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    The 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.
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