Off-Season Prep: Looking Ahead to 2018

Our 2017 season ended a few weeks ago, culminating with the East Coast Championships at Sebring. Although I’m heading to Summit Point this weekend to help run the NASA Mid-Atlantic “Fall Finale,” there’s no wheel-to-wheel racing as part of the event and thus, the M3 is staying at home.

Though we are barely into the off-season, it’s never too early to start evaluating how 2017 went, and make a plan for both myself and the car that can be addressed this winter.

The GTS ruleset has been updated for 2018, and GTS2 is not affected by the changes. So, whatever decisions I make will be due to personal choice, not changing rules. Easy.

Changes to the Car

My suspension is tired, having been subjected to nearly five years of time trial and race abuse. I’m exploring “upgrade” options that will provide better response compared to my current Ground Control setup, without breaking the bank like a $6k set of MCS two-ways would.

I’d like to pull the power down a hair, allowing me to run the car at a lighter overall weight. This will help negate the need for so much ballast in the trunk.

Once the new suspension is installed and power dialed back in, the car should be re-aligned and corner balanced. No sense doing that until I have re-dyno’d the car and have a target weight from the GTS calculator.

Beyond those couple of changes, I need to make some decisions on brake and tire choices. Do I switch back to Hawk brake pads, and if so, which compound? Do I keep running the long-lasting, pretty-quick BF Goodrich R1, or upgrade to the faster, more expensive Hoosier R7?

A Cool Shirt setup (or generic equivalent) is a must-have for next year. We face enough heat throughout the season that a setup like this will help greatly with both fatigue and focus. The generic medical coolers are not super expensive and work just as well as the branded cooler.

Changes to the Driver

I learned so much in the move to wheel-to-wheel this year. Two of my friends and competitors showed me how to look at AiM data, and were willing to share their (faster) data to compare against, which has been huge. I’m more aware of where I can pick up speed, and how. Some coaching in early 2018 would undoubtedly pay dividends, and as event schedules are released, I’ll be looking for additional events to attend that can be used for coaching, not competition.

I’d also like to find a “wet skidpad” sort of event. My confidence in the rain is fairly low, and that contributed to my downfall at the championships this year. One competitor attended a “learn to drift” day with her street car and learned a great deal about car control. The event relied on a wet skidpad environment to ensure lower speeds and a minimum of tire wear.

This is the first off-season where the car is not in need of some major work to “finish the build” or seriously prepare for the upcoming year. I am excited to use the upcoming months to tweak my setup as part of an even stronger 2018.

4 thoughts on “Off-Season Prep: Looking Ahead to 2018”

  1. While there doesn’t seem to be much on this list of things to do, it does seem like a lot thinking is going to be required in figuring out how to best optimize your setup. A potentially big task, but a fun one? It sounds like racing is a game of degrees. Where do you pick up your control and a bit more speed. My suspicion is that 2018 is going to be a good year for you.

  2. I like it. New Years Resolutions, racing style. The whole “wet skidpad” thing sounds intriguing – kind of like when I used to go to empty church parking lots during snowstorms in northern Utah and pull some e-brake maneuvers. Those of us with FWD cars have to do crap like that to get our back ends to kick out 😉 Some great goals in here. How are you going to “pull the power down a hair” in the car?

    • Hah, exactly like the snow shenanigans!

      The newer BMWs can have horsepower and torque changed by flashing a different tune to the engine computer – even the E46 generation after mine supports that. The easy way for the E36, though, is with a “restrictor plate” stuck between the throttle body and intake manifold. You can buy them with different diameters of holes, which limits how much air gets to the engine and thus changes the power it can make.

      With no plate, the engine made ~230 hp at the rear wheels. The current plate has it at 220ish, and I’d like to get it down to 210-215. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’ll let me be about 100 lbs lighter given our power/weight ratio, and that’s enough!

      This is what we use:

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