In January 2014, Dan Rogers and James Colborn were talking about racing. This happens about three or four times a week but this conversation was different. It was a ‘what’s next’ dialogue for two PRO3 alums who were looking for a club racing experience that would emulate the vehicles and driving dynamics of the Continental Tire Racing Series (CTSC) cars they’d both run for the past few years.
Dan enthusiastically mentioned a class that he’d heard about via James Clay (BimmerWorld President and prolific pro driver). The class was a well-baked concept based upon the BMW E46 chassis and was called Spec E46.
About Spec E46
The brainchild of two East Coast racers, Jason Tower and Evan Levine, the Spec E46 class is based upon the 2001 to 2005 BMW E46 330 chassis. Designed to be a true spec class, the rulebook allows for enough race modification for the cars to put in lap times that are a second or two slower than a current CTSC ST car but at the same time ensure race expenditure is curbed, the cars remain super competitive and competitors have all but no opportunity to interpret the regulations in different ways.
As a new spec class, Spec E46 has the opportunity to do something that very few classes get to do; be a universal class across all sanctioning race bodies. At the time of writing this piece, one year after inception, Spec E46 is now an official class (either full or provisional) in ICSCC, BMW CCA, NASA and SCCA.
2014: The Inaugural Year For Spec E46 In The Pacific Northwest
In late January, Colborn and Rogers pulled the trigger and commissioned a shared Spec E46 build from BimmerWorld. At the same time, the duo began promoting the class heavily in the Pacific Northwest–oddly the home turf for an Alaskan and a New Yorker to generate interest in additional builds. Almost immediately Grip Racing jumped on the opportunity, building a car in record time to setup a regional Spec E46 battle and the class’s inaugural race (not only in the Pacific Northwest but in the entire United States) at the Six Hour Enduro at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, WA.
A good showing was needed to boost interest in the class but expectations weren’t as high as the results that the cars delivered. The BimmerWorld #82 Spec E46 was entered into the L1 class along with the Grip Racing entry #95. The goal was a class win. After a hard fought battle with Grip Racing, the BimmerWorld #82 took the overall race victory. Grip Racing finished second overall. Spec E46 had arrived in the Pacific Northwest and arrived with a bang!
Throughout 2014 announcements of Spec E46 builds echoed across the Internet and into the paddocks of many race organizations. No more so than the Pacific Northwest, where the interest was incredibly strong. By the time the season finale– he Festival of Endurance at Portland International Raceway–there were five competitive Spec E46s in the race. Entries from Advanced Auto Fabrication (AAF), Grip Racing, BimmerWorld (supported by AAF), Strictly BMW and John Wymore all competed for Spec E46 honors in the two-hour and eight-hour races. To compound the success of the series, Spec E46 finished first, second, third, fourth in the E1 class and took the second through fifth positions in the eight hour race overall.
To end the year, three Pacific Northwest Spec E46s were taken to the 25 Hours of Thunderhill with Grip Racing finishing on the podium of the E1 class and Spec E46 cars from other regions taking two of the three podium spots in class.
Back to current times and the Pacific Northwest is preparing for double figure entries into the ICSCC (provisional) Spec E46 class this race season. Colborn and Rogers have separated with Colborn commissioning his own Spec E46, which is one of three chassis being built by Advanced Auto Fabrication. This adds to additional cars being built by Grip Racing. Lowe Group Racing are working on their first Spec E46. A number of independent builds are also happening.
The motivations of all drivers differ but the chance of being something early on is a draw for many. In asking some of the drivers building the following were a few of the responses:
“You don’t get a chance to be at the beginning of a spec racing class and this one has a few benefits for me personally. A National series to allow equal racing in tracks outside the PNW, changing my abilities with a faster car and an attractive endurance chassis to build a team of drivers who would be more likely to want to run a cup car or CTSC type ride” – Mike Adams
“SpecE46 is a solid concept – a modern car, a good rules set that will constrain costs, and a nationally consistent class–and it’s in a BMW. What’s not to like?”– Dan Rogers
“I was initially drawn to how close these cars are to more professional race series vehicles. Learning to drive with ABS and power assisted steering would create a set of skills I could take to CSTC racing. While these are still a big driver for me, the fact that these cars are really enjoyable to drive and the racing is so competitive that I can’t see this class being anything but amazing to be a part of” – James Colborn
“The class has grown beyond our wildest expectations due to a lot of faith from drivers building cars, many before the class was adopted in any manner. PNW drivers and teams have embraced SpecE46 faster than any other group, which has given me an opportunity to drive more with this group in the last year. And ultimately, that is one of the great strengths of the class – with a universal car build, there are an abundance of opportunities to share cars with someone from another region or make a pilgrimage to race and know you will be on equal footing with cars built elsewhere”.– James Clay