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    Track Tek E46 M3 racer
    You want a race car? Track Tek will build you one and its awesome E46 M3 shows just what the company is capable of. Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Matt Richardson.

    One track mind

    The dream of racing is shared by just about anyone with an interest in cars. For most of us, the closest we’ll get to realising that dream is in the virtual world playing the likes of Gran Turismo, or on a track day or karting with friends. However, some people have the means and the talent to take to the track for real and when they do they want a proper car that can do a proper job. That’s where Track Tek comes in.

    Owner Nick Hawes has been building race cars for some time now but the foray into #BMW s is a more recent venture. “We used to build Jap stuff but the demographic and cars themselves made us want a change; we’d spend six months developing a car only for the owner to go and change things. We then took a look at BMWs and that’s the direction we decided to go in. We immediately found that BMWs are better to work on and we thought that the parts would be better as well, but we quickly found that was not the case,” he says with a degree of disappointment and exasperation.

    That certainly didn’t hold the company back or slow it down, as the striking E46 M3 in front of us shows. “We built the car for Jason West to race in the Kumho Championship,” explains Nick, “and we’d previously built and prepped four more E46 M3 shells, including one that went to Italy, one for another race prep company in France, one for a competitor in the Kumho Championship as well as a supercharged M3 used for track days. Each one is a showcase for what we are capable of creating.

    “The M3 ended up being a huge development tool for us and it’s certainly been a learning experience,” says Nick. “We ended up engineering solutions to problems, which no one else has done, like making our own rear subframe tie-in kit, with the subframe bolting to the roll-cage. The M3 itself was a 52,000-mile, 52-plate car that we bought from a kickboxing champ who wanted it kept stock. I didn’t mention our track plans,” he laughs. “It’s taken two years to build, although it’s not been a full-time project, but we weren’t going to rush this.

    We always approach a build with the aim of working towards the end goal – it’s a slower process but the end results are better.” It’s hard to be presented with a race car and go anywhere else but under the bonnet, and that’s where you’ll find a big surprise.

    “The engine is basically stock,” says Nick as I gaze at the S54 and wonder what manner of magnificent internal upgrades have been carried out. Say what now? “It’s stock,” Nick repeats, “bar a few very minor changes like the carbon air box, the #ARP rod bolts, Radium fuel rail, reworked oil pump and our own custom stainless steel exhaust with FIA cats, but that’s it.” That’s certainly a surprise because you’d naturally expect a car like this to have had some serious engine work to go with the rest of the car, but there’s actually a very good reason for keeping the power down. “We have to work to hp/tonne restrictions,” explains Nick, “and we have 100hp less than almost everyone else, but we’re also 100kg lighter than everyone else at 1130kg wet. Keeping the engine stock means it’s less stressed and more reliable. Also, having a naturally aspirated engine in the first place means there’s a not much to go wrong. It’s nice to tune as well, and because we’re lighter it means that it’s not hampered in terms of performance. We’re just as quick as the opposition, but we can brake later and corner faster,” he grins, and that’s pretty important when you’re racing.

    The transmission, though, isn’t standard as it obviously has to deal with an awful lot of stress in each race and has been suitably beefed up. The gearbox itself is the tough, five-speed #ZF Type C unit from the E36 M3 3.0 and has been mated to a CAE shifter on the human side and a Tilton sonic twin-plate clutch and hydraulic slave cylinder on the mechanical side. Power is fed to the rear wheels via a Drexler diff running a BMW Motorsport 4.11 ring and pinion gear set.

    While the engine may be virtually untouched, the same can’t be said of the rest of the car, which has been absolutely transformed. “The aim for this car was to go light, but at the same time we were stepping into a new series and we didn’t want to take everything out of the car, only the stuff we knew we could. We have to work within the confines of the stock bodystyle, though we’re allowed a spoiler and front splitter as you can see.”

    As Colin Chapman once said: “Simplify, then add lightness.” It’s a philosophy that works brilliantly when it comes to building a race car and, with everything removed that could safely be removed, it was time to add lightness. “We bought some carbon fibre parts,” says Nick, “but the quality was really poor so we decided to make our own,” as you do. The car wears a Track Tek carbon bonnet, front bumper with integrated undertray and a plywood splitter (“it’s tough and works well,” he tells us) and Track Tek FRP doors. There is a carbon roof, naturally, FRP front wings, and an FRP CSL boot, which is topped off with that aforementioned carbon wing, also of Track Tek’s own design. The heavy glass windows have been replaced with lightweight poly items and even the wiring loom is a custom lightweight affair, though the electronics themselves are heavyweight with some serious Motec gear including an M600 ECU and PDM30 Power Distribution Module. We also have to mention that gorgeous shade of green that this E46 M3 is finished in. The car was originally wrapped in chrome green, Nick tells us, but when Track Tek got hold of it, it was treated to a nicer wrap by Hexis in Boston green and it really is a stunning shade and suits the car so well.

    Moving inside we come to quite possibly the biggest change on the whole car and easily the most surprising: it’s left-hand drive. “It was originally RHD,” Nick clarifies, “but we converted it to left-hand drive as having the driver on the nearside of the car balances out the engine being angled over to one side and putting more weight on the offside of the car.” It certainly makes sense and shows just how much work Track Tek has put into this car.

    A left-hand drive E36 FRP flocked dash has also been fitted and inside it sits a #Motec C185 display and there’s also a programmable keypad. Other additions include an OMP steering wheel, plumbed-in electrical FEV fire system, a Cobra Sebring Pro seat with a Schroth six-point harness and a full T45 International roll-cage. The boot houses the fuel system with twin Bosch 044 pumps but, unlike some of the monster builds we feature, they’re not used at the same time, with one running and the other acting as a back up. If the PDM identifies a problem it will automatically switch over to the reserve pump. There’s also an ATL swirl pot and Earls fuel filters before and after the pump.

    The chassis on a race car is obviously hugely important and Track Tek has really gone to town here, as you’d expect. “We run a set of second-hand Öhlins TTX four-way coilovers; new they’re very expensive, about £10,000, but they’re amazing so even a second-hand set is well worth having.” The coilovers are fitted with Motec potentiometers on the dampers for data logging and are joined by Eibach adjustable rear arms as well as Track Tek front and rear blade anti-roll bars with adjustable drop links. The Turner Motorsports catalogue was plundered for solid diff mounts, solid subframe mounts, spherical trailing arm bushes, spherical upper rear control arm bushes and Delrin control arm bushes.

    That’s all very impressive, but there’s so much more to the chassis mods than just the suspension work, as Nick explains. “We do race car shell prep here at Track Tek so the M3 has our own solid inserts and body plates, T45 driver and passenger seat tubes. It’s also been fully seam welded and the subframes have been reinforced.” This makes this E46 as stiff as possible.

    Wheel fans will have no doubt spotted the forged #RAYS TE37 wheels, chosen for their lightness and strength, which measure 9.5x18” up front and 10.5x18” at the rear and sit on 5mm and 10mm spacers respectively. “In terms of brakes,” says Nick, gesturing at the car’s massive stoppers, “we run Alcons all-round; we have tried and tested pretty much everything available and nothing else comes close. We’ve got six-pots up front with 365mm floating discs and four-pots at the rear over 343mm discs.” These are further bolstered with braided hoses all-round plus there’s a Tilton bias valve, hydraulic handbrake and in-line brake pressure sensors for data logging.

    At the time of the shoot the M3 had competed in two races and had definitely proved itself, qualifying in pole and leading both races, and that was Jason’s first time behind the wheel, which shows just how impressive this car is. But you’d expect nothing less considering all of the work, and money that have gone into building it. “There’s a joke that goes ‘how do you make £1million in motorsport? Start with £2million’,” laughs Nick. “To sum it up, 4000 hours of labour has gone into the car, which would have worked out at £44,000, as well as about £100,000 in parts, which includes £2000 on the ECU and £10,000 on the loom.” No one ever said that motorsport was cheap but this car was built to win.

    “Keeping the engine stock means it’s less stressed and more reliable”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-Track-Tek / #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-46 / #BMW-S54 / #S54 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E46 / #BMW-M3-Track-Tek / #BMW-M3-Track-Tek-E46 / #Track-Tek / #Turner-Motorsports /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 , reworked oil pump, #ARP rod bolts, competition air rail, Fuel Lab FPR, carbon air box, Track Tek custom stainless exhaust with FIA cats, Radium fuel rail, five-speed E36 M3 #ZF-Type-C gearbox, Tilton sonic twin plate clutch and hydraulic slave cylinder, Drexler diff, BMW Motorsport 4.11 ring and pinion gear set, #Mocal diff oil cooler, pump and filter

    CHASSIS 9.5x18” (front) and 10.5x18” (rear) #Rays-TE37 forged wheels with 5mm (front) and 10mm (rear) spacers, Öhlins TTX four-way coilovers with Motec potentiometers on dampers for data logging, Track Tek blade anti roll bars (front and rear) with adjustable drop links, Track Tek T45 rear subframe kit, Track Tek solid inserts and body plates, T45 driver and passenger seat tubes, fully seam welded, subframes reinforced, Eibach adjustable rear arms, Turner Motorsports solid diff mounts, solid subframe mounts, spherical trailing arm bushes, spherical upper rear control arm bushes and Delrin control arm bushes, Alcon six-pot callipers with 365x32mm floating discs (front), Alcon four-pot calipers with 343x28mm discs (rear), braided lines throughout, Tilton bias valve, hydraulic handbrake, in-line brake pressure sensors for data logging

    EXTERIOR Boston green wrap by Hexis, Track Tek carbon fibre bonnet, carbon fibre front bumper with integrated undertray and front splitter with stays and FRP doors, carbon fibre roof, FRP wings, FRP CSL bootlid, Track Tek carbon wing and end plates, poly windows with sliders and rear vents, heated front screen

    INTERIOR Converted to LHD for better balance, Track Tek flocked FRP E36 dash, Motec C185 dash and programmable keypad, OMP steering wheel, Lifeline snap-off boss, OMP adapter, custom carbon fibre steering wheel interface, CAE Shifter, Cobra Sebring Pro seat, Schroth sixpoint harnesses, full International T45 roll-cage, plumbed-in electrical FEV fire system, solid state battery isolator, Braille Lithium GU1R battery, full custom lightweight loom, Motec M600 ECU, Motec PDM30 Power Distribution Module, twin Bosch 044 pumps, one main one reserve, ATL swirl pot, Earls fuel filters pre- and post-pumps
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