News

ZFest events bring out competitive spirit of BMW owners

A BMW races through the autocross course. ZFest Autocross was held with the help of the Central Pennsylvania Sports Car Club of America at the Mid-State Regional Airport August 1, 2015.
A BMW races through the autocross course. ZFest Autocross was held with the help of the Central Pennsylvania Sports Car Club of America at the Mid-State Regional Airport August 1, 2015. CDT photo

You can say Robin Blair and his wife, Jackie, are pretty competitive when it comes to autocross precision driving.

They swapped out the tires numerous times on their BMWs on Saturday before heading to the race portion of ZFest at Mid-State Regional Airport.

It was all a way to help the car perform the best on the track, and finish with the fastest time.

The Batavia, Ill., couple said they’re veterans of the sport, both winning titles in autocross.

The event was held in Centre County for the second time in conjunction with events organized by the Central Pennsylvania Sports Car Club of America.

It started Wednesday with a series of driving and gathering events at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, and ends Sunday with a drive-only day around the county.

The objective was for participants to race their Z series BMWs around a course. For every cone hit, two seconds were added to the driver’s time. If the driver went off course, he or she was disqualified.

The course was set up on the landing strips at the airport and was about three-quarters of a mile. It took most drivers about 50-seconds to complete.

Jackie Blair has won six titles, and Robin Blair was coming off a win from a competition in Chicago.

The Blairs began to race after Jackie bought a yellow BMW Roadster. However, in most cases, the couple race Robin’s 2000 yellow BMW coupe that has been rigged just for racing, and includes shoulder straps in the driver’s seat.

Organizer Jim Hopkins, of State College, said the event attracted about 30 participants from across North America, and offered two race categories — one for women and another for men.

“It’s one car against the clock and there are up to six runs,” he said. “The more you drive the course, the more improvement around the cones.”

The race was followed by a safety course.

Hopkins said drivers and their passengers were required to wear a helmet.

And it didn’t take long for the smell of rubber to linger in the air.

Around each set of cones were tire marks as drivers like Dean Bigelow skidded through the turns as they shifted gears to clear the checkpoints.

Bigelow said he purchased a 2000 yellow BMW Roadster for racing, which he named “Tweety Bird.”

In just his second year participating in the sport, Bigelow said he’s raced in other “cone killer” events.

“There has been some engine work and modifications to make sure it’s good for racing,” Bigelow said about his car. “It takes a few years to get good.”

Robin Blair suggested any newbie to the sport should do the opposite of what they think they should do when driving a cone course.

He recommended drivers slow up on the straightaways and speed up around the bends to balance the speed of the car.

“You don’t want to be going too fast when you approach a turn and then over-commit it,” Blair said. “It’s usually the opposite of what you’re thinking.”

The average speed of drivers on cone courses is about 50 to 60 mph. But Blair said more experienced drivers can go faster.

“There is a neat energy you get on the course that you don’t get from doing other activities,” Blair said.

  Comments