Unfortunately I’d missed VLN 9 but Beat had had a bit of bad luck with a M6 GT3 that had given Beat’s car a little ‘love tap’ after Pflanzgarten and not content with that, gave him another for good measure to make sure he was properly damaged! That’s racing as they say, although the officials may have to decide who was at fault after they’ve looked through the in-car camera footage and data loggers etc. Anyway, fast forward three weeks and the car has been jigged and straightened and a brandnew front end fitted and painted and all the stickers have been applied! As rebuilds go it’s hugely impressive. First up was qualifying with drizzle and fog still hanging around with the track temperature being far from ideal. Beat went out and just completed the mandatory lap he had to with Andre jumping straight in to complete his. It’s amazing how, even though it has the exact same suspension setting, tyres and geometry setup as before, both Beat and Andre reckoned the car felt very different to before the accident.
This lack of running put them down in 190th place on the grid so there would be lots of places to make up during the race and at least eight other cars in their class to overtake! In the ensuing hours before the race the fog almost cleared and the drizzle had slowed and even some broken clouds were letting some sun through warming our chapped faces.
As the first set of 60 or so frontrunning cars went out for the formation lap I walked over to the back of the GP pits so I could see the cars start and go on to the Nordschleife. Just after the second set of cars came past and I was waiting for Beat in his E90 325i to come around the corner it started to rain again – luckily for Beat he had prepared for a wet race and a brandnew set of wet Michelins were on the car for Andre’s first stint. Not so lucky for the next car up the road in their class as he lost the back end on the slippery track and put it straight into the barrier causing quite a mess and a retirement from the race.
I walked back to the pits to watch the race from the score boards; to keep an eye on lap times, where on the circuit the car was and where the other class competitors were. All of a sudden another two cars in Beat’s class vanished off the screen having unfortunately crashed out on the Nordschleife. By this time Andre’s times were looking good and he was up to third in class albeit not lapping quite as quickly as the cars ahead, but still much faster than I could conceive imaginable in those conditions.
We were approaching the halfway point and it was still very damp but the rain had stopped and some of the GT3 cars were putting slicks on so the obvious choice would be to do the same when the car came into refuel and change drivers. A brand new set of slicks were lined up for the car and once they’d been fitted and the car refuelled, Beat set off in the car. Andre looked utterly exhausted and I can only imagine how tough that stint must have been…
While I was watching the timing screens to see how Beat was doing I saw out of the corner of my eye on one of the live-feed screens that the blue car that was running second in class was in the gravel! The coverage flicked back to the race-leading GT3 cars and we waited patiently to see what happened next. He managed to get out of the gravel and start rolling again but we knew Beat was closing in on him and then got past – yeehaa!
We were now in P2 and Beat’s times were coming down – the more the track dried the faster he got. Out of the blue one of our team mates popped into our garage and said the P1 car had snapped a rear shock pickup so had no rear passenger side damping… We all watched with anticipation as the timing board isn’t quite as quick as the grapevine – for some reason it took perhaps 30 seconds to a minute to recalibrate – and there it was we were P1 in V4 class! Unbelievable!
The race had less than 30 minutes to go – under three laps – when Beat said over the radio that the car was going to need fuel as he wouldn’t be able to finish the race with the amount of fuel the car was carrying. A super quick pit stop with tyre pressures dropped while a minimal amount of fuel was chucked in the tank and Beat was off out again having let the second in class machine inherit the lead. Out of nowhere Beat took eight seconds off his lap time trying to chace the P1 car down – an incredible effort after so long behind the wheel. Sadly it was all in vain as Beat could only manage second place but everyone still cheered and clapped when the E90 crossed the line.
Second position was enough after all the hard work the guys had put in all year and made all the crashes and losses all worth it for a place on the podium and a well-deserved trophy. Well done guys.
Back in the UK I had some plans for the M3 with a new set of tyres to try – Pirelli Trofeo Rs. In hindsight I should have put these on straight away and not messed about with unknown tyres wasting time and money at the Nürburgring. I opted for a set of 265/35 18s and I have a set of 9.5×18-inch as well as 10×18-inch wheels to see if the 9.5s will hold up against the 10x18s.
The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, is the fact that the 10x18s have an ET25 offset and I have to run a 10mm spacer – effectively making them ET15. The standard offset is ET31 on the front of the E92 M3 and this means the front end hub setup and suspension was designed around that scrub radius The second reason is the weight.
Obviously the 10-inch wide wheel is heavier than a 9.5-inch – not that I have weighed them but I assume the 265 tyre will be lighter than a 285. I also had plans to put an adjustable anti-roll bar on the car to fine-tune the handling but with a UK track day getting close I didn’t know how easy it would be to fit so I made the decision to fit it in time for the following outing. Since the very first time I took the car to the ‘Ring this year the handling has progressively got worse… The only thing that really altered was the ride height as every time I used it the underside of the car was damaged, but back in the UK on nice flat, smooth surfaces I knew we could drop the car back down to where the suspension geometry was set at the beginning of the year.
I was a little worried but once the new, taller 265/35s were fitted I could see that even the new lower front splitter that was fitted was well clear of fouling the floor. I set the geometry up, corner-weighted the car, checked it over and got it ready for the final track day if the year Somewhat typically, it was pouring with rain when I arrived at Snetterton for my track day so I sat waiting for it to pass as it was supposed to clear by 10am. With the combination of brandnew Trofeo R semi-slicks and 420hp I didn’t fancy venturing out first thing but as the rain wasn’t letting up I had no choice but to go out. Turn one: understeer and oversteer! This continued for most of the corners for a few laps until I came in and backed all the dampers off to a very soft setting and went back out… but in all honesty it didn’t help much!
We had five closures before the lunch break due to people driving beyond their limits and cars falling off. To make things worse an unknown car dropped oil the whole way round which just added to the slippiness on a wet and already greasy track.
I had some family members with me who had never seen the car or been on track but thought they knew a bit about fast road driving. The first one to come out with me was very quiet and while they were giving thumbs up as we were lapping when he got out of the car he couldn’t light a cigarette as he was shaking so much! The second basically screamed like a girl the whole way round for four or five laps! Ha, must be my driving!
After the lunch break the sun was actually coming out, and I excitedly got all my gear ready, jumped in the car to warm it up and nothing… The M3 wouldn’t start. I took the key out to try it again and still nothing. I went and got a battery pack as I thought I might have stupidly left the lights on but there was still no joy. And then a steering wheel with a padlock symbol appeared on the dash.
I called a master technician friend and he said unfortunately a new steering column would need be to be purchased as it’s a common fault with all E9x models.
It didn’t help I was parked in the pits perpendicular to the track and couldn’t move the steering wheel! The only way around this, Steve said, would be to drop the steering column and break the lock up, making it possible to turn the front wheels left to right.
The whole dash had to be removed – steering wheel, paddles, stalks etc all had to be carefully stripped and then the dash itself. Once the column was dropped it revealed the culprit – sitting at the top in the middle was the steering lock. There was no way of removing it with what limited tools I had at the track day so I borrowed a very large hammer and bolster and away I went. Not having a trailer meant I had to go and collect my one and after going back and forth to the circuit it ended up being rather a late night.
We have some downtime now as it’s winter and most tracks will be winding down. Also, the ‘Ring won’t open for another four or five months so I’m not panicking but will be sorting out the steering and cracking on with some updates next month.