It’s happened to every skilled Miata driver running a track day on a tight course. Getting stuck behind a supercar with a slightly oblivious driver is just part of the learning process and should be expected. Still, it’s a little irritating when it happens in the advanced group without many passing rules.
In this case, it’s a skilled track-day driver, Milkywave, in his mildly-tuned BMW 135i at Sonoma Raceway. Stuck behind a McLaren 675LT, Milkywave had to string together a series of faultless laps to get within striking distance of the orange McLaren, which should streak away given its distinct power advantage.
As Milkywave mentions, “At the beginning of this session, the McLaren was further ahead by at least six to seven seconds as I take the first lap easy. The video starts after I caught up, which took four to five laps.” In these laps, the BMW laps roughly 1-2 seconds per lap faster, and the gains are all from braking, entry, and mid-corner speeds.
Tasteful Modifications to Make This BMW Track-Ready
Once he’s on the McLaren’s Volcano Orange bumper, the differences in driving are apparent. Milkywave modified his 135i with a slew of suspension mods to enter corners quite quickly. With M3 arms and bushings, Ohlins R&T coilovers, a Quaife limited-slip differential, a few more degrees of camber, and Hankook RS-3 tires, the compact coupe can carry impressive speeds into all of Sonoma’s corners. It’s balanced, forgiving, and playful at the limit. While these cars were given flak for their unreliability — the earlier models, anyways — they are incredibly capable when modded.
The way this 135i allows Milkywave to keep rolling speeds high through the flowing sections like Turn 3 and 3A is one of its greatest strengths. That momentum-conservation is also visible in the Turn 8 esses (1:01). With little flicks of opposite lock and a much tidier line, it’s clear the man in the Bimmer is pushing far harder. And it’s one area where, with the McLaren struggling to deploy its 666 horsepower, the BMW closes the gap.
Incredibly, the BMW’s N54 engine hasn’t been touched (aside from a BMW Performance exhaust), and the 270 horsepower is less than half of what the much lighter McLaren’s motor produces. Plus, this BMW loses a little time due to its manual change. The disparity in straight-line speed is apparent along Sonoma’s straight after Turn 6 (0:38), where it quickly shrinks into a Volcano Orange speck.
Commitment Makes a Major Difference
The ten-car gap shrinks to three cars after the two arrive in the braking zone for Turn 7. The BMW — no slouch on the stoppers — is obviously braking harder with upgraded PFC-08 pads, RB stainless steel pistons, and Castrol SRF fluid. It’s talent and daring that helps bring him within touch of a supercar with more tire, more aerodynamic grip, and a body some 400-pounds lighter.
Keeping up the momentum through medium-speed bends closes the gap some, but it’s the high-speed, better-get-it-right Turn 10 where Milkywave finds real gains. And again, the BMW doesn’t have big wings to press the car into Sonoma’s pavement at higher speeds. Without any runoff, he has to be committed and accurate for a quick run through that particular bend, and hairy-chested gusto makes a significant difference there.
As Milkywave is comfortable flirting with the limits of adhesion in his BMW, which is admittedly more progressive at the edge, he brakes much later, pulling off an incredible set of slides on entry (1:17 and 3:12). With quick hands, plenty of self-belief, and a great line (albeit taken sideways), he starts to fill the McLaren’s mirrors once again. To be fair, the McLaren is worth more than tuition at a private college, so it’s understandable if its owner wanted to cool the jets with the walls so close.
After witnessing the masterful, banzai slide through Turn 10, the driver in the McLaren gives Milkywave an overdue point-by before pulling off the 2.52-mile track. Whether they’re just finished with the session or giving a gesture of respect, it shows there are some demonstrations of skill which leave a person — no matter how proud they are or how fast their car is — seriously, completely, almost unbelievably impressed.