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      11-19-2009, 01:21 PM   #1
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Thumbs up World's First E92 Formula Drift Car...

Updated with details of inaugural run and crash

From Autoblog:

Team GSR Autosport arrived at the streets of Long Beach three days earlier (Tuesday) with the entire entourage for testing. The Southern California venue is unique, as it is the only event that uses a street circuit (turns 9, 10, and 11 of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Street Course) for drifting during the season – the other Formula Drift competitions are held at speedways. The track is narrow and lined with heavy concrete walls.

Tuesday went well. It was the first time the car had been run outside the wide-open spaces of Willow Springs. Unlike the gentle tossing during the first days of practice, the restricted Long Beach track required the car to be fiercely whipped back and forth within its narrow confines.

The first sign of trouble occurred early Friday when a suspension component failed at low speed in the hairpin during testing. The car was brought to a stop without damage and towed back to the pits. The lower control arm had snapped cleanly in the middle of the chrome-moly pipe – not on a weld. Thinking it was a small flaw in the material, the arm was removed and welded with additional gussets for strengthening. Reassembled, and properly aligned, the car was sent back out for additional test laps at high speed.

It was during one of the final laps, near the end of Friday's practice, when the component failed again – sending the broken car directly into the tire barrier.

The crash damage the second time was severe, but survivable. The "soft" tires dissipated the energy across the entire front of the 3 Series in a controlled manner. Instead of destroying the front quarter of the car back to the engine block (like a concrete wall would have done), the fiberglass front bumper was blown into several pieces ("like a piρata," as they say in drifting), the radiator punctured and the power steering pump left dragging by its reinforced hoses. The right front wheel had been flailing wildly since the control arm broke one hundred yards earlier, so it proceeded to rip the quarter panel clean off and bend its shock angrily. The battered car was towed back to the team trailer.

As mentioned before, most of the suspension components were custom designed for the 350R. The hand-crafted front lower control arms were made from chrome-moly tubing. The material is very strong, but more brittle than mild, forged or DOM steel. The stress of professional drifting proved too much and the team never realized that the material would fail so drastically. The arm snapped both times like a rigid tree in a strong wind storm.

Anticipating its arrival, and with military precision, the crew back in the pits jumped into action. With just two hours left for qualifying, and without a single qualifying lap on the books, the 350R had to be back on the track in just over 100 minutes or it would not be in the competition.

The front end was dissected and placed around the car. The radiator was leaking, so it was taken several feet away to be dried, cleaned and repaired (two-part JB Weld to the rescue). The lower control arm pieces were whisked off for welding with double gussets this time, and the bent shock fitted with a new unit. The damaged wheels and tires were replaced, and the front bumper reassembled with black duct tape. The electric power steering pump (now without a mount) was strung into place with a nylon tie-down strap – ugly, but effective.

With only minutes left of qualifying, the car was started and the radiator pressure tested. Everything looked good. Michael zipped up his suit and donned his flat back helmet for the initial run.

The whole team was trackside when the GSR Autosport 350R came around Turn 9 during its first official lap of qualifying. As expected, the tail was out wide in a drift. Within a second or two, the car would transition hard to the other side of the track and skim past the wall hanging its other side to the crowd.

However, something was obviously wrong. During the maneuver, the BMW continued to rotate uncontrollably around its axis – against full lock of the front wheels. Michael Essa and the 350R came to a stop in the middle of the track facing backwards. The run wouldn't score well. It was all over.

Playing Monday morning quarterback, the team realized that in addition to the damage to the components, the alignment had been absolutely destroyed by the second crash. In fact, the right front wheel had been pushed back an inch or so further than the left (giving new meaning to a "staggered" wheel setup). The car was completely unstable at speed even in a straight line, regardless of Essa's heroic driving efforts.

Team GSR Autosport wrote Friday off as an unfortunate and expensive learning experience and spent Saturday watching the other drivers compete (congratulations to Vaughn Gittin Jr., Rhys Millen and Tanner Foust for their first, second and third-place wins, respectively). It was cool meeting drifting enthusiasts and showing off the very unique BMW to thousands of receptive fans.

The next Formula Drift event is at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, in early May – team GSR Autosport will be there. In the meantime, the BMW 350R will be completely repaired this week as it is scheduled to run drifting demonstrations all next weekend at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

Updated with drifting action:

My name is Mike. I am an automotive journalist for Autoblog, a moderator over at Bimmerfest, and a fellow E90 335i owner.

I wanted to give you all a heads-up on the "335i Drift Car" we are going to campaign next year (I am part owner of GSR Autosport too). We are currently building the car in Irvine, California.

I'll post some pics shortly.

LOS ANGELES, Calif., October 30, 2009 – GSR Autosport and Michael Essa have partnered to campaign a 2008 BMW 335i sport coupe in the upcoming 2010 Formula Drift Championship Series. It will be the first BMW 3 Series, powered by a turbocharged BMW M3 engine, to campaign in a national drifting series.

"The BMW 335i is a powerful rear-wheel drive sports coupe with a rock-solid chassis leaving us plenty of room for aftermarket development-the platform will easily handle the 550-hp turbocharged 3.2-liter M3 powerplant which we are finishing development on. Michael Essa was the natural choice to drive this innovative new drift car. Not only does he have a strong motorsport racing background, but he possesses the demanding drifting creativity and competitiveness necessary to win," says Nick Richards, President of GSR Autosport.

Entering its sixth season, Formula DRIFT is recognized as the North American professional drifting championship series. As the first official series in North America, Formula DRIFT has taken competitive motorsports to the extreme, attracting fans and car enthusiasts from all walks of life. This high-skilled, high-powered motor sport where drivers intentionally maneuver their cars into well executed, controlled sideways slides at high speeds through a marked course, has more than 60 professional drivers competing in all seven competitions this year. Judged on execution and style, rather than who finishes the course in the fastest time, drifting is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and is often compared to the freestyle nature of skateboarding and motocross. Formula DRIFT and the drivers serve as ambassadors for the sport of drifting bringing exhibitions to traditional/mainstream motor sports events across the country which have included: multiple Champ Car World Series races, American Le Mans, USAC, NASCAR Busch North & Featherlite Southwest and the SPEED World Challenge, among others.

Residing in Los Angeles, Michael Essa has been racing cars since he was seventeen. He has always focused on the machine and the track, building a solid foundation to create a legacy in global motorsports. He has held positions as Crew Chief and Lead Tech Inspector building and developing his talent from the ground up. Essa not only worships racing but supports the community by offering driving instruction for both Porsche racers and drift drivers. Essa opened Tech Trix Motorsports in Anaheim, California, in the Spring of 2001. The company supplies custom fabrication, specialized maintenance, optimization and management of privately owned Porsche racecars. He and his expert team maintain an average of 20 cars annually and are significant players on the P.O.C. and P.C.A. circuits. Essa campaigned a Mazda in the 2009 Formula Drift Championship Series where he was runner-up for the 2009 Rookie of the Year.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, GSR Autosport is a multi-facetted professional automotive racing business. Founded and operated by genuine racing enthusiasts, GSR Autosport is a race car manufacturer that designs, develops, and builds turn-key vehicles, competitive automotive components, and race safety equipment in various facilities around the country. GSR Autosport is also the parent company to GoSpecRacing.com, a retail race parts supplier, and SpecBoxster.com, a club-level record-holding Porsche Boxster racing team.

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      11-19-2009, 01:42 PM   #2
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      11-19-2009, 01:44 PM   #3
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Welcome, Mike! Looking forward to more info on this and more writing!
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      11-19-2009, 01:47 PM   #4
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Sweet, can't wait to see the pics!
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      11-19-2009, 01:49 PM   #5
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      11-19-2009, 02:30 PM   #6
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      11-19-2009, 02:45 PM   #7
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awesome! Looking forward to some pics
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      03-25-2010, 03:13 PM   #8
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      03-25-2010, 05:38 PM   #9
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Good stuff. Ive been hearing about this build for a little while. At first i heard it was going to be v10 powered but turbo m3 engine sounds better. Good luck, look forward to seeing more.
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      03-26-2010, 08:17 AM   #10
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Nice. Hopefully it doesn't attract too much negative attention for 335. But, hopefully it helps us get more cheeep mods!
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      03-26-2010, 08:35 AM   #11
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The M5 V10 is an insane engine! Can't wait to see the finished car!
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      03-26-2010, 08:37 AM   #12
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Welcome to E90, Emission. I'm sure some of us would love to see some progress in person....that's a meet waiting to happen.
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      03-26-2010, 08:48 AM   #13
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Cool! I hope that M LSD is getting transferred too!
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      03-26-2010, 09:05 AM   #14
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      03-26-2010, 09:06 AM   #15
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WELCOME MAN!! this is going to be insane!!!

those videos are awesome aswell, its like watching a episode of the office with cars haha!
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      03-26-2010, 10:27 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by ********* View Post
Cool! I hope that M LSD is getting transferred too!
I think you have the wrong impression of what comes inside the M3 rear carrier.

You won't see the M3 rear end on a competition drift car.

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      03-26-2010, 10:50 AM   #17
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man didnt know that the m5 motor could fit lol
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      03-26-2010, 12:57 PM   #18
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Mike, thanks for the post. I've looked at all the videos, and from technical things in them what amazed me most was that ten cylinder engine being put into the 335 body. Thanks for sharing.
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      03-26-2010, 01:04 PM   #19
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nice! curious as to what LSD is going in the car?

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      03-26-2010, 01:05 PM   #20
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These guys slapped on a V10 M5 motor on the car. I thought they were going to use a N54 turbo setup... "335i Drift Car", it's not even considered a 335i anymore. Might as well call it a E92 Drift Car.
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      03-26-2010, 01:17 PM   #21
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      03-26-2010, 01:32 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by DimSum View Post
These guys slapped on a V10 M5 motor on the car. I thought they were going to use a N54 turbo setup... "335i Drift Car", it's not even considered a 335i anymore. Might as well call it a E92 Drift Car.
Sounds like they were originally gonna use a turbo S54 but using a stock S85 makes sense from a reliability standpoint. I agree though, sticking that in a 335i means it isn't exactly a 335i any more.

I would kill to get to drive that car, the videos are pretty funny too.
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