Robert Gagliardo, 39, is a multiple race winner, the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Spec E46 champion and 2016 Eastern States Champion in Spec E46, with multiple track records to his name. A hair-gel enthusiast, he’s originally from New Jersey, but now lives in Richmond, Va., with his wife April, who is a local karting legend. This year he’s starting his seventh year of sprint racing and his second year of endurance racing.
Q: You took your first National Championship in Spec E46 in 2016. What was that like?
A: If you’re reading this, and haven’t been to Watkins Glen, you’re missing out. For the last handful of years, I have been going there for a “carcation” with a group of buds. It has become my favorite track for many reasons. It offers so much: great views, great food, wine, and an amazing historic track that rewards confident drivers. Added up, it’s my favorite track by a large margin. We had a large turnout of Spec E46s, even some shoes from the West Coast. It was a sweet feeling to win at such a surreal track.
Q: You also came close to a Championship, with a second-place finish in 2014 in Spec E30 at Road Atlanta. What do you think makes the difference between winning and taking second?
A: The last lap of the largest Spec E30 field to date, 47 cars, all were fighting tooth and nail, and especially so in the last segment. The delta in spec classes is usually in the tenths in the top tier group, and sometimes in the hundreds of a second. With such a strong field that year, it was a roll of dice who’d take the top three steps. First place vs. second was decided by a tenth of a second.
Q: When did you make the switch from Spec E30 to Spec E46 and why?
A: I’ve been following the class for sometime, and shortly after the Road Atlanta Championships, I put my car up for sale. I wasn’t entirely sure what class I’d do next, but the allure of the newer BMW chassis and rules set really attracted me, and the strong contingency program by Toyo/Hawk and vendors like BimmerWorld/RedLine was icing on the cake. I can be a pretty technical guy and I like to wrench, and challenge myself. This class fit the bill, so I took a leap of faith and jumped two feet in and I’m glad I did.
Q: What does Spec E46 do for you that Spec E30 does not, and vice versa?
A: I started racing with Spec E30, so it will always be very special to me. That said, I like the additional “switches and levers” that the E46 platform and rules set enables. So it adds another level of setup options, making it a great tool to learn more about the dynamics of a car, and the causes and effects of different changes. It is a well-composed car and very fun car to run and race. It’s hard to knock Spec E30, though. The formula is nearly perfect and I actually still own one, and you might see me mixing it up in one for a special event or two.
Q: Any regrets on switching classes?
A: There have been some lessons learned with getting the cars to their full-potential, but that is normal with any new series. The class keeps growing and is becoming more mature and stable with very little change to the original rules set, which says a lot about the rule writers. There is close to a hundred of these cars floating around, most being raced, or drivers prepping to get their race license and to have the most fun you could imagine. The camaraderie and the friendships on/off track is common, and has increased the fun factor to 11.