Not that fast, and only a little broken

Update by Scott Lear to the BMW 325is project car
Jun 27, 2007

Thanks to for the great on-track photo.

This was Scott’s first race weekend in a rear-wheel drive racecar, so there was a bit of a learning curve but the E30 was really very easy to drive at speed.

Project Spec E30 made its debut this past weekend at the NASA Mid-Atlantic Hyperfest at Summit Point in West Virginia. Viewed as a shakedown, it was a big success. Of course, once we hit the track we’re as eager to win as anyone, and that wasn’t in the cards for us this weekend.

This was Scott’s first race weekend in a rear-wheel drive racecar, so there was a bit of a learning curve but the E30 was really very easy to drive at speed. On the few instances where the tail came out it was because we were doing something at full throttle in second gear. It never got scary, and was generally easily corrected. We had one off during qualifying on Sunday when we tried to brake a little too late going into turn one, but it was a simple agricultural excursion under full control when the corner just wasn’t going to happen for the amount of grip available.

Our first-ever session in the car, Saturday practice, resulted in a 1:36.089 fastest lap. By comparison, Vic Hall turned a 1:28.951 in his Spec E30. Yowch.

Unfortunately, we seemed to be a bit down on power, particularly compared to the front runners. We’ll need to get our car to a dyno and try some of the allowed bolt-on modifications to bring our straight line speed up to par. You can only push the gas pedal so hard before Mr. Scott reports that the engines can give no more than that, captain.

With a hair more familiarity with the car on the course, we qualified as second faster with a 1:35.088 for Saturday’s race. The brakes were holding up beautifully, and they seemed to be the only area in which we had some advantage over a few of the other cars on course.

At their full tread depth, our spec Toyos were a little less spec than the rest. Shaved tires were all the rage in the paddock for dry weather, and our attempt to save some bucks by doing the shaving ourselves the old fashioned way wasn’t helping us in the traction department. Still, it’s always nice to have an excuse in your pocket. We also installed fresh spark plugs, as our BMW still seems to enjoy fouling the plugs. We used carb cleaner to clear up the idle air control valve, a possible culprit.

In Saturday’s race, following a rather jumbled starting lineup, we did a lot of mirror watching for faster 944 Turbos and much quicker cars that got gridded behind us for the rolling start. We turned a 1:35.476 and finished 16th out of 19 cars in our class.

Because of a fluid leak, we cut the power steering belt on Sunday. In theory this would free up a few ponies, and we were down to a 1:34.712 in practice on Sunday morning. With a certain level of trust in the car, we were pushing harder in some key turns.

We found another tenth in qualifying on Sunday by really pushing our braking zones. A 1:34.608 had us 14th out of the 15 Spec E30s in the session. Pole was a 1:29.536 by Jonathan Allen. Five seconds off the leader is better than seven seconds, but it’s still a damn lot of seconds over a single lap.

In Sunday’s race, things were going well enough; we’d picked up a few spots at the start and were trying to get close enough to a fellow Spec E30 for a pass while dealing with the lapping Sports Racers and 944 SuperCups. When braking hard into Turn 5 something went awry, and when we got back on the gas we had very poor acceleration. We pulled off line and tried figuring out what was going on.

The engine seemed properly connected to the throttle, was making the right noises and seemed to have a linear throttle, but full whomp felt like about 1/10th whomp. The parking brake had not mysteriously engaged. Nothing felt or sounded broken. We just didn’t have any get up and go. As we headed for the pits, the drag got worse, requiring a downshift to second to keep momentum. Something smelled hot, so we stopped by a fire extinguisher in the pits and asked a friendly bystander to confirm that we weren’t on fire. He said the rear brakes were smoking a lot, but no flames, so we decided to head for our paddock spot.

Getting to the paddock required all the thrust that first gear could muster. The rear brakes were clamped down hard. We parked, changed out of our driver’s suit, downed some water and went to see if we could figure out what was going on. On start-up, the car behaved normally, the rear brakes were fine and we were particularly confused. Also, we seem to have a wicked transmission fluid leak, so we’ll have to get dirty figuring that one out, too.

Our fastest race lap was a 1:34.613, pretty consistent with our qualifying time. Obviously, we’ve got some work to do in the power department, and we’ll have to chase down some braking demons. It wasn’t a record-shattering debut, but the Spec E30 enjoyed a good shakedown, revealed a few problems and still drove itself on to the trailer at the end of the weekend with no visible damage.

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