European Car was lucky enough to land one of the media slots at the launch event for the M235i Racing. The members of the media at the event were mostly from Europe (we’ll get to that later) but the drive took place in Sin City on a small tight course at the speedway. The basic conclusion of the review is that it is a value in terms of a turn key racer but it is not without its flaws. Some of the key questions we have pondered were nicely answered in the review, excerpts below but head on over the European Car for the full write up.
What is the idea behind the M235i Racing?
their priority was to create an affordable, accessible vehicle for national racing series and club events. As such, the racecar would use a surprising number of production parts. The 330hp engine, for example, is essentially stock but for its software tuning. Even the engine cooling and intercooling was production M235i. During the car’s extensive Nurburgring testing, which included a two-week continuous driving program, the team apparently experienced no overheating issues, although we’ll be interested to see how that translates to a Californian summer or the heat of Dubai…).
No manual transmission? No DCT? Has BMW Motorsport lost its way?
Perhaps the most controversial decision was to retain the production ZF 8HP eight-speed automatic transmission, not even offering a manual option. BMW management and engineers felt that the speed and simplicity of a paddle shift would make the car more accessible to a broad range of drivers. It would also protect the engine from over-revving, and wouldn’t add any development cost beyond software. It also transpires that ZF was very keen to support the project. Despite the sound of straight-cut gears from inside the car, we’re assured this was the result of no sound proofing and that it’s internally stock. It even keeps the same ratios as the road car. What is different is the shift speed, engaging fast and hard. The torque converter is disengaged once the car’s rolling to prevent it slipping the power after shifts. With this transmission, the car is like driving the E60 M5 with the shift force turned up to max – it comes in with a bang.
Do the brakes actually work well on a track from the factory, unlike recent M models (Excluding Carbon Ceramics)?
The US-made Performance Friction four-piston front brake set up are up to the task. Talking to Joey Hand after his handful of laps, the brakes were also a standout feature for him. “You’ll never run out of brakes in that car,” he confirmed. “The ABS threshold was set very high, allowing a degree of lock up on hard application.” The infield racetrack was smooth, with gentle curbs that didn’t seem to upset the car. In fact, the ride on its KW coilovers seemed remarkably compliant, allowing the weight to be transferred and traction to be found.
This is not the special EPS from the new F80/82 M3 so does that mean steering is crap or have the engineers sorted it out?
I did expected more heft to the steering with its wide front tires, the square set up front and rear was designed to save teams from needing different size spares, even allowing the rubber to be rotated. Again, the M235i Racing retained the stock electric steering of the production M235i, but BMW’s Dynamics engineers had worked tirelessly to get the ratio and weight right. Certainly the turn-in was beautifully precise, but I’d have requested a little more weight.
The US has been left out of special BMW M and Motorsport offerings geared to track use, is the US actually going to see this car or is this another one we can add to the growing list (M3 CSL, M3 GTS, M3 CRT, M3 GT4 etc.)?
European deliveries will take precedence, with the US being supplied rather late in the day. Nobody would give a date but didn’t contradict us when we suggested deliveries might start towards the end of the year. However, we spoke to a leading BMW race team that suggested otherwise. They had tried to jump the waiting list by ordering cars from Germany but had been refused. They were also told that the order books were full for the next two years and that the M235i Racing may never even reach the US. This contradicts what BMW AG and BMW NA is telling us and creates a slightly confusing situation but, until we actually see cars in the hands of North America race teams, we won’t know who’s correct…