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Autocross in a 2011 BMW M3

Kamil Kaluski November 10, 2011 Racing 29 Comments

My friend Bill recently picked up a new BMW M3: sedan, competition package, DCT, and just about everything else. He even opted the famous European Delivery program and, as per my suggestion, drove it at the Nurburgring. Lucky SOB. Luckily for me, Bill isn’t your stereotypical BMW owner. Since he picked up the car he has done a number of track events and autocrosses with it. He also took the M3 badge off it and usually keeps it dirty. Last week Bill asked if I was interested in doing an autocross in his car. Uhmm, sure…

I did my first autocross over ten years ago in my then new 2001 330i. And then I stopped, for like ten years. I did not like it; too violent, too quick. I stuck to HPDE events. Earlier this year another friend asked me if I was interested in autocross-ing his 330i ZHP as he was going to be away that weekend for work. I did, and I managed one clean lap. Out of eight. Complete failure. I did not want to do another autocross ever again.

This time, in Bill’s M3, I challenged myself. If all these middle-aged guys could do it and be good at it, I could too! Autocrosses are not as much about the car as they are about the driver, that’s why I left the stability control on and the transmission in automatic. Out of the ten laps I did, one was clean. Fucking one. To add insult to injury, when the instructor took the car for a lap he managed a time that was thirteen seconds better than mine. Complete failure.

After all this I still don’t know if I should have my hands at 10-and-2 or 9-and-3? Thumbs in or out? I have heard many conflicting theories to all of those. In the end the instructor told to keep looking further ahead (I do it on the road, just kept forgetting at the autox) and to be smoother with gas/brake inputs. Having established that I suck need more practice, I will spend my winter months gokarting and playing GT5. It’s a safe bet that neither will help me with autocrossing.

While at the autocross I saw some interesting cars:

  • Cobra replica which almost fooled me.
  • A Mustang on ridiculously wide slicks.
  • A hoontastic Audi.
  • A Miata with a small block.
  • Sweet sweet Alfa, doing what its creators intended it to, and it didn’t crap out!
  • GregKachadurian

    I guess your trip to the BMW Performance Driving School didn't really pay off for you? 😛

    • Shut up news boy.

      • GregKachadurian


      • That frightened cone in my avatar? He's frightened of *you.*

      • rovingardener

        Don't feel bad. The lady running my session (BMW PDC) kept telling me to go faster. She was a freaking drifting genius though.

        Honestly, I've never driven anything fast before so I was totally unprepared for what one of those things can do. I want one. Badly.

  • Paul_y

    Guys who are into autocross are pretty much the reason I've never tried it. Years ago, a livejournal-friend (yeah, that long ago) who autocrossed a first-gen Neon in the Rochester, NY area tried to get me to take it up in my base-model GMC Slownoma. I probably should have, because it would have been hilariously bad.

    • Andrew

      Hey! Autocrossers are people too! People who buy Hoosiers before food and have intense discussions about minute variations in tire pressure, but people nonetheless!

      Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go align my car for the 14th time this year.

      • Alff

        Take a couple hundred extra dollars along for corner weighting.

    • My friend autocrosses his stock ~2000 Subaru Forester on Rochester Institute of Tech campus. He brings back interesting track stories like the 427 powered Jag and the student racing his very brand new A6.

      • Paul_y

        Nice. I went to RIT from 99-03 (from Buffalo, screwed around in WNY until last year, now in NorCal). Half my fear with the Slownoma at the time was that since I worked night stock at the Officemax on Jefferson Rd at the time (while looking for a Real Job), I couldn't afford to actually fix anything, beyond the fact that it was shedding parts at a rate that made the 2005 Impreza I leased affordable after I left Rochester.

  • That Mustang looks sinister. I like it.

    • It was damn fast too.

      • All it takes is practice (the payoff is at the end of the clip)

        [ b5JEo4haM_k ]

        • From the beginning I was thinking that 'wow, there's a lot of trees in that parking lot"

  • I don't know why, but I like the looks of that 370Z all beat up…

    • mudmonster

      Yeah, it's good knowing that someone is driving it.

    • Yea, there was something strangely attractive about it, hence the pic.

  • mudmonster

    At least you're consistent; one clean lap per autocross

    • 😉

  • JayP2112

    Rockin' the quattro. I hope it had a turbo transplant!
    I autox'ed my 5000 quattro (no-turbo) in college- had a good time and won a few trophies.

    Moved to TX- the HEAT and the masses of people made it a miserable experience. I recently came across the local SCCA rep and he said it was better now… and they let kids drive carts.

    • Turbo indeed, I heard the guy ice races it, something I have not tried yet.

  • I wasn't out this year (first I was trying to nurse a 15k-miles-past-expiration-date timing belt until I had the money to replace it, and then my sticky tires were bald and cycled out, and I didn't have the cash to replace them), but autocross is my thing. Cheap, fast, cerebral, and there aren't any other cars to run into. Just you and the course for 60 seconds, and you've got three chances to get it right. Plus, the tight, winding courses cater above all else to cars that are nimble and narrow, able to slip through offsets without maneuvering too much. Given what I drive, it's a natural fit.

    There is the slight problem that I view all potential car purchases through the lens of autocross classing ("Hrrm, that crusty old Starlet is a mess, but with the engine configuration and Toyota badging, it'd be eligible for Street Modified with a 2JZ-GTE swap!"), but it's a small price to pay for the fun that I have.

    • This was a long and fast course, best time of the day was in the low 90s and the M3 probably reached 70mph.

  • Bill sounds like one heluva guy. +100 points for stripping the M3 badges. Theyre what the typical bimmer buyer is paying for, but Bill actually proves it on the track.

  • Eggwich James Dio

    Autocross is autoracing for everyone. Like drag racing. I don't understand why people rip on it.

  • vwminispeedster

    Autocross. The handjob of motorsports.

    • Handjobs are very underrated!

  • pj134

    Was somebody autocrossing a viper?

    • Yes, and he did very well. Again, it was a very fast/long autox.



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