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Motorsports & Track Forum
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Old 10-04-2014, 06:11 PM   #1
peter*g
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Yet another E46 M3 GTS Build

Some of you all may have seen my car in other forms. It's been my weekend track car since I purchased it from the first owner in 2005, where I would do 4-6 track weekends a year as an instructor in the California BMW CCA chapters. If you regularly follow builds on this forum, then you would also likely have seen my conversion of the car into a one of a kind tarmac rally and hillclimb car.

Well, this summer I relocated back to California from 4 years spent on the east coast. That had it's good and bad. The bad is that the tarmac rally and hill climb events that I built my M3 for are no longer available to me (there are no paved surface public road events west of the Mississippi). The good news is that there is year round road racing and a lot of old friends to race with.

With that, I've decided to re-build my E46 for the highly-competitive German Touring Series, operated by NASA Pro Racing. It's been more than 8 years since I road raced my own car (and more than 4 since I road raced any car), so I'll run my M3 in a few events this winter to shake it down and shake off the rust on my brain.

This thread will track my progress of both building and racing the car. Enjoy.

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Old 10-04-2014, 06:41 PM   #2
peter*g
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First order of business was to strip out all of the rally equipment -- spare wheel, tools, jack, triangles, rally computer, etc. -- and then go to town on cutting weight. I spent an afternoon removing the equipment, and then stripping sound deadening.

A heat gun and scraper made quick work of the tar inside the car. I then soaked the glue residue with Goo Gone to get it all completely clean.








I then painted the interior to give everything a uniform finish.

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Old 10-04-2014, 06:45 PM   #3
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Nice! Looking forward to this as I am highly considering a move to GTS. Are you going for GTS 3?
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Old 10-04-2014, 07:05 PM   #4
peter*g
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Next up was to add some functional aerodynamics to the car. Thankfully, my friends at Bimmerworld produce some amazing parts designed to bolt on to the car. I ordered the full complement of aero:

I spent a Saturday getting it all installed with the help of my friend Nate Walton at Bay Street European in San Rafael, CA. Nate is a master tech and one of the nicest guys in the business. If you have a European car you must check his shop out.

--

Lots of bubble wrap, cardboard, and carbon fiber:




The splitter mounts with beautifully crafted uprights that bolt behind the bumper mounts:




Race exhaust fitted before the bumper and diffuser were installed:




And then the diffuser goes on, first with the lower bumper trim and then the diffuser itself gets bolted to the bumper and body.








And the final product:






While we had the car in the shop we also put some gold foil on the intake assembly to try to keep intake temperatures down over the course of a race distance. Not sure how well it will perform, but worth a shot:

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Old 10-04-2014, 07:14 PM   #5
peter*g
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Quote:
Originally Posted by badfast View Post
Nice! Looking forward to this as I am highly considering a move to GTS. Are you going for GTS 3?
I plan to tune the car for both GTS 3 and GTS 4. Switchable maps on an AEM computer make it easy.

I already have done my first race in GTS 3 (last weekend at Sonoma) -- I'm catching up on posts today so I'll have a race report up by tonight.

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Old 10-04-2014, 07:24 PM   #6
peter*g
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The folks at Bimmerworld supplied me with some more beautiful parts.

I'm running a set of RAYS Volk Racing VR.G2 Forged Wheels (18x9.5" ET35). They are insanely light, very strong, and look fantastic on the car.




I also got a new set of Carbon Fiber brake duct inlets so that I could build up a new front bumper (my current bumper is beat up and cracked, so we'll save it as a spare). Assembled with the Bimmerworld carbon fiber lip and dive planes the new set-up looks awesome:





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Old 10-04-2014, 07:46 PM   #7
peter*g
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Next up for the car was to overhaul the suspension. The set-up I have been running for the last couple of years is a street / track set-up from TC Kline that is nowhere near as fast as a proper race set-up. So I dropped the car off at TC Design in Campbell, CA for a complete re-do.

Tony Colicchio is the fastest driver in GTS, and one of the best suspension tuners in the country. He and his brother, Joe, have built multiple NASA class champions, and are guiding me in the build and set-up of the car.

They recommended switching out all of the Powerflex bushings in the car for solid metal or heim joints, remote-reservoir MCS race shocks, and Ground Control adjustable arms and sway bars. They also converted the rear of the car to full coil-overs and reinforced the subframe mounts. While they had the car, they also installed new lexan to replace the factory side and rear glass, gutted my doors, and installed a kill switch (this diet is in addition to the removal of the heater core which was done by Bay Street European). Once the suspension was installed and the weight reduced, Tony did an initial corner balance and alignment for my first race.














And the finished product:





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Old 10-04-2014, 07:52 PM   #8
peter*g
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I stickered up the car for my first event after picking up the car from TC Design.




The trunk lid has holes in it from the trunk handle, license plate lights, and license plate bracket. I didn't want any openings in the rear that could allow exhaust fumes in, so I used some 3M vinyl wrap to seal up the license plate area.





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Old 10-04-2014, 08:28 PM   #9
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Heading in to the first race weekend of the year, we still needed to tune the engine to meet the power-to-weight ratio required for GTS3. In my case, the car weighs a porky 3135lbs with me in it (a huge reduction from the 3500lbs it was in rally trim) so the maximum horsepower I can make is 285hp to the wheels.

The typical S54 with mods similar to mine make anywhere from 320-340whp, and 240-250 lb/ft of torque. In order to de-tune the engine for GTS, I had TC Design install the AEM Infinity plug-and-play ECU. Not only does this ECU give me maximum tunability while retaining access to all of the engine and chassis sensors, Joe Colicchio at TC Design has a ton of experience tuning the computer and lots of maps to start from. It also lets me easily switch between engine maps, so I can tune the ECU for both GTS3 and for GTS4/ST3.




The first race for the car was the September 27-28th weekend at Sonoma Raceway. This is my home track (only 17 miles from my house) and one of my favorite race tracks in the world. It's also home to the dyno at TFB that Joe Colicchio uses for setting up most of their customer cars.

We got my M3 on the dyno the Thursday before the race for it's final tune. Unfortunately, we immediately ran into issues.

With the car on the dyno, we started running into issues almost immediately. The car kept cutting out while making max power runs. We tried various engine maps to no avail. We also tried swapping out the AEM ECU and harness to the one from Tony Colicchio's car, and that didn;t work. Finally, something fried the fuel pump relay and the car refused to turn over. Running out of time on the dyno, we packed up the car for the night and planned to pick it up the next day.

The dyno was available again on Friday afternoon. In the morning we tried another fuel pump relay, but that was killed instantly. There must be a short in the wire, so Joe bypassed the fuel pump relay with a cockpit switch. That allowed us to get the car running and set-up on the dyno.



With the car running, we ran into another set of problems -- it wasn't making any power. Normally an engine like mine should be making well over 300whp and up to 250 lb/ft of torque, but mine was only making ~295whp and a scant 200 lb/ft of torque. At my last competition event I felt like the car was down on power, but thought I was just being a typical whiny driver. In this case, I wasn't wrong. Reading the cam signals on the AEM seems to indicate the VANOS was broken.

Ugh.

We had no time to repair the VANOS before the race, so Joe tuned the car as best as he could and made it so I could make the race. I'd be well down on power to the front runners, but at least I'd be in the event.

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Old 10-04-2014, 09:33 PM   #10
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RACE DAY! First weekend in the car, September 27-28th @ Sonoma Raceway

With the engine tuning issue, I would head into the weekend with no seat time in the car as it is currently set-up. For those who don't race that doesn't sound like much, but it's actually a huge challenge. Preparing a car to this level makes it behave unlike anything you would drive on the street, and would be a completely different animal than what I was used to driving in former trim. I was grateful to simply be able to race, so I sucked it up and dove right in.






Saturday Morning:

First practice on Saturday was hectic, and I was well off the pace. I forgot how crazy it can be running in traffic with such a mix of fast and slow cars! GTS shared sessions with a smattering of other cars; from slow Legends and PT cars, to shockingly fast sports racers, and so you're constantly passing and being passed in practice. I was very slow (a 1:55.5), but I started to get more comfortable in the car with every lap.

Traffic in qualifying was not much better. I switched to new Hoosier R6 race tires to give myself the best chance of a fast lap, and queued up near the front to try to get a couple of clear laps at the start of the session. I tend to be very good on cold tires, so I planned to push right from the beginning to give myself the best chance of an uninterrupted lap. That strategy worked fairly well; I managed to get down to a 1:51.5, ~3 seconds off of the pole lap, setting me up mid-field in GTS.



The race was a disappointment. I was swamped on the start (partly due to lower power, partly due to picking a bad line up into T2), and then we went full course yellow by the 2nd lap. While running under yellow, my car cut out and went into limp mode exiting T11. I tried to restart it and get back into the race, but it cut out again in the next lap. I was now a rolling hazard, so restarted the car again and retired from the race.


Sunday Morning:

Heading into Sunday morning, Joe Colicchio attempted to re-tune my ECU to eliminate the problem. The engine reads from cam sensors, throttle position sensors, knock sensors, and a plethora of other sensors in the car. Any of them sending off a bad parameter could trigger the ECU to protect the engine and cut power. As the sensors we tested all appeared to give us good readings, all we could do was raise the error threshold slowly in hopes it fixed the problem.



I switched back to slower, older tires on Sunday for practice. Lap times were noticeably slower (a 1:55 again on lap 4), and the engine cut out again before I had an opportunity to find a faster lap. We adjusted the ECU again, and prepared to go out for qualifying. I was back on fast tires for quali, but mired in the order as the race director made a last minute decision to seed qualifying order by practice lap times. Surrounded by slower cars I wasn't able to get a single clean lap (passing 2-3 cars per lap while trying to keep up my pace). Given that, I wasn't able to match my Saturday pace; running a 1:53.5 before the engine cut out yet again on lap 6.

We adjusted the ECU again for the race.

You can watch the race from Sunday here:



I started the race in 15th position overall, 6th in GTS3. My goal was to not get swamped on the start again, and to try to finish the race (now hopefully with an engine that wouldn't let me down). I managed to not only defend my start position, but gained a couple of positions on the first lap with smart timing and aggressive driving. I then spent the rest of the race in a pack of 7 cars and slowly worked my way through the group. The engine was still clearly not right -- it had a flat spot in the power band and was inconsistent on the run up the hill, likely due to the failed VANOS -- but it didn't die so I was able to drive around it. I found a new fastest lap of 1:50, and ran consistently at a pace of 1:51-1:52 while in traffic and passing cars. It was a fun, exciting race that resulted in me gaining 6 positions overall and 1 position in class to finish in 5th in GTS3, 9th overall. At one point I was even running 4th in class and hounding the 3rd place car! Overall I'd call the race a resounding success.




Moving forward:

With the race weekend behind me, it's time to take stock of what I need to do to progress in the car.
  • First and foremost is to repair the engine and retune so that I'm in the best possible position to compete.
  • I also plan to continue cutting weight in the car, as every extra pound is a clear disadvantage in cornering.
  • Lastly, the car had fairly strong understeer (something I have never been very good at adapting to) and so I'll work with TC Design to tune the car towards a more neutral set-up.
More important than the car, I need to work on myself as a driver. My focus is to continue to improve my fitness, and to try to get as much seat time as possible in the car and work on my skills.

Next race is the NASA national championships in November! Stay tuned for more updates!

.
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Old 10-08-2014, 08:00 AM   #11
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Kickass thread, man. Definitely following this one.
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Old 10-08-2014, 12:08 PM   #12
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Subbed. Love it. Hope you get the power worked out
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Old 10-08-2014, 01:54 PM   #13
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I love that you kept the car looking amazing - something that many racers don't care for.

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Old 10-08-2014, 04:45 PM   #14
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Yep love it! Followed your old thread and continue to follow this. Who did all the perspect glass? Are you able to buy it off the shelf?
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Old 10-08-2014, 05:55 PM   #15
peter*g
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The lexan is all Shields, and was done by the guys at TC Design. I believe they were able to get pre-cut material.
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Old 10-12-2014, 09:51 AM   #16
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Great thread!
I'm happy to see the transformation, and weight loss for GTS.
I see that you gutted your doors, does that mean you are selling your CF inner door panels?
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Old 10-12-2014, 01:42 PM   #17
peter*g
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Great thread!
I'm happy to see the transformation, and weight loss for GTS.
I see that you gutted your doors, does that mean you are selling your CF inner door panels?
I took the glass and motors out of the doors, but left the structure intact, so I kept the carbon panels on the door.

That said, I plan to buy full carbon doors this winter to cut even more weight. PM me what you'd offer on the panels and maybe we can make a deal.
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Old 10-13-2014, 09:07 PM   #18
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Quick Update:

Car is over at Bay Street European this week to have the VANOS repaired, and to replace all of the sensors on the motor (preventatively). While it was there, I went to cut some more weight through some work on the lights.



First up was pulling the stock headlights and replacing them with carbon blanks from Bimmerworld. This was a healthy weight savings off of the nose of the car -- the stock self-adjusting lights, ballasts, corner markers, and the wiring from the harness up to the lights weighed ~17lbs, and were replaced with blanks that weigh under 1lb each! The blanks aren't cheap -- so the weight savings cost me $35 per pound. As they say, speed costs money.






Next up were the tail lights. I have been running aftermarket LED tails since I bought the car, and they have heavy ballasts in addition to the housings. The combined weight of the LED tail lights was ~9lbs. Switching to stock tails (and the gutted reverse lights you see above) saved me about 5lbs!


So, with this work we shaved another 20lbs off of the car, or .6% of the weight of the car. I know it doesn't sound like much, but every little bit helps. There are a handful of brackets and other bits I plan to cut out of the car, with the goal of getting down to a 3100lb competition weight for the next event.

More to come soon.
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Old 10-14-2014, 06:31 PM   #19
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In! Loved the last build, will be watching this one as well
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Old 10-26-2014, 01:44 PM   #20
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Awesome thread. I like the way you've tied in the cage with the rear sub frame mounts. Was it just one single shear of sheet metal under that rear seat tube before you were directly on top of the front mounts?
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