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When I hear SPEC E30, I tend to think of a bunch of old dirty 80s cars trying to make it around a track. I think of bumping, rubbing and the smell of dirty fuel in the air. Well it's exactly what I thought and more, in the best of ways.
This past weekend I had the fortunate chance to attend a local NASA event where eleven SPEC E30 cars registered to run. If you’re a motorsport fan of any kind these events are gold. Everywhere I turned there was another car that caught my eye or wanted to check out. Although I liked almost every race car that I came in contact with, my heart belongs to BMW particularly the E30 chassis. So with an invite from Carlos of Condor Speed Shop to hang with the shop, I had to check it out.
The opportunity to head to Sebring is awesome by itself, but add 11 track ready E30s to the mix and it becomes amazing. Arriving to the paddock was nothing short of special either, seeing the Condor and MAD crews as well as the other E30s set up in a semicircle of a makeshift shop.
After a quick hello the crews had their heads back on the race to come. This gave me a chance to look around and poke my head in a few places.
I chatted it up a bit with different drivers and soon found out the reason for the makeshift shop. One of the newer cars to the class found out that their clutch was gone during the qualifying laps. Well all the teams were able to lend a hand or donate a part when possible and had it race ready with the clutch changed out before the first heat. This is the kind of thing that drew me to the condor crew over 8 years ago when autocross was the main event.
Well, it was time to race. After some last minute strategy and race line suggestions, the guys and gals suited up and strapped in. Although these E30s are capable of being street legal, they are also race prepped. Equipped with roll cages, fire suppression and race seats, safety is a big part of racing and it shows. With engines started, each team took their turn to head to the starting grid where I raced to see them off.
Let me tell you, there is nothing more glorious than eleven M20s revving up just before a race. With start time approaching four different classes were lead onto the track. Corvettes, Mustangs, a Ferrari, some Miatas and of course the E30s all run at the same time. This was going to be great.
Once the parade lap was complete the green flag flew. For the next 30 minutes these cars would be battling it out. I quickly jumped in my car to move from vantage point to vantage point. First stop was turn 17 where the cars carry a lot of speed coming off the back straight and wow, it looks just as rough as it seems in the video games. The cars come so close to the wall during their exit that it had me on my toes with nervousness.
Once they had a few laps down it was time to change viewing areas, this time I took a short drive down to the inside of turn 1. The first turn has such a cool backdrop. As the race cars head down the straight towards the turn, you look directly at the grandstands with the hot pits below.
Again, after some more laps it’s time to move. My last and final stop was between turn 6 and turn 7. A small mound of dirt provides just the right amount of height to see clearly all the way back to turn 5.
To me, it’s a great spot to view some good racing, with a couple of turns, acceleration and braking all in one area. Once the last lap rolled around I headed back to the paddock.
One by one the cars were all weighed at impound and released back to their respective paddock areas. I hung around a little more to shoot the breeze but my time at Sebring was coming to an end.
With the smell of R-compound tires in my nose and the buzzing of open exhaust in my ear I had to say my goodbyes. My day was short lived but it made a permanent mark on my memory. The hospitality of the crews made me feel welcome and wanting more. I think I will be back, only next time my E30 will be ready to run.