Wolf in Sheepskin: YOU Can Buy One!
In our business, we run into a lot of successful people. Hardworking, enterprising, creative, brilliant, shrewd, aggressive, fearless….you could go on and on. Rod Dole fits into one or more of those categories. But if you met him, you’d think he’s just a regular guy. He’d been tracking with HOD on and off in his 996 Turbo for several years until a buddy who had gone in deep invited him to join a private driving club. We’ll leave it private but suffice it to say it’s a group of around 25 serious enthusiasts who wanted to run together, with smaller car counts, with everyone knowing who they are driving with, and encouraging all kinds of track weapons (stay tuned for a review on a Ligier sometime soon). Well, Rod decided to get a serious track car. You know the usual suspects…Porsche GT2/3, BMW M, purpose-built tube-framed TA2 cars, supercars, hypercars…yes there are a lot of options. But Rod, being successful, knew to do his homework. He had a good budget to work with (good for Rod!) but wanted a car that was just right. Networking friends, searching the internet, finding forums, chasing rumors…he was hearing about all the above makes – especially hot right now is the Porsche Club Sport – a GT4 in race trim. And this started out being his target until he found the little-known, small production run M2 CS Racing. Yes, the BMW marketing department worked hard on that name…catchy eh? Well…the name undersells this nearly invisible, but available, very serious BMW factory-built enduro race/track car. For low to mid $100K, you can buy a full FIA race car directly from BMW. The picture above is that of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. There are no major cosmetic changes in the body of the simple, elegantly rounded, and curved boxy coupe. Yes, you’ll notice a carbon-fiber roof, monster AP Racing brakes, and a functional and adjustable wing. Keep looking and you’ll notice a nozzle for a factory-installed air jack, an FIA fuel cell quick filler, tow hooks and straps, and……other subtle but functional do-dads (i.e. multiple coolers in the snout). By then, you will have also noticed the gorgeously fabricated FIA roll cage complete with room for a passenger seat. This is a subtly presented full on race car, built to be an awesome track-day weapon, with easy set up for serious Club or Enduro racing. When Rod showed up at his driving club, some were pretty blasé about this very clean and simple looking coupe. But a couple of informed members pounced on it – “It this an M2 Racing? I’ve been dying to see one!!” “Where did you find it?” Great enthusiasm and appreciation followed as folks looked beneath the skin to see a true factory race car dressed up in a modern suit of clothes.
Relevant specs on the M2 CS Racing
- Weight – 3296lbs (OK…just a bit porky, but it has A/C standard!)
- Engine – 3.0 liter inline six – twin turbo, direct injection – available at 365hp or 450hp – we recommend more power!! Engine power is configurable with software “power sticks”
- Fuel tank – 21 gallon standard – 31 gallon optional – Fuel 100 unleaded – Enduro fuel fillers on both sides of car
- Gearbox (Two pedal driving) 7 speed twin-disc clutch
- Spring/shocks – Adjustable sway bars, racing shocks, three options of spring rate
- Differential – Drexler limited slip with cooling – 3 settings including defeat system option
- State-of-the-art removable steering wheel with integrated controls
- Options include carbon fiber hood, doors, and trunk lid (Rod is not planning on racing yet, so he saved his money on these pricey upgrades)
- Driver/cockpit – Recaro race seat, Schroth 6-point harness, A/C, prep for hydration system – configurable stability control with defeat option, digital dash with AIM data system
- Tires – Comes with Michelin enduro racing slicks
- Brakes – 6 piston AP racing brakes
- Sound system – OK – gotcha!! This car does not have a stereo!
Disclaimer: This is a privately-owned, brand-new car, and I’m NOT Randy Pobst.
Was I excited to drive this hot rod? ABSOLUTELY! With a clear track at Thunderhill on the 3 mile over the top, I climbed in the M2. First impression – the interior, and seat are configured to be able to fit you like a glove. I happened to fit perfectly in the seat that the car came with, and the adjustable seat position was at the correct height. With the Recaro on a slider, it was one slide to fit “just right.” Leaving the paddock for the test, the yoke steering wheel, a question mark to me before, immediately felt natural and efficient in my hands. Where the Tesla owners complain about their yokes, those complaints are about driving around in parking lots and driveways. None of that here…the adjustable steering wheel height was adjusted to perfect – and by the second lap I was a ready convert to a yoke for any race car.
Next was the strange 2 pedal set up. Having done a heel/toe video that got 200,000 views, I was prepared to be disappointed by the simpler, street-car like two pedal arrangement. And yes, it did take some getting used to. And then I realized that my left foot braking skills were very basic, and it was time to learn more advanced skills quickly. With my traditional clutch Spec Mustang, the left foot is used for possible high-speed taps, setting the brake pads after pad knock-back, but not for any lifesaving stops. I guess I could have cheated and just avoided left foot braking and save that for another time. But this was a special opportunity to give it a go…where your left foot is now saving your life braking from 125mph to 40mph at T14. This was a bit daunting at first, and I can’t say I mastered it by any means…but at least I started to do it instinctually – the first step in fine-tuning this skill. I’ll give a demerit to the BMW setup here. There is a very comfortable dead pedal for the left foot when it’s not busy. But it’s TOO wide and comfy…there were a few times when I thought I’d moved my left foot in to ready position, and when I pressed down, I caught the edge of the dead pedal, impeding brake application. Troubling. Certainly, this is not a fatal flaw, but maybe a small ergonomic that could be addressed. I proceeded to try to be more precise with the pedal and got by fine. The paddle shifters are perfectly placed and were second nature immediately. However it did take some concentration and focus to get the right gear at the right turn…there were several early shifts and a bit of over-revving as the track taught me where to be amongst the 7 gear ratios…. but for the shifting? Awesome and smooth as silk.
Rod Dole behind the wheel of his trusty M2 steed
The M2 Racing feels like a surgical instrument on the track. It clearly belies its weight, as it felt feather-light in my hands. Feather-light, but still having feel…it is a delicate balance that BMW got perfectly. The M2 also rewards soft hands, as turn in is now, with good front-end bite. The steering ratio was just right too…as I fell in to my very familiar Thunderhill line and had no trouble being precise as my pace came up. We left the stability control on, but in the most high-performance setting and it was good…this might have been something I would use if it was a bit slick on track. But this setting did allow just a slight slip on exit that was very helpful in staying with the throttle. We were later disappointed to have the second drive canceled, so this first run was my chance to gain impressions fast. Ah yes, fast…that’s what this car is. The twin-turbo torquey straight six is very progressive…with zero lag. And that statement is coming from a former turbo car racer who hates lag. Power was plenty, and max torque seemed to stay with me all the way up to a mid-level shift point. The M2 is not a high rev-er..that would be a waste of a good valve train. Mid-level torque then pop that shift paddle. As the pace went up, so did the entry speeds, and so did the brakes stop us like an anchor. True to its goal of being an enduro racer, the brakes are amazing and feel like they’d last the full 24 hours of Le Mans. The overall impression that came to me was “effortless speed.” Soft initial application of the throttle and brake input, and very little effort needed in steering smoothly all contributed to confidence in going faster. My drive was brief, but intoxicating. My third lap of Thunderhill as I warmed up and was still finding braking points, I equaled my best lap ever in my Spec Mustang…without any drama or sense of pushing yet. The M2 CS Racing is certainly in the same lap time range of a Club Sport. With the difference being the Porsche achieving fast laps with more momentum and lower center of gravity…and the BMW laying down more torque while holding its own in the twisties.
In summary, the M2 CS Competition is expensive, but quite possibly worth it. If you are a track day guy or gal, there are very few street cars that would even get close to the track performance of this version of the M2. Yes, there are exotics, and a handful of specialty street cars that are close…but none that could take on the miles, heat cycles, nicks and scrapes of a true, fast, reliable track/race car. Not to mention the fact that this is, for a race car, a very safe one. The safety equipment on the car is state of the art. This is certainly a dream car for me and most…but if you have just one passion – that of driving or racing on a road course – it might just make sense to dig deep to invest in a long-term performer like the M2 CS Racing. This is truly a great car, and buying a factory-built BMW in this price range, actually sounds like a very good deal.