BimmerWorld, well known to BMW enthusiasts for its accomplishments in motorsport and its work as a supplier of BMW replacement parts, performance parts, and race parts, launched its latest creation, the OPTIMA Batteries Bergsteiger E36 Hill Climb Car, at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas in November. The car was an attention grabber, and was unquestionably a highlight of the show.

The car, the result of over two years of effort, has been built to run the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb on June 22–28, 2020. The 2020 event will be BimmerWorld proprietor James Clay’s third run at Pikes Peak. After the SEMA show we caught up with James Clay to ask him about the car and his plans for it.

BimmerLife—What class will you run in at Pikes Peak? What kind of cars will you run against?

Clay—This car initially started as a Time Attack 1 car, which is the largest class with 20–30 cars typically, but we exceeded the rules when we moved the rear floor to accommodate the aero tunnels, which were a core design factor, so we threw the rules to the wind in multiple other areas and we will settle into the Open class in which the car must be built on a recognizable street platform with a few other limitations.

BimmerLife—What are your objectives? What do you hope to achieve?

Clay—We have run Pikes Peak twice to date – 2017 in a naturally aspirated E92 M3, and 2018 in one of our GT4 cars, placing sixth in class both times and under eleven minutes in 2019. The new car is big turbo, big aero, and we are going for the Open class record, and a personal goal of under nine minutes.

BimmerLife—Why an E36 as a starting point? Why not continue with the chassis you’ve run there before?

Clay—We chose the E36 for multiple reasons: I think it is an iconic BMW platform, it was the chassis of the first BimmerWorld-built racecar back in 1998, and I think they are lightweight and a perfect platform to build on. We do a lot with the modern cars in pro racing, and in a project of this magnitude, I wanted to build something different, and something I was more emotionally tied to.

BimmerLife—Say something about the aerodynamics; what do the various pieces do, and how do they work together? In particular, why the huge flat front air dam?

Clay—Everyone who has seen the car, especially from the front, comments on the big splitter. But the borrowed Lola prototype splitter is just the starting point of a full-body underwing mashed together with modified tunnels from an Argo prototype that extend to the forward edge of the driver’s seat and exit at trunk-level. It’s aggressive, but it will make about 3,000 pounds of downforce, so it has to be.

BimmerLife—Talk about the engine and drivetrain. What did you use and why?

Clay—We initially were headed toward a built N54, which we built and had ready, but I decided after driving an F06 M6 street car for a while that the responsiveness and full powerband of the S63TU engine would serve us even better. We ended up with a P63 (the dry-sumped Motorsport version) which has been built to support the 1,150 rear wheel power output goal – over one horsepower per kilo! Power goes to the ground via a Holinger six-speed transaxle.

BimmerLife—Say something about the suspension, wheels, and tires, and how conditions at Pikes Peak dictate what you’ve chosen.

Clay—The suspension in the front is now a dual-wishbone custom solution similar to the M8 GTE, which we developed after the decision to tube the front of the chassis to accept the wide V8, and the rear is a modified E46 M3 setup. MCS 4-Way dampers will shape the force curves and give us the needed compliance on a very bumpy Pikes Peak surface while holding the aero platform reasonably stable to be consistently effective.

BimmerLife—What else would you like BMW fans to know about the car?

Clay—I think this is the car Motorsport would have built instead of the M8 if the E36 was the current platform and there were no rules. Over two years into the project, we still have a lot of work to go before we hit the mountain, and some select track events, but I expect impressive things from my “once in a lifetime” project which is a prototype-inspired BMW sedan with a VIN —and a passenger seat for a few lucky people!

More information on the car, with updates on the build, is available here.—Brian Morgan

[Photos courtesy BimmerWorld.]



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