MARK B’S #BMW-E30
Well it’s been a busy month or so and I’m pleased to be able to say that all remains well with my E30 M3. In fact, a recent trip up to Silverstone for the Pistonheads Sunday Service saw me cover nigh-on 550 miles in one day.
The only real drawback with living here in Cornwall is everything else is just so bloody far away! Oh and that we don’t have a race circuit, although once my lottery millions roll in I plan to remedy that situation with a mini Nürburgring! I simply need to win the lottery first! Anyway, I had never driven Silverstone before, but the Pistonheads event had 30 minute sessions available for just £40, so I figured it was worth the trip. As well as a chance to get out on track there is usually a good mix of cars there to drool over and there was even a bit of sun forecast to make an appearance. I also knew that Sam Ratcliffe was due to be there in his stunning E46 M3 track car, which is just about my perfect specification. Added to which he can pedal a bit and who doesn’t like seeing an M3 getting used properly on track? In fact, look up DannyDC2 on YouTube and you can see both Sam and Dan driving their M3s back at Silverstone a week or so later.
Anyway, the trip up in the E30 went without incident, although it has to be said that the Nankang AR-1 tyres aren’t exactly ideal on a cold autumn morning. I did consider swapping over to my spare wheels that wear an all-weather Toyo TR1, but as the forecast was for dry and bright weather I figured it best to stay with the Nankang and just be a bit more careful driving up. Once I was within a few miles of Silverstone I soon began to spot other cars heading to the same event. I ended up in convoy with a pair of serious-looking Caterhams, a stunning blue 911 GT3 and a Clio Sport. It reminded me just how useful a roof and windscreen are as the Caterham looked a bit of a chilly and damp place to be thanks to the early morning drizzle.
Once we reached the circuit I was directed to the pit garages, while the rest of the convoy went into the main car park and joined the rest of the event. There were so many great cars there and a few rarities, such as the Renault 5 Turbo 2 and a pair of Nobles. There were several of the usual suspects that you see at track days, such as a 911 GT3 RS and the later incarnations of the M3 and M5, with a lovely track-prepared E34 M5 being a favourite of mine. The drizzle had stopped but the track was still pretty wet and there was certainly no visible dry line. Sadly one unlucky M3 owner had a pretty big off and wiped out the front of his car in a big way. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt, though, and an initial inspection suggested his M3 wasn’t beyond repair. It was still a sobering reminder of how quickly things can go wrong if you push a little too hard or get caught unaware by changing track conditions.
The time for my sessions soon rolled around and I lined up in the pit lane behind a lovely-looking Noble. The track had been drying out but there were still lots of wet patches to look out for and I knew my tyres needed a bit of heat before they’d have any real grip. There was also the added factor that my only experience of Silverstone was driving it at home on the PS4 and Project Cars, where spinning out in a Group A E30 M3 doesn’t matter. I opted to try and stay to the right (letting the faster cars past with a cursory flick of the indicators to confirm my intentions) and simply enjoy being on such a historic track and being able to really stretch the E30’s legs. One of the many things I love about the E30 M3 is just how communicative the chassis is. It’s just so easy to feel exactly what the car is doing beneath you and the feedback through the steering means that even clumsy amateurs like myself can make a reasonable job of putting a respectable lap in. The more laps I did, the drier the racing line got and the more my confidence grew. The only downside was that the KW Competition suspension I run is just a bit too firm for wet conditions. Ideally you want a bit of body roll, so the weight shifts and pushes the tyre contact patch into the tarmac, so I could have disconnected the ARB if I’d had more time, but it was still great fun all the same and reminded me just how capable the E30 M3 really is out on track. I had a couple of moments going into the faster corners where the inside rear caught the wet outer edge of the track and lost grip but it just made me more determined to go back once spring gets here next year.
The drive home (after checking the engine oil, coolant, tyre pressures etc.) was just as uneventful as the drive up. I always enjoy seeing people react to spotting a track prep’d E30 M3 go past amongst a sea of modern Euro boxes, though. The engine has been great and, even out on track, the oil and coolant temperatures stayed perfectly constant, as did the oil pressure. I’m off to Mallory Park in late November so will need to change the oil and filter before then and have Joe at ARM BMW do a spanner check. I also plan on fitting some new brake pads from Pagid and fitting a vinyl sun strip on the windscreen now that the winter sun is so much lower, as the cage stops the OE sun visors from being used. I’m also thinking of getting Apex to supply a set of their stunning dished ARC-8 alloys.
THANKS Joe @ ARM as ever Pistonheads Sunday Service Silverstone Circuit Nankang UK Apex
BMW E30 M3 felt at home around Silverstone.