Chapter 205        September 2012

Nick Got Twins ! ! ! !

( THIS UPDATE from Nick, Ranger-autocrosser turned camaro-racer turned BMW-owner!)

February 2012, I posted an ad to sell the race car (or “car that I race”…if you get the reference). May 2012 it sold to a very happy new owner who will keep it doing what it should be doing. Trailer gone, truck gone, and now a tiny BMW sits in my garage as my daily driver. A 2009 135i. Twin turbos, y’all.

I’ve entered in to a performance driving event with almost every vehicle I’ve owned, even including autocrossing two different Ford Rangers. Yeah, Ford Rangers. So the odds were likely that I would do something with this new purchase. And it didn’t take long for the modifications to start piling on. Buy an exhaust, an intake, an intercooler, Konis, camber plates, and a handheld tuner. I am taking a wild-a** guess here that the car was putting down around 320hp, based on similarly modified cars’ dyno sheets I had seen. The handheld tuners add crazy power because of the turbo motor. There have also been a lot of reports of these cars overheating on track days too.

The original plan was to enter a BMW club HPDE event in late October with Cody as my first event, which we will still do. But when Costas said he was going to TWS to attend the NARRA event with his lone Camaro, it peaked my interest. They, too, have a DE run group. And I love Texas World Speedway. In that group no one was going for fast time of day, or going wheel to wheel, so it would be a good way to get to know the car. I registered for one day only so as not to beat on the car too much. I threw a set of Porterfield pads on it and headed to College Station early Saturday morning to meet up with the rest of the hooligans. 

I got buckled up to go out for my first session. As I was waiting on grid, someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I would take a passenger. I told him sure, and his friend hopped in. He was an eager new BMW owner with a 3-series of the same twin-turbo ilk as my car, and wanted to see how the cars did on track. We headed out, and the car took off like a rocket. It was great to get to stretch it out for longer than the time it takes to merge on a freeway. As we came around on the third lap, by the time we got on to the back straight, the oil temp had risen to an area I didn’t like, and the car displayed a check engine light. I limped it back to the paddock, and told the passenger I would take him out on track again when I figure this out. It wasn’t extremely hot outside, but knowing the horrors of the stories I had read on the intarweb (where everything is 100% accurate), I was guessing I was just another statistic.

I pulled out the laptop…wait, what? Yeah, I should preface this. My former track car, the 1992 camaro was fairly simple. It was fuel injected and all, but it wasn’t that hard to figure out. This car has about a billion more wires and electronically-controlled systems in it, so I went halfsies on a very capable scan tool that will read almost anything the car is doing. I found the code as a cylinder misfire, which I remembered reading was an issue with tuned cars, I think. Either way, it was suggested I check the plugs and coil packs for anything odd. Luckily Gary was around and helped me remove the sections of plastic coverings that impede your access to the coil packs and plugs. Pulled everything, it all looked good. So I decided to do what I didn’t want to do, and remove the tune from the car. Oh extra boost and horsepower, I will miss thee. Tune, gone. CEL’s, reset. Taking a BMW out on track, take 2! 


What. A. Difference. I ran the 30- minute session with no issues. The car was superb. The oil temp stayed right where it should be, it turned in well (even on OE runflat tires!), the brakes were great, and the power “loss” from removing the tune wasn’t that noticeable. The car was very neutral handling. The Konis were set to 75% stiff, camber was at -2.0*, and the tires were set to what BMW recommended for high speed driving. I don't really know that I would tweak any of it. The tires had great even wear, and the car just turned so smoothly. I will admit I was not giving it 100%, because after all, it is my daily driver, and I don't want to put it in a wall by overdriving. I ran the entire track in 4th gear, except the front straight where I went to 5th. I could have zapped it down to 3rd on some sections, but you go right back to 4th so quickly, it didn't make sense to abuse the revs. The motor had enough torque to pull me around the track without constantly rowing gears. Since the car is a non-'M' model, it has no limited slip. It has an electronic nanny that aids traction, and I had no issues with the tires breaking loose (of course, I wasn't blippng to 3rd). Overall, the car's performance really made me happy. I came in with a big smile on my face. Lesson learned about tuning and too much boost. The additional horsepower was fun while it lasted, but I’ll take a zero-issue track day over a little fun zipping around town.

In between my run groups I was helping Paul with his car prep, as he was actually there to go for a fast time. Latch this, torque that, pour in some gas gas gas to the tank, the usual. Gary and I broke away to grab some track burgers for lunch, and it was getting close to my third session coming up. I found my former passenger and offered him another ride around the track, as I was very confident the car could handle the abuse now. He was thrilled! We buckled in and headed out. Once again, the car did everything I asked of it. I had a blast driving it, and he told me after he had a blast riding along. I had a small amount of brake fade towards the end of the session, and my initial thought is the BMW fluid isn't up to par for track days. It was freshly changed in May, but I think I will be swapping in some good Motul or Castrol before we head to Cresson.

It was great to get my fix of driving on a track, as I hadn’t been around a track for a while, since I had sold the race car a few months back. This car proved to be a great track toy and will serve me well when I feel the need to do it again.

When our day ended, we headed to Nevermore, and Costas set up his scales for me to get a weight reading on my car. 

I jacked the car up, nice and tidy, laid over many a wood block set down on the floor. Put in neutral, started rolling, rolling forward till we could roll it no more. ‘That should do it’, Paul muttered, ‘read the scales and see the score – it will show you the total weight and more.’

Not bad !

Sunday rolled along, and I wasn’t driving that day, so I focused on helping out Paul with Scratcher. He busted off his quick times in the morning and managed to take 1st in his class again to make it a double win for the weekend. If you haven’t read his update yet, then that was a spoiler. Also Bruce Willis is dead, only the kid can see him. 

If you didn’t know, Paul’s car has a passenger seat. I had never ridden in it. He offered, and I accepted. No better track in Texas to experience the car than TWS. I test fit myself first to make sure I could fit the seat, and I could. It was on! We belted in and Paul fired it up. We agreed on the Team America secret signal if anything went wrong. Let me tell you what. It was a hoot and a half! Two hoots, even! I knew from his data how fast he was going certain parts of the track, and it was impressive. But even more impressive was how quickly the car would get TO those speeds. Inside Scratcher, behind the dash, you can see the throttle linkage setup where it goes through the firewall. And you can see this clearly from the passenger seat. So aside from the actual ride, looking over during a lap and being able to see how much throttle he is using and where is really cool, from a technical standpoint. I got out with another big smile on my face. Great end to a great weekend!


 (Huge thanks for the crewing help, and glad the tineh hawtness did so well on track!!! ~ Costas)