James Paick discovered a passion for the racetrack behind the wheel of his E92 BMW M3 as he earned his podium spot in the CSF Bimmer Challenge.
An impressive car, the right parts, clarity of purpose, and the realization that technology and engineering provide drivers a false sense of grandeur—just a few of many points that give this gutted (yet practical) 2008 BMW E92 M3 and its owner, James Paick, an interesting story.
Who is James Paick? James is just your everyday car enthusiast that found a passion for the racetrack. Working as a designer/concept artist by day, his free time is spent either working on his E92 M3 or trying to turn faster laps at HDPE events.
So why did James choose this car? Coming from a Honda and Mitsubishi background, he fulfilled an aspiration from his youth with the purchase of this M3 in 2010. He explained, “This was my first European car. I purchased this 2008 E92 M3 because I’ve always been a fan of the platform. What is especially unique is that this M3 comes equipped with the high revving S65 V8 engine.” If you're unaware, BMW introduced the new S65 engine in the E90/E92 M3 and offered it until 2011 when M3 production ceased. When the F80 M3 was introduced to the US market in 2015, BMW switched to the turbocharged S55 inline six-cylinder engine, which was (and still is) a touchy subject among enthusiasts.
From Public Roads to Road Courses
When James first bought his M3, he intended for it to be a fun street car he could enjoy daily. With basic cosmetic enhancements along with a lower ride height and aftermarket wheels, he found contentment—that is, until he went to an HPDE track day. James stated, “I didn’t really have any plans to become a hardcore track head. However, once the track bug bit me, I was hooked.”
Serious About the Track
In order to reduce the E92’s portly 3,600-pound curb weight, James gutted all of the non-essential interior components while retaining everything necessary to remain compliant with the rule set. He then repopulated the interior with the essential accoutrement for piloting his M3. A suede wrapped aluminum KMP steering wheel replaced the factory unit on the steering column.
Behind the steering wheel, James relies on an AIM Sports digital dash to log crucial engine data while clearly displaying the monitored parameters on an easy to read display. This allows the driver to process data quickly and efficiently, affording them more time to concentrate on what matters. Driving.
A trio of DEFI gauges resides at the center of the factory dash, mounted to a custom gauge panel.
To secure James within the cockpit of the M3, a Recaro Hans XL racing seat positions him behind the wheel while a six-point Sparco harness ensures that he stays put. A harness bar incorporated into the design of the roll bar secures the Sparco shoulder harnesses.
To stiffen the chassis and provide rollover protection, a custom roll bar with proper kickers ties in with the rear shock towers.
Airflow for Cooling and Aerodynamics
Moving on to the exterior, James chose enhancements for the E92 that work together to manage heat and improve handling on the road course. A Motorsport 24 vented hood helps to release heat from the engine bay, while Flossman vented fenders widen the front profile and helps relieve pressure built up in the wheel wells.
To keep the Volk Racing TE37 wheels wrapped with Pirelli DH slicks planted throughout the track, a Downforce USA carbon fiber splitter works with Trackspec Motorsports side skirt extensions and a Mateo Motorsports diffuser to channel airflow under the chassis.
To put additional pressure over the drive wheels, an Aeromotion wing with APR side plates take their place atop the trunk lid. The exterior was then finished in a custom Medio Grigio hue, courtesy of Horns Collision.
Even though he doesn't live close to the shop at all, James took his M3 all the way to JMP Autowerkz in Canoga Park CA for track preparation because the folks at JMP Autowerkz are well respected as race drivers themselves, and can always be found at the racetrack.
Under the rear bumper, a trained eye will notice the functional addition of a carbon diffuser, and the red calipers from the big Stoptech brakes fill up the inside of the TE37s.
Since James still planned to drive his M3 on the street, it was important that it maintain certain requirements for roadworthiness. Thus, the S65 engine remained original, aside from a Macht Schnell Stage 2 Intake, delivering 375 horsepower and 278 lb-ft torque to the wheels.
The only visible upgrade to the powertrain is the exclusive Akrapovic GT4 exhaust with carbon-fiber tips. Instead of engine mods, James focused on improving other equally important aspects of the E92.
Since the chassis is like a big spring that can flex, mitigating chassis flex lends to improved handling. While the roll bar helps to stiffen the chassis toward the rear end, an Ultra Racing four-point strut tower brace links the shock towers to each other and the firewall.
When not putting down fast laps one after another at the track, these efforts work together to allow the JRZ RS PRO adjustable coilovers to effectively keep his Titan 7 T-R10 wheels with Federal 595RS-RR street tires in firm contact with the road. Like the TE37s, the T-R10 wheels are forged aluminum for light weight and superior strength compared to some cheaply cast and often heavy wheel options.
Slow to Be Quick
In order turn quicker lap times at the track, reigning in the speed becomes just as important as having the horsepower to get there. While the E92’s stock brakes are no slouch in the braking department, James elected to upgrade to a full big brake kit by StopTech. StopTech’s six-piston calipers clamp down on larger (380mm vs. 360mm) rotors up front while four-piston calipers with 365mm rotors (vs. 350mm) balance the stopping power at the back. The larger brake system increases the friction surface area and adds greater heat capacity, both of which work together to fend off brake fade. This upgrade also opens up options to more brake pad compounds depending on the type of racing James intends to compete. For the Bimmer Challenge series, he elected to run Endless N05S brake pads.
James makes an admirable observation about the challenges with the build and getting quicker on the track. He commented, “Learning how to drive was the toughest part. Parts and modifications to the car were easy and gave me a false sense of confidence in my abilities. It wasn’t until I achieved greater driving skills that I could see the difference in my lap times, and how much of the time saved was from my abilities and not just equipment. Seeing how these techniques applied to anything I drove, I realized a sense of satisfaction that I had grown as a driver.”
Proof is in the Podium
Taking the skills he had learned and applying them to his beloved M3, James decided to go racing in the CSF Bimmer Challenge series held by Speed Ventures. His 2018 campaign proved the best yet, as James finished third overall in the B1 class.
Weighing in on what upgrades proved most effective, James notes, “The JRZ suspension and the brakes were the best and most noteworthy upgrades so far. I continue to challenge myself to improve to a point where I can justify upgrading these components again in the future, but for now, I’m still working on that.” At this stage of the build, James is looking at practical matters, to drive more quickly and safely. He aims to reduce the M3’s numbers at the scales by 200 pounds, which will not only improve his power to weight ratio, but also reduce some of the wear and tear on consumables (tires and brakes). He also plans to add a fire suppression system and replace his roll bar with a competition-compliant, full cage with door bars.
Story by Richard Fong
Photos by Antonio Alvendia
Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to Europe, and now has sights set on restoring a classic Mercedes. Antonio was a principal photographer on the limited edition hardcover book on Singer Vehicle Design's Porsche 911 builds, entitled One More Than Ten. Future goals include returning to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and driving the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS