Having raced professionally 3 Series BMWs of every generation since the E36 of the late 1990s, BimmerWorld Racing knows a thing or two about how the cars are put together. Even so, the Virginia-based team got a pleasant surprise when it started working on its new F30 328i last spring. Stripping out the interior to weld in the requisite roll cage, BimmerWorld found a chassis with a distinct advantage over previous models.
“In E36s, the M cars had subframe reinforcements and non-M cars didn’t,” says team owner/driver James Clay. “We found that you really needed to weld those in for cars that were going on the track. In the E46s, BMW did a better job, but even the E46 M3s were tearing out subframes. In the E90s, BMW made them stiffer still, but on the race cars we pick up the cage points all the way down into the subframe to give it extra support. In the F30, it’s almost like they took that element of a race car and built it with support down to the rear subframe.”
That, of course, made the task of race-prepping the car easier. It bode well, too, for the car’s prospects in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSCC), where it would join BimmerWorld’s fleet of E90s in the ST class for the last few races of the 2013 season. The team was still coming to grips with the new N20 four-cylinder engine, but the #84 car was sufficiently developed to take tenth place at the CTSCC finale at Lime Rock Park in late September. It was only its third race ever, but its pace was less than half a second down on the times set by its well-sorted and reliable E90 stablemates, which finished second and third in the same event.
Lap times aside, we wondered how these two generations of BimmerWorld race cars compare from behind the wheel. To find out, we joined the team for a private test at Virginia International Raceway, where we had a chance to drive both cars back-to-back. The new F30 shows plenty of promise, but is it ready to take on the venerable E90? We shall see!
F30 race prep
The process of building a new race car began when Virginia-based BimmerWorld ordered a new F30 328i from United BMW in Roswell, Georgia. After a thorough inspection, the team started stripping out the interior in preparation for welding in the roll cage and swapping the stock suspension for something more race-worthy.
In 2013, the CTSCC required AST dampers, which BimmerWorld fitted to its E90 and F30 328i racers along with Hyperco springs. For 2014, teams will have freedom of choice where dampers are concerned, so BimmerWorld switched to Motion Control units (still with Hyperco springs). It’s a return to the familiar: Motion Control is run by engineers who were at Moton when BimmerWorld used that company’s shocks in Speed World Challenge (2002 to 2009).