The BMW 320Si is one of the most popular and successful touring cars of the modern era. In this car feature, we will look at the Team Airwaves British Touring Cars of Jonathan Adam and Rob Collard with the aid of images from Peter Still, John Brooks and Jonathan Moore.
The BMW 320si is a S2000 class touring car introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2005. Over 2000 production road cars were built to suit homologation.
The production cars are powered by a 2-litre unit based on the older E46’s 318i motor (N45). This engine was the basis for the racecar, which was first introduced in the World Touring Car Championship in 2006 and was immediately competitive following on from BMW’s success with the E46 3 series.
Andy Priaulx already had a European Touring Car Champion in 2004 and World Touring Car Champion in 2005 to his name with the E46 and added additional World Titles in 2006 and 2007. Personally, I find it a disgrace, as an Englishman, that we don’t celebrate Andy’s triple World Championship more. A great guy too, but I digress!
The 320si quickly became the choice of privateers. BMW Motorsport have a good customer program and help teams out in the BTCC and WTCC which led to its debut in the British Series at the beginning of 2007 with WSR and their Team RAC outfit.
Additional entries in 2008 for Matt Jackson’s (above, right) family run team and a two car Motorbase Performance programme, brought the BMW car count up to 5 in the UK series, as more privateers ran BMW’s in various World and national series.
A nice touch, the British teams carry the colour band which runs from the headlamps to the bottom of the A-pillar like the works (bar ALMS) BMW’s around the world. It gives the racing BMW’s a co-hesive look.
Motorbase Performance was formed back in 2004, although team boss David Bartrum had 20 years of experience prior to this in touring cars and TVR Tuscans. The team initially ran Porsche Carrera Cup cars, ironically in one of my old liveries, before the team moved up and raced in the British GT series and the SEAT Cupra Championship.
The British Touring Car Chapter for Motorbase started in 2007 when the team bought two ex-SEAT Sport UK Toledo Cupras. The cars were old and fragile, so Bartrum knew he had to go for the real deal the following season.
He couldn’t have chosen better, ending up with two ex-works Schnitzer ‘BMW Germany’ BMW 320si’ for up and coming driver Stephen Kane and experienced racer, Rob Collard.Despite late delivery, the team scored its first podium in Snetterton and an Independents class win at Knockhill. The team received helped with support from Schnitzer.
Fast forward to this year and the Motorbase cars have a new look. With a year’s development behind them, the team secured title sponsorship from Wrigleys ‘Airwaves’ chewing gum. The economic climate put pay to Stephen Kane retaining his drive. In his place was two-time SEAT Cupra (UK) Champion, Jonathan Adam.
Rob Collard continued for a second year.
Rob carries a Red windscreen strip and Jonathan, a Blue one. Early season, the driver had race numbers on the roof, but prior to the Knockhill round of the BTCC, The St. Georges Cross and the Scottish Saltire replaced the numbers.
The year started very well for the team with new boy Adam winning race three. However, stewards later decided his move on Plato was too aggressive and he was demoted to 2nd. In addition to his SEAT Cupra one make series championships, Adam was 2005 Renault Clio UK champion and a BRDC Star of tomorrow.
Adam also won the Scottish Young Driver of the Year twice in 2004 and 5, a title previously won by the likes of Allan McNish and Dario Franchitti.
Rob took the teams first win at Brands Hatch. Rob would win again later in the season at Donington, sixteen years since a BMW last won at the future home of the British GP.
Collard is now a seasoned vetran of the BTCC, having first entered in 2000 with a Nissan Primera, taking the Independents Drivers title in 2003. Prior to tin-tops, Rob had success in Hot-Rod racing winning various titles.
So, now you know the background to the team and the car, lets look at the machine in more detail.
S2000 regulations allow a number of bodywork changes. Most obvious are the flared fenders and the revised front aerodynamics. Elements of the front bumper can be reprofiled. An integrated splitter helps front downforce, critical for reducing understeer on the rear wheel drive car. The outer bumper air intakes have been blanked off.
To reduce cost, the team have reproduced the works Carbon Fibre bumpers in Fibre-glass.
The eagle-eyed members of Speedhunters will note the BTCC cars run the pre-facelift E90 front end. If you look at the trade-mark kidney grilles, you will also note a partially blanked off grille. Air flow into the engine is as critical as airflow around the rest of the car. This is the reason cars like the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and SEAT Leon have more visible blanked off grilles.
The fenders house 17”diameter Team Dynamics wheels and Dunlop tyres as specified by the BTCC regulations.
Behind the wheels, AP Racing brake system and fully adjustable suspension are employed.
The central section of the car is near stock while the rear has a new flared fender due to the increased rear track.
A S2000 specification rear wing is mounted on top of the boot. This image also shows the rear fender flare well.
The inside of the Airwaves BMW shows some great craftsmanship from the BMW Motorsport engineers.
As with most race cars, as much of the interior has been stripped out. S2000 regulations allow for some of the dashboard to be stripped away and the BMW is no exception.
The driver sits lower and further back than a standard roadcar to help centre of gravity. As a result, the steering column extends further than the road car and a new race spec gauge pack is located in front of the dashboard.
This image shows the rollcage and safety equipment off really well. Note how the roll-cage is welded into the chassis on the a-pillar and the foam filled carbon panel covering the lower cross braces by the seat.
Looking at the rear, you can see more detail of the rollcage and how its mounted to the suspension area of the chassis.
The rear of the interior is removed, so you can see all the way to the back of the car.
Under the bonnet (aka hood) the 2 litre engine is developed from the 1.8 Litre unit previously seen in the 318i.
The four-pot engine develops 280bhp and around 180 lb ft of torque. The engine is been developed heavily to ensure it can withstand long periods of full power. The road-cars clever Valvetronic system was removed for a more conventional valve management system, which is more rigid.
The engine requires a full rebuild after 1200 miles.
The carbon induction cover directs air from the front bumper into the engine. If you cut away the carbon component you would see that air is directed equally to each of the four cylinders. These components are works of art.
The gearbox is a Xtrac racing six speed sequential gearbox which doesn’t need a clutch once the car is at speed. The use of a sequential box carries a 30kg penalty in the BTCC.
As we look forward to the final rounds of the BTCC, Motorbase’s Rob Collard is in 6th place in the championship following two wins, while Jonathan Adam is 10th. Fellow BMW driver, Colin Turkington leads the championship in his Team RAC BMW 320si.
Special thanks to Peter Still, Motorbase, and our own John Brooks and Jonathan Moore for the images.
– Andy Blackmore
Photographs : Peter Still/PSP-Images.co.uk, John Brooks, Jonathan Moore