miatame
miatame HalfDork
1/22/09 10:59 a.m.
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Thanks for all your great columns on the E30 Scott. We were excited to have you drive our E30 in the '07 Challenge and we've since been autocrossing it regularly at local events without major issue. These things are tanks...light-footed tanks!

Can't wait to see your next project.

-Jeff

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Scott Lear
Scott Lear
1/22/09 5:22 p.m.

With our corner weights reset and our hopes high, we loaded Project Spec E30 onto our Trailer World rig and once again headed north for the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Our target was the NASA Championships, held September 11-14, 2008. We were looking to redeem our subpar performance from a year earlier, when dragging brakes kept us toiling in the paddock.

Our target for the weekend was a top-10 finish, although given the talent pool in Spec E30, that was an optimistic goal. The forecast called for heavy rain, so we bought a set of full tread depth Toyo Proxes R888 tires from The Tire Shoppe. It was a wise purchase, since most of our sessions on Friday and Saturday were positively drenched. Between the fresh tires and functional ABS, we had no problem staying on track.

Our hearts stopped on Friday when the dragging brake issue seemed to return, but it was easily diagnosed as a one-sided problem—just the right rear was acting up. That meant the issue was at least different from the hydraulic headache we faced earlier. Turns out one of our remanufacturered calipers in the rear was binding up.

Fellow racer Ed Davidson earned hero status in our eyes when he offered to let us use one of his calipers for the rest of the weekend; Davidson had an unfortunate crash in the wet on day one, but as a result his brakes were available for our use. They did the trick, and the issue did not resurface. We finished 11th out of 18 cars in the wet on Friday.

When the rain left, the wind came. As a result, the track dried quickly by midday on Saturday. In Saturday's qualifying race, we were hampered slightly by a dying battery, turning a 1:48.471 to winner Michael Skeen's 1:44.685. Based on the result of the two qualifying races, we would start Sunday's Championship race in 15th position on the grid. Ed Davidson came to our rescue again by letting us borrow his battery for the race.

It's worth noting that apart from the brake snag and the failed battery, our Spec E30 was performing beautifully despite the intense Championship schedule. We checked tire pressures, monitored fluids and rotated tires, but we were very happy to be dealing with a properly running BMW.

We got off to a somewhat leisurely start in the Championship race, feeling that a bit of caution early on was a decent policy for the long, 40-minute race session. As the race wore on, the BMW was consistent and predictable, and though we weren't the fastest car on the circuit, we made a few on-track passes and found ourselves gaining positions as other racers retired with mechanical problems or off-course excursions.

During several laps of full-course caution, we took stock of our situation. The temperatures were well under control, aided by our electric fan. The brakes were performing as intended, there were no odd noises, and we were feeling pretty good about life. We'd lost track of how many positions we picked up, and when the course went green again we saw another Spec E30 or two pull into the pits.

When the checkered flag flew, we rushed to load the car onto the trailer just as a massive gust of wind pushed over anything that wasn't bolted down; that included the majority of the portable toilets in the vicinity. We didn't even get a chance to check the final results until we were on the road home and they'd been posted online. We finished in eighth place out of 19 cars, a result we were fairly proud of. Considering our Spec E30's long history of maintenance issues, we were amused by the fact that most of our gained positions were the result of reliability on track.

With the car in good working order, it was time to bid farewell to Project Spec E30. After all, a ready-to-go race car is far less interesting from a magazine editorial standpoint than one that still needs to be built. Our BMW has a happy new owner, and it should see a fairly full 2009 race schedule with him at the wheel. We're going to miss this one: It was a handful at times, but Project Spec E30 was a fun-to-drive race car that put us in the heat of many on-track battles and taught us a lot about race craft.

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