You would think a race track named "Thermal" would be a pretty hot place, and you'd be right. The Thermal Club sits in the desert some 135 miles east of Los Angeles (just a stones throw from Coachella, music fans), a private motorsports club and resort community we've gushed about previously, and home to BMW's driver developing Performance Center West. The training facility was gracious enough to host this year's track portion of the Continental Tire x european car Performance GP, with BMW Performance Center West staff monitoring track safety while our pals at Global Time Attack were also helping out, recording times, regulating traffic, and doing their best to keep everyone honest.
On the day we held the GP, temperatures at the 10-turn, 1.8-mile South Palm Circuit on the property - where we took over for the day - crept into triple digits, which even in sunny SoCal is a little high for October. It was a long, hot day, so equipment fatigue was for sure a concern, but this year's field of third-, fourth-, and fifth-gen. BMW M3 and only generation of M4 seemed to hold up well.
As Continental Tire was again the official title sponsor of the 2017 Performance GP, it provided all selected competitors a set of its ExtremeContact™ Sport tires for the event (check out our call for submissions to read the full rule set for the contest). Leading the pack was Nick Richards in the Trinity Autosports 2015 M4; he clocked a 1:26.130 in a coupe riding on 285/30 18 rubber and further equipped with turbo system upgrades, JRZ suspension, and rear wing by Brooks Motorsport, among other tweaks. Richards was a full two seconds and some change faster than anyone else; the next pair of racers was in the 1:28s. That included the Emmanuele Design F82, which logged a best lap of 1:28.129 using just bolt-ons, and Elie Mansour's ESS supercharged Titan 7 2012 M3 coupe, which turned in a 1:28.565.
The Titan 7 E92 of Brian Wong - featuring a grip of engine, suspension, chassis, brake, and other mods - finished fourth with a best orbit of 1:29.431, while Johan Lee's Moton-AST 2011 M3 sedan was less than a half second behind at 1:29.850. The "basic enthusiast track prepped" Precision German Performance 2001 M3 did the South Palm Circuit in 1:30.164, and Victor Wu's Moton-AST 2015 M3 laid down a best flying lap of 1:32.986.
The following day, Performance GP competitors turned up at World Motorsports' Wind Tunnel dynamometer in Torrance, Calif., to record a pull and see how each stacked up in terms of output. Nick Richards' F82 just barely squeaked by the Emmanuele M4 in horsepower, 442 to 440, respectively, but the Emmanuele entry made gobs more torque, 482 lb.-ft. to 418 from Richards' M. Brian Wong's E92 recorded a best run of 370hp and 254 lb.-ft. of torque, followed by Elie Mansour's E92 at 305hp and 224 lb.-ft. of torque. Johan Lee's E90 made 291hp and 229 lb.-ft. of torque; the Precision German Performance E46 put out 246hp and 258 lb.-ft.; and Victor Wu's F80 turned the rollers for 212hp and 256 lb.-ft. (we learned afterward an issue developed with the car so it was babied for both the track and dyno portions of the GP).
There is more coverage of the 2017 Continental Tire x european car Performance GP than just this quick wrap-up - we'll dive a little deeper into the contestants' cars and we're even cooking up an overview video to be featured as part of the 2017 Tuner Battle Week. TBW videos will also live on our sister pub Motor Trend's YouTube channel, so keep an eye out for the next part of our coverage!