- Post is under moderationLight Speed
We get up close and personal with AC Schnitzer’s wildest creation, the absolutely stunning ACL2. #AC-Schnitzer-ACL2 . Hitting the road in this stunning 570hp M4-engined lightweight. AC Schnitzer’s bonkers ACL2 Geneva show star has been on a serious diet and packs an enhanced M4 punch – it’s an absolute belter Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.
Wait for it, wait for it… I whiz past the derestriction sign on the Autobahn and can finally let Schnitzer’s latest, and perhaps wildest, creation off the leash. There’s torque in abundance from the tuned M4 motor but for maximum attack I really need to drop it down a cog or two to experience the full savagery of what this bespoke show car has to offer. At the same time as I grasp the stubby yet tactile gear knob the lumbering arctic that’s chugging along in the nearside lane somehow decides that the headlights spearing through the morning gloom aren’t moving that fast so he pulls out and indulges in some elephant racing with another truck for an absolute age.
The quicker lorry seems to be moving with the speed of cold treacle but after what seems like an eon its millimetric progress is completed and I can finally hit the loud pedal. And loud it certainly is. I’m in third gear and as I plant the throttle pedal firmly into the carpet the rear end hunkers down as the nose rises a smidgen and all the hounds of the Baskervilles are unleashed somewhere back where the rear seats used to be and the ACL2 takes off like the proverbial bat out of hell.
In what seems like a nanosecond I’m reaching for fourth and then fifth as the ACL2 gobbles up the horizon like the best Sunday lunch it’s ever experienced. The speedo needle seems to be heading round the dial at the same speed as the rev counter and our pace is only slowed again as another truck in the distance heaves its way into the outside lane to prevent further progress towards the ACL2’s quoted top speed of 330km/h – 205mph.
The fact that the ACL2 is quick should really be a given – it has 570hp after all and has been on a pretty severe diet too – but what does surprise while I’m sitting at an enforced 100km/h behind the truck is quite how civilised it is. Yes, there is a pretty severe exhaust drone when sitting at a constant throttle at certain revs, but shifting up or down a cog soon gets rid of that. And then there’s the ride quality – this might have Schnitzer’s Clubsport suspension setup, but it’s by no means overly harsh… a little jiggly in places, but then this isn’t a 7 Series is it? No, this machine was designed to go fast, and preferably fast away from the Autobahn so after one further acceleration fest we turn off in search of some better driving roads.
Naturally enough it’s the photography that comes first though so once we’ve found a location that’s to Smithy’s liking we let him get busy with the cameras while I chat to the Schnitzer chaps and delve a little bit further into the technology underneath the ACL2. Schnitzer has a long tradition of making some pretty stunning show cars – the CLS (lightweight tuned E36 M3), the CLS II (ditto but based on the E36 Evo), the V8 Roadster (a Z3 complete with 4.4-litre V8), the Topster (an E39 M5-engined Z4)… there are plenty more in the company’s archives but this year the company wanted to go all-out and produce a machine for Geneva that would put the new M2 in the shade and really stand out from the crowd.
No doubt life would have been very much easier for the company had it revealed the ACL2 a few months down the line as it could have used the M2 as the basis for its conversion, but if the car was to be ready for Geneva an M235i would have to be used as the donor car. The aim was to produce a car with plenty of power, but one which had also lost some of its excess fat too. One of AC Schnitzer’s tuning mantras is ‘less is more’ so putting the M235i on a diet was a must and while tuning the M235i’s 326hp was certainly possible it wasn’t going to produce the results Schnitzer wanted for the car so an engine swap was on the cards, too.
Thus out went the N55 straight-six to be replaced by the altogether rortier S55 from the M4, but even with 431hp the M4’s lump needed some further fettling to reach the sort of power-to-weight ratio that Schnitzer craved. The intake system was optimised and clad in sexy carbon while a Schnitzer exhaust with sports cats and a certain amount of electronic jiggery pokery soon released the engine’s potential to give 570hp at 6100rpm and a monstrous 546lb ft of torque at 3500rpm. Healthy gains I think you’ll agree and when combined with the M235i’s diet programme the ACL2 now has a better power-to-weight ratio than an M4 GTS and a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. No surprise, then, that it’ll knock off the 0-62mph sprint in 3.9 seconds and will accelerate from rest to 125mph in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 10.9 seconds.
In order to ensure that all this power can be safely transmitted to the road Schnitzer elected to fit the front and rear axles from the M4 to the M235i and the wider track necessitated the fitment of the front and rear wheel arch extensions, along with the more aggressive front spoiler assembly and a gorgeous carbon rear diffuser. Schnitzer elected to paint the whole car in what it describes as ‘Classic Racing Green’ and the colour’s a nod back to the company’s past as the CLS II was painted in a similar hue. In an ideal world it would have liked to have called the ACL2 the CLS III, but another German manufacturer now owns the rights to the CLS moniker…
Personally I’m not a huge fan of the rear wing – I must admit I don’t like the BMW one on the M4 GTS either – aesthetically I’d much rather see a ducktail item a la M3 CSL, but given the speeds this Schnitzer machine is capable of I can see that you’d want to ensure a decent amount of downforce at over 200mph. There are liberal doses of carbon littering the exterior of the car and there are some neat touches such as the new LED indicators housed under Schnitzer’s new side gills. The bonnet itself is carbon fibre to reduce weight.
Externally there’s no getting away from the lightweight forged AC1 alloy wheels with their bright orange/polished finish – I wasn’t quite sure on the finish in the harsh light of the Geneva show halls, but now seeing them out in the open I think the colour scheme actually works rather well. They are 10x20-inch all round and shod with 285/25 ZR20 Michelin Pilot Super Sports – only the best for Schnitzer’s pocket rocket. Nestling behind the rims are a set of monster brakes – carbon ceramics measuring 400x38mm at the front and 380x28mm at the rear. If those measurements sound familiar that’s because these discs are also donated by the M4, although Schnitzer has changed the yellow six-and four-pot callipers to black.
It wouldn’t be a proper show car if the interior hadn’t been upgraded and Schnitzer has really gone to town with the ACL2 – it’s a wonderful place to spend wheel time. The heavy standard M235i seats have been dropped in favour of a pair of carbonshelled racing buckets that have been exquisitely trimmed in green and black Nappa leather while the door trim panels have been clad in black suede with contrast green stitching. The dash highlights have been picked out in green as have the steering wheel inserts, and the actual wheel is a Schnitzer ‘Evo’ item. One of the dash vents has been replaced by an Awron digital screen that displays all sorts of data from peak power and torque to temperatures to boost levels and so on. It doesn’t do all that much when stationary which leads to all sorts of hilarity when I later ask Smithy to get a picture of it with some high outputs displayed. Apparently trying to point a Nikon with a big lens at a particular part of the dash while going for a full bore standing start isn’t all that easy!
Elsewhere inside, the rear seats have been ditched and the remaining platform has been neatly carpeted, again in the interest of saving weight, and there are a few Schnitzer goodies around the cabin such as a pedal set, handbrake handle and aluminium ‘Black Line’ gear knob. The handbrake and gear lever gaiters are trimmed in the same suede as the door trim panels and the overall effect is pretty stunning. It does get a little warm though as the air conditioning has also been ditched in favour of saving weight.
Eventually Smithy’s finished with the static pictures and I linger a last few moments drinking in the underbonnet detailing which is lovely, with beautifully finished carbon fibre and a smattering of green on top of the air intake. I gingerly close the bonnet, taking care of that one-off piece of carbon fibre and once again slip behind the wheel to find out how well this rocket ship performs away from the motorway.
Once the car-to-car photography is complete it’s time for some serious action. Just starting the ACL2 for the first time really gets one’s automotive juices flowing as the exhaust sounds seriously aggressive and at idle it’s a bass-heavy rumble that would make your neighbours go off you very rapidly indeed. At slower speeds it’s relatively muted, but hit that Drive Performance Control switch into Sport mode and put the hammer down and all hell breaks loose. It sounds very, very angry – in a good way – and the harder you push the car the more spine-tingling the exhaust note becomes. It dominates proceedings, bellowing its approval as you run up and down through the gearbox, eliciting a veritable barrage of pops and bangs every time you change gear. It almost wouldn’t matter if it turned out the ACL2 handled like a skateboard on an ice rink, such is the aural delight developed by Schnitzer’s work.
Fortunately though there’s more to this car than a very noisy set of quad pipes as the harder I push it the better the car responds. In the back of my mind is the fact that this is a very expensive one-off creation and while it would be easy to hide it in the green grass that’s surrounding our chosen section of road I don’t think Schnitzer’s top brass would be too impressed. The roads are smooth and well-surfaced though and the corners are relatively well sighted and the ACL2 devours them with real verve. I’m pleased for the tight-fitting bucket seats when I begin to tackle the corners with vigour. There’s plenty of feel coming through my fingertips translating what’s going on with the front wheels while the tight seat allows you to get a real idea of what the chassis is doing too. Given the monster rubber, the dry conditions and the Drexler limited-slip differential Schnitzer’s fitted there are staggeringly high levels of grip on offer, but accelerating away from a standstill in a straight line demonstrates that the ACL2 will certainly break traction more or less whenever you want it to.
In deference to the one-off nature of this machine I’m not going to go all gung ho and attempt on the lock stops drifting for the camera, but with the traction control in its halfway house there’s enough movement from the rear to get a feel for what a well-balanced and poised machine this really is. It might have a sledgehammer under the bonnet but there’s a delicacy to its responses to small inputs that’s most gratifying.
Then there’s the fact that everything that’s supposed to work, works properly. The M4 engine in the car was originally mated to an M DCT ‘box but for the ACL2 Schnitzer wanted to fit a manual as it weighs less than the DCT and also represents the ultimate driver’s spec. Getting the new manual to talk to the various control units was a bit of nightmare but Schnitzer has done such a good job that even the blipping of the throttle on down changes works as seamlessly as it does in a standard M4.
If you stop driving like a loon it’s also surprisingly easy to pilot the ACL2 along – the controls are perfectly weighted and the throttle response is exemplary, with minimal inputs offering the appropriate gentle acceleration. At the other end of the spectrum, large doses of throttle induce the sort of grin that becomes painful after a few minutes. As a way to have fun the ACL2 really can’t have many, if any, peers.
All good things come to an end though and before too long it’s time to head back to Schnitzer’s Aachen HQ. Time for one last acceleration-fest as we blast past the lorries that thankfully stay in their correct lane and once again I’m blown away with the massive levels of acceleration as well as the high-speed stability that’s on offer. On the odd occasion that a slower machine does wander into my path those carbon ceramic stoppers wash off excess speed with alacrity and all the while that monster exhaust rises and falls in timbre, signalling its approval at giving it a proper work out.
The styling might not be to everyone’s taste, but you really can’t criticise the engineering integrity that’s gone into this Schnitzer project car. As a light weight concept that goes like lightning it’s the real deal. The only question that remains is how to persuade Schnitzer to build another one for my collection…
AC Schnitzer UK
Tel: 01485 542000
AC Schnitzer Germany
Tel: +49 (0)241 56 88 130
/ #2016 / #AC-Schnitzer-ACL2 / #S55-AC-Schnitzer / #S55 / #BMW-S55 / #AC-Schnitzer / #Drexler / #BMW-M2 / #BMW-M2-F87 / #BMW-M2-AC-Schnitzer-F87 / #AC-Schnitzer-ACL2-F87 / #BMW-M2-AC-Schnitzer / #BMW-F87 / #BMW-F22 / #2016 / #BMW
ENGINE: Replacement of the standard M235i engine with M4’s S55 with AC Schnitzer performance upgrade, speed limiter removed by programming of the control unit, optimised carbon air intake
MAX POWER: 570hp @ 6100rpm
MAX TORQUE: 546lb ft (750Nm) @ 3500rpm
0-62MPH: 3.9 seconds
0-125MPH: 205mph (330km/h)
DRIVETRAIN: Six-speed manual gearbox, AC Schnitzer/Drexler limited-slip differential with 25-95 per cent locking
EXHAUST: AC Schnitzer downpipe, AC Schnitzer sports silencer system with special catalyst (200 cell), AC Schnitzer ‘Racing Evo Carbon’ tail trims
BRAKES: Front: six-piston callipers, carbon ceramic brake discs in 400x38mm diameter (perforated). Rear: fourpiston callipers, carbon ceramic brake discs in 380x28mm diameter (perforated)
SUSPENSION: Exchange of the standard axles with M4 items, AC Schnitzer Clubsport suspension, height adjustable and adjustable in compression and rebound, M4 carbon strut brace
WHEEL SET: AC Schnitzer lightweight forged wheels in AC1 bicolour – red anodised/polished. Front & rear: 10x20-inch with 285/25 ZR 20 Michelin PSS tyres
AERODYNAMICS AC Schnitzer special paint – Classic Racing Green, AC Schnitzer carbon bonnet with bonnet vents (black), AC Schnitzer front skirt with carbon front spoiler elements, front splitter and carbon front side wings (two each side), AC Schnitzer special sports mirrors, AC Schnitzer carbon rear diffuser, AC Schnitzer carbon rear wing, AC Schnitzer front and rear wheel arch extensions (70 mm wider each side)
INTERIOR: AC Schnitzer bicolour leather interior: green and perforated Nappa leather in combination with black suede leather with green stitching, interior panels painted matt in Classic Racing Green, rear seats removed, AC Schnitzer carbon racing seats bicolour with black/green nappa leather and leather in carbon design with ACL2 emblems, AC Schnitzer three-spoke sports airbag steering wheel ‘Evo’ with Nappa and perforated leather and green suede, carbon door handles and center console, AC Schnitzer control display for oil temperature, intake air temperature and boost pressure etc, AC Schnitzer aluminium pedals, footrest, gear knob and handbrake handle.
PRICE: Concept only – not for sale
The rear end hunkers down as the nose rises a smidgen and all the hounds of the Baskervilles are unleashed.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationHILLCLIMB #Citroen-AX / #Citroen
Hillclimbing is massive business over in Germany, and as a result it spawns nutty cars, including this mad looking AX which revs to 9800rpm!
‘KING OF THE HILL’
What do you do if you’re done getting your adrenaline fix from racing bikes? Build a storming Berg Cup AX, that’s what! Words: Jamie. Arkle Photos: Axel Weichert.
Hill climbing is a serious business in Germany, bigger in near enough every quantifiable way than it is over here. Of course the very top tier of the country’s myriad of hill climb championships is the infamous KW Berg Cup, where be-winged monsters, DTM-refugees and the odd ex-F1 car take turns to shoot up faintly ridiculous mountain passes. It all makes Prescott Hill and Gurston Down seem a mite tame, something that only becomes clearer when you delve into the various sub-classes and take a closer look at some of the cars. Opel Kadetts, VW Golfs and BMW 3-Series are all incredibly popular, but there are also some left field choices, such as Corsa As (Novas in Vauxhall-speak), Toyota Starlets, and the Citroen AX you see here.
In a field largely dominated by rear wheel drive classics and ballistic single seaters, this little Citroen stands out a mile, and for all the right reasons. It’s been built by Manfred Schulte, a successful motorcycle racer with a penchant for speed and extreme builds. The AX holds a special place in Manfred’s affections as it was the car he began his association with hill climbing in, though the actual car he started out with was somewhat more prosaic in spec than the one you see here. “It was just a little AX Sport, so it had a 1.3 8v engine with a race cam, some induction and exhaust modifications and a lot of weight saving,” Manfred recalls.
There’s no doubt that this little car provided the ideal means for Manfred to cut his teeth in the world of ‘mountain racing,’ but there was no disguising its limitations, nor the fact that it was pretty much a clubman spec car. Manfred was keen to progress in the sport, but he was also aware that this would be costly and that he may as well utilise the experience he’d acquired by competing in the AX – which leads us neatly to this little Gallic monster. This car came into Manfred’s ownership midway through 2010, and it took just hours for him to begin disassembling and prepping it for a life of punishing hill climbs.
“It was a clean, low mileage shell, so perfect for the kind of thing I had in mind. There wasn’t any rust to speak of, so I was clear to jump in and start stitch welding the shell, strengthening and bracing the engine bay and the suspension points,” recalls Manfred.
He also took the wise (not to mention necessary) step of fitting a whopper of a roll cage, a welded in one that triangulates with both the front and rear strut tops, runs along the dash and criss-crosses the entire shell. Obviously a cage like this is primarily there for safety purposes (some of those German road courses climb to considerable heights, with sheer drops to match), but it also provides strength to the tinny AX bodyshell, something badly needed once the fibreglass doors, bonnet and boot are factored in.
This period of the build also saw Manfred address one of the major shortcomings of his previous AX, width.
“The old car was fairly stock looking. OK so we flared the arches a little to fit slightly wider wheels, but it still wasn’t that much, and it restricted the size of tyres we could run,” Manfred explains. There was no way that the new AX was going to want for mechanical grip, something that explains the massively flared arches front and rear. This car is almost comically wide, with more than a touch of Metro 6R4 about its silhouette (which is no bad thing in our book). Those arches have been painstakingly constructed from carbon fibre, with the fronts working perfectly with that ultra-aggressive, demonstrably effective front splitter. The rear end is dominated by that bi-plane rear wing, and again it’s hard not to make comparisons to Group B machines. “We tried to make the aero package as efficient as possible, but of course it’s a challenge when you’re working to a tight budget and don’t have a wind tunnel,” Manfred says.
Perhaps the most ambitious aspect of the AX’s aero kit is the flat floor and rear diffuser. This has been achieved through careful use of carbon fibre and Kevlar, and though it’s still a long way from the kind of thing seen in early 80s F1 cars, this DIY ground effect does provide a noticeable increase in the amount of grip available.
Propulsion comes in the form of a TU engine, but not the kind you’ll find in your average PSA product. This TU5JP4 1.6 16v was ‘liberated’ from a full-fat C2 Super 1600 rally car, meaning a fully forged bottom end, carefully worked over head, and a screaming rev limit of 9800RPM! The engine breathes through a set of 48mm KMS individual throttle bodies, while at the opposite side you’ll find a custom free-flowing manifold and a 70mm straight through stainless steel exhaust. Power is 243bhp, though there’s potentially more to come should a winter of development and fettling provide the results they are expected to.
“The jump in power and responsiveness over the old 8v engine is just night and day. It’s a lot more modern and allows us to compete against the other cars in the class, like the Corsa, the Golfs, Polos and Sciroccos.”
That manic 1600 engine is mated to an equally trick transmission, with spec highlights including a Drexler six-speed sequential gearbox and LSD, heavy duty, tarmac-spec driveshafts, and Xsara hubs. When coupled with the KW V2 coilovers, rose-joints and reinforced suspension mounting points, it perhaps shouldn’t be that surprising that this little Citroen is more than capable of handling all that NA shove.
Massive brakes aren’t actually as important to hill climbing as you might think (let’s face it, you’re not going to excel in the sport if you’re stamping on the brakes while going uphill), with many of the fastest cars actually running tiny motorbike brakes on the rear axle in an effort to save weight. Of course this AX weighs pretty much nothing at all, but a desire to keep it as usable as possible means than Manfred runs relatively large 310mm discs with ATE four-pot calipers, plus competition spec fluid, pads and braided discs. Suffice it to say that this is one hatch that really can ‘stop on a dime.’
“It’s not as powerful as some of the other cars out there, but because it’s so light I can brake very, very late, sometimes not at all. That’s how I make up time,” chuckles Manfred.
Those stoppers are housed inside seriously cool BBS split rims, 10x15in at the front and a massive 10.5x15in at the back. (hence the need for those equally beefy arches) Tyres vary depending on the conditions, but most of the time Manfred runs super sticky Avon track slicks front and rear.
The inside is dominated by that mammoth roll cage, and there’s no way you’d mistake this for anything other than a specialised, full-fat competition machine. It’s certainly a far cry from Manfred’s first AX! Creature comforts are thin on the ground, though you will find a Konig carbon fibre bucket seat, a floor mounted pedal box, a ten gallon fuel cell with twin pumps, a brake bias valve, and a sophisticated AIM data logging system with a built in camera (there’s no point putting in banzai times if you can’t see the results for yourself at a later date!).
The AX first turned its wheels in anger at the start of the 2012 season and proved itself to be immediately competitive and reliable, thanks in no small part to the sheer number of brand new components that’ve been used throughout. Manfred has been more than able to hold his own against some cars that, on paper at least, look to have the beating of the AX, and in fact he emerged as the overall winner of his group. There’s still more performance to come though, with that super 1600 TU engine currently running at a fairly moderate spec and a few revisions to the aero package in development, so we expect a lot more lunacy in the near future!
Super 1600 race engine was liberated from a C2 and is currently at 245bhp, with more to come over the winter!
In a bid to increase grip Manfred fitted massive arches to accomodate huge slicks, and an extensive aero package was painstakingly crafted.
Specification #Citroen-AX / #Citroen-AX-Super-1600
ENGINE: 1600cc #TU5JP4 16v Super 1600 engine with 48mm #KMS individual throttle bodies on short manifold, fully forged internals, lightened and balanced crank, H-beam con rods, lightweight valves with double valve springs, custom profile camshafts, free-flowing head wrapped manifold, 70mm stainless straight through exhaust with side exit, standalone management, alloy header tank, alloy fan, Aerogrip braided lines.
TRANSMISSION: Drexler six-speed sequential gearbox and LSD, motorsport spec #Drexler driveshafts, Xsara hubs.
SUSPENSION: #KW-V2 coilovers, adjustable top mounts, rose jointed front end, strengthened suspension mounting points.
BRAKES: ATE four-pot calipers with 310mm fully floating discs all round, braided lines, competition pads and fluid.
WHEELS: Front: 10x15in three-piece #BBS split rims, Avon racing slicks Rear: 10.5x15in three-piece BBS split rims, Avon racing slicks.
EXTERIOR: Stitch welded and braced Citroen AX body shell with carbon fibre doors, arches, skirts, splitter, spoiler, tailgate, bonnet and diff user, carbon-kevlar under-body panel.
INTERIOR: Multi-point #FIA compliant roll cage, Konig carbon fibre bucket seat, AIM data system with onboard camera, OMP wheel on a snap off boss, ATL 10l fuel safety cell with twin pumps, fire suppression system, floor mounted pedal box, Plexiglas windows, remote engine shut offs.
“We tried to make the aero package as efficient as possible, but of course it’s a challenge when you’re working to a tight budget”
Hillclimbing is massive in Germany, so much so that it spawns monsters like this AX!
Interior is pure focused race car.
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- Post is under moderationThe German Way #BMW-M3-E92-Track-Car
The story behind a glorious E92 M3 track car… it’s not all about power, as we find out. Phil Chapman took a leaf out of the Germans’ book when it came to transforming his E92 M3 into a track car capable of conquering the Nürburgring… Words: Simon Holmes. Photography: Chris Wallbank.
The German way of tuning is very different to the UK when it comes to the Nürburgring,” says Phil Chapman, owner of this E92 M3 track car. “Over there, they only really concentrate on three things; tyres, suspension and brakes. Power doesn’t even come into it.” What Phil preaches is true, the UK tuning industry does seem to suffer from chasing sky-high power figures above all else a lot of the time when, in fact, it should probably be concentrating on the more relevant criteria our German friends are well aware of. It’s a concept that often seems alien to us, though, to the point where some people in the UK have trouble believing what Phil tells them, but he very much practices what he preaches. “I was at a UK event and mentioned the car was capable of a 7 minute lap time at the ‘Ring with a virtually standard engine, and I was told that it wasn’t possible!” he tells us.
But Phil has done a 7min 30sec lap so safe to say that he is a capable hand behind the wheel. He’s no stranger to a fast car either, but the M3 is in an entirely different league and the story of how it all came to be started some years ago when he bought his first sports car. Logically, Phil decided that to get the best out of it he better learn how to drive it properly, so undertook some track driving tuition. Since then, he’s spent many more hours behind the wheel on track and it wasn’t long until he was making regular pilgrimages to the Mecca that is the Nürburgring. It was there he experienced a BMW for the first time and he was instantly sold on the brand after just a single passenger lap in an E46 M3 CSL.
Clearly it had quite an effect, as since then Phil has owned various respectable BMWs, including a couple of E46 M3 CSLs, a 1M Coupé, a 335d as well as a few X5s thrown in for good measure. He’s also owned plenty of high end, fast cars, but none seem to make the same connection with him as a BMW. “I went from the CSL to a Porsche, but realised it was the BMW I preferred,” he tells us. “There’s something I love about BMWs, all the ones I’ve had have been close to my heart, and I’ve had plenty of cars. Nothing grabs you the same way; they’re so beautifully balanced and you know they’re not going to bite you.”
With his BMW background, the transition to an E92 M3 might have seemed obvious, and it was, but not necessarily for the reasons you may be expecting, as he explains: “My second CSL had a slight gearbox problem. I spent 18 months trying to get it sorted out and my dealership was very good, but it just couldn’t get to the bottom of it. I was eventually told by someone at BMW head office that the CSL wasn’t designed for track use! I then fell out of love with the CSL, but I would have another tomorrow.”
The experience left a bitter taste and Phil ventured back to Porsche once again before realising he couldn’t than turn his back on the brand he loved. So he began looking at an E92 and capitalising on the credit crunch at the end of the last decade, he picked up this completely standard M3 with just 3000 miles on the clock back in 2008 for a very decent price.
Phil was instantly swayed by the DCT gearbox and the V8 powerplant. “How can you not like the engine? It sounds amazing!” he enthuses. But whilst the engine and gearbox were both huge steps forwards from the CSL he previously owned, Phil knew the chassis would need some dedication to unearth the best from it. “The chassis was amazing but it wasn’t at its full potential. I always like to tweak my cars and track was always where this was going to end up. Suspension and brakes were the first things to come, but when I started modifying it, not many other people were so it was hard to try and find parts to see if they worked. It was a bit of trial and error and, at first, it was me guessing, so I went through a few different brake and suspension setups.”
First on the agenda was to actually remove the factory fitted Electronic Damper Control. Whilst the system may be fine for road use, Phil quickly discovered it wasn’t quite so impressive round a track. “I took the EDC off straight away. With slick tyres fitted it freaked around a track, so I removed it and fitted a set of KW 2-way coilovers instead,” says Phil.
Following the German way of tuning, next came a set of better brakes, but back when the E92 was still new and unfamiliar with tuners, Phil had no choice but to have a custom brake kit made up using Lamborghini callipers with custom bells and rotors. “Nobody had done it before, so it cost a fortune. It was great and worked really well, but the brake pad choice was too limited and expensive. The callipers used eight pads so it was costing a lot to change them, and around the ‘Ring you change them regularly. So I’ve since swapped to an AP Racing kit just to get more pad choice and value.”
The KW coilovers have also since been replaced, this time with a Nitron three-way setup. These were specially spec’d for the car by German tuner Schirmer Race Engineering, which has had quite an impact on the car’s development. You may not have heard of Tom Schirmer before, but for those in the know, his black #BMW-E92 M3 track cars are legendary for being spectacularly fast and setting blistering track times. Phil first heard of Tom and his cars whilst at the ‘Ring, but aside from whispers, it was hard to actually track him down. Eventually he did though and an outing in Schirmer’s finely tuned E92 M3 demo car instantly confirmed he had found the man capable of developing his car to the next stage. “He’s a hard guy to find but once I went out in his demo car, that was it, within three minutes I knew I had found the right person,” Phil tells us. That same demo car has recently done a scorching 6min 58sec lap time at the ‘Ring, in case you’re wondering just how fast it is…
Phil ordered one of everything from the Schirmer catalogue, and after leaving the car in Germany, he picked it up a month later with huge, instant results. “It’s just phenomenal. Around a track the car is mind blowing,” reveals Phil. ”When you feel it all come together, it’s hard to believe how good it is. The car feels so planted it’s hard to explain without taking you out on a passenger lap. Its main advantage is that it can carry so much corner speed. It’s set up to do that and it’s the reason it’s so fast without huge amounts of power. It wouldn’t do so well at another track but I love the way it drives.”
Schirmer’s carefully selected chassis modifications extended to include a Drexler derived LSD and the wider #BBS split-rims, measuring 10.5-inches at the front and 11-inches at the rear. Whilst both Team Schirmer and Phil maintain huge amounts of power isn’t important, there have been some mild tweaks under the bonnet as well. A full Akrapovic exhaust system replaces the original items and it’s complemented by a Schirmer designed large capacity carbon fibre air box, #Schrick cams and a remap, which sees power around the 470hp mark. A notable improvement, but hardly huge amounts either. Aside from what’s lurking underneath, it’s hard to ignore the fact the car has more than an air of function over form outside as well, in a stealth kind of way. The various aero upgrades aren’t there for looks as most are borrowed from an M3 GT4 and GTS so are designed to do a job. The menacing colour combination is no mistake either as although the car is track orientated, Phil always keeps in mind the overall look of things: “My job is branding so the look is everything and detail is important. I like the way it drives but from a parts point of view I love the look of the wheels and the wing mirrors.”
Despite the looks and huge potential on track, the M3 is still road legal and was driven regularly. But it’s now got to the point where Phil leaves the car at the Nürburgring to make things easier as he has other, better-suited cars to travel to Germany in and he visits the ‘Ring once a month during the summer season. Of course, you won’t be surprised to learn that Phil readily admits he’s gone further with the M3 than he ever intended to and the car is virtually unsellable now, but only because he’s enjoyed it so much over the years he’s had it: “I’ve had so many good memories and experiences in it it’s part of the family, the car’s value doesn’t really come into it anymore. It never misses a beat and it’s always been absolutely faultless, even when I’m pushing the car hard round the track all day, from 8am until sunset.”
Despite the well-honed modifications and hugely impressive lap times, for now, the M3 is actually going to be put to use as a kind of working mule car for Phil’s next development; an all new car. Plans are afoot to take Phil’s track driving to the next level, which means he will be competing in a Brit Car competition race next year. For that, he’s building an all-new E90 3 Series with a planned 600hp on-tap and a curb weight around the 1100kg mark. The #BMW-M3 will be using the proposed racing engine first of all and not one to do things by halves, he’s looking at a Schirmer developed 4.4-litre conversion with parts shared from the M3 GTS in order to keep it strictly naturally aspirated. “The supercharged cars don’t really work at the ‘Ring,” reveals Phil. “They get too hot.” Sometimes it’s not all about the power…
“It’s just phenomenal. Around a track the car is mind blowing”
TECH DATA #BMW-M3-E92 Track Car
ENGINE & GEARBOX: #Akrapovic exhaust system, #BMW-Motorsport water pump, Tom Schirmer oil cooler, catch tank and large capacity carbon air box, #Macht-Schnell hard air box pipes, Schrick cams, Tom Schirmer setup and remap to 470hp.
CHASSIS: Nitron three-way race specification coilovers with Tom Schirmer spec spring and damper rate, #Tom-Schirmer Kinematic suspension parts, #Drexler LSD with 4.1:1 ratio
BRAKES: Front: AP Racing Pro 5000 six-pot callipers with GT4 motorsport bells, Performance Friction discs and pads. Rear: AP Racing Pro four-pot callipers, #Performance-Friction discs front and pads.
WHEELS & TYRES: 10.5x18-inch and 11x18-inch #BBS-E88 split-rims in gold, 265/18 and 295/18 Pirelli Trofeo R tyres.
INTERIOR: #Genuine M3 GTS half cage, Tom Schirmer digital oil and diff temperature gauges, Alcantara BMW steering wheel, Schroth endurance harnesses, #Recaro SPG seats, Tom Schirmer seat mounts, genuine carbon trim.
EXTERIOR: Original #DTM carbon fibre wing mirrors, front GT4 carbon lip spoiler with cooling pipes to front brakes and GT4 brake airflow plate, carbon diff cooler spoiler, original WTCC rear spoiler, GTS rear wing end plates, Aero Catches, towing straps front and rear, genuine BMW LED rear lights.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.