The New Jersey July Summit Point race is named after Geoff Atkinson. In the context of BMWCCA Club Racing, Geoff is the standard that we should all aspire to. I don’t recall Geoff not smiling at the racetrack. I don’t recall Geoff not smiling very often at all. Geoff, his wife Jebb and their dog Maggie were a staple at New Jersey Chapter events and BMW CCA Club Races all over the East Coast. The familiar black GMC dually and black trailer made their way to Roebling, Summit, VIR, Mosport, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and everywhere between.
Geoff and I met in 2000 at a cold November Limerock track day when his ever evolving E30 M3 was its original Diamantschwartz. At the time, it was what track day E30 M3 dreams were made of. We clicked immediately, he and I were in constant contact in the early days of email, we both preferred black cars and liked many of the same things. Geoff was the first actual person I met who also read Racecar Engineering.
On the track, Geoff was one of the fastest, butter-smooth and with unmatched car control. If it rained, he’d likely be at the front of the field overall, he liked nothing better than a rain race. He and Mark Lounsbury had epic battles in IP for a few years. It was fierce competition with a smile and handshake at the finish. He was raw, natural talent. If you look at his last race performance at NHMS I don’t think too many people have ever driven a BMW faster around that place, and if they have, certainly with a much higher level of preparation.
Geoff largely built his own cars. Engines, roll cages and welding were farmed out to trusted sources but he turned every nut and bolt. Wiring was his specialty; I swear he had the E30 M3 and E36 M3 wiring pin-outs in his head. Geoff always presented a clean car that was built with foresight, style and attention to detail. Good enough was never an option for Geoff, always the best solution available. His IP 52 is still a benchmark today.
Geoff likely cared about you making your race more than he cared about his own. He ran out of fuel a few times while racing. He’d be so involved in helping someone else that fuel was overlooked. It quickly became nearly the first thing that happened when the car came off track. If someone broke or there was an incident, racer or DS student, he would always be there to lend a hand or help save a weekend. There were countless cars that found their way to Geoff when kill-switches didn’t work or other small problems arose that would halt a driver’s participation.
My favorite BMW CCA Club Racing memory with Geoff was O’Fest 2012 at Mid-Ohio. As planned, we arrived at nearly the same time and were directed to park in the center of the paddock. A little island to ourselves, in everyone’s way! Geoff, Jebb, my Dad and I had an awesome weekend, the results didn’t really show it but we had some serious fun, stories, beverages and camaraderie. Geoff and Jeff Caldwell shared Jeff’s SE30 in the enduro. In mixed starting conditions Geoff told Jeff to ‘Just do his best’. Geoff hopped in for his stint and went faster than Jeff had ever driven the car on one of his first flying laps. Just having some fun and doing his best.
Geoff was the friend who always answered a call but more importantly he was the one who would make your phone ring. On my work travels logging miles to wherever, if the phone rang it was likely Geoff, we never had a short conversation and we talked about absolutely everything under the sun. I can say there were many of us who Geoff would call. ‘Hey! I haven’t talked to you for a while.’ For me, it always came at the right time.
I appreciate BMW CCA Club Racing carrying Geoff’s legacy forward with the Summit Point Memorial Race. The venue is fitting, an old-school track that is pretty fast, rewards a proper race driver and has some risky bits. I try to carry Geoff forward in the things I do every day. It’s all pretty simple, smile a lot, always be willing to help, enjoy the rain, remember that the phone rings both ways and when all else fails, just do your best.