Join Date: May 2012
My Ride: -
Ok, here's some constructive criticism. The truth hurts so I hope you don't get offended.
First of all, "why would I train myself to drive a stock car and then mod further and then reteach myself to drive that car all over again with new mods" is not something that someone will SEE as wrong. It's something that's just flat out wrong. It's objectively, not subjectively, wrong. You won't learn anything useful in a 400hp car because you won't be able to get the most out of the car. And that's not mentioning that a car set up the way you ultimately want to have it is going to be overly expensive to maintain for absolutely no reason. You'll also lose drivability. You'll learn much quicker, have more fun, and will be safer in a stock-ish E46. I've been doing this in a 180hp car for 3 years and I still get scared. You won't learn unless you drive at a reasonably high level. And if you can't drive a 400hp car at a reasonably high level, y'ain't gon' learn shit. After three years, I'm simply not ready to even go up to an E46 M3, much less something with over 400 WHEEL horsepower. You haven't even driven on a racetrack.
Second, "my main goal is to make my car my own" is nothing more than an excuse for not knowing what you want to do with it. If you're going to spend this kind of money you need to have more of a concrete plan than "I'm going to do the things I like." You need a more concrete plan than that because "what you like" will vastly VASTLY VASTLY change over the course of your time on track. Even after your first day you'll realize lots of things that you view differently.
Third, there's no such thing as a "somewhat race setup." You either have a race car or you have a street car with upgraded suspension and brakes. (I'll get to interior safety equipment later). To tell you the truth, it doesn't even matter what kind of car you have because a car doesn't make you faster - the driver makes the car faster. Here's an example: I was at Watkins Glen about a year and a half ago when a gentleman showed up in a rented Hyundai and was running faster lap times than a bunch of E36 cars - he was certainly running faster laps than a bunch of beginners (one of them in one of those 500hp CTS-V things). And, I gotta tell ya, he was having way more fun. Driving a slow car fast and at the limit is much more fun than driving a fast car slowly. Here's one thing a powerful car can, however, do VERY FAST - put an inexperienced driver (AND HIS/HER INSTRUCTOR) into the wall. Don't ever forget that as a novice you're not only putting yourself in peril - you've also got another person on board.
I've put my car into a wall (luckily with 2 rows of tire barrier in front of it), head first (40mph at impact), with an instructor in the passenger seat. HEAD FIRST. I shouldn't have to tell you how I felt and still feel. Imagine the speed I would have been carrying into that same corner with a 400+hp car (I was at about 110mph at the braking point with only 180hp). Now imagine at what speed that impact would have been had I overshot the braking point by the same margin going in at a much higher speed.
Fourth, the problem with doing FI on a track car is many-fold. First of all, you're going to have the heat problem. You are going to have heating issues. Some FI owners will disagree with me. Fine. Even if you don't have significant heat issues, the risk that you will have heating issues is much higher. To me, that's an unacceptable risk. Second of all, you're going to have the reliability problem. Any time something breaks, it's going to be a nightmare to fix. I've seen tons of guys lose their entire weekend because of something stupid happening with a supercharger or turbocharger on the first day. DEs are not cheap. The first thing you should want, indeed need, is the simplest and most reliable car possible. Third of all, you will have the inexperience problem, as I've explained above.
Finally, the controversial "safety" issue. Bolt-in roll bars can actually make your car more dangerous than being stock. You'd be surprised how much your body stretches during an accident. Just because the roll bar is behind you, it doesn't mean you can't crack your arms on it - especially if you don't have a containment seat. If you don't have a containment seat, you could even crack your head on the diagonal bar. Anyways, containment seats do not solve all the problems because you'll need a proper 6-point harness - which can also be more dangerous than having a regular 3-point seat belt. A 3-point seat belt allows your body to rotate around the diagonal belt and follow your head when you have an impact. A 6-point belt keeps your body in place, but your head is still free and because your body can't follow it, your neck will follow it. Well, there's only so far your neck can go before it gets severely injured. Ok, fine - add a HANS. Problem fixed. Not so fast. A bolt in bar is still inherently weak in it's mounting points. Indeed, there are many stories of roll bars ripping from or punching through the car's floor. Remember, your harnesses are connected to that bar. If you rollover and the roll bar pushes through the floor, it will pull you down with it. It will break your spine. If you have a frontal impact and the bar rips from its base, it moves forward, potentially striking your head. Even worse, if it moves forward, you've got no more tension on your shoulder belts and you're screwed. What about the person sitting in your passenger seat?
In my opinion, you've already done more to your car than you'll be able to handle. I find it particularly interesting that you've thought about doubling your horsepower but that you haven't mentioned anything about the issue of a brake upgrade - not even pads. As I said before, I've been doing this for 3 years and am still learning to drive a 180hp car. I still haven't started racing because I don't feel comfortable with my level of competence. Being on track is a big responsibility. You aren't the only one who can get hurt. Don't ever forget that.
So, what's the conclusion? Learn to drive. Don't learn to drive a particular car or setup - just learn to god damned drive. If you really want to feel more "in tune" with your car I would do the following AT MOST: 1) Schroth 4-Point ASM seatbelt (i.e. "Quick Fit"), 2) brake lines, and 3) brake pads. You should, at the very least, change your brake fluid and check/change all other fluids anyways.
Food for thought - even if you did get all those power upgrades (FI, etc.), any half-intelligent instructor wouldn't allow you to use them. After a 1/4 of a lap they'll know your level of skill and will tell you to keep the power down. Thus, even if you had the power, you couldn't use it. So what's the point of having it?
One more thing, do yourself (and everyone else) a favor by doing the following: take your car as it now sits to a DE and ask to be paired with the most experienced instructor that is still available (the really good ones get scooped up quickly). You'll very quickly learn how much car the E46 can be - if you don't feel that it's a lot to handle, you aren't driving hard enough. And, if you aren't driving hard enough to feel the E46 getting upset, you have no business driving a 400+ hp car.
Also, during that same DE, find the maddest fucking instructor and ask him to take you on track and scare you. He will. This past December I had an interesting ride in a 2002ti at VIR. I use the adjectives "interesting" rather than "fun" because I don't think "fun" accurately describes the sensation you feel when you exit T10, which is about a 90 degree bend, the exit to which is DOWNHILL AND NOT ON-CAMBER, 'round about 90mph, in a dedicated 4-wheel-slide, in a 2000lbs sardine can that has ZERO driver aids. The 2002 in question had all of 100hp.
Last edited by Bayerische E46; 09-10-2012 at 10:04 PM.