Back in January this year, after a very tight class win in the annual Dunlop Dubai 24 hour race, the small team of SVDP racing thought long and hard about which other races the E87 BMW would participate throughout the remainder of 2013 endurance season.
During Feb the Dubai Autodrome held their first local version of a mini endure event. The BMW was quickly entered into the event which was to be run over a distance of 300kms.
Team principal, Spencer Vanderpal and team driver Jason O’Keefe duly fronted up with a slightly tired but more than willing BMW 120D. And to say tired may have been a slight understatement, the car was still running the same tyres and brake’s it used to finish its class winning race at the Dunlop Dubai 24 hour event. The car was held back from traveling to its normal resting place in Holland at Wubbe Engineering, which are the teams European HQ. The idea being, it could help support this new local event as the team firmly considers itself to be a fundamental part of the UAE national racing scene. For now, it would have to wait to return to Holland and into the caring hands of Wubbe Herlaar who has developed a very deep rooted relationship with this particular BMW 120D.
The inaugural Dubai Autodrome 300km was run and resulted in yet another class win for the mighty little BMW, although this was not without a few small issues. Mainly it seemed, those issues were due to the fact that the two drivers were suffering from a well deserved ‘winners hangover’ if such a thing can last for a month!
Alas, it seemed the little diesel warrior was beginning to feel the aches and pains of all the recent hard kilometers of intense battling against the might of the factory race cars along with other privateer teams with substantially deeper pockets than those of the SVDP Racing Team.
The team spent many hours back and forth on the phone to Holland and Wubbe Engineering, discussing what well deserved upgrades the aging E87 should receive in preparation for its next outing. It was agreed that the team had unfinished business at Barcelona 24 hour and a grand plan was put into place to take the car back to Barcelona for the 2013 race in September. But before this, the car would be given a much needed makeover…..
The aging original 120D engines were finally retired off after a long and fruitful life. Not to mention the 130k miles as a rep car, a season of Brit car racing and several UAE touring car races. The N47 engines are getting harder to find and subsequently usually come with already relatively higher mileage on them. The decision was made to upgrade to the newer and lighter but, ultimately more powerful engines.
With the old engines returned to Holland back to Wubbe Engineering, the guy’s poked & prodded and fawned over them for quite a few days before finally deciding on the action plan. A few days later the bigger, stronger gearboxes arrived along with some very fancy looking and slightly larger J turbos! As it turns out, SDVP believe some of the issues faced were attributed to the fact they were asking too much from the smaller turbo’s. So, more power with more reliability, a win win situation!
What should have been a quite simple matter of a straight swap over wasn’t to be. Wubbe, who really needs to find a cure for his want of ever improving thing’s decided that more modifications were needed and, decided that the new engine setup needed to be lowered and moved back inside the engine bay for better balance. I could reveal these dimensions to you but the SVDP Team who studied long and hard over this issue before going ahead swore me to secrecy! But I can assure you they are substantial, and a look at the very aggressive bonnet vents would indicate this to be true!
Another significant modification is that of the new body kit, harkening back to the fine looking factory efforts of the mid ‘naughty’ 90’s. SVDP have, in their own way, paid a small tribute to the BMW 120D factory effort by finding and installing the very same body kit these very successful endurance cars had back in their day. So not only a lighter and faster car, it now has that stance and menace that says, yes, I walk the walk, and now I talk the talk!
I was lucky enough to sit with the team principal Spencer to try and understand the reason for changing the class winning car.
Q. Spencer, why would you change a very competitive & class winning package?
A. what most people don’t realize is that, although we were class winners in the Dubai we could possibly have finished either first or second in the next two categories above us and possibly an overall position of 37th out of 89 cars. With this in mind, we set a goal of achieving an even higher result this time around. It wasn’t until the Dubai 2014 race regulations were released and we realized that the diesel cars were given the advantage of a extra 30 minute driver stint over the petrol cars, after that we gave the go ahead for such radical changes.
Q. So you are looking for a top 30 finish in that race?
A. No! We believe with a little luck we can achieve a top 25 or better finish. That would also be a big step up from the 2013 results. If we look back to the mid of 2000 you will see a factory 120D had a 6th outright result, so it can be done but a huge challenge for sure.
Q. Apart from Wubbe Engineering, your team consists mainly of a group of individuals with very little experience in endurance racing, who thought that endurance racing would be a bit of fun to try?
A. Yes very much so. We are all friends who have sweated and stressed over this car in the last 4 years. I have said it many times if we weren’t enjoying it, we will move on from this kind of racing. I’m very happy to say that the team is still strong and committed and if you could see some of the email banter flowing back and forth you would then appreciate why we do this, it’s not all about the final results but, that said, a good result does help!
Q. Could I see a copy of some of those emails.
A. Haha nope! Team eyes only….Maybe after the 2014 Dubai race!
Q. And finally; Is there anything else you would care to share with us?
A. I would have left the list of modifications at that until I was about walk out of Wubbe Engineering after my last visit but as the car was being raised on the lift, I got a very brief look at the great work Wubbe has brought to the underside of the ageless little car. To be honest, it is a work of art and needs to be seen to be appreciated.
The in house designed suspension arms are just a tribute to the degree of effort Wubbe engineering put into the preparation of their cars. Until now the SVDP car has run on the very same suspension arms you would find on every other road going E87 120D. This is testament to the efforts the volunteer pit crew, Wubbe engineering and drivers too, to get such a relatively stock car to such fine outright and class finishes.
Looking at the cars new squat stance that sees the 120D almost 300mm wider, it has clearly transformed and changed the look of the car in a large way.
I think I said before, lighter and faster! Well, make that lighter and much much faster!
Thanks to Spencer Vanderpal for the update, more to follow soon as I head off to Barcelona to see what makes this small but professional team tick!
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