With the Knight Rider-style OMP steering wheel, shuffle steering was ruled out, but the car's turn-in response was so crisp and controlled it didn't matter. With the 2.0-turn lock-to-lock steering, I had to keep reminding myself that fenders and quarter panels covered these wheels. The open-wheel/go-kart-like steering made driving this car truly pleasurable.
The Moton/H&R-suspended TMS 325i's handling is very subtle. The balance is so neutral that it can go from a mild understeer to a mild throttle oversteer within an instant. The car carved through the road course turns with such grip I couldn't believe it was stuck to the ground by street Toyos. I was amazed, yet in my heart I knew I wasn't near the car's on-track handling limits.
The power delivery is amazing. On track, there were several turns I could take in either of two gears because torque was so abundant. For sake of chief mechanic Feinstein's approaching ulcer, I opted for the higher gears to keep the revs down, and the car seemed to pull out of low-speed turns nearly as well. The times I did hold down the go-fast pedal it pulled to its 7000-plus redline with a loud, cabin-shaking roar. It amazed me that a car could have such good low- and high-end torque simultaneously with only 2.5 liters of displacement.
The abundance of torque throughout the rev band brought out a whole new perspective-the finesse required to finish the race on just one set of tires escaped me. It didn't matter what turn I was going through, what gear I was in, nor what rpm the motor was spinning-if I got on the throttle too hard exiting a turn, the car inevitably got sideways. That said, trail-braking was also a "touchy" subject. Their drivers push these cars and each other hard on the racetrack. But doing it in such a way that these tires cross the checkered flag in one piece can only be done by a true professional.
The magnitude of the competition is reflected in the dollar figure required to create a competitive car. Just the drivetrains now cost more than TMS' entire World Challenge cars did in the E36 era. TMS produces these racers at $120- to $150,000 each-I was glad to learn that after my track time. The cost to run each car in the Speed World Challenge Touring Class makes it a serious business, with serious drivers and even more serious teams. This year, Turner Motorsport separated its racing from its parts business, which ships more than 100 packages each day, so the store doesn't have to shut down to go racing. Turner Motorsport and Bill Auberlen are dead serious about doing whatever it takes to maintain the points lead and eventually clinch this year's Speed World Challenge Touring Car driver championship. So far, this TMS BMW 325i is racing down the right path.