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.