Christina Lam: Ascending the Jedi Ladder

We’ve all seen it happen before: A new racer gets totally submerged in motorsports, only to burn out soon after. That hasn’t been the case with Christina Lam, the relative newcomer we featured on the cover of our December 2016 issue. At the time, she was making the jump from NASA track events to their road racing program.

Lam doesn’t come from a car background. A random opportunity to drive the Nürburgring while visiting a friend in Germany planted the bug to go autocrossing once she got back home in the States. And that led to the track events, for which she purchased an E36-chassis BMW M3.

We followed up with Christina early in 2017. At the time, she had teamed up with Hi-Speed Motorsports to turn the M3 into a true race car: MCS dampers, 18×10-inch Apex wheels wrapped with Hoosier tires, spherical bearings throughout APR wing front splitter and more.

“The doors and hood were all skinned, and with a thinned wiring harness the car is just 2700 pounds, down from 3000 pounds,” she reports. “The car was a completely different beast when I drove it for the first time. After driving the first few laps, I brought the car back into the paddock and just sat there. It took a few minutes for my brain to catch up with how awesome my car was.”

By the end of that day, though, the engine dropped a valve. “After all the problems that motor gave me, there was no lost love between us when I hit ‘Buy It Now’ that night on a new-to-me S52,” she says. “It was an expensive purchase before I even got to my first race weekend, but I was determined to have the car ready for the first race.”

The updated M3 engine performed well all season, she reports, and allowed her to make the season’s big show, the NASA Championships at Sebring. “I knew in late 2016 that I wanted to race my M3 at Sebring for NASA Championships so I tried to get as much seat time there as I could before that,” she says. “I went down to Sebring twice in January 2017: Once to instruct with NASA Florida and get some seat time in a friend’s Spec E30, and the second was to race at PBOC’s night enduro with my all-women’s team. Being familiar and comfortable with the track was some of the best preparation I did for NASA championships.”

Once at Sebring for the NASA Championships, during one of her qualifying races she also got to experience something new: car-to-car contact. “I saw [the other driver] start to rotate back on track and chose to go in front of him,” she reports. “Almost missed him, but I clipped the front corner of his car. I just remember it being super loud and my car had popped into the air for a second. The contact made me spin in the grass and I watched as the rest of the field zoomed by a few inches from my car.”

The damage wasn’t as bad as Christina feared: The M3 emerged with a bent wheel, a broken splitter and some other superficial scuffs. The other driver lost a headlight and his steering rack.

“He apologized as we shook hands, and I had no hard feelings about the contact. In the end, that is just racing. All you can do is make the best of it and keep pushing forward.

“It does put into perspective how easily and quickly your whole race weekend can be finished. For a brief moment during the contact, I thought for sure that I would be packing up and heading home early. We both finished on the podium for Sunday’s championship race. He finished P2 in GTS3, and I finished P3 in GTS2.”

Christina and her M3 will be back on track for 2018, although she already has a new project in the works for next year: She recently scored a deal on an E46-chassis M3 and the prep work has begun. This one, she adds, will be built to crossover into SCCA and BMW CCA. Updates can be found at youtube.com/clicketyclam0.

Christina's Wisdom for the Up-and-Coming Racer

In just a few short years Christina Lam has gone from a relative newcomer to a rather seasoned racer. She offered the following advice for those looking to make the jump:

“Never stop learning. Set goals and make a plan on how to achieve them. Be willing to try something new whether that’s a new technique, approach to a corner, or a new track. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and critique on your driving.

“And always remember to have fun! It is easy to get caught up in a bad weekend or car troubles. In the end we are all out here to have fun with our friends and doing something we love with the best community in the world.”

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Comments
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Oakheart
Oakheart
4/11/18 11:35 a.m.

Good for you for making your dream happen..

you go girl...

looking forward to more articles of your successes..

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/12/18 10:53 p.m.

Yeah, I'm sure we'll be checking in with Christina more in the future. She's good people. 

Baldr
Baldr
4/13/18 6:24 a.m.

She has fun with her friends alright. At last years NASA Fall Finale at Summit Point, she was made the Time Trials Director. She likes her friends in the paddock so much she decided to Facebook Message them and inform them when the post-session mandatory weigh-in would be. I was crewing for a friend of mine that runs TT, neither of us got that message??

I understand that this is just amateur weekend racing but I view it as highly unprofessional and immature. I had planned to complain to NASA but I'm sure it would fall on deaf ears. Fingers crossed the SCCA Time Trials gains momentum and we can forget NASA-MA and all their 'rising superstars'.

christinaylam
christinaylam New Reader
4/16/18 10:26 a.m.

In reply to Baldr :

Hi! It sounds like there is a misunderstanding and I hope I can help clear that up. In running TT, I always want to make sure things are fair, so if you feel they are not, or that we can improve, please bring that up to myself or any NASA staff. We always look to run a professional and fair event.

For Fall Finale, we sent cars to impound every single TT session. The cars and classes we send to impound get decided while the TT session is out, so drivers and crew don't get any notice that they will be weighed. We do it based on which classes or drivers are putting down extra fast times during that current session.

I had to DQ several drivers that weekend for various reasons that weekend, and most of them are friends. I run the program by the book, so unfortunately many drivers/friends had times disqualified due to weight, illegal parts, or issues on track. There is no favoritism here as I have no skin in the game other than to make sure everybody has a fair chance and a fun time. It sounds like both you and your driver did not enjoy your time at our November event, for which I apologize. I'd like to make things right.

I invite you both to come sit with me in the timing tower this weekend at Summit to see the inner workings of how we run the TT program. We want the process to be transparent to drivers and prospective TTers so they know the program is fair.

getfast
getfast Reader
4/16/18 10:34 a.m.

Also next time please tell someone in charge when you're at an event and have a concern. wink

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