April 29, 2023 – It was the debut of the BMW M2 Competition era of my motorsports career on this Saturday in April. The day was raw – wet and cold. The early rain stopped when I arrived at the track, which I greatly appreciated for unloading the car from the trailer. However, shortly thereafter, the rain started up again, and my nerves about my first time on track with this car, not having had first-hand experience with a 400HP rear wheel drive vehicle, were ramped up.
The first few laps – two, to be precise – were uneventful. On lap 3 I decided to start taking my normal lines, which included diving into the entry to the Uphill off the apex, in order to get the car far to the left and cresting the hill. This move resulted in the car cresting, and then suddenly searching for a direction. I tried to counter the gyrations, but they were happening so quickly I wasn’t sure I was helping, so I just kind of held the wheel and waited it out. Fortunately the car suddenly snapped straight, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and my track day insurance policy wasn’t going to be needed. I decided to keep the car in the middle of the Uphill after that, and there wasn’t any more drama.
The rest of the day dried out, although the temps never warmed up and the wind would come and go. I got to safely explore the limits of the car, albeit with my pretty worn out front Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. My student for the day was rocking a 2020 M2 Competition, so it was great to be able to interchange my experiences for the day between my own car and my student’s. I learned somethings from him, too, as he walked me through the steps of reduced traction control settings that BMW offers. I was really impressed with his car’s handling, especially given that he didn’t have camber plates and thus only had -1.5 degs of camber up front. I then discovered he had upgraded his wheel and tires to a set of Apex wheels that allowed him to run 275s up front, and 295s in the rear (stock is 245 and 265, respectively).
The day was a success, friendships were renewed, a student driver improved greatly, and I’m better convinced that this car is going to be a great car to rely on for years of track fun.
I’ve had a few months now of ownership of the BMW M2 Comp, and while I’ve found the new car very comfortable to run around with on the streets, and it’s been fun to be competitive in stock form at the autocrosses, I’ve been actually shocked by the cost of aftermarket parts for this car. Prices for parts have been twice to nearly five times as high as what I was used to paying for my Mitsubishi Evo. Camber plates? $350 versus $750. Intake? $400 versus $800. Front brake pads? $230 versus $800.
The economics of the BMW have taken a good amount of the joy of owning the M2C out of the equation for me. While I thought I was making a statement by avoiding paying an outrageous markup on a used Civic Type R, I think I’ve fallen into a similar financial pit with the cost of parts for the M2 Competition.
I’ve consulted with some friends who own and track similar M2 Competitions, and I’ve gotten some good advice on what’s needed to enhance the car’s performance at the track and to keep costs down in the process. The paths of the two friends provide the choice between two road maps: A) minimal mods to enhance performance and minimize costs, and B) significant mods to… enhance performance and minimize long-term costs at the expense of significant upfront costs.
In the minimal mod corner, I’ve gotten the suggestion of getting some camber plates to address the limits of the stock front camber adjustment range in order to even out wear on the front tires, which I’ve been told will typically get more wear on the outside edges. However, this leaves uncovered several drawbacks that track use vehicle owners will recognize, not only with tires, but some other components as well. Let’s look at the tire issues.
The stock wheel & tire setup, which isn’t “square” (i.e. the same all around), is a 245/35R19 front tire and 265/35R19 rear tire setup. The OEM wider rear tire configuration means that you can’t rotate tires front to back, which can help even out wear and prolong the life of your track tires. On top of the lack of a rotation option, the pricing and selection of performance tires in this 19″ sizing is pricey and limited. Michelin makes a great tire, but you pay for that quality and performance. The experience of owners says that there are better (and cheaper) choices in the 18″ tire sizes, but there is an issue with that: OEM brake rotors do not allow you to convert to 18″ wheels due to the stock M2 Competition rotors’ diameter being so large as to require 19″ wheels. To break out of this 19″ wheel limitation, you’ll need to jump to option B as mentioned previously.
Option B, the significant mods method, you make some significant investments in brake packages and new 18″ wheels, and then reap the rewards of cheaper options for tires, longer lifespan of those tires, and significant savings on brake pads. However, to get to these benefits, you’ll need to grit your teeth and be prepared to part ways with over $10k worth of upgrades and parts. First up, would be a brake kit to accommodate 18″ wheels. I’ve used AP Racing brake kits from Essex Parts, and they are quality kits. Brake pads are significantly cheaper for these brake kits than they are for the stock Brembo calipers the M2 Competition come with, but the prices of these kits are eye-watering compared to what I paid for the kit I put on my Evo. The Evo kit I had went for roughly $2400, while the cheapest kit I could go with for the M2C is over $4700! Where I really start to cry is that cost only covers the front brakes; to cover the rear brakes would require another kit and cost another $4400!! These rotors are slightly smaller than the OEM stock rotors, and thus fit 18″ wheels, but provide comparable braking performance so that you don’t lose anything in the conversion, other than a significant portion of your bank account.
So, you’ve gone $9200 into downsizing the brakes to fit 18″ wheels & tires, now it’s time to purchase those wheels. Wheels in the sizes needed for the M2C – say, 18×9 or 18×9.5 – typically are running at minimum $2k or more.
Another option I’ve seen some owners take is simply plus sizing the front tire widths and squaring up the setup – 265s all around. This requires some new wheels – APEX has a great guide on this setup.
While house / dog / mom sitting, I had some time to get serious about track car shopping. Using Cars.com and AutoTrader, I zeroed in on some specific models of certain years and mileage. For a few days I’d watch the cars and the prices of them, and comparing the offerings to what values NADA.com said were reasonable, I started to narrow down the choices to a select few cars scatter around the US, mostly east of the Mississippi. When the dust cleared, and some of the vehicles disappeared while I was debating, I jumped on this beauty…
Cars.com was a pretty slick operation. You can really target your search to narrow in on specific details of cars offered in whatever range from you decide on – years, mileage, transmission, price range. After talking with a Civic Type R owner about the amount of modifications needed to make it track-worthy (mostly from a heat dissipation standpoint), and having had a similar discussion with an M2 Competition owner, I decided the M2 Competition was the better choice. Was it pricier than the CTR? Sure it was. However, if you look at the value of available cars in relation to MSRP, the M2C was a far better value.
I narrowed my search down to three specific examples of the M2C: a white ’21 at a Nissan dealership in Cincinnati, a blue ’21 at an Audi dealership in Greenville SC, and a red ’21 at an independent dealer in NYC. I was leaning towards the white one as it seemed to represent the best value, but when I sent the listings to my wife, she said she preferred blue, so who was I to argue? Shortly thereafter, the white one was taken off the site, so I figured I needed to move NOW on the blue one before it was snapped up.
As I discussed the car with a salesperson at the dealership, I learned the cosmetic damage incident revealed in the Carfax report was contact with a deer in the suburbs of Atlanta. The Audi dealership had recently replaced the rear tires as part of their sales prep, which gave me a bit of assurance that the frame isn’t suffering from any issues. This, and the mileage (~36k), made it a very affordable choice. Similar M2Cs that had mileage under 10k on them and a clean Carfax were commanding a premium of $4k-$7k above what I paid, so I was happy to get a discount for a minor incident and some miles.
Flying down to Greenville later this week to pick it up and drive it home to Albany. Just hoping the weather cooperates with my flight, and the drive, so it doesn’t make a long trip any longer than it has to be.
If you’ve done any research recently on purchasing a new or used vehicle, you’ll quickly discover that now is a terrible time to purchase a car. I’ve found this out in spades while investigating some of the sports cars that I’m interested in.
Recently took a test drive in a like-new 2021 Honda Civic Type R. This one was located at my local Acura dealer, so I arranged to take a look at it and see if I had any complaints with it. Unfortunately for me, I loved it. The car has great power, rides reasonably well, and I fit in it just fine. However, the huge drawback to a Civic Type R these days are the outrageous markups that dealers put on them. This car had a window decal out the factory for around $39,000. Current price? $47,205. These types of markups are insulting at best, and I refuse to participate. Besides, a gentleman I met while selling off some of my motorsports tires has warned me that the current FK8 generation of the Type R needs some modifications to address heat (hood vents, oil cooler) in order to make it truly trackworthy.
To avoid the ridiculous Honda markups, I’ve also turned some attention to a gently used BMW M2 Competition coupe. These cars are another magnitude of expense – roughly in the low to mid $60,000 range – but their pricing is much more in line with their value, at least from a percentage perspective. Sure, you can find the odd M2C out there that has some dealer believing someone will drop $71,000 on one, but there are some M2s that are priced much more reasonably and appear ready to sell. I’ve entertained the idea of placing an order for a ’23 M2 Competition, but the advice of my One Lap buddy Christo keeps ringing in my head: “Never buy the first year of production of a BMW”.
Toyota has released their pricing for another contestant: the 2023 Toyota Supra 3.0 w/ a manual transmission: $53,595. That’s a bit lower than the M2 Competition, but still is considerable. I’m thinking I should find one to sit in so that perhaps I can rule it out from an ergonomic standpoint, but even if I do like it, I’m curious as to whether Toyota dealers will play the same games as Honda dealers do. I’m hoping I can get some clarity on what I want in the next month or two.
I decided to keep reducing the price to where it would garner attention from serious buyers, and that happened once the price dropped into the low $20k range. To expand the reach of my ad, I submitted the car to Bring A Trailer, but they declined to list it. I finally settled on posting it on RacingJunk.com, and then decided since I was posting in multiple places I may as well post it on EvolutionM.net, too. My initial post for the car wasn’t as comprehensive as Facebook Marketplace or Racing Junk, so I updated it on EvolutionM and it started to get attention.
As it turned out, I ended up with a prospect buyer from each platform: an Evo tuner from Iowa working on the East Coast for a YouTuber (FB Marketplace), an SCCA Hillclimber from PA (Racing Junk), and finally a GM engineer from Michigan (EvoM). When the dust settled, the GM engineer came through with the best offer, and ended up taking the car. As a bonus, he showed up at my house several times in a pre-production Hummer EV SUV, complete with manufacturer Michigan plate, beta infotainment software warnings on its huge dash screen, and other unique features.
What’s next? I have no idea. I’ve toyed with several ideas as far as sports cars, but nothing presses all my buttons: a Camaro SS, a Honda Civic Type-R (current gen and next gen), Corolla GR, Supra GR, Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, Pricing right now is insane on the Hondas and the Cadillac – I’m going to see a used ’21 Civic Type-R that’s listed $10k *OVER* MSRP, which is apparently typical pricing. That kind of extortion doesn’t sit well with me, so I’m hoping I dislike the car and can forget the insult that Honda dealers have foisted on consumers.
They say everything sells if it has the right price, and by ‘everyone’, I mean I say that, so I was recently surprised to find that my Evo didn’t sell after pricing it initially at $31,500, and then having lowered it to $28,900. I decided to list it on Facebook Marketplace, and while it garnered over 2100 views and several conversations with prospective buyers, I never got what I’d consider a serious offer. Given the current car market, I thought it might be a good time to step out from the Evo and perhaps buy something a bit more streetable, and newer. I considered Chevy Camaro SS 1LE, Honda Civic Type-R (current or next gen), Toyota Supra, Toyota GR86, Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, and some used options like a BMW M2 Competition. Problem was, as good as a time as it seems to sell, it’s also a lousy time to buy a car.
With no one biting on the car, I think I’ll refocus on the Evo and look forward to some more track events and time trials with it.
I’m still planning my motorsports schedule, and other than another trip to the SCCA Runoffs this September @ ViR, I’m still on the fence about most of it.
Another flagging adventure is in the books as I spent 6 days flagging at the SCCA Runoffs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was a different event from my first Runoffs I attended back in 2017 at this same facility. I’m assuming it should be chocked up mostly to the ongoing pandemic, but flagger staffing was way down for the event. It picked up for the races on the weekend, but practice and qualifying earlier in the week had some short staffing.
My first day of flagging had three of us at stations 2 & 3. We had a shared station captain, which meant one of the stations would be a single flagger. Blue flagging from Station 3 was near impossible because there is no visibility up track, so I offered to work 3 myself and handle both yellow flag and comms. Comms are pretty good at IMS as they are land line-based, not radio based. You just have the challenge of keeping the cord to your comms box out of the way of your feet, and not wander too far from where it plugs in. The other flagger who worked 2? Famed motorsports announcer Greg Creamer, who is a really good guy and loves to come out and flag. During lunch we were chatting, and he said if he could make a living flagging, he’d do it full time. Cool guy.
Next day I was assigned to Station 12, a return to the scene of getting bonked in the head by a golf ball-sized chunk of tire rubber back during the 2017 Runoffs. You are crazy close to the cars as they hug the wall coming into the braking zone for the right hander, literally able to tap some cars on the roof with your flag stick. Combined with being paired with a station captain that liked chatting rather than setting up station, and I felt like I was the station captain as I took charge and set up the station with flags and comms.
Wednesday evening, they offered a track walk for anyone participating. I decided to get my steps in and become more familiar with the track as I hadn’t see it in its entirety, so I set my exercise app to record the effort.
Next day, I was assigned to Station 7, basically at the midpoint on the Hullman Straight. This was another station that posed some challenges for flagging. I suggested to my captain that as blue flagging would be very challenging with the head-on view of vehicles, we’d make better use of our small opening by just yellow flagging out of it, and putting the Comms person on the platform to better watch the large amount of track we were responsible. The station captain was agreeable to that, and it seemed to work well.
For race days – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – I was assigned to Station 1 (very busy!), Station 5A, and then Station 14. It was nice to be on 14 for Sunday as with weather expected we had some shelter to put our gear out of the way and protect it.
The event was very warm for late September/early October and while I was able to deal with it in my attire, standing for hours each day caused my legs to swell up for the race days. Gotta remember to bring along my support socks next time. Some racers complained about seeing flaggers sitting at times, but perhaps they should come out for a few days and stand all day. I think they’d get it.
Once again this year, I discovered two of my favorite events were scheduled in conflict: my Patroon Chapter’s August track outing at Lime Rock Park, and NER’s Night Race @ Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. I skipped the night racing last year and chose to do a track day, but with my car “in the shop” and getting some much needed attention, I decided to sign up for the flagging opportunity at Thompson.
I’m used to flagging at night; I’ve done it several times as part of the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring event. It’s fun, challenging, and ultimately exhausting. However, I was curious to see how an SCCA region would do things, and rather than have high budget professional race rigs screaming around a course, I was intrigued to see how some low budget amateur racers would do it.
Most interesting aspect of this is racers were NOT allowed to use their headlights. Well, if I understood the rules correctly, they could use their headlights, as long as they were covered and only gave off enough lumens to simulate a running marker. In other words, you can see the light, but the light can’t be strong enough to illuminate anything. Some cars had some very trick LED strip lights to mark their front corners – those cars that normally would not have any operative lights in their class, for example. Others simply ran their running/parking lights. And interestingly enough, some chose to forgo any lights, at least on the front. Aside: everyone was required to have a functional rear lamp, be it a rain light on formula cars, or tail/brake lights on closed wheel cars, but even their brightness was subject to light output limits.
The track itself was pretty well lighted, with a bunch of portable lights stationed around the track. Unfortunately at our flag station, we had lights stationed across track from us and up on a hill, so racers could see us and our flags (a very important feature), but we didn’t have the advantage of any lighting on cars from our side of the track that would help us see their numbers, classing, or sometimes even their color. Fortunately for us we had no incidents in our section during the night time portion of the event, so it didn’t impede our calls. Blue flagging was a huge challenge under the circumstances.
I liked the later-than-normal start to the event, allowing me to get up a little later and take my time getting to the track, but the finish of the event at about 11:30pm was the latest I’ve ever flagged. It kind of underscored my lack of enthusiasm for ever flagging at the Daytona 24 event. The racers who attended seemed to love it, so I’d come back and work it again if I have the chance.
Next event on my calendar, an autocross in September to close out my driving season, and then flagging at the SCCA Runoffs @ Indy Motor Speedway in September/October….
My very first day of flagging ever happened to fall on a day when the remnants of a hurricane blew through Lime Rock Park. The gentleman who was training me asked me at the end of the day what I thought of flagging, and I told him I loved it. He laughed, and said “If you loved in this conditions, you’re really going to love it under normal circumstances”.
I thought of this on Friday of the Thompson Majors event, as hurricane Elsa was due to come up the coast and overspread Thompson with heavy rains. And heavy rains it had in spades, as the track quickly was overcome with standing water. By the second session of Friday morning’s practice and qualifying, a lake formed at the station just before mine, and we watched in amazement as cars would come through on their first laps, not knowing the lake was there, only to dive for the apex and cause splashes towering 8ft in the air, and the race car visibly slowing down as they hit a wall of water. Action was suspended, and a waiting game then played out as we tried to wish the rain away. As us flaggers sat in the garages, deadlines of 11am, noon, and 1pm came and went. Finally at 2pm, they decided that there were too many spots on track that would not drain in time even if the rain stopped (which it did), so a consolidated schedule focused on Saturday were put in place. When we took advantage of the rain stopping, our visuals on the track revealed Pit In lane had about 6-8″ of standing water in it, a small river of about 3-4″ of water was flowing across the front straight just up from the starter stand, the lake at Turn 3 that was very deep, and smaller rivers running across the track before and after the hairpin at Turn 4 (my station).
Saturday dawned cloudy but rain-free. However, there was a lot of water still draining from the area surrounding the track. Track services at Thompson was out trying to dig some minor trenches in the grass to help reroute water drainage at the braking zone just before the bridge at turn 5. Cars handled the wet spots on track with pretty good strategies, but we still had some cars running off track due to water in key braking and turning zones. One Spec Miata entrant put down 3 of 4 pairs of skid marks that led directly at the armcom on driver’s right at the turn under the bridge. Some more trench digging by track services finally allowed that spot to dry up, and drivers didn’t have many issues in any of the wet spots after that.
I finally had the opportunity to attend SCCA’s Time Trials National Tour (TTNT) event at Palmer Motorsports Park, July 4th weekend. Because it was my first time trial experience, I leaned heavily on my fellow MoHud members. A quick review of the classing rules prior to registering, I interpreted them to find my car qualified in the Unlimited 2 class, mostly due to using tires (Nitto NT01s) that were grippier than the encouraged 200 tread wear street tires that series sponsor Tire Rack sells.
The event itself had some unseasonably cool weather that weekend, and when combined with the damp conditions it helped preserve gas, tires and brake pads. I had fortunately signed up for a carport spot at Palmer, along with a majority of my MoHud friends, which lended itself to a very good atmosphere. Our driving experience was all over the board, and since SCCA groups entrants by driving experience, I found myself on track for my sessions with other drivers who had classified themselves as “advanced” drivers. So you had to wait for all driver groups to complete their sessions before looking at your results in class.
For the advanced drivers, we found ourselves with only 1 dry session out of the 6 sessions we were scored on over the 2 days. This seemed to work into my advantage with AWD and some solid experience with the track. Unfortunately for me, another Evo driver who I had the pleasure to chat with while flagging at NER’s June Paddock Crawl Race at LRP was a quick learner of the track, and was soon using his AWD and superior power output of his Evo to establish a lead I wasn’t able to dent. The good news for me was that this spurred me to put an even bigger lead over the other competitors in Unlimited 2.
When all was said and done, I held onto 2nd place and was awarded a trophy. Gotta admit that this was the cap on a really fun event and has me dreaming of doing it again next time the TTNT comes to the area.