The first race weekend for Spec E46 in the Pacific Northwest was an overwhelming success. The two Spec E46 racecars finishing first and second overall and the cars were as enjoyable to drive as everyone had hoped. The journey to this point, however, wasn’t quite as simple and there were times when we didn’t even think it was going to happen. Here is how it went down…
BimmerWorld built our (Dan Rogers and my) Spec E46. As expected, the build quality was of the highest standards and I think everyone saw my incessant posts about the build. We’d scheduled a car pickup for cross-country shipment at least three weeks ahead of the race and everything was progressing nicely. For the few days before the pick up I’d been calling the shippers and making sure everything was planned “no need to worry, we’re all set” was the response and we went about our business. Then it all started to go a little bit awry.
The engine that James Clay had sourced for us to replace our 230k mile donor motor had compression issues in one (maybe two, I can’t remember) of the cylinders. James needed to source a new engine. This turned out not to be a big deal as the shipping company were radio silent days after the scheduled pick up day. We finally got a new engine in the car, still nothing from the shippers, and then we had some radiator issues. Apparently the radiator from an automatic E46 330i isn’t the same as a manual version so we to have that replaced at the last minute. Still not an issue as the shipping company, despite calling everyday for an update, was still having zero luck delivering on their promise.
Ten days before the car needed to be delivered we took drastic measures. After a long conversation with the shipping company, it turns out that there weren’t any carriers anywhere near Dublin, VA (where BimmerWorld is located) and there was no opportunity on the horizon. Thanks for telling us sooner, assholes! So, we agreed to move the car from Dublin, VA to Columbus, OH where it would be easily picked up the Wednesday week before the race (giving us exactly one week and one day) before it needed to be loaded for The Ridge. James’ team couriered the car to Columbus only to find that the shipping firm wasn’t expecting to pick up the car until Thursday (vs. Wednesday). At this point, we just weren’t surprised, just disappointed. So, one week shipping time was cutting it fine as it would have been out of one truck into another for shipment to The Ridge (giving no time for prep). Turns out that it only took them three days and by Sunday morning it was safely located at Advanced Auto Fabrication in Spokane WA, it’s new home for race season. Bloody nightmare. No fault on BimmerWorld’s part, they were amazing, but shipping companies are the worst!
Hank Moore, owner of Advanced Auto Fabrication, shipped the car out to The Ridge on the Thursday and we asked him to do a shake down on the Friday to scrub some tires, test setup etc. What he found is a key learning for everyone. Every time Hank exceeded 6,200 rpm for a prolonged period of time (like a straight away) the car would disable a cylinder. In our case it was cylinder six. Hank changed a few things, the coil, the plug, but found these had little effect. After putting Hank in touch with Andrew at BimmerWorld it turns out that it was a suspected ECU issue and a laptop, and equipment was shipped overnight from BimmerWorld to fix the issue. James Clay was able to remedy the problem by over-riding the ECU and telling it not to shut down the injector in that cylinder and then later, EPIC Software, the guys creating the spec ECU for the series, discovered that there was a minor misfire at 6,200rpm. On closer examination Hank and James discovered that the female spade on the injector harness needed tightening; an easy fix. James also experienced the same issue with his Spec E46 last week in their shakedown at VIR so anyone reading this should be prepared to give the wiring a good once over.
On Saturday, it rained all day and we experienced the car in very wet conditions. I was lucky enough to have 35mins straight, to empty the car’s tank before the race and to understand fuel burn, and I really needed to adapt my driving style. The chassis, once softened, is quite neutral and isn’t anything but a joy to drive, however, the challenge is driver inputs will make the car seem like a handful. All of the torque is delivered very low in the rev band so a gentle throttle application is needed otherwise you’ll have immediate oversteer (in the wet). The brakes are phenomenal and I found myself deepening my brake zones as the ABS allowed for shorter brake zones in the wet (or dry).
With the car shipped, the ECU issue fixed and all gremlins resolved, we got the car to a place where we could race. The sister Spec E46 also had its share of issues. Some challenges with fuel pickup and delivery were their issue, which, again were resolved on Saturday.
Clay started the race for us on Sunday and was, as expected, very good. He weathered the slick track on dry sticker tires and competed nose to tail with the other Spec E46 for the first hour or so. Then the cautions came out and strategy kicked in and we were separated. Dan Rogers and I cycled through, setting consistent lap times as we figured out the car, and then Clay got in for the final two hours with some 12s behind the #95 Spec E46 with both cars needed one fuel stop left. As luck would have it, a full course yellow fell just as the #95 was in the pits so Clay stayed out, gained a lap on our competition and when he pitted he came out at the back of the pack. On the restart Clay passed everyone but the other Spec E46 and they both (#95 driven by Chuck Hurley) put on a fantastic show ending the race first and second overall.
The key things we learned from this weekend were/are as follows;
- Watch the engine compression from one sourced from a salvage company.
- Don’t use the radiator that came with your car if you are doing auto to manual swap.
- Don’t rely on shipping companies unless you absolutely have to!
- Check your wiring harnesses, especially around the injectors.
- Soften the car up quite a bit in the wet and watch for power oversteer.
- The car will burn around 10 gallons an hour under race conditions.
- Watch oil pressure, the car burns a little bit of oil, so around hour 3 we saw warning lights.
Here is a video from the final few laps now on YouTube just incase you’d like to share.