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My request for a hot lap in the team's race car was met with a dare. Will asked if I thought I could handle a challenge out of my comfort zone: a day in the life of a Turner Girl. Not one to back down from a reasonable dare, I accepted, thinking, "How hard could it really be?" I had NO idea what I was getting myself into.
On race day I met Jay Baier, Turner's charming Marketing Director, who seems to have his own fan-base throughout the racing world. Jay escorted me to the paddock where the staff prepared for the race in and around the trailer, with their race car parked alongside under a protective tent. The race car truly took my breath away. Here are some of her drool-worthy specs:
- BMW M6 GT3
- 4.4 liter twin turbo v8 engine
- 575 BHP
- Weighs 2,800 pounds (about 1,500 pounds lighter than the street legal version)
- Entire body is carbon fiber, unlike the streetcar counterpart
- Brakes and suspension are completely unique to the race car
- Boasts AP Racing 6 piston front and 4 piston rear calipers with 13" wide BBS wheels all around (street version has 9" front and 10" rear wheels)
Surprisingly, the engine is the same exact engine used in the street car; the only difference is the race car has a dry sump oil system, which every race car required to have due to cornering and G-force.
Back to our friendly wager ... Jay introduced me to Amanda Paris and Holly Blasnek, beautiful ladies with long blonde hair, perfectly glossed lips and glowing skin: the Turner Girls. I quickly realized that Amanda and Holly were real models, with actual modeling experience, hired for a real modeling job. If I was to get this right, I'd have to be just as "modely." Feeling nervous, I trusted that I'd figure it out as we went along. That's when the uniform selection arrived in XXS or XS — model sizes. GASP!
Luckily, we found a size small uniform and the models helped push all of my curves into two layers of Spanx as masterfully a butcher stuffs a sausage. Amanda and Holly then miraculously slid the size small dress over my head and on my body. I threw on some black Prada heels and the signature Turner Girl aviator sunglasses and voila, we were ready! Still feeling like a kielbasa in stilettos I somehow pulled off the Turner Girl look when flanked with Holly and Amanda, the blonde bombshells, on each side. I took a deep breath as we walked out to a sea of fans waiting for the meet and greet with the drivers.
While the drivers signed posters, fans asked for pictures with the models. Meeting the female fans of all ages who were passionate about racing was especially heartwarming. After about 90 minutes, the drivers' autograph session ended and members of the BMW Car Club America came by for a private tour of the race car. Our "modely" services were no longer needed at the Turner Motorsport home base.
Next, Jay instructed the Turner Girls to walk the Grand Prix grounds while the team prepared to race. Emboldened by all the fun I was having with the real Turner Girl models, I decided to take a stroll with Amanda and Holly around the grounds to meet more fans. I used the opportunity to tell the beautiful little girls who asked for photos to follow their dreams, focus on working smart, and to keep their passion for driving alive. After an hour or so, my face literally hurt from smiling. (True story.)
Although the Turner Girl experience was more fun than I imagined, I missed the sound of uninhibited exhausts flying around the track and the smell of racing fuel wafting in the air. As Amanda and Holly continued their real model work, I left to carefully peel myself out of the Turner Girl dress, two layers of Spanx and back into my civilian clothes to head down to pit lane for some juicy race action.
The Turner Motorsport team went into the race knowing that their M6 wasn't ideal for the Long Beach Grand Prix track. After the qualifying round, Turner Motorsport was slated to start in16th position even though they planned to start no lower than 6th. But Don Salama the Team Strategist didn't break a sweat, as he's a veteran race car driver and the kind of man who always has an ace, or two, up his sleeve.
In fact, two key strategic decisions allowed the Turner Motorsport team to leapfrog from 16th to 7th position. First, around the 20-minute mark, Don decided to bring Bret Curtis, the team's amateur driver, in early for a tire stop and to top off fuel. Other teams didn't do that. Around 40-minute mark a lot of other teams decided to change tires, swap drivers and to top off fuel all at the same time. That's when Don decided to swap drivers. Jens Klingmann, the team's pro driver, took the wheel and the team in pursuit of an ambitious finish.
Jens did a great job driving on the track and entered the last corner of the last lap of the race slated to finish in the top 5. Tragically, the team ran into trouble just as they faced the finish line when Jens was taken out battling Acura and Lexus teams. Turner Motorsport came in 9th because of the wreck. A gut-wrenching result, given the points lost going into the next race at COTA. What's more, Turner Motorsport had to dish out tens of thousands of dollars to fix their race car due to another team's mishap, which took place during the last 30 seconds of a 100-minute race! Not cool, Lexus and Acura teams ... so not cool.
Notwithstanding the calamitous end to the race, I had a great day with the Turner Motorsport crew. It's clear that everyone on the team loves what they do, supports each other completely and has a great time. What was also clear is that it's definitely NOT easy being a Turner Girl! Amanda and Holly make it look effortless; but walking around in stilettos all day, smiling and sweating in a skin-tight dress while hugging random grand prix goers is not my cup of tea. Amanda and Holly were such great sports and did a wonderful job of including me, despite the fact that I felt more like their 6-foot tall bodyguard than one of the illustrious Turner Girls. So did I win the bet? I technically didn't last the entire day as a Turner Girl but I'd be surprised if someone would call that a loss.
The biggest surprise of the day came after the race was said and done. Although the team was definitely NOT happy with the finish, they handled the loss like true champions. Everyone kept their heads up and focused on the next race. What's more, Will invited me to finish the day with the Turner Motorsport team the same way they end their winning days ... with tons of smiles and a deluge of tacos and tequila.