When you build a new car, and you finally are about to hit the track, there are so many things that can go wrong. Or there are so many things that can go right.
Luckily last weekend, my experience was the latter. My Hi-Speed Motorsports built E46 M3 was ready to hit the track for the first time ever after a long winter build.
As I strapped in and fired her up, I noticed how different the car was to my old E36. There were a lot of doubts that went through my mind leading up to the weekend. Was I going to be overwhelmed by the power difference? Was I rushing things going into a race weekend with only a day of testing? I was nervous.
The forecast for Friday morning and afternoon was rainy. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of driving a new car in the rain. Luckily, the rain held out and I quickly brought the car to grid. First session, I was told by Hugh to just do a few easy laps. “Make sure nothing falls off”. Lol. Reassuring right? A few laps later, we checked over the car. Everything looked and felt good. Now it is time to get to work.
Second session was better. I wasn’t quite sure where the limiter was. Used to the 7k redline in the S52, I was short shifting without realizing how far off I was from 8200. Did a 1.19 around Summit. Not bad. At least I’m going faster than I did in my old car. My best in the E36 was a 1.21.7. I knew there was more grip in the new car. Got my time down to a low 1.19 by the third session before the rain came down.
Saturday morning gave us a session of practice. I warmed up my mind and car, with a few laps. In qualifying I brought it down to a 1.18. Sweet! Qualified P4. Hugh and Jonathan were in the 1.17 range so I still had some work to do but getting faster. I saw a black flag come out, pointed at me. Uh oh. Brought the car into pits. I was pulled aside and given a warning for blowing the sound limit. SCCA rules have a 103db sound limit and my car blew a 109 several times! Yikes. Thats loud. I lost my qualifying time for blowing the sound limit. Time to start my first race in the E46 from the back of the race group.
Starting from the back of the pack always makes for good race video. Of course I didn’t set up my new SmartyCam right and didn’t capture any of it. By Turn 3, I had made it back up to P4 and had a good view of the bumpers of Jonathan Vasquez, Hugh Stewart, and Joe Gaudette. Halfway through they started to gap me, and I got the dreaded sound warning at start finish. This forced me to lift for a large section of track into T1 where the sound meter was located. Needless to say this hurt my times for the rest of the race as I watched the top 3 drive away. I maintained a comfortable gap to P5 so I just stayed where I was, lifting for the sound meter for the remainder of the race.
After the race, Hugh and I ran out to NAPA where we bought a 4″ elbow and he quickly welded the piece onto my exhaust. This turned the exhaust the opposite direction of the sound meter, hopefully diffusing the sound before it got there. Nut and bolt everything, and then time for some rest.
Sunday’s race almost seemed like a wash. We woke up to rain pounding down on the track. Only a few cars were going out for their qualifying sessions. By the time our race group was called, the rain had stopped but the track was still damp. We upped our starting tire pressure by 2psi and gridded up. The first few laps were damp, but surprisingly more grip than we expected. Black flag all came out halfway through for a car on fire in T1. After cleanup, we took the green again for another 10 laps. I ended up with the same sound warning despite our efforts to turn the exhaust away from the sound meter. Had to settle for a P4 again.
Overall a really successful first weekend at the track. I’m happy with the times in the new car and my quick adjustment to the new build. It will be a busy season with the car with four race weekends in a row!