Video: Drift Or Grip? This 1,300-HP BMW E30 M3 Does Both Beautifully

Whether it’s moving forward or cutting large angles, this monster of a BMW E30 is never putting all of its power to the pavement. It’s not hard to see how either — after sacrilegiously swapping a Toyota 2JZ-GTE in place of the high-revving S14, its power is better suited to drag racing than hillclimbing. Yet, Vidar Jødahl gets this beast around a narrow country lane without causing a fiery wreck. Best of all, the adaptable Norwegian ace demonstrates how to alter one’s style to snatch a quick time as well as put on a crowd-pleasing smoke show.

The surprisingly flexible motor facilitates both approaches, but it’s Jødahl’s versatility that makes it possible. To do this, he has to alter his lines, inputs, and mindset dramatically. It’s fascinating to witness these two approaches done with such an abundance of power, on a cramped course, with the same driver behind the wheel.

No Shortage of Punch

Jødahl’s not one to do anything in half-measures. The 2JZ-GTE, with its 320-odd horsepower from the factory, is punchy enough to propel the 2,800-pound E30 along any course. Instead, he went down the route most drag racers go and fitted the inline-six with the best internals around, an enormous turbocharger, and a stout gearbox to handle the abuse.

Powerhouse Racing pistons and rods, billet main caps, a ported head, and a Pectel T6 management system all ensure the 2JZ continues purring when force-fed with 43 pounds of boost via a Garrett GTX-42R turbo. The result is 1,306 horsepower and 1,164 lb-ft of torque — most of which is available under 4,000 rpm. When that power transforms into propulsion, the BMW can cover the quarter-mile in 8.96 seconds at 159 miles per hour.

With a turbo that big, it’s good the BMW has KSport six-piston brakes slowing it down.

Whether spinning the wheels or firing the BMW forward, that power courses through a Sellholm MPG sequential gearbox, and then onto a strengthened BMW E34 M5 rearend. With Sellholm coilovers, Compomotive MO wheels, and Michelin slicks, the E30 occasionally sticks — believe it or not.

Unsticking a Circuit Car

Though its nervousness and tendency to straighten suggests this M3 is designed to corner cleanly and quickly, the quad-digit power makes wheelspin and frightening angles only a prod of the throttle away. As the screaming BMW draws black lines along the Osnabruck Hillclimb like the world’s priciest pencil, its driver puts on a clinic for those curious on how to get their dragsters around a corner.

With flicks of the steering, he upsets the car slightly, then balances the rear with the throttle to the best of his abilities. With the lumpy power delivery of the 2JZ and good rear grip, it requires some heavy feathering to slide consistently, and even so, it’s much busier and unsteady than a dedicated drift car would be.

Jødahl’s frantic countersteering is made more impressive by the fact his vision is obscured by the smoke wafting up through the transmission tunnel.

Softening the Inputs to Go Straight

When Jødahl takes to the course the second time, he’s obviously changed his approach. Maybe after the Rockstar-fueled romp earlier, he decided to sit down, listen to Simon & Garfunkel, and sip a cup of chamomile tea. Whatever the reason, his inputs are suddenly more measured and cautious. Based on the engine note and the acceleration, it’s likely he’s using a milder engine map, too.

Where he was throwing the car into the corner earlier, he’s now feeding the steering in delicately. Where he was stabbing the throttle before, he’s rolling on so cautiously it almost seems timid by comparison — but that’s necessary if he wants forward motion. Short shifting, and only occasionally catching a hint of oversteer, the measured performance on display here couldn’t be any more different than the smoke show minutes earlier.

This footage just proves that a car can be successful in drift or grip if the driver is versatile enough. Of course, some credit has to be paid to the incredible car — nothing this powerful would be able to cover the Nurburgring in 7:32 if it wasn’t well balanced and predictable. Ironically, it might be best suited to the drag strip, but that only makes Jødahl more of a hero in my eyes.

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About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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