About Me

My photo
München, Bayern, Germany
I love all things motorsports and racing. I have an unhealthy addiction to modifying anything mechanical. Brakes and Suspension are my forte and I love driving fast in slow cars. I am in love with math, physics and knowing how things work. But if there's anything I've learned since being here, it's that experiencing a multitude of other cultures, traveling, and seeing tangible history will enrich ones life in ways no book can offer.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Farewell BMW; what a fantastic experience

Today was the last day of my Praktikum. I used the remaining 7 hours of Gleitzeit to take tomorrow off. I got another send-off gift of Weißwurscht in a can and a tube of Süße Senf (sweet mustard) to go with it! I made my rounds saying goodbye to those who were in the office, and in all the workshops. I wrote e-mails to those who were underway with test drives and vacations. The IEP contact and good friend had invited me for a last round of coffee, and we talked about future plans and old cars. It was a great end to a wonderful experience. I have met so many nice people, got to see behind the scenes in Motorsport both at BMW and at races; met many race car drivers as well. I have accomplished a lot more in this Prakiktum than I expected doing all the "Top Secret" stuff you read about in car magazines.

It felt like yesterday where I was just started and was absolutely in shock and awe of all the Prototype vehicles (signiture black/white swirls on a car). But it became an every day part of life. I had a hand in preparing and driving many vehicles that wouldn't reach consumers for months or longer. It was a real treat. I now have an understanding of the inner workings of such a large company, but also have a lot to think about in terms of career paths, choices, and possibilities. I am a firm believer that I would not have found an internship that would have made me any happier. It has definitely been a life experience of which (hopefully) will make me a better, culturally aware, aspiring global engineer. Once I get back, I have a difficult transition reintegrating into American life. Among contending with reverse culture shock, and due to sad events in life, I need to find a new residence and move all within 5 days before the semester start. I might have to sell my beloved car as I barely made ends meet in this summer abroad (though the experience was more than worth it). Many new challenges lay ahead, but I survived a year in Germany, this should be cake, right?

Fewer updates to come, so I thank those for following my life over the past year, and hope it has been somewhat entertaining for you. A lot has happened in a year, but I wish I could have done more. Who knows what the future holds, maybe I'll be able to come back somehow.


Saturday, 27 August 2011

The past week was really rough on me, but I returned to work after taking Friday and Monday off. While I don't have much to do here, I am preoccupied by thinking about all the things that need to be taken care of that I can't do until I return. Stress level is very high right now.

Yesterday I had spent the day at the test track to assist in some tests. This is all very subjective work as there are no sensors to measure things like comfort. A lot of what we did to day related to feedback and grip properties of tires.

Today, was my last day I had working with my boss, he is away next week for my official end. I got my Praktikumszeugnis (Internship certificate of completion) and we had a meeting over it's contents. My primary boss said he was really happy with my accomplishments considering the language barrier and that they made the right choice in choosing me for this internship. He also complimented my motivation and previous experience when it comes to performance driving; he even made a point to note this on the Zeugnis. This cheered me up after the difficult week I'd had. He told me to contact with him when i'm back in Germany, he's interested in seeing what I've done with myself.

Going away gifts:
I got the map I left with him at 24Hr Rennen Nürburgring with signatures of racers (signed by favorite curves of the track) from:
Joerg Weidinger (my boss who drove the Doerr 135d)
Claudia Hürtgen (Team Schubert Z4 GT3)
Arno Klasen (Manthey Racing Porsche GT3/Doerr Z4GT3)
Arnd Meier ( Doerr Z4 GT3)
Rudi Adams (Doerr Z4 GT3)
Frank Weishar (Doerr 135d)

Claudia Hürtgen also gave me a hat; My boss, Mr.Weishar and Mrs. Hürtgen are involved in the BMW Driver Training, I helped translate a bunch of stuff for one of the seminars for an English speaking group.

Finally my boss gave me a BMW ///M lanyard and a card thanking me for the work I accomplished. The blue car is his Osella PA20 Group CN hill climb car. As stated before, he is two-time Euro Hillclimb champion.

Today was my last Brotzeit in München, I paid for everyone's weisswurst and pretzles and this is my last weekend here.

sad :/

Monday, 15 August 2011

This past weekend was a lot of fun. I went to the Gäubodenvolksfest in Straubing with some friends. It was a large carnival atmosphere with a Bavarian/Bierfest twist. The Town was beautiful (as to be expected at this point), the food was great, and the company made it all the better. It was a sunny day, a bit warm, so we often took shelter in a Bierzelt (Beer tent).

There were rides, games, and lots of food vendors offering up a variety of delicious delectables.  I was talked into getting a set of Lederhosen and the ladies helped me pick out what matched what. It was great going on some carnival rides and listening to the bands play.

While on the Ferris Wheel, we could see some large rain clouds rolling in from the distance. We went on one more ride, and rushed back to the Hauptbahnhof JUST in time to make the train before the downpour. What an eventful day.

Monday was a holiday and a friend had a visitor. We went to the Allianz arena and visited Olympiapark. All this time I had NO idea that there were imprints made in concrete by a bunch of musical artists. Saw BMW Welt/Museum then headed out to the Englischer Garten to eat/drink at the Chinesischer Turm. It was great talking and eating the Halbes Hend'l (half chicken) with a good Weißbier to wash it down. I am going to miss Germany a lot when I return to the states. I hope i can manage to come back for grad school, and even more so in Bayern. But at this point, Aachen is also looking attractive. It started to rain so we parted ways. I was awfully tired so I took a nap, and still managed to get a full nights sleep.

I'll be working on a Praktikumsbericht to hand in. I'm still a bit confused on the format, but we'll see. There's a lot of sensitive info I need to generalize. Next week is my interview for the Praktikumszeugnis (certificate of internship).

For the past month and some I have been doing some time lapse photography. I'll try to post up some examples, but i'd love to make a snipet video of my short time while here in Bayern/Germany.

Stay tuned...

Kein Sitzplatz!

Flicker set for Gäubodenvolksfest Straubing 2011

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A visit from the Director

Today the Director of the International Engineering Program, Frau Dr. Berka, visited BMW and had a small meeting with one of my bosses and I. We talked about the program and some future goals. It was very informative and low key. Everyone got along nicely and it was good to network a little bit. I had expressed my interest in grad studies in Germany. I am still torn between the IEP route and applying for TU München and RWTH Aachen. TUM would be stellar, because I have fallen in love with this city. The location, the spirit, the atmosphere is just amazing.

After the meeting, another student colleague and I went to the Chinesicher Turm with Dr. Berka to meet up with some IEP Alums and she had invited us for a Beer and some food. We talked about all things IEP and academics along with what we have done, gained, and learned while abroad. She seemed quite pleased with our development and proficiency in German, however I feel as though my skills have declined. I forgot some basic rules, made trivial mistakes and my vocabulary/grammar has definitely suffered. The only thing that has truly improved is conquering the fear of saying something wrong. It's better to make mistakes and be corrected all the time. Eventually, there will be no more mistakes to be made.

It was nice meeting up with a couple familiar faces (from the IEP Alums dinner a couple months ago). I will need to set up an appointment with Dr.Berka to get more information on scholarships and application processes for the Dual Masters Track. If only IEP had a program with TUM


Monday, 8 August 2011

1951.4 km later (1,212.5 Miles) - Roadtrip through Neuss, lapped Nürburgring, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Black Forest, Freiburg, Bodensee/Friedrichshafen, and back to München

This German Road trip was definitely amazing. I took a rental car up to Neuss to stay at another IEP students place. I left, but because of traffic and a MAJOR accident, I didn't get to his house until 2am Saturday morning. On a two lane freeway/highway, there was a semi-truck/LKV that caught fire; there was no part of the truck that was not in flames, or on fire itself. The terrifying thing was, because it shut down both lanes, the Emergency response was gridlocked at a stand still 2 km from the event. There was absolutely no place for traffic to pull over.

I get to Neuss and quickly fall asleep. My phone had died and due to poor planning on my part, I was unable to organize the Ring Taxi. John and I left Neuss at 10am and ended up at the Nürburgring around 11:30am. We checked into Rent4Ring and took care of the paperwork for a half-day rental. I opted for the 130 hp Suzuki Swift Stage 2 rental which was included race oriented tires, brakes and suspension, bucket seats and rollcage. It was perfectly underpowered for a Nürburgring beginner.6 Laps, and gas were included in the cost.

Frist Lap:
It was a good warm up lap, testing the tires and warming the brakes through cautious entry in corners and then more aggressive inputs when there was a clear line of sight for the track ahead. This was a learning process to try to remember corners for the following laps. I don't need to say it, but this track was amazing.

Second/Third Lap:
I remembered key corners of concern, but it is still impossible to know the proper driving lines. That comes with hundreds of hours and laps on the Nürburgring, I wasn't going to accomplish this in that time. But I remembered many of the right and lefts after each corner. The switching camber/banking in turns was the most difficult to tackle. It started to drizzle, but the Toyo R888 still felt fine and held good traction when pushing it hard. I was following a Porsche that finally signalled me to pass. John and I both joked around about being faster than a Porsche, but I totally understand the mindset of trying not to damage something so expensive, and enjoying the track for what it was. The Suzuki was underpowered which made it much easier to drive flatout and fast with headroom to safely manage emergency situations... I would be extra cautious in larger, heavier, more powerful vehicles. ....I was then passed by an Opel Corsa.

We took a break and another friend had met up with us at the Nürburgring after tending to some business in Köln. We sat and talked for a while, then headed into a Diner to eat and chat some more. It started to downpour, I was going to do my last 3 laps in the worst conditions outside snow on one of the worlds most famous racetracks.

Fourth Lap:
The ground was wet, but the R888 held up quite well! Some off camber corners I could feel the grip starting to surrender. There were a couple of accidents, one at Wehrseifen which is a hard right followed by a banked left before the second blind track entrance (there are posted speedlimits for public days for a reason). Then also another at Brünnchen which is a downhill right sweeper followed by an uphill right. There were a couple cautions this lap, so it was relatively nerveracking because the accident would be behind a blind corner.

Fifth Lap:
It is absolute DOWN-POUR. It is raining hard, the windows are fogging up, the deforst and wiper blades are on full blast. The tires were not happy at all. Squeeling tires are happy tires, these went silent. I attacked the course with caution. It was interesting seeing what driving lines other cars took, but i kept it wide and slow, trying to keep the shift and steering inputs smooth to avoid sudden under/oversteer. Right at the start, I was following a 7 series. It was accelerating very fast in the straights but I caught up in corners. Right hand curve into Hatzenbach and the 7er loses control. He is rotating toward the barrier and I follow the tail, passing on the left. With luck he managed not to hit the barrier. There were 4 moments during this lap where I thought I was going to snuff it. Aremberg was tretcherous, I entered too hot and got good amount of wheel lockup and understeer before the right hander. This was one of the panic moments where left foot braking really saved the situation. It was just enough to get the car to rotate pointing into the corner meanwhile shedding some speed keeping me out of the sandtrap. Nerves shaken, I turn back the dial a bit. The rest of the track surely will not be this forgiving. I enter Adenauer Forst, my favorite corner as it was the toughest for me to negotiate every single lap. Uphill and sharp left followed by a sharp right downhill. The camber changes in this transition was enough to make it a handful at the steering wheel. I would understeer in and oversteer out, even when taking it relatively easy with the rainfall. This lap was definitely riding on nerves and fear. It was exillerating and humbling to imagine professional drivers negotiate this track under these conditions for so long during the 24hour Rennen just a month ago. I have developed even MORE respect for these drivers, my boss, and this race track.

Sixth Lap:
The last lap was just a nice easy cool down lap. The rain subsided, it was actually clearing up, but the track was still very wet. I took it easy, savoring the last drive at the "Green Hell". It is quite a great experience, and I wish I had more time, or my own car to thrash on The Ring. I had my fair share of scary moments, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The track commands respect, but if you go into it with the intention of experiencing the track with any shred of common sense, you will be fine. Knowing your boundries, and trying not to do more than you are capable of handling is important; again, I'm glad I chose an underpowered (but well set up) car.

We returned the rental track-car and we were off on our small German roadtrip. We set in a course for Stuttgart and encountered extreme rainfall. In some areas we were only going 60km/h in unrestricted zones because of the level of water on the ground and low visability. We ended up in Stuttgart an hour and half behind schedule so we stopped in and took a walk downtown. There was a Sommerfest going on, a lot of live music, food, wine, and other treats. We went to a restaurant called Ochs'n Willi and had some of the Schwäbisch Fare. I had Maultasche Suppe (think of a ravioli, but meat stuffed, almost like a sausage, but not super slaty) and Gaisburger Marsch (another soup with beef, potatoes, onion and noodles). It was delicious. Got some Ice Cream, enjoyed the live music and headed out to Karlsruhe just north of the Black Forest. I pulled into a rest stop and slept for the night.

Black Forest
From Karlsruhe we headed toward Freiburg. We avoided highways and primarily took rural roads 462 to 294 cutting straight through the Schwarzwald (Black Forest). There passed through so many quaint picture-esque villiages and valleys. Because it had rained, there were great mists rising out of the forest creating a more mystical atmosphere. It was a very special type of nature, with the towns dotting the path through the hillsides and woods. Small houses built in scattered formation, no fast food places, barely any gas stations, a small Rathaus and a central church...simple living that gave the whole area a timeless feel. I wasn't able to take many pictures as there were very few places to pull off for a view. We had a lot of ground to cover and it was just one amazing sight after another. It made me wish that I had a motorcycle on a sunny day to just get lost and rediscover the Black Forest. After two hours we arrived in Freiburg and took a quick stop. We then headed out of the Black Forest and toward the Bodensee.

The Bodensee (aka Lake Copnstance), is the third largest fresh water lake in Europe. It is bordered by Germany, Austria and Switzerland. We took route 31 all the way from Freiburg toward Friedrichshafen. At the lake's edge we stopped and took in the view. It was beautiful although the weather has been cloudy the entire day. The countryside has been absolutely LUSH green with orchards and vineyards appearing throughout the trip. The south of Germany is absolutely beautiful. There are only so many things to see when on a train, but being able to freely take roads, get lost in a countryside and view a multitude of magnificent views at different vantage points/elevations was well worth the rental cost.

We follow route 31 all the way down to Lindau from Friedrichshafen and took the A96 straight back to Munich. The south has a large sky, you could see great distances in all directions; off in the distance, areas rainfall, others sun shine. There were wind turbine topped hills that had forming clouds, shrowding the silent blades in a partial fog. There were many large bridges traversing valleys and many more farms and villiages in the countryside. I had been driving for 9 hours, so I decided to pull off and take a nap. Then another hour into Munich. Finally arrived, another epic adventure to add toward the end of this chapter.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The weeks are flying by. This past weekend, two other IEP students visited Munich and wanted to see a couple things before wrapping up their year abroad. We did all the inner city stuff like normal, then also went to the Deutsches Museum. I could easily get lost in there and I'd be ok with that. It showcased all different levels of technology and science. It also had an assortment of antique musical instruments and a planetarium. Total (for student) it was only 3€, additional 2€ for the 25 minute planitarium show. Worth it in every sense.

There was a Sommerfest im Olympiapark which was neat. It was like a small carnival with booths to buy stuff from, some rides here and there. Overall great atmosphere for the warm weather. There was a ferris wheel and other cool games for prizes.

Sunday I went once more to the Zugspitze as it was their first times. It was a bit cloudy but the view was still fantastic. Overall decent weather this whole weekend.

I look forward to this coming weekend. There is a chance I'll be doing the RingTaxi, but also I have booked a prepped Suzuki Swift with Rollcage, race tires, race brakes, and bucket seats. I'll be doing 6 laps of my own at the worlds most famous race track.

so excited!