Every true ‘driver’ loves a good rear wheel drive car with a bit of grunt and maybe even a bit of circuit driving thrown in for good measure, so what better than a BMW 330i and the odd track day?
Well the Northern Ireland BMW 330i Cup of course!
Announced in 2016, the series is the brain child of Railway Autospares owner Ralph Jess from Ballynahinch along with major support from racing rivals Street Racer in Bangor. Ralph has been racing BMW’s for years now and frequents many an event with a 3-4 car strong ‘team’ with quite the trophy cabinet to show for his efforts.
Despite racing in the open saloon class, the aforementioned as well as many others on the saloon car grid had a want for a fast one make series in NI and after lots of talk, regulation approval and research with fellow competitors, the NI 330i Cup was born.
Billed as ‘a new one make saloon car series based on the BMW E46 coupe and saloon cars with 3.0 engine with tightly controlled regulations, allowing only the essential modifications to make the car a race car while keeping costs down at the same time, this is sure to make for close racing and be a big class!!’
It sounds good to me!
So how do you get involved I hear you ask? Well once you have passed yours ARDS Test which is the MSA UK licensing test to gain your race licence, you will then need to get your safety gear in check whilst searching for a new car on www.UsedCarsNI.com none the less.
The race licence and personal safety equipment such as fireproof suit, boots, gloves and underwear along with helmet and hans device will likely total around £1000 if buying everything new. However if the test is done via Richard Young at Kirkistown race circuit you will receive one test day and your first race entry free of charge, as such cancelling out the licence fee and saving you around £300.
Car wise, an E46 BMW 330i can be picked up in Coupe, Saloon or Estate version from around £500-£2000 depending on condition and history and turning said car into an MSA spec, race legal beast will consist of varying parts such as roll cage, racing seat with harness, plumbed extinguisher system, YellowSpeed suspension and upgraded discs and pads using the standard callipers.
Two control tyres are to be used which include a used Dunlop BTCC slick as well as Yokohama AD08 wets whilst the engine must remain standard an exhaust system and intake system are open and allowed within the tight regulations.
To keep weight advantage at a minimum the car plus driver must weight no less than 1300kg meaning that the series should be very tightly fought whilst a fully built basic car could cost less than £5000 if built DIY, or alternatively a professionally prepared car from the likes of Street Racer or Railway Motorsport could be built to an agreed specification and price.
With this new and exciting series, comes entry numbers that are expected to increase as the season goes on and last minute car builds get completed but tomorrow see’s six starters on the grid with the same number of cars mid build or almost ready for action.
Primarily held at Ireland’s fastest circuit, Kirksitown race circuit near Portavogie the series will see several rounds with many double headers as well as a two day event near Downpatrick in May at Bishopscourt racing circuit.
The NI 330i Cup is set to be one very hotly contested series and see’s many established drivers on the grid as well as a few gentleman drivers and a few novice racers taking to the start line, it really is a series for everyone and one which I hope to report back on in a few months time.
Round one of the NI BMW 330i Cup starts tomorrow, so if you are keen on seeing these cars as well as several races with a plethora of other racing cars featuring throughout the day, get yourself down the Ards Penninsula and wrap up warm!
To keep up to date with all news, features and results keep an eye on the NI BMW 330i page on facebook – www.facebook.com/NIBMW330i/
2017 NI 330i Cup Race Meeting Dates
March 25 – Kirkistown
April 22 – Kirkistown
May 6&7 – Bishopscourt
May 27 – Kirkistown (tbc / non scoring)
June 24 – Kirkistown
July 29- Kirkistown
August 26 – Kirkistown
October 7 – Kirkistown
Words and Photos: Graham Curry