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View Full Version : 1st Track Impressions (WRX to M3)

Sun, Oct-26-2003, 02:42:20 AM

Just got back from my first day at the track with my 99 M3 (5spd) and wanted to let you know my thoughts (if you wanted to know).

Since I'm coming from an AWD, I felt that the at first, the car is harder to just pick up and run with.....but, when I shook the track rust off, and I started to get a feel for the new course (which has a sweet > 1 mile straight) I really started to appreciate the brilliance of the M3.

First, handling is phenomenal (with ACS off of course). Turn in is precise and really allows you to think 2 turns in advance, because you're not worried how the car will react as long as your inputs are consistent and relaxed (a key in this car). Obviously, the ability to do this is key to running fast, and key to me being able to pass cars with much greater hp's than mine (Cobra svt, for one).

I was running stock brakes and pads, and I will definetly be upgrading both parts when the next season comes around. I don't know if others have noticed this, but the play of the brake pedal really can change a lot when things get hot....it's not a horrible thing and that's just how our cars are, but I think fluids with higher boiliing points could help that a lot.

But what about Power?....cuz' I know that's what everyone wants to hear about. My group had 3 other E36 M3's, 2 E46's, 2 Sti's, 1 c4 vette, and 1 LS1 vette, Cobra SVT (and some other nice cars, but not standouts). Except for the other E36's, you can already tell I'm at a hp disadvantage here. But, you'll be glad to know, that I ran tail to tail with the Sti and one of the E46's during my last run for 20+ minutes. Sparing some suspension work on the STI, the CAI/Conforti on mine, and springs on the E46...we were all essentially very close to stock. At spokane Raceway, that loooong straight makes the Sti and E46 too much to handle, but the pull away is not as bad you'd think. I basically played this game of threatening to pass all the way through turns 2-10 on the track until we all came out of 10 to the long straight, and they'd both make some room, but not that much. Keep in mind that I've had some serious seat time in a WRX and I have no idea what kind of drivers these guys were, but their lines were good and so were mine so you can assume we're all doing the same things. As for the Cobra, he spent so much time trying to get his Ass-happy throttle oversteer under control that his exit speeds were just awful and really made him a non-contender. Again, this is a driver specific thing and I'm sure that car could kick some ass in a seasoned driver's hands.

But I was extremely pleased with what I could do behind the wheel of this car. I was nervous about the WRX to M3 switch, but I'm very pleased overall. I've seen a lot of different modifications out there, but now that I've driven essentially a stock set up, I would recommend only a few things to really rock and roll around a track:

1. You need more braking power - including higher BP brake fluid like I said, and vented brakes and better pads for sure....but don't get me wrong. I absolutely drilled (no pun intended) the stock brakes for all their worth and I ran well. But if I could stop just a hair later on most of those turns, my brakes wouldn't be so hot, I'd be accelerating sooner, and I think I would come out on straights that much hotter, and I really think I could move on the Sti in the longer straights.

2. Reducing unsprung weight with a lighter wheel set of course is easy and fashionable....but not required. I have the LTW's, and I think they were phenomenal, and most guys raced stock wheels here. But, it never hurts to shed a couple pounds here and there.

3. I think the Dinan Stage 2 suspension is the best handling thing you can do without totally f***** up what is a fantastic stock ride. I wouldn't mind having a stiffest setting Anti-sway bar in the rear, and a looser one up front....Beware! I've destroyed E36's in my WRX at the track because these guys get all kinds of crazy hodge-podge handling parts and when they get to the track, they don't know what the hell to set, or how to set it. It's best to go with a company that does it and does it well, and set it up and leave it! (And no I don't work for Dinan, I just really respect their suspension packages after having driven stock and stage 2).

4. A lot of guys throw in FI as soon as they can because they want the big numbers....but the M3 is not a drag car so people can just stop posting sob stories about getting smoked by this sti/evo, etc. Trust me, when you get in a track situation, the E36 M3 is more car than driver than most will ever know during their ownership lifetime. I really think if you want to smoke guys at the track, you have to highlight what is great about the car....it's fast, but oh man can it handle. At a different track with a shorter straight, maybe I'm blitzing the Scooby. Get a CAI/Dinan or Conforti chip/and an exhaust and you're going to have a lot of fun for not that much more $$$. Depends how competitive you want to be. I don't even have an exhaust and I'm loving who I could pass and who I was scaring.

5. X-brace - Chassis is stiff, but turn one into two at Spokane is a transition from 135+ to a short equal radius left turn that can really put the lb's on your springs and cause some irky weight transfers. Plus, it's a nice stock BMW thing to do.

6. New rear toe and front control arm bushings. No brainer, cheap, improves the handling and durability of the car. If you track it, you're going to do this anyways, eventually.

Alright, sorry for the long post, but damn if I don't love track day and wanted to share with you how happy I am with this car. Damn proud to be in the M family.


Sun, Oct-26-2003, 12:23:11 PM
Well, good to see people using this car for what it was actually made: exploiting it's handling.

Thanks for your informative post, because I've been looking to replace my current dailydriver/trackcar with an M3. Although I will be getting a Euro one, your comments on brakes and suspension tweaks are useful, and confirm my initial findings. Useful to know what to change before the first trackday (Brakes, and probably the Xbrace).



Sun, Oct-26-2003, 03:13:20 PM

thanks for the post. You will have an amazingly good time with your m3 (especially the Euro one!....so jealous) with just a few minor mods. I'm a big proponent of driving your car stock for at least a couple of sessions before you're throwing parts on it that you won't use on a daily basis. You definetly want to get comfortable with the car as is, then fine tune it to your liking. And I really mean fine tune it because the M3 is one of the few cars you can buy, drive straight to the track, and simply carve it for all its worth......

And the best part is, the drive to the track is comfortable, with your climate controlled, leather seats and and gorgeous interior. Not many cars offer that versatility.

One more part to add....I don't know about the Euro seats, but the US spec seats don't offer much in the way of lateral support. I spent a lot of time hanging on for dear life when I should have been focusing on my line...but when you get faster in your car (and you will) you WILL be tossed around. I'm only going to track it maybe once a month at best, so I'm leaving it. If you decide to get competitive you might want to look into a recaro or something. I'm sure you know this...but smooth is fast at the track. And it's hard to look cool with your face pressed against the driver's side window in a chicane!!!

ok it wasn't that bad, but you get my point.

Sun, Oct-26-2003, 03:34:52 PM
Thanks for the additional pointers. I do have a lot of tracktime under my belt already (different cars) and am able to carry enough speed to warrant a brake upgrade(which is never a bad thing actually, as long as you don't mess up the balance). Other than maybe the Xbrace and Vmax removal, the car will stay bone stock. In my experience, the factory setup is the best compromise for most high performance cars, suspension wise.
As I will be using the car for 90% highway driving and 10% track, I'd rather stick with the stock setup. I know what your saying regarding the "fine-tuning" of the car, as it's driving experience on track is only surpassed by the E30 M3.

The seats for the US version and the Euro are the same, and seeing that I'm pretty slim, that might need looking into. Probably try it with a 4 or 6 point harness first..



Mon, Oct-27-2003, 05:36:07 AM
Great post mkotecha, thanks for that.

Now imagine it all with 80 more HP... :D

Mon, Oct-27-2003, 12:59:04 PM
Great post with great detail and positive information.

You mentioned BP brake fluid. Does it seem to have a better reputation than Super Blue Racing fluid? I'm thinking about upgrading to Motorsport floating rotors and stainless braided lines and have heard multiple opinions on who makes the best fluid.

Again, great objective post and I'm glad to know that with decent driving skills, I won't be left behind on the track...

Mon, Oct-27-2003, 02:24:14 PM

thanks for the praise! M3EAN, no need for the teasing


WytLytn, what I meant to say was that the car needs a higher Boiling Point Brake fluid. I didn't even know BP was a brand out there! I went with Super Blue before this track event, and it handled the load pretty well, but almost certainly after 30 minutes of hard driving, pedal play increased which can throw off your heel/toe a little bit, when you're expecting one thing and getting another. Not a major amount, mind you, and once you "get over it" you're still flying around the track.

But, if you go with the floating rotors, steel lines, and super blue I think that is a great combo, and you'll be stopping that much later. (Don't forget Pads....). I haven't heard much about other fluids, and like I said, I was pretty happy once I knew what was coming.

Good luck and let me know what you think about those mods, because that might be the next/only other thing I do. I was just thinking about some vented Brembo's....but I've heard good things about the Euro floaters. Let me know

Mon, Oct-27-2003, 02:29:46 PM
Damn. If I had 80 more hp, it just makes me ill to think about what I would have done to that Sti and E46.

Damn't M3an, now you've got me thinking more mods, which I wasn't going to do.....but what if?

You're compensating me for half my expenditures on my car this winter before the track :D

Mon, Oct-27-2003, 03:12:33 PM
Great post....loved every minute reading it.

Mon, Oct-27-2003, 03:28:55 PM
Thanks for the brake info. I wish I had the glue to throw a set of Brembo's on there as well, but figure that the Motorsports would have to do it for the immediate future......What would you do for the rear rotors? Slotted Zimmermans?

As for modding, I know you guys are sick of me ranting about my latest one: Lightweight flywheel and performance clutch. The speed with which your motor will spool up is really incredible, allowing you to hit and remain in the powerband, thereby allowing you to get to the horsepower out of the turns faster.

Mon, Oct-27-2003, 03:33:26 PM
Where in ATL did you get the work done and can you give an idea of costs?

Dan I Am
Mon, Oct-27-2003, 04:52:42 PM
Great post. I gotta get my a$$ on the track.

Mon, Oct-27-2003, 05:00:00 PM
KUpolo, I'm going to try and hit second creek raceway soon, probably some weekday afternoon in the next two weeks. On 11/15 me and a friend are going to go to the Pueblo track for the day, unless the weather sucks or the skiing is good. I'll send you a message when I nail down a day for 2nd creek.

Mon, Oct-27-2003, 05:20:46 PM

I say leave the rear brakes alone, unless you can't handle the different look. My rears handled themselves very well and didn't take too much grind. You should be stopping quite well with new pads, floaters, and new lines up front. That's where 90% of stopping power comes from anyway.

I'm pretty confident of this statement too. I just hammered my car for 2+ hours on the track and my rear brakes are looking pretty good.

Let me know what you think after you've tracked your M with the new brake stuff. (There's no doubt I'm upgrading, just deciding which way to go). If you have the time, a review of the pads you end up going with would be reeeall nice.

Btw, glad to hear more people are heading to the track. I've said it before and I'll say it again.....you love your car now, but wait till you see what you can do with it on a track. The track is it's home. Don't you want it to go to it's home.....the price is right, bi*** (terrible Happy Gilmore reference)


ps all you new trackstars give us a post with your experience, you're going to be flying high I swear.


Midnight Shark
Mon, Oct-27-2003, 06:01:14 PM
Great post. I'm sure you'll be enjoying your car a lot more. Get some 4 or 5 point harnesses to keep you in place. Oh, and maybe at least a 4 point roll cage.

Mon, Oct-27-2003, 07:39:27 PM
I would look into cars that already have Brembo brakes and see if any will fit. (1970's 911's) take the brakes of of volvo 240's as a comon mod (4pot brembo). Maybe there is some car like this that you could steal parts off of with a direct bolton for your M3.

Mon, Oct-27-2003, 08:35:21 PM
Sorry about the Euro swipe guys... :D

My experience with the brakes is that the floating rotors with the standard callipers are very effective and resist fade very, very well. At least as well as the full Brembo kit I had on my Mitsi Evo.

One thing I would consider is grooving the surface of them if you live where it rains or run the car on the track frequently.

I wouldn't bother changing the rears... all they do is keep the car stable and they're already adequate for that.

As for finding a compatible kit from another car... I'd avoid it unless it's been done 100's of times before. You need to match size, offset, volume and all sorts and that can be a PITA.

Tue, Oct-28-2003, 09:01:25 PM
Hey mkotecha, I noticed you live in Washington and have driven Spokane Raceway. This summer i attended the driving school there for BMW CCA and drove a Blue Mini Cooper S. Recently i bought a 96 M3 and am looking forward to going to the school this next spring. Wondering if you are going to be there and also wondering if you were at the summer performance driving school. Sincerely,

Wed, Oct-29-2003, 12:59:36 AM
what up AJ,

Last friday at the track was my first time at SPR! (great track by the way). I just moved here from Kansas to complete my intern year.....I'm looking forward to some more track time this spring too. I heard Friday at the Track restarts in April, so we should both definetely get our cars out there! I don't know if you've done FATT, but apparently for about $125-150 you can get as much track time as you desire from 8 to 5. I'll keep you updated when it comes around for sure, so keep surfing the forum.

Sweet ride by the way. One of the critical care specialists just bought a Mini Cooper S and I'm trying to talk him into some track time this April too.

Keep in touch and see you at the track in Spring.


ps Got any recommendations on some roads to rip up around Spokane?

Wed, Oct-29-2003, 01:20:38 AM
Hey mk. The open track sounds like a blast next spring. Hopefully i can save up enough money and skip a couple days of college to attend. Maybe convince my dad to bring his M5 down too! As for roads the only one i can think of as of now is the road to schweitzer in sandpoint. But, being that it is getting cold it might have snow which is definitely not good!! :banghead: I will get back to you on roads when i can think of some. Also here is a picture of my new car. Talk to you later, AJ

Wed, Oct-29-2003, 02:09:17 AM
That is a great picture! Beautiful car doesn't hurt either. YOu must be so proud. Wait till you get that thing out on the track, then you'll really appreciate it!

BTW, there was a HIGHLY modified Mini S out there in my run group. I think he spent like $8,000-10,000 on it. It was damn fast. In the straight, I actually had a pretty tough time pulling away when I passed him! Given that and the super responsive handling of the Mini, you must have had a blast at the school with that thing. (The guy was from Wenachee sp?).

Anyway, I heard about that drive up to Sweitzer. Once the first snow hits the ground, my car is going to storage. I've got this other completely unfun Mercury Mountaineer that will handle the snow for me while I'm here in Spokane.

Let me know if you think of any other roads....I heard the drive from Spokane to Moscow is twisty, and scenic too.

keep in touch and see you (hopefully) in April


Wed, Oct-29-2003, 09:14:46 PM

After all this discussion about the track, I've decided to put my money where my mouth is and do some minor work....along the lines I said in the original post.

Decided to go with the EURO "floating" motorsport rotors up front, and R4 pads. I don't think the stopping power will be enhanced per say, but at least they won't get so hot so quickly...
The R4 pads should, however, help me stop quicker.

Also, and this should have been added to the original list of easy mods, but if you want some more durability (and improved handling) at the track, you're going to have to upgrade your Front control arm bushings and rear toe bushings. This is a cheap mod, but will show great long term effects. besides pads and rubber, bushings are one of the first things to go after some serious tracking.


Wed, Oct-29-2003, 10:32:34 PM
how did you hard wire your ipod in the aux jack in the original harmon kardon stereo. I also have a 99 and currently run the ipod thru the crappy tape deck... its sounds awesome, but I would assume it would sound better hard wired.

Wed, Oct-29-2003, 10:43:59 PM

There is a new adaptor available for our HK cd changer that adds an aux-in and lets you run the cd changer as well. It costs about $130-150 bucks....the adaptor goes near the site of the changer (in the trunk I'm assuming for you too) but you can then wire the aux connection and have it come out where ever. I have mine coming from the center console so I can just put the IPOD in the drink holder.

I have that DLO IPOD sleeve with the belt adaptor. You could also buy a little sticky thing that actually lets you click it safely into place anywhere you want.

hope this helps.....I was dealing with a crappy FM modulator that I had to replace the batteries in every 2 seconds. I figure, for $150 or so, I retain the stock look, sounds, and I get all the benefits of 10GB of mp3 glory. I absolutely love the IPOD, and it's hidden away when I simply put my armrest down!


ps sorry I forgot to say that the adaptor is made by soundgate. I'm not sure what their website is, but do a search

Wed, Oct-29-2003, 10:46:56 PM
saw that you are from CT!

I am moving to New Haven in July of next year to begin my residency. How is the driving out there? I've only been once for the interview, and it was cooooold. Are there tracks/ and an active BMW club with schools? I hope so. I actually heard there is some great driving to be had in CT.

I realize CT is a big state and you might be nowhere near New Haven for all I know.....just thought I'd try.



Wed, Oct-29-2003, 10:50:57 PM
Connecticut a big state? where are you moving from Rhode Island? :roll:

I am a converted gs-r man. Just purchased this beast 2 weeks ago... also looking to get to the track. Car came with Dinan exhaust, CAI, SS and stage 2 suspension.

get some snows and/or 3rd car! CT weather sucks.

Wed, Oct-29-2003, 11:00:01 PM
our local track is lime rock.


found that soundgate part... did you put it in yourself? because my other option is buying a brand new alpine head unit (with aux) for $200+$50 to install and it would play burned mp3's. love the ipod! still waiting for the day you take the ipod from your computer and put into the trunk of your car and control everything from the stock head unit. it is very difficult to find songs at night when you are driving with the ipod... but that is why they have playlists....

here is the url for the soundgate part


new haven is a cool city.... and CT is nice because we are close to NYC, Boston, Skiing in VT and Cape Cod..... and NOBODY has another M3 like mine... thats cool!

Not many places to open it up... but plenty of places to show off the suspension..... and beware... CT is called the constitution state but is generally referred to as the construction state.

Wed, Oct-29-2003, 11:20:15 PM
Thanks for the soundgate link. I did not install it myself, but easily could have. (I'm lazy, plus, that was a long wire and I just thought they'd make it look better). You could get get it professionally done for $50 bucks for sure. (I actually spent $130 on the part, sorry). I had the same debate you're having. Pay $200 bucks for an MP3 player, or go with the IPOD. I just think the IPOD is too damn cool to not have access too in the M3. I just didn't like the wiring fiasco of the tape/fm adaptor......and where it sounds ok, it really is a LOT higher quality when directly wired. And finally, I'm a big proponent of a stock interior. Everything just looks so good the way it is, and I hated the idea of changing that. I now have 10GB of music, a 6 disc changer, and the HK head unit and nobody would be the wiser if I have my armrest down. (Too bad the IPOD doesn't have an amber backlight!).

You're right about finding tunes though, it can be tough but that's the beauty of ITUNES, smart playlists, and playlists in general like you said. And really, if you mounted it with that little belt clip like I suggested in a position near the radio perhaps, it's the same thing as scrolling on a H/U. Let me find the site with the belt clip thing and I'll post it here for you.

As for CT and the twisties, like I said when I first started the thread, suspension/handling is what this car is all about....so sounds perfect to me.

I just checked out that limerock website. That looks like a nice track. I don't know if you checked out the schedule, but looks like they have some sweet event to watch/participate in. "Ferrari days!" You've got to be kidding me.

I also checked out the BMW CCA site in CT. Looks like they have plenty of schools at Lime Rock as well.


so the future looks bright for us. I'm learning to snowboard out here in WA while I have the chance, glad to know that I can continue that while out in New Haven. As for the weather....I mean track season obviously goes until October, and then reopens in April! So, it's only a couple of months where I'll have to bide my time on the slopes....it's a decent trade off and gives my car a much needed break.

damn long post, sorry about that

ps nice freaking mods already done to the car. That is a nice find. Like I said in the beginning, the Stage 2 Dinan is the ONLY suspension mod I would go with.

be back with a link to the IPOD accessory I was talking about.

Wed, Oct-29-2003, 11:26:07 PM
for my ipod... i actually went to radio shack and picked up a cell phone holder that mounts in the vent. drop the ipod in there and it works perfect... i just have that dumb wire running the tape deck to play the tunes.... I still need to decide on the alpine headunit or the aux input that you recommended.

still have an issue with the ipod where at night it works great (because its illuminated), but during the day.. the illumination makes it impossible to see....

itunes is cool... much better than that musicmatch crap.

Wed, Oct-29-2003, 11:30:37 PM

this is what I was talking about. just mount it to the center console (which the armrest covers). I don't use the ashtray so it's on there. you clip it on to secure it.

there are some other ideas on this website too.

good idea by the way. I'm like you, I hate wires, so I'm sticking with the center console. the Aux wire comes up through there so when I'm not connected, no one knows it exists, or even where it leads.

Thu, Oct-30-2003, 04:29:19 PM
Originally posted by mkotecha

Also, and this should have been added to the original list of easy mods, but if you want some more durability (and improved handling) at the track, you're going to have to upgrade your Front control arm bushings and rear toe bushings. This is a cheap mod, but will show great long term effects. besides pads and rubber, bushings are one of the first things to go after some serious tracking.


MK, I caught the mention of the new bushings and was curious if you just replaced them with BMW ones, or did you go aftermarket? If aftermarket, who's? Mine is a '97 so i am thinking it could use these anyway.

Also, how difficult is it to replace the bushings? I have not loomked at them yet so not sure if you need a press to get the old ones out and the new ones in, or if it is just a matter of some wrench time.

Great post!


Fri, Oct-31-2003, 03:50:21 PM

thanks for the email. Sweet looking ride by the way. I haven't actually replaced them yet, it's part of my pre-hibernation spring track mod frenzy including the Euro floating rotors and new pads.

The guy who helps me put this stuff in (he has a real nice lift, tools, etc) gets back earlier next week, so I'll begin ordering/work then. I'll let you know how bad the install is at that time.

Also, I'll let you know what brand I go with as soon as I know! I could just tell after 2 hours of track time that those things were going to need to be replaced soon.....


btw...I caught a lot of grief for using the B&M SSK, but I like it. What do you think of it?

Mon, Nov-03-2003, 01:25:30 AM
Well if you find out which bushings are the best, let meknow. I would imagine even new factory ones would be a nice change.

Why did you get grief for the B&M? I am pretty happy with mine. I got it with the car when I bought it, they prior owner just never got to putting it in. But overall I like the upgrade. Not sure how much more Imwould ahve gotten from the UUC one......