I don’t like fast cars, nannies, supercars, ricers, donkers, drag racing, or people doing burnouts in the middle of the night. I don’t follow Formula 1, NASCAR, Indycar, or any other racing series. I would be hard-pressed to identify a car from its silhouette or engine sound. And yet, I am a car enthusiast. I love the interaction of car and driver at the limit. I think that still makes me an enthusiast, just not the common kind. Let me tell you a bit more about my unusual tendencies.
I consider my 1996 BMW Z3 to be the ultimate track-daily. In some world where I’m much wealthier than I am today, I would drive an electric car to the track where my purpose-built racecar would be waiting for me in a garage. My reality is that my track car doubles as my commuter. That means compromises. On the street, it’s a bit too stiff and a bit too loud to hear my audio books. I have to draft trucks to cut the wind noise down. There’s only room for 1 passenger and a few grocery bags. But when the weather is just right, commuting with the top down is the next best thing to riding a motorcycle (I gave that up long ago). And on track, with the top open and 4 wheels howling, it’s pretty fucking perfect.
One of the things I like about my Z3 is that it doesn’t have intrusive nannies. It didn’t come with stability control, so there isn’t even a button to turn off. It does have ABS and power steering, and I’m okay with that. But I’d also be okay without it.
I think most people would look at the 1.9 Z3 specs and think it doesn’t have enough motor. The weight (2670) and power (138 crank) aren’t very different from a commuter like a Toyota Corolla or Honda Fit. On the street, I have no need for power, because I drive for economy. On the track, I don’t really want to go much faster than I do now. It’s more dangerous, takes more fuel, wears more tires, generates more heat etc. There are economy enthusiasts too! I’m sort of half-way between those crazy hypermilers and those crazy track addicts.
Shifting and Coasting
My Z3 is over 25 years old. In order to extend the life of my transmission as long as possible, I reduce the number of times I shift by skipping gears. If I am at a complete stop, I will usually shift into 1st gear. As I speed up, I’ll switch to 3rd and then 5th. Sometimes I’ll take off in 2nd (especially if I’m doing a rolling stop or pointed downhill) and then switch to 4th and eventually 5th. I try not to shift from 2nd to 3rd or 3rd to 4th. Those gear changes are reserved for the track. What about heel-toe downshifting? Also reserved for the track.
I do a lot of coasting on the street. I’ve driven from my doorstep in Davis to downtown SF without using the brakes. I drive all cars like this, not just the Z3.
I don’t buy sticky tires. The stickier the tire, the more wear you put on everything: pads, rotors, suspension, bushings, subframes, etc. Z3s are great handling cars and don’t need sticky tires. They should be slid around corners. It’s a lot easier to explore the right side of the slip angle curve in less sticky tires. Let’s review the merits of harder tires.
- Less wear on the car
- More fun
- Better for training
- Cost less
- Last longer
Fuck R-comps. They are a scam.
I have never taken my Z3 for a “spirited drive” and probably never will. Driving 5/10ths on public roads cannot compete with track driving or even sim racing. What about driving over 5/10ths on public roads? I don’t see the point in endangering the public when sim racing and track driving are more fun.
Exterior & Interior
My car’s clearcoat is pealing like crazy. 25 years of sun will do that. I’m okay with wrinkles on people too. I don’t wash my wheels very often. I don’t care how the wheels look. I don’t like getting my hands really dirty when I swap them though, so sometimes I do break out a bucket of water. I screw/glue RAM mounts into my dash. I’m not saving my car for the next driver.
My favorite racing channel on YouTube is 3D Bot Maker.
5 thoughts on “Enthusiast-ish”
Ran a track day on 9 year old tires (full tread, rarely used) last weekend – my regular track car was not available so I used my garage queen. As a bonus I had sprayed that back-to-black type glaze not long ago. That was a serious challenge. Ross Bentley would have asked me if I was experiencing under or oversteer, and if it was on entry, mid, or exit. I would say yes, had all of those! Honestly I missed my R compounds but did learn a lot that day.
Ha! It’s hard work for sure.
100% agree with “slow car fast.” I had an ND Miata (which covid took from me) and a ’12 Mini Cooper S hardtop.
Which tire are you running? I typically run “High Performance” summers with like 300-400 TW. I’ve heard all-season tires will degrade quickly on track.
I’ve had some all-seasons that have been durable (Douglas Xtra Trac II) and some that have shredded. I think the drifters know which all-seasons will survive their specific brand of torture. I have generally liked 300TW tires such as Conti ECS, Yok S.drive, and Federal ST1. I have a few in the 300-400 segment I want to try like Sport Comp2 and DZ102. I drove a race on Riken Raptors that were surprisingly durable.
Unless you’re really good with double clutching to match the input shaft speed, skipping gears is probably just shifting the wear from the clutch (which is designed to be replaced relatively easily) to the synchros (which aren’t).