Performance BMW Magazine - July 2007
Taking up the heritage and legendary success of BMW’s famous lightweight coupes, which gained fame in touring car racing back in the 70’s, the engineers of BMW’s M division once again put their heads together, no doubt consumed a few Weiss beers, and created what they called a pure, thoroughbred sports car. It was of course, the Concept M3 CSL, which in 2003, saw the production version arrive. Focusing on their quest to shed the pounds and allow even higher speeds into bends, the specialists took a close look at virtually every component of the M3, in each case using the most suitable materials in order to save weight. As a result, the CSL came with glass fibre plastics otherwise used for aerospace applications and carbon fibre reinforced plastic, one of the most important materials in Formula 1. The CSL showed what the BMW can do when it brings its considerable engineering talent to bear, and is undeniably one of the most desirable, finely honed, tightly focused driver’s car the Munich manufacturer has ever produced.
Unfortunately, the equipment deficit and the limited comfort, even compared with the £60k sports cars, meant the CSL’s lack of versatility demanded not just wealth but commitment. As a daily driver it was too extreme for its own good, and on track it was never really as memorable as, say the 911 GT3, which shows what you’re missing. It’s for this very reason why Tony Rodriquez, who also felt the CSL sat a little uncomfortably between a ‘track car’ and a ‘road car’, created the sub-breed named the CSL-RS which, believe me, moves into an entirely new dimension.
It’s at this point I should introduce Simpson Motorsport who have been committed to the preparation and maintenance of race car, together with engineering and running race teams since 1986. Of particular note the company has prepared ten Le Mans entries, and can boast a class win, with the founder Robin Simpson-Smith who built the engine behind the wheel. Not surprisingly, son Julian has worked alongside him and in the pit lane as soon as he could walk, and after a successful and illustrious career working as a number one mechanic in various major racing series worldwide, took over the company in 2003 in partnership with Anthony Mott who had been working alongside Robin for years.
Impressed with the amount of time the company spends researching, developing and testing parts, Tony brought his CSL to them. “I really got into track days and after covering nearly 15k around Europe’s circuits, I was getting a little concerned about my safety so slick tyres on 18” BBS rims, AP brakes, Supersprint full exhaust system, a roll-cage and Recaro SPG seats with Luke harnesses were fitted,” he explained. Four months later, with Formula Ford ace Ed Moore, Tony entered his first full race in the Britcar EERC endurance series at Thruxton and after qualifying eighth, finished third in class.
Feeling confident with their success, they decided to enter few more events at Donington, finishing third overall and first in class, and Brands Hatch, finishing inside the top ten. For the ’05 and ’06 season Simpson Motorsport produced a completely new CSL racer, and weighing in at 1120kg and packing 380bhp, it really punched above its weight. With a baby on the way, Tony decided to have a break from competing this year and get back into track days again, giving him the perfect excuse to transfer most of the parts from the race car into his first CSL. The Flossman GTR body kit was blended into place, including those fabulous extended arches, front splitter and rear wing for a lower drag coefficient. Cool yet menacing, handsome but brutal, this car has a real aura about it. Its carbon fibre roof, aero fuel filler, rear arch spats and bonnet vents look as purposeful as its fabulous custom Image three-piece split rims, featuring a polished lip and solid aluminium billet centres. Measuring 10.5x18” up front and 11.5x18” out back, matched to sticky 265/35 and 315/30 Michelin Pilot Sports Cups respectively, its centre lock fixing means they can be changed within seconds. The body of this CSL is near perfect and the cockpit strikes the right tone, too. Swing open the door and you reveal a beautifully sculpted swathe of carbon fibre. Following the concept of supreme function and minimum weight, the original seats have been swapped in favour of Recaro SPG buckets with Luke harnesses, the rear bench binned, a full roll-cage fitted and in place of the door handles are now straps. The car does without air conditioning and with the DL1 Datalogger, there’s and almost Touring Care feel about it.
In order to properly asses the car’s revised suspension, I keenly offer myself up as a passenger during their first shakedown at Silverstone where we shot the car. My ribs squeezed against the seat’s side bolsters, the marshal gives the thumbs up and as soon as the straight-six gets near 3000rpm, the induction bellow is shockingly loud. The clutch is a UUC item with a matching lightened flywheel which mates to the standard six-speed SMG paddle-operated gearbox, helping Tony to punch up through the gears crisply and downshift neatly. The car changes tack instantly without a millimetre of movement, thanks to in small part to the Intrax four-way adjustable dampers, Turner Motorsport carbon strut brace and H&R anti-roll bars. There’s Simpson solid suspension bushes, adjustable rear lower camber arms and front top mounts, all of which help to deliver a smooth ride and feel, while immediacy of steering response and tenacity of grip is simply incredible. Then there’s the Drexler 3.9:1 plated limited slip differential pinning the heavy rear firmly to the road for stupendous punch out of turns.
Gunning all the way to a frantic and metallic-edged 8500rpm, the snarling howl reaches a dizzying peak I’ve not heard before. It sounds spectacularly guttural, thanks in no small part to the CSL’s carbon fibre air box and Supersprint exhaust system. This CSL is very quick, and I’m glad the bigger AP Racing and Performance Friction brake upgrade gets on with the job of hauling great chunks of speed. In fact, power from this Simpson Motorsport blueprinted 3.2-litre is 380bhp, 20bhp up on standard, helped by the Shrick high-lift camshafts and ECU remap. After just a couple more corners it’s very apparent that this CSL will stop quicker, turn in more sharply, understeer much less, grip harder and communicate substantially more through the wheel than a standard example. Every time Tony touches the throttle, it responds with such ferocity, something the MC hasn’t had in years; in short, this dynamite is on a short fuse.
Back in the pit lane, engine silent, tyres still hot, brakes hotter still, I conclude that this is the most impressive and capable CSL I’ve ever been in, no question, and it certainly delivers the image and raw appeal. Setting out to develop something with greater precision, Tony, with his vision and passion, and Julian and Anthony, with their design, engineering and fabrication skills have together achieved their goal with riotous success. The last thing left to do is an ESS supercharger which will yield 640bhp at the flywheel, and its rumoured the car may end up on the track.
Acting as a demo vehicle for the company, Simpson’s has been inundated with road cars ranging from M3’s, Z4’s and M5’s over the past year, requiring anything from a full engine or gearbox build to suspension setup, brake systems to custom bodywork. “There seems to be a void in BMW tuning in the UK, at the end of the day when you prepare and maintain race cars, the road car side of things is relatively easy, we’ve not come in from souping up Nova’s,” Julian explained. From track-day amusement few things can beat this CSL, if you fancy tuning your road car into something more capable, we recommend you give the guys at Simpson Motorsport a call. Be warned however, it can be like a drug; expensive, dangerous in the wrong hands and utterly addictive!
Performance BMW Magazine - June 2008
There are not many racing specialists that can lay claim to a near 45-year legacy, but Simpson Motorsport, the subject of this month’s company profile, has earned this honour. It is no accident that the company’s reputation for premeditating the winning formula of a race car has spread like wild fire amongst the worlds racign fraternity.
Littered around Simpson’s Gloucestershire-based workshop on our visit, we found everything from a Porsche GT2 race car to an E46 M3 GT Cup car and original 1992 E30 M3. There were also a few Ferrari F40s, so it seems fitting that we should mention that Simpson itself took Ferrari back to Le Mans in 1993, running the 348 LM with the backing of the world’s most prestigious automotive manufacturer. To this day Simpson remains a world-renowned Ferrari specialist, with owners shipping their cars here from as far and wide as the US. If you needed any evidence, then the two Ferrari F40sone containing a twin-turbo F355 V8 and the other a fully hand-built twin-turbocharged V8 (including the exhaust system, plenum, intake manifold and intercooler all built in-house!) that recently returned from Italy after competing in the GT-90s should do the trick.
In 2003, nearly 40 years after conception, the organisation’s reigns were handed over from racing prodigy Robin Simpson-Smith to son, Julian Simpson-Smith, and Anthony Mott. The former, a carbon and metal machining and fabricating authority, learnt his trade with the Red Bull F3000 race team and with the development of Team Ascari’s 2001 Le Man car. The latter, a qualified engineer and racing car driver with over 15 years of Simpson service under his belt, was the final string in the new Simpson bow.
With an engine building room, newly installed 1000bhp rolling road, chassis development house and fully loaded machining room, nothing is out of the realms of the firm. Specialising in engine building, space framing, shell lightening, every conceivable form of welding, custom panel building, full engine, gearbox and differential building (including piston, cam and rod design and fabrication), custom one-off part builds, turbo, supercharging and remapping, Simpson is still at the forefront of the racing world, which makes road car development a relative walk in the park.
It is fair to say that business has changed over the years, and today the company’s offerings are more relevant to the BMW fraternity than ever. Race car building and preparation that was once the sole pursuit of the firm remains at the top of the list, but after completing supercharger conversion on a customer’s E46 CSL back in early 2006, the duo started receiving some insatiable interest. These days nearly 50% of Simpson’s business centres around BMW’s, from the Z4 and the E39 to the E46 M3 and CSL, with Intrax Suspension, engine mapping and AP Racing brake upgrades all part and parcel of the firm’s current work load. In fact, currently Simpson’s rear trailing arm bush limiter kits for the E46 M3 and E36 M3 (£85) are the most popular and, we’re told, effective upgrade on sale.
Over the past year or so the company has made a name for itself, supplying and fitting a range of ESS supercharger kits, of which I had little personal experience. Anthony suggested we change that.
Even the most basic kit sold, the ESS VT460 as fitted to the company demonstrator, takes power up from 343bhp to a might 460bhp, and its this type of power upgrade that is becoming increasingly prevalent on the UK scene. I have been in numerous E46 M3s and CSLs and I can safely say this car will blow them away. Not only does the surge throw you back into the seat, the almost unrelenting torque-soaked nature of the power delivery will leave you and your passengers absolutely speechless. Equally as impressively, you would never, ever guess this car was supercharged from inside the cabin, the power delivery really is that progressive. Just take a look on the website at a few of the firm’s successful projects, from the supercharged Z4 3.0 to the twin-screw E46 330i and E39 530i, for a look at the quality of the installations.
On the workshop floor, Julian and Anthony introduced me to an E46 M3 that had been prepared for racing in the forthcoming GT Cup. Although the rules require a naturally aspirated engine, this was one of the most complete race cars I’ve ever witnessed, but even with its £20k-plus makeover, it still couldn’t match the power output of the £3750 ESS install. It seems for less than £5000 any E46 M3 can be transformed into a reliable and bespoke interstellar missile. Are you sold yet?
More recently, in fact, only two days before our arrival, Simpson had begun to distribute and fit ESS’s new CFR supercharger kit (it runs an intercooler and cast aluminium inlet manifold unlike the VT460). This kit is available for the E46 M3 and CSL and is produced in three versions; 500bhp, 525bhp and 550bhp, and at £5250 I don’t think there is a better bang for your buck upgrade or easier gateway into indisputable supercar pace.
Ever expanding, Anthony has been looking at affordable ways of improving the braking system of the E46 M3, aware that the expense of a full AP Racing upgrade may well be outside the realms of people’s budget. Interestingly, he has developed a brake kit that utilises the M3’s standard discs while retaining the AP’s discs (which are only 10mm larger), hubs and housings, which collectively add a further £1500. Simpson Motorsport, the company behind Stephen Hulme’s supercharged E46 ESL (08/07), its very own E46 M3 CSL-GT race car and Tony Rodriquez’s E46 M3 CSL-RS road car (07/07), is quite possibly the most experienced engineering and fabricating company available to members of the public. If you’re looking to improve any aspect of your BMW, from the engine and software to the chassis, and require an unrivalled level of quality and service, look no further. This is quite simply as good as it gets.