Unique fully-restored BMW E30 M3 racer Phoenix Rising

Unique fully-restored BMW E30 M3 racer Phoenix Rising

Unique fully-restored E30 M3 racer Phoenix Rising. A detailed history of a recently restored South African E30 M3 racer that started life in the BTCC. After a 20-year hiatus the only E30 M3 Touring Car to have been campaigned in South Africa has been restored to its former glory Words: Johann Venter. Photography: Oliver Hirtenfelder/RacePics.

This feels like a natural continuation from where we left off with the E30 grudge match that was featured in the March edition of BMW Car. South African motoring enthusiasts’ unabated obsession with the E30, especially when it comes to models that they were snubbed with, doesn’t get any better than an M3 Touring Car. But judging by the various features in BMW Car over the years the E30 is not only a South African obsession but a global phenomenon and nowhere more so than with the M3. The BMW M division produced 330 purpose-built M3 racers which have been campaigned throughout the world in various motorsport championships such as Touring Cars, rallying, hillclimbs and endurance racing. What you see in front of you, though, is the only M3 that was ever campaigned in a national racing championship on the African continent.

Details are rather sketchy but it does seem that there are two other ex-British Touring Car Championship M3s that made it to South African shores. The first is the 1992 Matt Neal Team Dynamics (Rimstock Racing) M3 in the 100+ livery.

Team Dynamics acquired some of the assets (including M3s) of Vic Lee Motorsport after the conviction of the owner for drug smuggling. The car is being restored by well-known BMW Master Technician, tuner and racing car builder, Shaun Sing and will be finished off in the very popular DTM Warsteiner livery. The other is the Bristow Motorsport M3 that was driven by Laurence Bristow in the 1992 BTCC season and is believed to be in Durban.

Farouk Dangor, who raced this iconic M3 in South Africa, enlisted the help of three times British Touring Car Championship winner Matt Neal to find a BTCC M3 at the end of the 1992 season so that he could campaign it in the South African Touring Car Championship for the 1993 season. Neal turned to well-known British motor-racing team Tech-Speed Motorsport, having campaigned an M3 for it earlier in his career. Tech-Speed Motorsport turned its attention to the British Touring Car Championship in 1991 under the management of Marvin Humphries. For two seasons the team built and raced BMW M3s. Neal, in his debut BTCC season, joined the team after switching from Pyramid Motorsport at the Oulton Park leg of the championship. Neal subsequently went on to have a very successful BTCC career winning in 2005, 2006 and 2011. In the 1992 BTCC season Sean Walker piloted the very car you see here, albeit in the AutoTrader livery back then.

BMW M3s achieved sterling success in the BTCC under the stewardship of Prodrive. Co-founder David Richards (also former chairman of Aston Martin, and former team principal of BAR and Benetton Formula One racing teams) was approached by BMW to prepare and race the M3 in the BTCC in 1987. In 1988 it won 11 races to take the championship with Frank Sytner taking the driver’s crown. The following year the team took the Class B title with James Weaver behind the wheel in the 2.0-litre M3. In 1990 Prodrive secured another Class B title in the M3 2.0- litre again with Frank Sytner. Prodrive also went on to win numerous rally championships throughout Europe in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s campaigning an M3. The M3’s swansong in BTCC was in 1991 with Will Hoy taking the championship with the Vic Lee Motorsport team.

The M3 road car was an astonishing piece of kit but BMW had much greater aspirations than just wowing road-going enthusiasts, though no one could have imagined the success it would achieve in motorsport. How was this transformation from dynamic handling road car to successful Touring Car achieved? Well, on 23 February 1987 the 5000th M3 rolled off the production line thus meeting its homologation criteria in record time and not a moment too soon as it made its racing debut at Monza on 22 March 1987.

 Group A racing regulations dictated that touring cars represent the production cars as closely as possible but did allow for certain modifications and upgrades within the regulatory framework. Safety was therefore of paramount importance and all cars were required to be fitted with a full roll-cage. Weighing only 36 kilos the roll-cage on the M3 not only offered protection but served as a tubular space frame, increasing torsional rigidity by a substantial margin.

The bore of the engine could be slightly increased from 93.4mm to 94mm thus increasing capacity from 2302cc to 2331.8cc. Motronic engine management was used and the production car compression ratio was upped from 10.5:1 to 12:1, all of which resulted in 300hp at 8000rpm. The racers were also fitted with aluminium track control arms with uprated spring struts, wheel supports made from magnesium and adjustable spring plates at the front – thus facilitating quick adjustment to the ride-height, camber, castor and toe. Uprated anti-roll bars were also fitted front and rear. These could be individually set by the pilot while driving to attain the optimum balance. The brakes were also improved upon with four-piston AP Racing callipers and 330mm crossdrilled discs in the front and 280mm grooved discs at the rear with four-piston AP Racing callipers. Wheels measuring up to 10 inches were allowed with either one- or three- piece magnesium rims with a central nut. The car was equipped with a close ratio fivespeed Getrag ‘box.

The Group A cars weighed in at only 960kg, and even with the 110-litre tank full, 55 per cent of the weight was carried on the rear axle. Fuel tanks were largely fitted in the luggage compartment, with the filler nozzle moved to the rear where the numberplate would be positioned.

While most of the Touring Car world allowed for an ever-increasing capacity in engine size, the BTCC in 1990 restricted the capacity to 2.0 litres resulting in a 93.44mm bore and 72.60mm stroke with a maximum of 274hp.

I’d heard and seen South African motoring icon Farouk Dangor on TV and even spoken to him once in my quest to secure an E30 325iS, and he is a legend both on the track and the showroom floor. He is also the owner of Speedy Car Sales, which is the only independent car dealership that I know of that has its own transporter. This means you can have your Italian Exotic or German ‘Bahn Stormer delivered to you anywhere in South Africa within 24 hours after signing your life away. You can therefore imagine my excitement when I set out on my 109-mile journey to Klerksdorp in the North West Province to chat to Farouk about his recently restored M3 Touring Car.

 Farouk Dangor’s success is a true rags to riches story. In 1974 he invested money loaned from his father into a set of mag-wheels which he sold for a profit. Today Speedy Car Sales is one of the biggest independent car dealerships which also specialises in ultra high-end luxury automobiles and sports cars, with two separate showrooms on opposing sides of the road, one with the more mundane, the other housing motoring utopia. This was not always the case though. When Farouk first set up his car dealership in Klerksdorp he did it in a white man’s name. Such was the state of affairs in the-then Apartheid-era South Africa that no Indians were allowed (no persons of colour for that matter) to own businesses in city centres or towns. Farouk also found that banks did not want to finance customers purchasing cars from Indian dealers. That, however, did not dampen Farouk’s persistence and for the last 22 years Speedy Car Sales has been awarded the Absa Bank (partly-owned by Barclays) Golden Dealer Award and most recently received the Top Executive Dealer Award from Absa. And with a highly successful business came many more accolades and awards which Farouk attributes to a true passion for cars, a hands-on approach to business and by treating every customer as a potential repeat customer by selling them the best possible vehicle they can buy.

Farouk has a true magnanimous persona – no airs, no graces, just a broad smile and even broader shoulders. “I started off racing Hot Rods on oval tracks,” he says. “It was tough being the only person of colour – my team-mate took me out while competing against a UK team in 1980 – he’d rather see us lose than me win.”

Farouk did, however, progress to the fiercely contested Group N racing series: “The late Tony Viana convinced me to start racing in Group N and stop wasting my time with ovals; he invited me to practise sessions so I could see what it was all about. At one race they were a driver short and he asked me to race and that’s how it all started. Old Tony helped me a lot, to him it was all about the racing, and boy could he race.” Group N seemed to separate the men from the boys but it wasn’t all plain sailing for Farouk: “There were both good and bad days, being the only person of colour competing at the time did not sit well with all concerned. But I was there for the racing and gave it my all, although it did come to blows from time to time.” Farouk famously had a go at Ben Morgenrood at the first race of the 1989 season at Zwartkops: “Ben purposely took out my brand-new 325iS in the first race of the season and as a privateer I could not rely on the factory for a new car. So I punched him in the face through his helmet. The governing body said that I had put motorsport in disrepute and put a six-month suspended sentence on my racing licence.”

It wasn’t all bad though and Farouk fills us in on some of his highlights too: “There were plenty but it has to be said beating the Works teams and winning at Zwartkops in 1990 is definitely up there with the best. My first International Touring Car experience at Kyalami in 1991 with the Tauber M3 team; sharing the drive with Robbi Smith and finishing 12th overall.

It gave me my first taste of real Touring Cars with no power-steering, slick tyres and being positioned on the opposite side of the car. Our local race series which was largely based on production cars only lasted for 10 or 12 laps, 15 to 18 minutes, whereas with this each driver spent an hour behind the wheel.

Most South African drivers collapsed after the race; we were totally unprepared from a fitness level. This paved the way for me to compete in 1992 in the Nürburgring 24-Hour race.” Farouk came close to a class victory as he explains: “Peter Lanz and I joined up with the Tauber M3 team, we had never raced at the Nordschleife and needed some practise to ensure we were quick enough to qualify for the race. Prior to the race the road was open to the public so we could not take our Touring Car on track. Instead we rented an E32 740i from Avis as it seemed the appropriate BMW to prepare in. Needless to say, Avis threw a complete German hissy fit when we returned the car with no brakes, slick tyres and hardly any dampers to talk about!” But what happened in the race that Farouk had prepared so well for in a 7 Series?

“The Green Hell is a planet on its own with its own weather systems, so the night before the heavens opened and by morning there was heavy fog with rain still present on some parts of the track. As a privateer team we all contributed to the preparation and campaigning of the car which equated to us not having any wet weather tyres. So we approached Yokohama which could not supply us with wets as it did not have any left. Instead it took a soldering-iron and burnt groves into our tyres. We were not quick but we were consistent and in the closing hours (21) of the race we were second in our class, unfortunately a Porsche blew a motor, trailing oil; Peter skidded into a barrier, tore off a front strut and that was the end of our campaign. The car leading our class also crashed out, so if we had managed to keep going we could have won our class.”

But what of the M3 we see before us here? “I sourced the M3 through Matt Neal to specifically campaign in the South African Touring Cars in 1993 – based on the world-wide Touring Car race series in the 2.0-litre class. As a privateer I did not have the budget and the resources to develop a purpose-built car from scratch. Works teams had their cars built in Germany, at the time E36 Coupés.” Despite running an old car Farouk was on the pace: “I was always competitive and set the fastest time in my second qualifying lap at the meet in Welkom at the old Goldfields track after having fitted a 300hp engine (limited to 8200rpm). Unfortunately I stuck it in the wrong gear and blew the motor on the day, and had to resort to using the original motor for the rest of the season. Unfortunately the regulations were changed the very next season. So the following year I campaigned a right-hand drive Vauxhall Cavalier, which I also managed to source from the UK.

“After the M3 stopped racing it stood and some parts were removed to help others – like the drysump tank that was stripped to be copied but never returned. Eventually the car was sent to our BMW resident mechanic to be brought back to a competitive condition. To my horror I later discovered that the car was being transformed into a dragster. By the time I got to the car it had been painted white but in the worst possible way – it was really just a rolling chassis when I found it. My son Mohammed convinced me two years ago that it was such a special car that it was worth restoring, the other motivation being that I had never kept any of my race cars. When I made the decision to restore it I wanted it done with absolutely no comprise – only one name kept coming up: Alec Ceprnich from Evolution 2 Motorsport.”

Evolution 2 Motorsport is the de facto choice when it comes to the building, preparing and restoration of older racing BMWs. See the March 2013 issue of BMW Car featuring the superb Batmobile replica the company developed from the ground up. Owner Alec Ceprnich has BMW and racing octane coursing through his veins – he is the South African equivalent of Camshaft Paul (Rosche). Alec has been around the BMW block long enough that he has actually rubbed shoulders with the BMW High Priest himself during the 9-Hour endurance race at Kyalami in 1981.

Alec was part of the Peter Kaye-Eddie outfit assisting with the preparation of the E12 530 which was piloted by Robbi Smith and Brian Cook; the car did exceptionally well against more powerful Sports cars such as the Porsches and Ferraris. The privateer BMW 530 finished fifth overall (and was eventually moved to fourth due to a disqualification), won the index of performance, was first South African car home, won its class for saloon cars and managed to beat all the M1s including the Works team. That night at a victory party at Peter’s house in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, Alec met Paul Rosche and Dieter Stappert who were part of the BMW M1 Works team.

Alec built his reputation by being the JSN Motors (a BMW dealership) service manager during the day and at night preparing JSN-sponsored BMWs. JSN sponsored a formidable line-up of Bavarian contenders in various classes and series; Group N always being the most hotly contended of the lot. The JSN team – consisting of Alec himself, Robbi Smith and Peter Kaye-Eddie – had its biggest success in 1993 when they managed to clinch the Class A and overall Stannic Group N title with the JSN Motors BMW 325iS. The team also managed to secure the 1993 Castrol 9-Hour endurance race at the Killarney race circuit. Robbi Smith, partnered with Geoff Goddard, dominated throughout the race with their BMW 325iS.

Since opening Evolution 2 Motorsport, which is ideally situated on the doorstep of Kyalami, Alec and his team have been kept busy. They also restored Tony Viana’s Group One Winfield BMW 745i which was featured in BMW Car some years ago. Other noteworthy restorations include the 1987 JSN Motors BMW 325i Shadowline as well as the championshipwinning JSN Motors BMW 325iS. They are currently building a Schnitzer BMW E24 635CSi replica in the BMW Parts livery. Early indications show that the outcome is going to be nothing less than exemplary. Alec explains that when the M3 was found it was in a rather dilapidated state – really just a rolling chassis in essence. The front end had been stripped down to the frame, fortunately the steering-wheel, racing seat, wheels and roll-cage were still present.

The car was then torn down completely to be resprayed and the OZ racing wheels were sandblasted, refurbished and powdercoated. Through Farouk’s contacts a S14 motor, as was used in the Group N DTM, was sourced locally; it had been imported many years ago from the very Tauber team Farouk had raced with in the Nürburgring 24-Hour – it was still in the crate it had been shipped in. It was completely stripped and given a thorough inspection which resulted in the rings and the bearings being replaced. Further enhancements to the engine included a Vandelinde cylinder head, Billet cams, Evolution 2 plenum chamber and the addition of four more injectors. The close ratio five-speed dog-leg ‘box was replaced with an E36 M3 five-speed unit to facilitate quicker and more effective gear changes, together with an AP Racing triple-plate clutch. AP Racing four-piston callipers with 330mm cross-drilled ventilated discs in the front and 280mm grooved ventilated discs at the back were fitted along with Performance Friction pads. The Bilstein dampers and air-jacks were reconditioned, a new fuel bladder was fitted together with new fuel-pumps and a purposebuilt Vandelinde stainless steel performance exhaust including branches was installed.

The complete new front-end includes: fenders, bonnet, bumper with integrated spoiler, grille and headlights. Alec got hold of Charly Lamm at Schnitzer for the part number for the front screen so he could order it from BMW Germany as it was unable to fulfil the order without the part number. Decals were painstakingly recreated from old photographs to recreate an authentic Speedy Car Sales livery. On the interior the seat and doorcards were recovered in Alcantara and the old wiring harness was completely removed and MJR Technologies (Motec SA) fitted a complete new chassis and engine harness. The Motec installation was completed with the M84 ECU, PDM15 (power distribution module) and CDL3 (club dash with shift light module and GPS).

Once the car was completed, Mohammed took it for a shake-down at a Pablo Clark Racing Track Day and Farouk was rather pleased with his and the car’s performance as Mohammed had never piloted a Touring Car before. Mohammed, however, is no stranger to racing. He has been at his father’s side since he was knee-high following and supporting his dad’s racing campaigns.

Farouk believes that Mohammed has a natural talent and feels that he can pass on his many years of experience to him. The Dangors have a couple of GTRs between them that they use for track days and recently Mohammed has been doing hillclimbs and took seventh overall at the Dezzi Hill Invitational Challenge, having competed against 1000hp Nissan GTRs, Ferrari 458s and McLaren MP4s. Since the initial shakedown, the standard dog-leg ‘box was replaced with the E36 M3 five-speed ‘box and other minor tweaks were made. The dyno-run performed on a Motec hub dyno showed maximum power of 208hp (155kW) at 6928rpm and torque of 167lb ft (226Nm) at 5362rpm.

The Dangors decided that the best way to put their restored track slayer to the test was to enter it into a BMW Car Club Race Series, track and race day at Kyalami. The day before this race, we photographed the M3 in the pits and just listening to it is an experience in itself, as the exhaust crackle reverberates throughout the entire pits. As Farouk put it: “You just cannot beat that sound produced by the carbon air intake box.”

The name ‘Kyalami’ is rather appropriately taken from the Zulu word which means ‘home’ as many consider it to be the home of South African motorsport. The 4.263km anti-clockwise circuit includes 13 turns, lengthy straights and the infamous Mineshaft downhill back straight. Kyalami hosted the South African Formula One Grand Prix from 1967 to 1985. Formula One then joined the world-wide boycott of South African sport due to the-then government’s Apartheid doctrine.

Formula One returned to Kyalami for the 1992 season but unfortunately 1993 was the last time it hosted a Formula One Grand Prix. The final race saw an intense battle between Prost, Senna and Schumacher, with Prost eventually taking victory. Interesting to note is that this is the very track that BMW made its debut into the world of Formula One. South African-born Gordon Murray was with Brabham as chief designer in 1982 when the first F1 BMW engine was introduced at the first race of the season at Kyalami. Brabham’s Nelson Piquet went on to win the championship in 1983 in his Brabham-BMW BT 52 at the last race at Kyalami.

Global warming, climate change call it what you will has been wreaking havoc with weather patterns around the world and even being on the southern tip of Africa has not spared us. It had been raining nonstop for three weeks which to the Brits I am sure sounds like a picnic; and as we do the photoshoot the rain falls unabated. Fortunately our prayers to the Sun Gods pay dividends and although the clouds abound the sun is more dominant on race day. The track, however, is as smooth as a newborn’s bottom; Mohammed is not deterred though and is focused on showing that they made the right decision to bring this M3 back from the dead.

With this only being the second outing for the M3 it is decided to only enter it in the time trials, it does however not make it any less exciting to watch and hear that S14 scream past the pit straight.

Mohammed does not disappoint, topping his class with a time of 01:58.415 and just out of reach of the fastest car – a Porsche 997 GT3 RS which posted a time of 01:57.202. The Speedy Car Sales team are absolutely ecstatic with the result considering that the car had the incorrect profile tyres: Dunlop 210/650 R18s all-round. With Mohammed focused on competing in the actual race at the next leg of the series a set of Avon 210/640 R18s is ordered the very next day.

For BMW devotees around the world the E30 M3 is the Holy Grail and nowhere more so than on the race track. It is the epitome of BMW engineering and is the car that turned the M division into a global tour de force. This is the myth, the mystique, the legend that is the BMW E30 M3.


Special thanks to Ron Silke


 

From left to right: This is how Farouk’s car first arrived in South Africa after being driven by Sean Walker in the 1992 BTCC. The number 36 machine is the Tauber Team M3 that Farouk drove at Kyalami in 1991 – many local drivers weren’t used to the long stints behind the wheel and many collapsed after over an hour behind the wheel.

This is the M3 that Farouk drove in the 24 Hour race at the Nürburgring in 1992. Despite having to learn the track in a rented BMW 740i and tackling the race equipped with home made wet tyres the team was consistent and was running second in class until an accident put the M3 out of the race after 21 hours running. So near…

“My son convinced me two years ago that it was such a special car that it was worth restoring” 

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