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.
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.
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.