BRASELTON, Ga. — On most days, Nate Drake spends his time changing oil, doing brake flushes and diagnosing trouble codes at Cincinnati Mini, in Ohio.
But on a cool October afternoon 50 miles north of Atlanta, the service technician worked shoulder to shoulder with race team members swapping axles, replacing radiators and changing tires as they prepped a trio of Mini Hardtops ahead of start time.
"Last night, I had my head laying in a puddle of transmission fluid while I was working on a car," Drake said. "I don't know what that is," he said, pointing to a rash on his arm, "but I broke out there, so apparently that was a chemical I shouldn't have gotten on me."
Drake is part of a program that gives Mini dealership techs an opportunity to crew with the Mini John Cooper Works Racing Team in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
As the industry finds it hard to retain technicians, the program offers dealers a chance to reward top performers with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Since the program launched in 2014, 60 Mini dealerships have sent about 250 techs through the program.
"As a car company, the reason you go racing is to sell cars," said Zdravko Miric, a Mini technical training manager. "But there's so many other things you can do with a motorsport program that help the other business units."