ewrjontan
ewrjontan New Reader
12/20/23 2:03 a.m.

Hey all, I have an E36 M3 (as well as a 987.2 Cayman) that I have been taking to HPDE events at my local tracks. I have 11 track days under my belt along with a few Autocross events which I just started partaking in this year. I'd like to get into wheel-to-wheel racing and I have done a fair share of research but I am a little stuck.

I plan to go to a racing school (probably one in Colorado) depending on what is available. However, I am torn on whether to go with NASA or SCCA. I would love to get into Spec3 racing but I don't necessarily want to start my car over from scratch or deal with detuning. My M3 is stock (motor-wise aside from a Conforti chip) but in terms of suspension it has all new bushings (most being oem but the subframe bushings are poly), front and rear subframe re-enforcements, UUC front sway bar and ground control sport/school hybrid coilovers/camber plates (525/660 lb/inch springs). Currently running PFC carbon metallic (11 compound) brake pads at the moment and will switch to PFC 8's most likely whenever the pads wear down enough.

I am having trouble figuring out what class the car would fall under. Since spec3 is kind of out the window, I am assuming I would go with GT or ST. I can't seem to find the requirements for these classes, so if someone wouldn't mind sharing a link that would be great.

Back to the whole NASA vs SCCA thing, I am in Nebraska so regionally, I would fall into the midwest/central regions. Again, having trouble finding more info about the events in this region. Is there a place that just lists all of the tracks that fall into these regions? I'd like to try and plan out how feasible travelling to and from these events would be.
 
Any advice or guidance would be much appreciated. Figuring out how Autocross works was easy, but road racing information is a little less clear.

LanEvo
LanEvo GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/20/23 2:18 a.m.

Have you looked into the BMW CCA Club Racing series? Not sure how active they are in the Midwest vs. the coasts. 

camopaint0707
camopaint0707 Reader
12/20/23 6:43 a.m.

what about the gridlife series?

accordionfolder
accordionfolder UltraDork
12/20/23 7:37 a.m.

Gridlife would require detuning most likely, which OP said they didn't want to do. You also need to have worked through the TT program or have enough experience to be ok'd for a provisional license.

Is this car caged already? You list mods, but safety equipment is the hard part. Cage, seat, fire, cutoff, nets, and belts at a minimum.

Just a note, It's always cheaper to buy a race car than build it.

​​​​​​NASA vs SCCA - you need to find what group you plan on running (see next paragraph) with initially more often and go with them. When you have experience, most groups will reciprocate licenses after your school.

You'll need to send some emails to your regions and check to see which specs are active locally, it's not always the same. It's obviously not particularly fun to race by yourself.

Hoppps
Hoppps New Reader
12/20/23 8:03 a.m.

I don't know specific rules of the series, but there are plenty of people who participate in both NASA and SCCA at the same time, just depends which race date falls on your available weekend.

only thing I would be worried about is that your very nice M3 is likely to never be as nice again. There is likely to be some sort of damage that happens to the car and if you aren't okay with a big tire mark or damaged body work from where you went off track into a wall, I would get a different car to start with. There's also a lot of safety requirements to get started wheel to wheel, so baby steps and looking into time trials would probably be better.

if you're planning for a school in Colorado but in Nebraska region, the tracks I know of off hand are:

Pikes Peak International Raceway (PPIR) - Fountain, CO

Motorsport Park Hastings - Hastings, NE

Kansas Speedway (Road Course) - Kansas City, KS

Utah Motorsports Campus (UMC) - Grantsville, UT

Those are probably the closest to you without driving more than 10hrs.

Personally, I would look into time trial first as the requirements to get on track in a competitive environment are less than wheel to wheel (no cage required in some classes for time trial and stuff). SCCA and Gridlife both have it. Also if you have Facebook, follow the scca and nasa regions close to you, join the private groups, and ask them where they race! If not on Facebook, google "Nebraska SCCA" or any state close to you, they should keep a celebration of events and you can figure out what tracks they go to. Good luck!

 

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
12/20/23 8:32 a.m.

Why not lemons / champcar / lucky dog?

No licensing requirements.

For any wheel to wheel you will need a cage, seat, belts, fire system, etc, etc...  it is most of the cost of a build.

 

Instead of modifying your car to a point that it is a pain to drive, rent a seat with an existing team for a few weekends.  See if it is something you are willing to invest THOUSANDS of dollars EVERY year into.

KevinLG
KevinLG New Reader
12/20/23 9:24 a.m.

I would first figure out what sanctioning bodies have the most consistent participation. Lots of road race classes/groups will often have very few people in class, and to me, what's the point of going W2W if there's only one or two guys to race against, often with wild disparities in pace? See what's popular at the tracks you want to go to, look up race results, etc. 

I'd also parrot the suggestions to maybe pick up an already prepped race car. Once the cage goes in, it'll always just be a relatively useless race car. E36 M3s are going up in value, so I'd personally hang onto it as a street car and get something else you might not care about. I'd also shoot for whatever classes are popular based on the data you collected earlier. 

NASA requires participation all up and down the ladder, so getting your race license can be time consuming. SCCA will let you go W2W after completing competition school. Gridlife really prefers folks to have time with them in HPDE/Time Attack, and I think shooting for GLTC while living in Nebraska would be pretty rough, unless you really love traveling to the Midwest. I'd recommend looking into BMWCCA as well, but I don't have any info to add.

I'd also look into some of the endurance racing series, maybe you'll find that's more your cup of tea. But those events are so wildly different than sprint racing, that I wouldn't bucket them in the same category despite both being "W2W."

trigun7469
trigun7469 UltraDork
12/20/23 9:45 a.m.

Another thought is karting, I am not familiar with Colorado scene but a quick search I found a couple tracks. Karting does not require a license, however SBR has a Karting school. My opinion karting is the best way to learn w2w. Lo206 is popular but the slowest classes, Ka100, Tag, and shifter are fast (depends on the track if they have a class), Typically tracks have arrive and drives if you want to try before you buy. You can also then rent seat with lemons / champcar / lucky dog, gives you plenty of track time and low investment to take your time to decide, however I think the crapcan racing probably will want to make you stay rather then go to SCCA or NASA cheeky

 

Peanu_Keeyes
Peanu_Keeyes GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/20/23 10:17 a.m.

https://nomoneymotorsports.com/2021/03/09/how-to-go-racing-4-popular-paths-to-earning-a-competition-racing-license/
 

^ My buddy Jim has an incredibly helpful blog about all things racing, specifically Spec Miata but most of it is applicable across the board. 

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
12/20/23 11:06 a.m.
accordionfolder
accordionfolder UltraDork
12/20/23 11:26 a.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

Your links are admin/dev links. I never loved Django when I worked with it. 

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
12/20/23 11:31 a.m.

In reply to accordionfolder :

Thank you for catching that. That's what I get for rushing.

Should be fixed now.

bmw88rider
bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UberDork
12/20/23 12:38 p.m.

As I'm sure you know, SCCA is not active at all in NE. They were going to run one race at Hastings but didn't get it established and I'm not sure if they are going to try next year either. I didn't even renew for 2024. NASA is more established overall in the area. SCCA in colorado is ok but the NASA fields were always bigger. I would look at NASA personally. They also do an event at Hastings at the same time as the state fair. Then there are events at Ozark and there is a newer track near KC that is being ran for the first time. 

Gridlife really doesn't do much here with them closing the Alpine Fest at PPIR and the event they did at Heartland park. There is only 1 lucky dog race even remotely close in Brainard. There are 2 lemons races at High Plains and one at Hallett. 

Basically, you are looking at NASA and I think Spec E46 is a great class if I was going that route. It's really popular and I felt the cars were fun to race. I wouldn't convert the E36 into anything unless it's already caged with a legal cage and has all of the safety equipment. Then yeah it would probably be ST class.

Better option is sell the E36 and buy something ready to go. You will have enough to worry about as you make the transition. 

 

 

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Dork
12/20/23 12:59 p.m.

Lots of great advice here. Only thing I can add is that none of these orgs are great at providing info online, and you can almost always get more done in person. If I were you I'd find an SCCA time trials event close to you.  Take your current car, and spend the weekend talking to racers and admin staff. They all tend to be pretty forthcoming and you'll learn more in a weekend than in 100 hours researching online. 

Try to figure out what -type- of racing you want to do. Do you want close racing with big fields, or a more permissive ruleset with some flexibility for the build?  Back into the right racecar from there. I will reitierate that turning a street car into a logbooked race car can be an exercise in frustration and lighting giant stacks of money on fire. 

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
12/20/23 1:09 p.m.

The NASA Super Touring (ST) site is here, has rules and a bunch of other resources:  https://drivenasa.com/road-racing/super-touring/

This seems to be the same site for NASA GTS:  https://drivenasa.com/road-racing/german-touring-series/

I race my E46 M3 in ST4, so I'm reasonably familiar with the ST rules.  An E36 M3 with a stock tune on the motor is an ST4 car as well, and AFAIK all the modifications you've listed would be legal.  Your car would likely be somewhat under-prepared for the class -- the fastest E36 ST4 cars have S54 swaps, aero, and lots of suspension upgrades, but that's not necessarily a big deal.

NASA uses the same prep rules for TT (time trial) as they do for ST racing, so one thing you might consider is to go do an event with them in TT4.  That gives you a chance to see what your local region is like, determine what classes are popular locally, meet the people involved, etc.

As far as the race licensing school goes, nothing says you have to take the school in the car you're going to race long-term.  In fact, there is an argument that it's better to do an arrive-and-drive rental for the school -- a race school is a VERY busy weekend and you will have approximately zero free time for dealing with car issues.  An arrive-and-drive rental will typically come with someone to prep the car for you and that is very welcome.

 

ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
12/21/23 7:23 a.m.

Having BTDT and drained the bank account, I would drop the idea of using the M3 for your first foray into W2W. Those cars are gaining in value, for one thing. Your car WILL be destroyed at some point on the track; to not go in with this as a part of the thought process would be a big mistake. Sell it or keep it, but don't use it as a race car. 

Buy an existing spec class car (E30, Spec3, SpecE46) and enjoy the cheaper running costs and expendability. I know from experience that an M3 will cost much more to run on the track. 

The fun of W2W racing has nothing to do with hp or speed. My E30 was way more fun to drive at the ragged edge than the M3 was. Tires, brakes, etc were all much less expensive too.

I'd also suggest you try W2W first, maybe in a rental race car, before taking the plunge. It is much different than running TT or doing lap days. Those other guys aren't playing. Running at the front also takes a lot of talent and $$$ no matter the class.

Andy Hollis
Andy Hollis
12/21/23 10:11 a.m.
wvumtnbkr said:

Why not lemons / champcar / lucky dog?

No licensing requirements.

For any wheel to wheel you will need a cage, seat, belts, fire system, etc, etc...  it is most of the cost of a build.

 

Instead of modifying your car to a point that it is a pain to drive, rent a seat with an existing team for a few weekends.  See if it is something you are willing to invest THOUSANDS of dollars EVERY year into.

+1 to this ^^^^

You'll also get a really good look at the incident repair part of W2W.  Not something you see with DE/TT.

ewrjontan
ewrjontan New Reader
12/21/23 10:59 p.m.

Thanks for all of the info! The one guy I spoke to at my last Porsche HPDE was super helpful so it definitely is easier to just get information from people rather than trying to read through hundreds if not thousands of pages of documentation and rules and not retaining any of it lol.

 

I am already apart of the Nebraska SCCA as well as my local BMWCCA region. I totally forgot that I could just send a few emails to try to get some more info so I will definitely be doing that. Unfortunately, as someone mentioned, the NE SCCA is pretty dead. So is my BMWCCA group; they do about one or two "
drives" a year which are barely enjoyable as we basically have to drive into other states to find some decent roads. They don't bother going to my local track (race way park of the midlands) because it isn't nice enough and doesn't meet BMW's standards; totally get it, they don't even have running bathrooms, but if the Porsche group (which I am also apart of and is the most active) is willing to use the track, I feel like the BMW group should just nut up and use it while it still exists. 

 

Fortunately, the Autocross group is obviously active here, being the location of nationals so that is nice and it was an enjoyable first year; taking first in the novice groups in the three events I made it to. They do have a Time trial event at RPM as well but I wasn't able to make it this year. I will say that I checked the roster and part of the reason I didn't bother was that there were so few attendees and I would have been in a class by myself. It would have essentially been a typical HPDE even for double the price.  

 

You guys are definitely correct regarding the M3. Aside from common rust spost near the trunk area, it is a very clean car. I have been putting off gutting it and going full race car for years because I can't help but consider destroying it and losing potential resale value. Then again, I only ever drive it at HPDE and auto cross events and I have dumped so much money into the car that I don't think I could ever get rid of it. My 987.2 Cayman (base) will be payed off this month so I am half tempted to just turn that car into my race car but the cost will be unimaginable and being a base model, would never be competitive. 

 

Spec e30, 3, e46 or Miata would be great but getting a 5th vehicle is just out of the question at the moment. Granted, I have been wanting to pick up a Miata for my girlfriend to hit HPDE's with me so it could be my excuse to get one.

 

Karting is definitely being considered mainly for the fact that I wouldn't need to purchase a whole tow setup and I could probably get by with my BMW wagon and small trailer. 

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