M3- First Race


The boys are ready to race!

We had our first race last weekend with the M3 at the HMSA Spring race at Laguna Seca.

Let me first give a big shout out to Pall, Luis, and Kevin for coming down and cheering us on. It was great fun to meet them and talk about all things M3! And if you haven’t looked at Pall’s Flicker album yet- don’t miss it. He got some really great shots of the car.

This was my first time in the car and I always approach a new car with the idea of just getting comfortable with it, the controls, the feedback its giving me, and making sure everything is operating nominally.

Saturday morning was cool and damp. The track was dry, but off-line there were damp patches. I used the first few laps of the session to just get comfortable in the car and to build a little heat in the slicks. I also needed to scrub the mold release off their face.

My first race with the new M3. What a sweet car!

After a few laps I began to build up my speed. The gearbox in the car is pretty amazing. It is a Getrag 265 case with Samsonas innards. The cluster features straight cut gears and it has a dog ring so the clutch is not necessary once you are moving. I chose to use the clutch for now so as to not add another complication to my learning the car. Later I’ll work at shifting w/o the clutch. The gear throw is VERY short; just a flick of the wrist and you’re in the next gear. Really sweet.

The car felt very neutral and I kept having to push myself deeper into the corners before braking as they are much more effective than any of my other cars.

Saturday afternoon the rains came. It started just as I was sitting on pre-grid for the qualifying race with my 2002. By the time our race was over there were puddles starting to form on the track so I decided not to take the M3 out.

Sunday morning was sunny and warmer. I took the car out for the morning warm-up session. The second time in a new car is always better. I feel like I at least know more what to expect, plus I am more comfortable with the steering, pedals, and shifter. So I turned it up another notch.

As I began to push the car harder it began to show more of its personality. The first thing I noticed was a little bit of under steer on turn in. As I reached the apex and added power the car instantly neutralized and came off the corner like a freight train. There are in cockpit adjustments for the sway bars and brake bias. I will begin exploring those later. I have left them at the settings the previous owner recommended.

The engine in the car is great. It dogs below 4500, which you would expect. Once you reach 5500 it really comes alive and pulls hard up until the red line. I was choosing to shift at about 8000-8200. red line is marked on the tach at 8500.

I was gridded for the feature race in 4th behind 2 2018 Porsche GT3 Cup cars, and a 1990 Olds tube frame GTO car. How did we get 2 brand new GT3 Cup cars on the grid of a vintage race? Good question. I asked but never got a straight answer from HMSA. I’m guessing the reason was financial. There was also a 2012 GT3 Cup car in the field. He was gridded at the rear of our group because he didn’t have a qualifying time.

As the 2 GT3 Cup cars sailed off into the distance I chased the GTO car. I decided I would just follow him and keep him honest while I was still learning the car. My best lap was a 1:40, about 2 tenths quicker than the GTO’s best lap. A few laps into the race the other GT3 Cup car came forward and passed us both so I finished 5th overall, but 2nd in the ‘vintage’ class.

Old reliable slogs through the rain to a 2nd place finish in our qualifying race.

I also raced the Koepchen 2002 in Group 4. The car was just plain ripping all weekend long. We had the new Ivey engine in the car and it performed very well.

In Saturday’s qualifying race I had a great dice with Dennis Racine in his yellow Mini. I was finally able to pass him in Turn 11 on the last lap to finish 2nd.

In the feature race I was able to pass the lead Datsun 510 going through Turn 2. He missed a shift going into Turn 5 and I opened a lead on him that I was able to keep throughout the rest of the race.

My best lap was a 1:49.7. The best I have ever done in the 2002 at Laguna Seca.

NSU Fulfills a Dream, and Answers Questions

Looking a little like a Corvair, these cars have many similarities with their US cousins.

Along with BMWs and MBs my father’s dealership sold NSUs. So when I started racing he suggested I find the holy grail of NSUs, a 1200 TTS. I found one for sale in NJ and went with my friend Peter P. to collect it and bring it back to MN.

NSU was an old manufacturer. They began in the late 1800’s as a knitting machine manufacturer. Soon they became a bicycle manufacturer, and then in the early 1900’s began making cars and motorcycles.

After the war they continued making excellent motorcycles, winning races in Europe and setting many speed records at Bonneville. Their cars were small, but of high quality, and were also quite successful on track.

Their most successful model on the track and at hillclimbs was the TT and its successor the TTS. These cars came as 1,000 ccs and 1200 ccs, and were named for the race where NSU had had such success, the Isle of Man TT races.

Power comes from a 1,200 cc 4 cylinder, OH cam, air cooled motor derived from their motorcycle engines.

In the late 1960’s they developed a Wankle engined car called the Ro-80 that was a marvel. It was a beautiful design, but the engine proved unreliable, and the warranty claims put the company in jeopardy.

VW/Audi took over the company in 1969 and the NSU brand disappeared.

I ran my TTS in a few auto crosses in the fall of 1969, setting several FTDs, and then raced it on the Ice in the IIRA series in 1969 through 1971. I never got a chance to race it on a track because I sold it and bought a Mazda RX2 to race in 1972.

The question of how well these cars go has always rattled around in the back of my empty skull, so I decided to take steps to find out before I was too old to care.

Here are some pictures of my latest acquisition. It is a 1970 1200 TTS. It has a OH cam 4 cylinder air cooled engine, sitting on a 4 speed transmission. And no, I will not be doing any bump drafting with that oil cooler hanging out there.

It has independent suspension all around. Up front are unequal length arms, with coil springs and a sway bar. In back are swing axels locate by trailing arms, with coil springs and shocks.

I found the car in the Netherlands, and it is on its way via ship to Seattle. No Baby Corvair jokes please.

Stay tuned to follow the adventures of this little Bad Boy!