Jun 26, 2008 update to the BMW 325is project car

The Return to HyperFest

Our trusty Nissan Pathfinder and Trailer World rig carried us 2200 miles round trip with ease.
This was our first run on the now-mandatory Toyo Proxes R888 tires; Vilven Tire handled the shaving duties, and they seem to like a setup that's similiar to the RA-1.
Since we've got to run a full tank to avoid fuel starvation, our ballast-a-rific spare tire was overkill for 20-minute sprints.
Thanks to Euroimage.us for the on-track photos.
Valley Dyno Service confirmed that our fuel tank repair found our lost horsepower.
This is what happens when a Porsche 944 uses your rear quarter panel Gran Turismo 4 style to make the corner.

It all went bad when a Porsche 944 carried too much speed into Turn 3 and locked up his front tires.

Exactly one year ago our, Project Spec E30 went from slowish to completely slow and broken. During the NASA HyperFest at Summit Point in West Virginia in 2007, our rear brakes locked up in Turn 5 and stayed that way. The problem was intermittent, getting worse as temperatures rose and then going away as the car cooled. It plagued the car for several months before we finally replaced the ABS pump unit and the master cylinder; it hasn’t returned this year since the fix. Also, our fuel tank fix seemed to have put some punch back in our engine.

In fact, the BMW performed quite well last month at Roebling Road, netting us a 10th-place finish out of nearly 30 cars, and that was running on aged Toyo Proxes RA-1s. With the new Proxes R888 mandatory as of early June, we mounted up our new shoes and aimed the Nissan Pathfinder towards Summit Point with the Spec E30 in tow.

We’d be competing against about a dozen other Spec E30s in the Autobahn group, so we set our optimistic goal for a top-five finish. HyperFest is a huge event and the paddock at Summit Point was overflowing; fortunately, our friends at King Rat Motorsports had a space for our car and more hospitality than we knew what to do with. (Our huge thanks to Alex and Kim Ratcliffe for their help and support over the weekend.)

In Saturday qualifying, we didn’t find any particularly clean laps, but we still managed a 1:34.303, which is faster than we went all last year. We started ninth out of 13 cars, and we were looking forward to a great race with the two Spec E30s in front of us, but a 944 Cup car rolled a couple laps into the Saturday race and the red flag came out. A few Porsches ended up between us and the two BMWs we were chasing, so there wasn’t much racing to be had in the few green laps before the checkered flag flew. Most of the race was spent cruising under yellow flag conditions and trying to keep the car from overheating; we obviously needed to add an electric fan to the car, as no fan is only suitable at race speeds. We did have some fun dicing with NASA Timing and Scoring guy James Packer in his new Spec 3 BMW E36 race car. Our quickest lap of the race was a 1:33.747, and we finished eighth, right where we started on track—plus one position up due to a disqualification ahead of us.

The Toyo Proxes R888s felt much better than our very old RA-1s did at Roebling, and Alex of King Rat helped us fine-tune our pressures with a pyrometer after each session. We ended up aiming for 38 to 39 psi hot pressure, though it looks like we need to take a look at our camber before Championships to really optimize grip.

Before Sunday qualifying, we topped off the fuel tank to avoid the fuel starvation we encountered at Roebling, then ran our car over to the track scales. We were at 2820 with the full tank of gas; there was no way we were going to burn 70 pounds of fuel in qualifying and a sprint race. We removed the 75-pound Chromepocalypse spare tire and put a standard spare in the trunk, then weighed the car again: 2781 pounds. That gave us 31 pounds (about 4.5 gallons) to burn and still remain legal to the minimum weight.

On Sunday we concentrated on pushing harder in Turn 10, and it payed off with a fast lap of 1:32.858. While this was still three seconds off the front-runners, it was our personal best so far at Summit in the car. Unfortunately, the rest of the field sped up, too, and we qualified tenth. Reigning champion and NASA Mid-Atlantic director Chris Cobetto was also back in the mix after doing a killer job organizing and running the HyperFest activities on Saturday.

After qualifying, we headed over to the Valley Dyno Service portable Dynojet dynamometer in the infield for a pop inspection. It turns out our gut feeling about the repaired fuel system was correct; instead of 136 horsepower at the wheels, we had 151 horsepower and 143 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s still not the most powerful car in the field, but at least we’re in the neighborhood. (The top power guys are near 160 wheel horsepower.) The dyno is another place we really needed a fan on the radiator, though.

Sunday’s race was a doozy. From our 10th-place starting position, we were strong right out the gate, moving up to fifth place by the exit of Turn 1; ABS is a good friend to have in such situations, so we’re glad we kept it on the car. Naturally, our start put us ahead of a few guys who were lapping more quickly, and it didn’t take long for Carter Hunt and Michael Trent to find their way back around. Sadly, Trent spun as he tracked out of Turn 3, and the car bit to the inside, sending him backward into the wall at a pretty high rate of speed. Fortunately, Trent is okay, but his car was pretty chewed up.

A double yellow came out for a few laps as Trent’s car was removed from the scene of the accident. Hunt retired before the green flew again, so we were back in the fifth spot. There were scores of Porsches on track, and in the process of hunting down fourth and trying to defend fifth, we were doing lots of traffic management as faster racers went by.

It all went bad when a Porsche 944 carried too much speed into Turn 3 and locked up its front tires. The Porsche skidded and bashed into our left rear quarter panel, sending us spinning off track. Fortunately the damage was focused on the sheet metal; it should bang out fairly easily. Unfortunately, our top-five finish was not to be, and we limped the car to a last-place finish, unsure of the extent of the damage.

We went to fill out an incident report after the race, but there were no 944 Cup drivers in line waiting to report contact with our Spec E30. Fortunately, the two possible culprits were visible on our in-car video, which we’d taken with a GoPro Motorsports Hero mini-camera. After the NASA incident review officials saw the numbers, they put out a call on the loudspeaker. Eventually the offending driver came to the tower with his form and his own in-car video.

We each gave our case and showed our videos, and based on the evidence at hand, NASA officials Jim “Grumpy” Politi and Jim Johnson decided to consider the contact a racing incident; as the lead car, I received one penalty point on my license. As the driver at fault, the Porsche driver got one point and was moved behind me in the standings. Grumpy explained the reason why we each got a point: “If you get to 10 points one point at a time, we know there’s something more going on.” Sounds fair to us.

At right above, you’ll see a link to a highlight reel of our in-car video, plus a clip taken by Ken Stadt that he put up on the 944 Cup forums. We were a bit surprised to see how locked up the 944 Cup guy was before the impact and how hard he hit us; these Spec E30s are pretty robust cars.

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