Video: Spec E46 Ace Slides From 13th To 4th At Buttonwillow!

Nik Romano’s flamboyant driving style could be described as showboating if it wasn’t so damn effective. His ability to get a car rotating needs to be witnessed for one simple reason: to dispel the rumor that only “smooth is fast.” Depending on the car, the driver, and the conditions, a little bit of aggression and a lot of yaw can help thread a car through (nearly) the entire field. In addition to a near-podium and a track record, Romano gets a few bonus points here for his superior showmanship in this amazing charge.

Thrown into a student’s Spec E46 race with little preparation and a new-to-him configuration of Buttonwillow, Romano had his work cut out for him. The field was packed with some of the best from Northern and Southern California, and his student wanted to see what Romano could accomplish. Making matters more complicated, he started 13th without any practice or qualifying laps to warm up. This was further toughened by his limited time in this car; he’d only turned a few laps in this particular car during a test session last year. However, Romano’s bold approach to learning a car helped compensate for any experience-related shortcomings.

For more background on these quick and accessible cars, read here

Getting Familiar in Minutes

As opposed to “sneaking up” on the limit, which usually requires more time to get on the pace, Romano adheres to a strict style of controlled overdriving. He deliberately exceeds the limits of adhesion and then reels in his inputs. This aggressive approach requires the driver to have a strong understanding of the car’s ballpark abilities first. A few miles per hour past the limit will result in a manageable slide, but ten additional miles per hour might put them in the barriers.

To put this into practice, Romano asks the following question: what would happen if you entered the corner one mile per hour faster while making all the exact inputs as before? With a decent idea of what a Spec E46, a fairly predictable car, should handle like, he pushes boldly past the edge of adhesion, then softens his touch as the race progresses.

“This way, you can basically jump to 90% of the car’s potential off the bat, then figure out the last 10% as you go,” he asserts.  With that much certainty in his driving, Romano’s able to claw back from 14th to 8th on his opening lap.

Working Through the Field

At the end of the first lap, the tire temperatures are up, squabbling subsides, and the other drivers are finding their rhythm, so making up places gets more and more challenging. Romano’s courage and willingness to teeter on the edge helps some—most notably going around the outside in Riverside (4:17). Taking the long way around on a 100-mph pass is pretty gutsy, but his save at the exit of Phil Hill (6:32) is what deserves the most applause.

With Vatanen-like hands, he saves it after a big moment caused by a slower Porsche at Phil Hill.

Hopping, a little boxing out, and even some curb grinding follow. Driving like a man possessed, Romano fights his way into fourth, and with a hare on the horizon goading him, he pushes his Spec E46—now free of traffic—to a track record of 2:00.54. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Romano would’ve had a podium finish with one more lap—or even a few more corners. Somebody sign this man.

To get lessons from Romano, visit his site here.

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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