BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- Grand-Am Cup team Automatic Racing took advantage of a break in the series schedule to test at Barber Motorsports Park last week, furthering the development of their two BMW M3s.
Automatic Racing has been campaigning an M3 in the Grand Sports II class since 2002, and their recent addition of an E46 M3 will allow them to field two cars in the class for the season. The team is the first in the United States to race a new E46 M3 in street stock form.
Drivers David Russell and Jep Thornton were joined at Barber Motorsports Park by Terry Earwood and Eric vanCleef, who will co-drive Automatic Racing' s second entry. All four drivers took turns driving the two M3s around the 2.3-mile, 16-turn course.
"New track, new car, new teammates. You would expect a period of adjustment, but we jumped right in and made a lot of improvements from the start," said Thornton. "Both cars received attention and adjusting during the test, and each one should be a strong contender this season."
During the test, Automatic Racing concentrated fine-tuning a number of elements in both cars, including the suspension, brake balance and engine management. The E46 does not have ABS, so all four drivers worked to adjust and grow accustomed to the brake balance on the new car.
In a follow-up test at Moroso Motorsports Park in West Palm Beach, Fla., both cars ran flawlessly. The team's original M3 performed better than it had in previous tests at Moroso.
Automatic Racing's E46 M3 will be tested further prior to its racing debut in the Miami 250 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The Grand-Am Cup championship visits Barber Motorsports Park May 16-18. Automatic Racing is looking forward to racing at the new road course. "The facility is the nicest in the country and the track is really fun to drive," commented Russell. "It's a challenging, technical track. We feel that our M3s will perform well there because of their superior handling and braking. We expect a strong finish."
The next race for Automatic Racing will be the Miami 250, the second round of the Grand-Am Cup season, on April 13. More information about the team can be found on their website at www.AutomaticRacing.cc.