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e30 m3 autocross

Roger on course
Roger Ness - Windy City Chapter BMWCCA Autocross

At BMW CCA events, you'll most likely run with other E30 M3s and E36 cars.  In the Windy City chapter, a stock E30 M3 with R1 tires will run with a stock E36 M3 on street tires.  Once you start to make modifications you will be running against similarly modified E36's.

If your M3 is stock and you're really good, your main competition will be other stock M3s.  If you don't have a lot of experience there may be a lot of other cars giving you a good battle.

With a small weight penalty (and some suspension numbness) the E36 does have more torque and better brakes.  You will be in for some good competition if you decide to modify your car.  That may or may not be a good thing.  Generally, however, you will want to have as many goodies as your budget allows that keep you within a given run group.  (ie. If you're running with other E30 M3's in the stock class and R compound tires are allowed, you'll be at a competitive disadvantage if you don't use them).

Here's my list, in order, of modifications that may benefit your autocross times:

R compound tires ($400-$600 per set)

These are a must if you hope to be competitive.  Over the past several years, BF Goodrich R1's have been the most popular tire but now they're no longer available. (If you still have a set, I've found that 30 lbs front and 28 lbs rear work about the best for me)

A 5 or 6 point harness ($150-250)

This eliminates the need to use your arms and legs to hold your body in place and allows you to focus all attention on where the car is going.

A quick and easy way to install harnesses in your M3 is to use your safety belt connecting points on the side and the rear passenger mounting points for the shoulder harnesses. You'll need to remove the seat in order to mount the anti-dive belt underneath.

A better way (and required for club racing) is to mount each belt to the floor. Talk to other drivers to find the best approach.

Shock upgrades

Bilstein and adjustable Koni's are popular.


There are many brands available. Just be sure not to raise the ride height. Again, it is very helpful to talk to other E30 M3 owners to find out what they're running.

Sway bars

Bigger bars in the front and rear will help control the body roll. Ask around and you'll get many opinions as to which setup is ideal.

Camber plates

These are used to create negative camber in the front of your car. The benefit of this is noticed in cornering. A stock M3 with no camber adjustments will have a smaller contact patch because the the lateral forces on the tire will push the weight to one side. Camber plates reduce the understeer by increasing the size of this patch. The downside is that your street tires may wear quicker on the inside.

Driver's (or wrestling) shoes, racing seat, competition steering wheel Anything of these items will give you more feedback from the surface. The steering wheel and shoes increase the feedback from the front of the car.  The seat helps you feel the rear.

My Setup...

If you're interested in knowing, my M3 has a Dinan stage III suspension which included shocks, springs, front and rear sway bars and camber plates. It does cost a little more than other options but they have done their homework and I've been very pleased with the package.

References... References...


Roger Ness                              - Authoring and Photography
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