Mike Renner and his BMW Ring Taxi
Have you been at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix races in Schenley Park and seen a new BMW skidding sideways on the track between races and wondered exactly what was happening? It’s Mike Renner in his BMW Ring Taxi – as in Nürburgring – one of the world’s most famous tracks.
In the latter half of the last decade, race driver Sabine Schmitz gained lots of notoriety in Germany by offering very fast rides to BMW guests at the Nürburgring. Schmitz’s BMW M5 was known as the “Ring Taxi”. Of course, a ride in Schmitz’s Ring Taxi was a bit more exciting than a typical New York City cab ride.
BMW was the last marque of the year in 2009. That year, the BMW CCA Allegheny Chapter hatched a plan to bring a similar experience to Schenley Park. The Chapter extended an invitation to Mike Renner, an instructor at the BMW Performance Center, to provide a few charity laps during the 2009 PVGP. Mike quickly accepted the invitation, and to the Chapter’s surprise, Mike indicated that the BMW Performance Center just happened to have an M5 wrapped in “Ring Taxi” livery sitting at the South Carolina school. As a bonus, Mike graciously offered to donate a fully paid 2-day driver’s school for the Chapter to give away as part of the PVGP fundraising efforts.
During that first year, the Chapter did not charge for charity rides but both Mike and those who had a chance to get in his car had a great time. Mike has a natural way of making guests feel special. Mike and the Ring Taxi were a huge success at the 2009 PVGP.
The club invited Mike back again in 2011 when 5-series cars were featured in the BMW corral. The M5 Ring Taxi was a natural fit and the success of Mike’s efforts grew. The Chapter discovered that guests would gladly pay for a ride with Mike and the combined efforts resulted in an increased donation for the charities the second year. Since then, Mike has been back every year and his charity laps have become one of the most talked-about events at the PVGP. Although the original Ring Taxi has since been retired, Mike always brings a newly released performance car or even a pre-production car each year which generates extra excitement among the BMW enthusiasts.
In addition to offering charity rides at lunchtime, Mike now also runs laps in between races and has continued to donate the 2-day M School Package at the BMW Performance Center, as well as various auction gifts and other raffle prizes which last year resulted in over $6,000 for the charities. To date, the Chapter has raised over $25,000 through Mike’s efforts. Mike has truly embraced the spirit of the PVGP. He often talks about the PVGP at other venues across the country.
In light of all he has done for the PVGP, we wanted to share a little bit more about this special volunteer. We caught up with Mike during this year’s One Lap of America event which stopped at Pitt Race in early May. As always Mike was willing to share a few moments of his time before jumping into his BMW and turning fast laps. The event was Mike’s 8th One Lap event. Mike was co-driving a new Performance Center M2 with Steve Maguire. After their run at Pitt Race, Mike and Steve were off to Palmer, MA, 554 miles distant for the next track event. For the record, the team finished 10th overall in this year’s event against much more powerful cars. Mike’s people-oriented personality comes through as he says the best thing about the weeklong One-Lap event is the time he gets to spend with friends.
Mike was a successful businessman with an interest for racing. For many years, he raced sports cars, GT cars, and sports racers in SCCA National competition. He was also a driving instructor for various car clubs. While the BMW Performance Center was under construction in South Carolina, Mike drove into the facility one day and introduced himself as a racer, driving instructor and public relations specialist. Mike was soon hired as a part-time instructor at the facility. Mike says his wife always knew the days he was working at the track due to the huge smile on his face at sunrise. After three years of part-time work, Mike sold his business and became a full-time driving instructor.
Although it may look like Mike’s car is out of control each time he passes turn 13 as the car drifts sideways, Mike is always in control. That’s because Mike practices the skills he displays at Schenley Park almost daily and he teaches advanced car control skills for a living. When asked if we all could learn to drive like he does, Mike said: “The BMW Performance Center has something for everyone who wants to learn about driving, from teen driving courses to adult car control clinics, enthusiast driving courses, one and two-day M-Schools, and advanced M-schools for the more experienced drivers.”
The PVGP is one of Mike’s favorite events. He said: “I love coming to the PVGP because of the unique nature of the event. The city does such a great job making the event happen. Everyone involved is incredibly friendly and welcoming. The PVGP organizers do a great job of making things fun and unique, and the Allegheny Chapter does a great job with its corral.”
Due to the tremendous capabilities of the new BMW M cars, Mike is able to give a thrilling but safe ride to those lucky enough to get a seat in his car. Everyone who gets out after a lap has an ear-to-ear grin. This year the club is asking $50 per seat for a ride with Mike. To learn more about how you too can experience the PVGP from the other side of the fence and possibly enjoy the best ride in the park, head to the BMW tent on German Hill, come to Turn 15 at lunchtime Saturday where Charity Rides are staged, or stop in at the MINI Track Rides Tent at the top of Serpentine Drive.
We thank Mike for being such a wonderful ambassador for BMW, the BMW CCA, and most importantly, the PVGP.
The Allegheny Chapter BMW CCA is a long-time supporter of the PVGP. The Chapter takes pride in its fundraising efforts as well as bringing innovation and excitement to its annual activities at the PVGP. Through 2020, the club has raised an incredible $260,000 for the PVGP charities! The Allegheny Chapter, together with the national BMW CCA, the four Pittsburgh BMW dealers, and BMW Performance Driving School have raised an astounding $435,000 for the Grand Prix charities!
The Chapter’s annual corral at Schenley is a “must-do” event on the national BMW club calendar and the corral has gained a reputation for annually featuring different models made by BMW. In addition to the cars, the Allegheny Chapter has many other happenings in and around their hospitality tent. Come over to the BMW corral overlooking turn 13 to see a full range of vintage and modern machinery, say hello to our sponsors, or talk to club members about their cars and experiences.
BMW Performance Center’s Ring-Taxi
Mike Renner has been a teacher for the better part of three decades, sharpening the on-track skills of everyone from FBI agents to Secret Service members. In 1999—the opening year of the BMW Performance Center—Mike became a certified instructor, leveraging 28 years of active and successful racing to cultivate his students. Each July he brings the BMW M5 Ring-Taxi to Schenley Park to take spectators for a lap of the track between races. Not only is it an incredible thrill, it also raises thousands of dollars for our charities and excites the crowd as Mike gets the car sideways in several turns.
BMW magazine Roundel editor Satch Carlson visited the PVGP in 2015 and a glowing review for our old city. Satch is also a columnist for Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car, and well known as a former columnist for AutoWeek
Allegheny Chapter events are open to all years and models of the marque. The club hosts tours, social gatherings, and autocross. If you have an interest in joining, please stop by the tent or visit the club online at alleghenybmwcca.org.
BMW Club Racing with the PVGP
BMW CCA Club Racing has been a part of the PVGP since 1998 when BMW was Marque of the Year and 35 BMW 2002s buzzed through Schenley Park. It was one of the most dramatic weekends of racing in our history!
When the PVGP added the Historics at Pitt Race Complex in 2004 BMW CCA Club Racing was there with their own race group, contributing to the racing excitement and our charities!
Club Racing sanctions a class for almost any BMW ever converted to a race car. Club Racing Drivers chase a national championship determined by a points system. Each year, Club Racing designates four national events across the country where points are doubled. In recognition of the grand opening of the Pitt Race South Track, the Grand Prix’s Historics have been designated a national race.
Although it is a competitive series involving a national championship, drivers in the series are recognized for their sportsmanship and shared passion for getting the most out of their BMWs.
Drivers love coming to this event due to the hospitality they are shown by the BMW CCA’s Allegheny Chapter. Stop by the Allegheny Chapter’s BMW car corral to say hello to the drivers, chapter members, and volunteers.
In January of 2016, the Allegheny Chapter was recognized as the 2015 International Club of the Year Award. Congratulations,, the award is well deserved!