It has been a few months since our last update on the BMW E36 M3 rally car and in that time, a ton of stuff has happened! We went from a bare shell in our last blog to a running, driving, and log-booked rally car that is ready to take whatever abuse we can throw at it. From day one, we knew that this journey wasn't going to be easy, after all, we decided to jump into this "lets build a rally car" thing head first.
Countless hours of research, blood, and sweat were poured into this build, leaving nothing on the car untouched. The goal from the start was to build a reliable, budget-friendly rally car that would take all of the abuse we can throw at it and look good while we do it. We think that we hit the ball out of the park with this car but we will let you be the judge.
Thereʼs a lot of catching up to do since our last blog so I will try to keep it short and sweet—starting with a list and pictures.
Team Bearded Ryno E36 M3 Rally Car Build List Update
Engine, Drivetrain, & Exhaust
- 200k mile S50B30 that we went through entirely. Rod bearings, upgraded oil pump shaft/nut, all new gaskets, chains, tensioners, Stewart water pump, underdrive pulley kit, oil pan baffle, and Z3 oil pickup tube
- Single mass flywheel kit with e34 M5 clutch kit
- New shifter detents in the ZF-5 speed
- Mechanical fan delete, factory aux-fan is now main engine fan
- Garagistic HD front strut brace
- Bimmerworld 3.5” Race intake
- BMW Z3M Radiator
- OBD2 midpipe w/ aftermarket 2.5” cats
- Muffler delete
- 3.91 LSD with 3-clutch upgrade
- AKG engine, transmission, and differential mounts
- Rally Road HD Transmission crossmember
- 55mm restrictor plate (Required for new novice rule for American Rally Association)
- Bimmerworld E36 fuel starvation kit
Suspension, Steering, and Brakes
- JVAB/Bilstein front coilovers
- Rear Bilstein HD shocks w/ AKG mounts and H&R OE Sport springs
- Meyle HD front control arms
- AKG Lollipop Bushings
- Reinforced front subframe
- Reinforced rear subframe
- Reinforced trailing arm pockets
- AKG rear subframe mounts
- AKG trailing arm bushings
- Non-M E36 trailing arms
- FAG rear wheel bearings
- FAG front wheel hubs
- 328ic brake calipers (vented rear disc setup)
- Garagistic brass caliper guide bushings
- Zimmerman rotors
- Porterfield R4S brake pads
- Brake booster delete with dual master cylinder setup, all new brake lines
- Nameless Performance hydraulic handbrake
- HDPE underbody panels
- Pirelli 195-70-15 P Zero K4 Gravel tires
- Custom skid plate by Thompson Racing Fabrication
- BMW Z3 1.9L steering rack, 2.7 turns lock to lock
- Garagistic front E36 HD strut brace
- Garagistic rear E36 HD strut brace
- Bimmerworld stainless steel brake and clutch lines
Interior and Safety
- OMP HTE-R seats
- Sparco steel seat mounts
- Sabelt six-point harnesses
- Custom built roll cage by Thompson Racing Fabrication
- OMP steering wheel
- NRG short quick release hub
- Custom flat floor panels by Final Fabrication LLC
- Mason Engineering “Short Throw” clutch pedal
- Glove box delete panel with Battery/Ignition kill switch
- Tilton Brake bias adjuster
- AKG short shifter and DSSR
- Two 10 ABC fire extinguishers on JEGS quick release mounts
- Samsung Tablet/Rally computer
- Bimmerworld front windshield defroster
- Nerp Tech switch panel
- 6ovrcrst Co-Driver footrest
- Mkah door panels
- Bimmerworld front windshield defrost kit
- Rally.Build roof scoop
Maintenance and Miscellaneous
- Mahle oil filter
- NGK spark plugs
- Bosch coil packs
- Diode Dynamics LED light bars
- Custom Pin Stands by Final Fabrication LLC
- AKG Tow hooks
- Rally.Build mud flap kit
- Rally.Build roof scoop
Ready to Rally - Ojibwe Forests Rally
With the car now rally ready, we have successfully competed in and completed three stage rallies. Our first rally was the American Rally Associationʼs “Southern Ohio Forest Rally” in Chillicothe, Ohio, where we placed tenth in class out of twenty-four teams. Our second rally was the NASA Rally Sport “Central Upper Peninsula Rally” in Powers, Michigan, where we placed third in class out of seven teams. Our third and most recent rally to date was the American Rally Associations “Ojibwe Forests Rally” in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, where we placed third in class out of eight teams. While all of the rallies have been a great experience, weʼre going to focus on our absolute favorite so far, the Ojibwe Forests Rally.
With its headquarters located in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, this rally is literally surrounded by thousands-of-miles of amazing forest roads to compete on. The Ojibwe Forests Rally has been around for almost forty years, and the last six have all been National Championship events. Being a National event, big-name teams like the Subaru Motorsports USA rally team with Travis Pastrana, David Higgins, and Oliver Solberg are in attendance, along with all of the media coverage and fans that come with that. This is the first National Championship rally that we have attended, but we didn't actually sign up as a National entry. Instead, we opted to sign up as a Regional entry since weʼre still new and trying to figure our way around all of the ins and outs. Regional entry is also a little cheaper and we still get to compete on the same roads as everyone else. Maybe one day we will chase National points but for now, it just doesn't make any sense for us to do so.
Ojibwe was slightly different than our previous two rallies because we had to write our own “Stage Notes”. Stage Notes are the coded set of instructions that a co-driver reads to the driver so that we can safely and quickly navigate through the stage. These notes essentially give us a view of the road ahead without being able to see it. The two rallies previous provided stage notes called Jemba notes. The “Jemba Inertia Notes System” is a computer software program that is run on a laptop with a bunch of car mounted accelerometers linked to it. They then drive down the center-line of the road and the computer pumps out notes based on the data from the sensors.
Southern Ohio and the Central U.P rallies both used Jemba, Ojibwe did not. For Ojibwe we had to go out and drive every stage, multiple times in order to hand write our own notes. This was the most challenging task of the entire rally for many teams, us included. This was the first time we had to write our own notes so it was definitely a trial by fire. In order to write these notes, we had to wake up super early and drive all of the stages before the rally starts. This part of the rally is called “recce” which is short for reconnaissance. We could drive the stages as many times as we wanted within an assigned ten and a half-hour time period so planning out the most efficient route between the stages is a must. Planning for this usually starts well before we ever leave the house to head to the rally.
Once we got out to the stages and started writing our own notes, the frustration started. Weʼre given a 35mph speed limit for the stages and as a driver I want to be going as fast as I can down these roads. The problem is that I have to call out all of the turns, straights, cautions, crests, and jumps while I drive and then my wife\co-driver has to write them all down as quickly and accurately as possible. The issue for us was that even at 30mph, we were too slow with calling and writing down the notes. If there was ever a question of what something was, we were already two or three turns past it. We then had to pull over, think about what we missed, then either try to turn around or carefully reverse up the road to figure it out. This was by far the single most frustrating thing about this rally.
We did this for every stage, six stages in total, and once we had finished the first pass, we went back to the beginning to drive the stages all over again. This time through, my wife was calling out the notes that we made on the first pass while I tried to drive the stages at 35mph. As she is calling the notes she is also trying to listen to my corrections as we go so she can adjust the notes if necessary. Unfortunately, we ended up running into the same frustrating issues as earlier. We finished recce with more than a few spots in the notes where we just ended up drawing a few “question marks”, and I would just drive the road as I saw it, come race day. Not the best way to do it but we literally used every recce minute available. Next time we will have a GoPro setup so that we can review the stages back at the hotel so that if we did mess anything up, we can try to adjust it then. We just chalked it up to one HUGE learning experience.
The rally action started on Thursday night with two super special stages held at the local county fairgrounds. These first two stages were designed so that all of the rally volunteers could watch some rally action in person before the forest stages started on Friday. These two Super Specials were mandatory for the National competitors but optional for the Regional competitors. We decided to opt out of these two stages because recce took us much longer than anticipated and we didn't want to risk a possible DNF on stages that didn't technically count for us. Immediately after the two Super Special stages was Parc Expose which is essentially a car show with all the registered rally cars and a meet and greet for fans. We have been to a few Parc Exposes now, and this one was by far the best we have attended! It was held at the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area which is the local ski/snowboard/mountain bike hill. There was just this awesome vibe about it that had us smiling from ear to ear; everything about it was perfect. We got to show the car off to our peers, let some fans sit in it for pictures, answer peopleʼs questions, and walk around and talk to other teams.
Friday was the start of the forest stages, and our official start as a regional entry to the rally. We had to drive over an hour to get to the Gladen Service in Laporte, Minnesota to set up service. Once that was finished, we went over the car again to make any final adjustments necessary, such as checking and adjusting tire pressures, cleaning the windows, installing and aiming the GoPro, and filling our hydration packs. We then had a brief driver's meeting, and then it was off to our first stage! Friday had three stages (West Gulch, Spur 2 & Crossroads) that we ran twice for a total of six stages with a 30-minute service in between. The first time through the stages, we ran them fairly conservatively since we were still getting a feel for the car, and our notes were questionable in certain spots. We finished the first loop with no issues and made it back to service with no work needed other than a quick look over and tire pressure adjustment. As it turned out, our handwritten stage notes werenʼt all that bad, but we did encounter some really heavy dust at times that made it hard to see.
The second loop of the stages didn't go as smooth as the first loop, but we did end up posting faster times on two of the three stages. There were many spots on the stages that were extremely rutted up to where we were mainly riding on the skid plate and under-body panels. Some of the ruts were so deep and long that you felt like you were on a roller coaster. We literally just put the car in the grooves and went along for the ride! We ended up finishing the day with no major offs or damage to the car, but the under-panels did need some adjustments before Saturday’s stages.
Stage #3 & #6 was West Gulch which is a 5.28-mile long stage that is flat and very fast for most of the stage with a hairpin handbrake spectator turn not too far into it. I absolutely love using my handbrake every chance I get, so starting off the rally with a spectator hairpin was exciting. Right after the hairpin, the stage gets pretty fast with a series of long straightaways and nice flowing turns.
Stage #3 Stats:
- Time: 6:03.9
- Max speed: 92mph
- Average speed: 54.6mph
Stage #6 Stats:
- Time: 5:47.9
- Max speed: 94mph
- Average speed: 55.5mph
Stage #4 & #7 was Spur 2—a 7.99-mile long stage that has a great variety of sections from medium to fast, but mostly hilly with some fast flatter sections. It was a little hard to find a good rhythm but was fun and it kept us on our toes with all of the hills. We came really close to catching up with the car in front of us on the first pass as we started to have visibility issues due to all the dust that was lingering in the air.
Stage #4 Stats:
- Time: 10:44.3
- Max speed: 82.2mph
- Average speed: 45mph
Stage #7 Stats:
- Time: 10:38.5
- Max speed: 88.4mph
- Average speed: 45.5mph
Stage #5 & #8 was Crossroads which is a 10.14-mile long stage that is twisty, but surprisingly fast for the first two thirds. You have to be careful to stay on the road for the big jump, since the ditch on the right makes a terrible landing zone! The last third gets narrow, looser, and more technical. This stage is famous for the Red Bull Arch “Crossroads” jump about 1.3 miles into the stage. We have gone over some good crests before but this is the first time that we have actually caught air on stage! I won't lie, I lifted and tried to take it easy as to not break the car. We didn't get a lot of air but some is better than none! Our first pass on this stage was our best as we had some bad visibility issues on our second pass that had us nearly blowing through a turn at a spectator spot.
Stage #5 Stats:
- Time: 13:36.1
- Max speed: 77mph
- Average speed: 45.7mph
Stage #8 Stats:
- Time: 13:49.0
- Max speed: 69.3mph
- Average speed: 44.3mph
Day two of the rally! We had to wake up early and drive an hour and twenty minutes out to Shevlin, Minnesota, to get the service area ready. We got to service fairly early because we wanted to get the car up on the pin stands so that we could adjust/cut the HDPE under-body panels that took a beating on the Friday stages. Nothing a sharp knife and some zip ties couldn't fix! Once that was all taken care of, we gave the car a good look-over, adjusted the tire pressures, cleaned the windows and she was ready to rally!
Saturday had two stages (Waptus and Anchor Mattson) that we ran twice, and one stage (Otterkill) that we ran three times for a total of seven forest stages with two services in the mix. The first loop of the forest stages went off without a hitch; we kept it on the road and ran fairly conservatively. We still had spots in the notes that we were unsure about so we just backed off a little in those spots and tried to make some corrections where we needed to. After the first three stages we had a service which was uneventful, just how we like it! If you donʼt break anything, thereʼs nothing to fix! A quick look over, adjust tire pressures, clean windows, grab some food, and then get back out to the next set of stages.
The second loop had some highs and lows. We saw the fastest MPH to date on stage #12 (97mph) thanks to my co-driver yelling at me to go faster, and then had some close calls on stage #13. I blame those issues on the hour long delay that we had prior to the stage start. It had been delayed because a car had hit a small tree which caused it to break and fall onto the road, making it impassable. The occupants of the car were fine but their car was badly damaged. All of the adrenaline and energy that I had after stage #12 had dumped out of my body from the unexpected downtime. All of this led me to have some focus issues in the beginning of the stage which isn’t the best thing to have when you need to listen to your co-driver trying to tell you where to go.
This stage, “Otterkill”, is a tricky stage and it has a fairly bad reputation for being difficult—Travis Pastrana even warned me, joking that he had crashed on that stage three times now. We didn’t crash but we did have a few “Oh CRAP!” moments that reminded us of the dangers of this sport and the importance of good notes. Our first incident happened just over a minute into the stage when we went a little wide on a right hand turn and hung the rear of the car off the outside edge of the road, narrowly missing a large tree at 50mph. Our second incident happened just over eight minutes into the stage where my co-driver got lost in the notes and we missed the note for a “caution, R4 over crest, deceptive”, meaning that there will be a fairly quick right hand turn over the crest but it’s misleading to the eye. We ended up coming over the crest, overshot the turn and parked it right next to the trees. We ended up finishing the stage without any damage to the car but it definitely took its toll on us.
Saturday's stages seemed to rut up worse than the ones on Friday. There were multiple occasions where we were cringing due to the noises of the belly scraping, but somehow we managed to make it through the second loop of stages unscathed! All of our times on the second loop were slower due to the worsening road conditions. We headed back to our second service of the day for a much needed breather and had the crew look the car over, mount the lights, and adjust the tire pressures while we grabbed a bite to eat. We have one more forest stage to run at this point and then what feels like a forever-and-then-some, hour and twenty minute transit back to Detroit Lakes. Our last forest stage of the rally was the third running of Otterkill. Otterkill is one heck of a stage and just so happens to be the stage where we almost crashed the car multiple times on the second pass. According to the standings, we had a fairly large lead on 4th place at this point and it didn't look as if we could catch up to 2nd place unless they made some major mistakes. Between our previously bad pass on this stage and the long transit back to town immediately after the stage, we decided to just dial it back some, and take it easy. The goal is to FINISH the rally, and there was no real benefit for us to push it as we definitely had more to lose than to gain.
We drove the stage fairly casually and didn't have any incidents. Unfortunately, though, the car behind us did end up catching up to us with about a mile or so to the finish. Once I saw them, I decided to pick up the pace for the rest of the stage. After the third running of Otterkill, we had to transit an hour-and-twenty-minutes back to Detroit Lakes to run the final two Super Special stages at the Becker County fairgrounds.
The fairground stages were short, around half of a mile each, and they were basically a mirror of each other. It was arranged so that two cars could be running at the same time, head-to-head style. The fairground stages had a bit of a backup due to a rolled-over Volvo, but once the wait was over, it was our turn to run these two, forty-second stages in front of a large crowd. Both of them started off with some chicanes, and then it was flat out through the Red Bull Arch to a 180-degree turn around a barrel and then flat-out back and through the finish line. Our first attempt was disappointing, after we came out of the chicanes I missed a shift that cost us a few seconds. The second attempt, the very last stage of the rally, was awesome! We didn't have a blazing fast run, but we did NAIL the 180-degree turn around the barrel with an epic handbrake turn that was quoted as “The best drift of the night”. Nailing that barrel turn was the perfect way to end the rally! Once that stage was over, we had another short transit to the Detroit Lakes Recreation Center for the conclusion of the rally. There, we had an awesome award ceremony where we took third in class and had some much needed after-rally beverages with all of our rally friends and family.
Stage #9 & #12 were Waptus which is a 12.04-mile long stage that is moderately hilly and technical for the first third, then flattens out and gets technical for a third, then itʼs moderately hilly and technical again to the finish. This was a very fun and fast stage that let us hit our fastest MPH on stage to date!
Stage #9 Stats:
- Time: 16:13.4
- Max speed: 90.6mph
- Average speed: 44.8mph
Stage #12 Stats:
- Time: 16:23.1
- Max speed: 97.3mph
- Average speed: 44.6mph
Stage #10, #13, & #15 were Otterkill which is a 7.89-mile long stage that starts out technically challenging with many tightly linked corners that gets hillier and remains technical with some trees very close to exits. It was narrow to medium width the entire stage with patches of sand, clay, and loose gravel.
Stage #10 Stats:
- Time: 10:48.2
- Max speed: 64.3mph
- Average speed: 44.1mph
Stage #13 Stats:
- Time: 10:53.6
- Max speed: 68.2mph
- Average speed: 43.8mph
Stage #15 Stats:
- Time: 11:18.1
- Max speed: 65.4mph
- Average speed: 42.1mph
Stage #11 & #14 were Anchor Mattson which is a 9.08-mile long stage that is pretty fast with gentle curving rollers with some off-camber corners and some hard-to-read crests. The first pass of this stage was our highest average mph of the rally.
Stage #11 Stats:
- Time: 9:44.7
- Max speed: 79.4mph
- Average speed: 56mph
Stage #14 Stats:
- Time: 10:08.4
- Max speed: 76.6mph
- Average speed: 53.9mph
Overall, the Ojibwe Forests Rally was an amazing event and a huge success for us. Even with our issues writing our own notes and some close calls on stage, we were able to press on and finish our first national rally with a regional podium finish.
I am very proud of how far we have come in a short amount of time. The car has been absolutely fantastic now through three events, and we are only getting faster with each and every rally. We have one more rally planned for the 2019 season which is the American Rally Association Lake Superior Performance Rally, or better known as LSPR. LSPR was the very first rally that I spectated back in 2006, and the rally that I look forward to competing in the most. Come this October in Houghton, Michigan, a thirteen year dream will have been fulfilled.
I'd like to add a quick shout out and "Thank You" to iheartfast.com for letting me use their photos!
Make sure to check back here for updates on preparations for LSPR and the after-rally recap. If you'd like to follow along in real-time, you can follow me on Instagram.