It has been one year since I went to my first track day, and ever since then I’ve been hooked. Some cars you just have more fun at the track then on the street. Especially with performance oriented cars like the Porsche GT3, Corvette Z06, Cadillac CTS-V, Nissan GTR, and the BMW M3. These types of cars are more appreciated the track because you can’t feel the full potential on the street… at least legally and safely. Auto manufactures do see this niche in this market and glad they continue to make cars like these.
My M3 has been very good and reliable after 10 track/drift days, BMW build a great car that you could daily and more than capable at the track. Sometimes I go to track days and see other cars break down, or have some kind of issue but not the M3. I think that is becuase it was made for the track. Yes owning an M3 is expensive to maintain compared to other cars but a little maintenance goes a long way.
Last month I was lucky to go drifting on TX86 Day at the Houston Police Academy and was great fun. But after several runs and Texas summer heat, my differential started to get too hot and make a whining noise. I knew I had to take a break and let the diff cool. Last thing I want is a busted differential. Realizing the diff fluid hasn’t been flush after 60k miles and several track days it was due for a flush. Since I was doing a diff flush I went ahead and included a transmission flush. Thats when I called the guys at ABR Houston and scheduled an appointment.
ABR Houston is an independent BMW shop. I take my M3 there for more BMW oriented installs or maintenance. They have great customer service and they do know to how to work on BMWs. They did my engine bearing replacement on my M3 and its still running strong. For the flush, I went with factory BMW differential fluid and Motul fluid for the tranny. Why not just use the same brand? Well, I’ve gotten lots of recommendations to use the factory BMW diff fluid because of the friction modulator additive. With the transmission fluid I went with Motul because it was cheaper then OEM and with the tranny fluid you can use any brand. I also bought ECS Tuning magnetic differential drain plug to pick up any contaminants.
The following week, I went to Backyard Auto, which is owned by Fernando. He is very good guy that knows how to work on cars. Its not a BMW specialty shop like ABR Houston but I go to him for bolt on stuff, small maintenance and alignments. On the M3 forums I managed to get a set of floor mounts and Hawk race brake pads for really cheap. Most of the modifications on the M3 are used, hahaha. It helps keep the cost down, so its something to think about if you are on a budget. I was eyeing a set of used rotors but I backed off becuase the rotors didn’t look too great and was almost expensive as a new OEM rotors. Plus I track the M3 once a month and I wanted try something better than OEM but not pay for a big brake kit. I ended up going to with ECS Tuning 2 pc rotors because the price difference for the OEM rotor wasn’t much and has a better cooling efficiency than OEM. I only replaced the front rotors because the OEM rotor was below minimum thickness and most of the braking is done by the front brakes.
The ECS rotor is a two piece rotor with the additions of slots and more holes and this allows for better cooling then the OEM version. At the track Im pretty sure I will feel improved braking performance compared to OEM.
The ECS rotors have more vanes then the OEM version. Already glad with my purchase and a nice upgrade to a more track oriented set up
Then onto the the brake pads. I went with Hawk DTC-70 brake pads, which is a track pad and not really intended for the street. You can still drive on the street but I wouldn’t recommend that. I bought it from a guy that used it for two track days in Circuit of the Americas, obviously it can do track duty.
On the left is my Akebono street pads after one year of track use and Im happy to say it’s still useable and I do intend to switch back to Akebono pads after track days because the Hawk pads are soo abrasive that I don’t want to go through rotors frequently. The Hawk pad (right) has a lot of meat left compared to the Akebono pad (right). Interested to see how long the Hawk pads last during track days.
Next we worked on to replace the stock driver seat to a bucket seat. I still had my old Status seat from the GTI, and the only hardware I needed was a floor mount. I picked up a set of used Macht Schnell floor mounts and the install was fairly straight forward. I didn’t get sliders because I wanted to keep cost down, sit low, and I like the fix seating. If you can’t fit then you can’t drive it.I did cut some good weight with the Status seat, because the stock seats are very heavy.
After the install, I did get an airbag waring light but I’ll code that out before the next track day. The waring light doesn’t disable the iDrive or make noises so it is livable. I kept the stock passenger seat mainly becuase I still wanted the functionality of back seat. The problem with the M3 coupes is once you have two bucket seats, then there isn’t any room to the get into the back seat, at that point you might as well remove the rear seat.
After the initial drive, I didn’t feel any difference in the shifting and wasn’t any noises from the differential. The didn’t feel any noticeable gains from the flush but least I got fresh fluid. I have yet to take to take it to the track to see if the differential would make noise. The noise I did notice was the brakes haha. Sounded like the bus stop squeals. The common problem with race pads is they do make a squealing noise, and very abrasive to the the rotors. You sacrifice comfort for better stopping at the track. I also noticed after two days of city driving they produce a lot of brake dust, worst than OEM. It is annoying to have to clean your wheels more frequently. Thats why I kept my street pads so i can switch them out between track days. The Status bucket seat fit snugly to my body and holds me in place in the corners. I feel the road more, and lower seating position has a s2000 ergonomics feel with more helmet clearance. This weekend I have a two day track weekend and excited to see how they perform.