You would be hard pressed to find a class that is as appealing to entry-level racers and more experienced drivers as Spec E30.

With a tight rules structure that has been adjusted over the years to close loopholes and clearly define what is permitted and what isn’t, Spec E30 offers racers an affordable way to race BMWs. Controlling costs, close competition and camaraderie has allowed the class to expand nationwide. In several NASA regions across the country, Spec E30 has the biggest fields. We put together this month’s “Class Syllabus to find out why.

Class Description

“The Spec E30 Series is a competitive, fun, safe, affordable racing series, focused on road racing with limited modifications and specified required components. The series showcases the driver’s skills and the specified required components manufacturers, distributors, and dealers. Only modifications specifically authorized are allowed, and competitive adjustments are not allowed. Other than the modifications specifically allowed in these rules, every part of the car must remain as it came from the factory.”

Eligible Makes and Models

“Only 1984-1991 BMW manufactured non-M E30 chassis automobiles, as made available by BMW in the United States through its authorized dealer network are eligible, with the following restrictions listed in rule 7.3.2. Vehicles with automatic transmissions or four-wheel drive are not eligible. Eligible vehicles include E30 cars originally built as a 318i, 318is, 325, 325E, or 325i provided they contain the Spec E30 eligible drive train from a car originally built as a 325i or 325is.”

Donor Prices and Availability

$500 to $6,000

Donors are still out there. Craigslist is the best source for modestly priced cars you’re going to strip and turn into a racecar anyway.

Engine Specs

“Taking into account the allowable 0.020 overbore and balancing, the maximum allowable horsepower value for the class is set at 160.9 horsepower and 160.9 pound-feet of torque. An engine that deviates from the 6,300 rpm rev limiter shall be deemed illegal.”

Weight

2,700 lbs.

Fuel Required

Permitted fuel is unleaded pump gasoline, with a maximum octane of 93. Fuel must be from a mass-marketed supplier, e.g. BP, Sunoco, Exxon, or other independent mass marketer, e.g. track supplier or local independent gas station. Fuel additives, other than those supplied in the fuels listed above, are prohibited.”

Average Cost to Build Car

$15,000 to $20,000 or more if you want to go crazy

Average Cost to Buy Built Car

$10,000 to $15,000

Typical Modifications

– Fresh spec Bilstein shocks and suspension.

– New bushings.

– The required spec parts are a must if you want to go fast.

– As fresh an engine as possible, or at the very least a fresh cylinder head.

– You need to have power close to the maximum allowed to be competitive.

– The key is to get the car set up to your preferences using corner weighting, alignment and ballast.

Cost Analysis

Average cost to run a weekend — $1,000, but it can be done for less. Toyo Bucks and a smart tire program keep costs in check.

Consumables Prices

Tires, size, brand and prices (from Phil’s Tire Service, Cragsmoor, N.Y.)

Toyo Proxes RR 205-50-15: $175

Toyo Proxes RA1 205-50-15 (rain): $172

Brakes, brands and prices

Hawk Blue, front: $106

Hawk Blue, rear: $172

Available contingencies

Toyo Tires, Hawk Performance, Winding Road Racing, Spec Clutches, Sampson Racing Communications, Frozen Rotors, Injector Pulse.

Factory Participation

Nein.

Benefits

– Genuinely affordable

– Close competition.

– Cool cars you remember from your youth.

– Large fields in many regions. Large Championships fields, too.

– Despite their advancing age, donors and parts are still reasonably easy to find.

Challenges

– Donors without sunroofs are nearly impossible to find.

– Virtually all donors have high mileage.

– Four doors often require swapping automatics for five-speeds

– Prices for donors in good to excellent condition are on the upswing.

Rulebook Highlights

Ducting air to the brakes is permitted, and two openings in the front valance to allow the passage of up to a three-inch-diameter duct hose leading to each front brake are permitted for this purpose. Installation of ducts in the front air dam or valance for the brake cooling hoses is permitted.

 Each car is required to have at least one operational forward facing video camera mounted in or on the car. It must record all races.

– A remote oil filter and its associated plumbing may be added. An Accusump or similar oil accumulator may be used.

– The stock unmodified intake airbox assembly shall be retained, and in its original mounting. The stock airbox front rubber hose shall be removed.

Any stock OEM E30 fuel tank or equivalent is permitted. The fuel fill neck may be modified to remove restrictions for faster refueling. No other modifications to the tank are allowed unless permitted elsewhere in these rules.

– Compression ratio may be changed only within the tolerances affected by resurfacing for trueness and within factory tolerances or as allowed by these regulations.

– Oil coolers may be added or replaced, and their location within the bodywork is unrestricted so long as they are not mounted within the driver/passenger compartment.

– Front camber is unrestricted within the limitation and adjustability of bolt-in camber plates, and an eccentric bushing at the rear mount of the lower control arm. No modifications to the body and/or interior tub panels are allowed.

– The three front strut mounting holes may be slotted laterally, only to enable more range of camber adjustment.

What Racers Say

Shawn Meze, Spec E30 National Director

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“Spec E30 is an entry level class of racing, meaning the cars are very slow compared with other series. It’s one of the slowest classes out there, which forces you to learn how to drive a racecar at the limits of the car in the class. So, if you can get in a slow car like this and figure out how to make it a fast car, then you can pretty much progress into any other series that you want to and, frankly, be competitive right out of the box.

Now, most people, they’re not getting into racing because their intention is to race in the Indy 500. They just want to go out and race and have a good time, and that’s what this series is. This series is amateur road racing. It’s gentlemen’s racing. We race hard and race close, but we absolutely try our best to race clean. But it’s more of a camaraderie and culture than just racing.”

Sean Aron, NASA SoCal racer

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“What attracted me to Spec E30 is two things: how cheap and easy it is to run these cars, and the field sizes. There’s always someone to race with, and the cars are damn cheap and easy to keep going.

Now that I’ve been at it a few years, all those things are still true, but the people in the series are what keep me here. I can enter a corner side-by-side with anyone in my regional field knowing they’re not going to turn in on me, put me in the wall, or otherwise do something stupid. There’s an implicit trust there built over many beers that allows us to just get on with the racing the way it’s meant to be. It’s a great group of guys.”

Robert Patton, NASA Southeast racer

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“I chose Spec E30 because of the leadership and vision of Spec E30’s founder, Carter Hunt. I’m looking for the original flyer that Carter distributed to NASA racers that talked about forming a “low cost, fun to drive series for E30 racers.” What a great concept this has proven to be — I’ve got to find that flyer.

Carter went about establishing the series in the Mid-Atlantic region and I recruited racers in the Southeast. Here we are, 12 years later, and you’ll still find Hunt and Patton behind the wheel because the series is filled with so many talented and helpful people. Yes, it is all about the people because ain’t none of us making a living at this endeavor, although Mike Skeen and Johan Schwartz have made it to the ranks of on-the-television.”

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Images courtesy of caliphotography.com and Brett Becker