesn’t dictate who wins in the E30 Class which is why this has always been Gerald’s preferred option in motorsport.
PassRite have a great team of guys part of the wider group, to which they all enjoy the social life (sometimes more than the racing itself)! Each race meeting event they make a great weekend of it (or in Manfield’s case – a whole week) by renting accommodation, drinking beers and having a great blokey weekend away.
Some of the wider PassRite group include the Blewett’s, Mark Crompton (Kermit – but watch this space), Grant McFie, Bruce Miller, Harvey Grey and Shuey. Rock on 2016-2017!
Name: Matt Griffin
Class: E30 Series
Engine: M40B18 (4cyl 1.8 litre)
Favourite race-track: Bathurst
This week we look at driver Matt Griffin, who took out the E30 Series Championship for the 2015-2016 Season. Matt is a 23 year old from Auckland who has loved cars, engines and racing ever since he was born.
Matt’s father, Laurie Griffin (who also races in the series) fortunately got Matt into Quad Bike racing when he was only 6 years old, then onto karting when he was 13. Matt progressed from there, occasionally winning meetings and also claiming a North Island title in 2009.
The first step for Matt into racing E30s was in 2011 and he has never looked back since. He chose to race in the E30 Class because it was a fantastic stepping stone in Motorsport, not only being cheap an affordable, but also because it meant racing with a great bunch of people.
With Matt’s experience and skill, he was fortunate enough to win this last season however not without a long hard battle with some fast competitors – this made for some spectacular racing from a spectating point of view. Having a sturdy engine prepped by P&S Autocentre certainly helped.
Winning the E30 Series Championship this season wouldn’t have been possible without his father Laurie, and his sponsors for helping him along the way. Matt would like to thank his father and his sponsors: Speedfloors, IDAC Construction, BNT Manukau and, Susan Ball Professionals Real Estate.
Of course every driver has an idol to look up to and for Matt this is our very own Kiwi driver Shane Van Gisbergen.
Next season is going to be one hell of a ride for Matt Griffin if he’s to keep hold of his title so we wish him all the best in preparing for the season ahead.