White Hot: Mike Essa's 2004 BMW M3 E46

Mike Essa has played out a real life version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears when it comes to his BMW Formula Drift cars. His first E92 chassis had a very long 108-inch wheel base, was very heavy, and had a suspension geometry that wasn’t very optimal for drifting. Moving to a smaller and lighter Z4 chassis reduced 10 inches from the wheel base and several hundred pounds from the chassis, but the nearly-square chassis design made the car snappy in transitions. Essa hopes that this E46 will be the best of both worlds; with the wheelbase an inch shorter than the E92, the suspension of the Z4 and the weight somewhere in the middle. Baby Bear would be proud!

Under the hood, this car is very similar to the Z4 from the last few seasons. The familiar S54 motor is right at home in the E46 M3, reinforced with Carillo rods and CP Pistons, but is otherwise mostly stock. The Garrett GTX3582R turbocharger hangs off of a top-mount Doc Race twin-scroll turbo manifold (new this season) for more accurate throttle response compared to last years low-mount, single-scroll setup. A Synapse blow-off valve clears the air between each shift, while a CSF radiator keeps the motor cool.
White Hot: Mike Essa's 2004 BMW M3 E46

White Hot: Mike Essa's 2004 BMW M3 E46 White Hot: Mike Essa's 2004 BMW M3 E46

The true magic of drifting happens in the wheel and suspension components. Essa partnered with Bilstein this season to gain technical assistance from the renowned suspension provider, pairing the Bilstein motorsports dampeners with Wisefab suspension arms to gain nearly 70 degrees of steering angle. This allows Essa to enter corners almost backwards, particularly at tracks like Road Atlanta, where Essa is known for his crazy, physics-defying drifts.

“Since the suspension geometry on the E46 is essentially the same as the Z4, a lot of the notes we have from the past two seasons of drifting in the Z4 still carry over” Essa says. This will make the learning curve much easier for the new chassis.

Power is pushed to the rear wheels through a Clutchmasters twin-disc clutch and four-speed NASCAR-style dog box transmission, Thorough Concepts aluminum driveshaft, quick-change rear end, and Driveshaft Shop axles. Forgestar CF5 wheels powder coated in GSR Autosports orange and Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 tires connect the car to the tarmac.

As with all competition drift cars, a hefty, custom-built roll cage keeps the driver safe. Essa uses Sparco EVO seats and Sparco five-point harnesses, with a suede OMP steering wheel for responsive steering input. Hydraulic Wilwood pedals control the Wilwood brakes at each corner, with a custom E-brake handle for the rear hydraulic calipers for fine adjustments mid-drift. All engine controls are displayed on the same Pectel Pi Omega dash display that Essa has used on all three of his BMW drift cars.
White Hot: Mike Essa's 2004 BMW M3 E46
Essa is off to a hot start for the 2013 season. A strong qualifying effort and Top 16 finish in Long Beach was capped with a win at the Motegi Super Drift challenge at the Long Beach Grand Prix a week later, and a career-tying best fourth place finish in Atlanta. Essa may have chosen a less-common chassis to drift, but there’s no doubting that this car is fully-capable of competing with the best drivers in Formula Drift.

White Hot: Mike Essa's 2004 BMW M3 E46

ESSENTIALS // Vehicle: 2004 BMW E46 M3, Driver: Michael Essa, Team: GSR Autosport/ Yokohama Tire, Built by: GSR Autosport. Engine: M3 (E46) S54 V6, Horsepower: 750 hp, Torque: 600 lb-ft

ENGINE // Built by GSR Autosport, CP Pistons, Carrillo Rods, ARP studs, Doc Race (twin-scroll exhaust manifold, sheet metal intake manifold), Garrett GTX3582R turbocharger, Synapse (waste gate, BOV), CSF radiator

EXHAUST // Litespeed Racing 3.5-in. exhaust

DRIVETRAIN // Tex Racing four-speed dog box transmission, Clutchmasters FX950 twin-disc clutch with aluminum flywheel, TCR PARTS aluminum lightweight driveshaft, Driveshaft Shop pro axles, OS Giken LSD, Quick-change differential

CHASSIS / SUSPENSION // GSR Autosport custom TIG-welded roll cage, Wisefab (control arms, sub-frame bushings, angle kit), Bilstein MDS coilovers , Whiteline sway bars

WHEELS / TIRES / BRAKES // Forgestar CF5 wheels - 18x8.5 (f), 18x9 (r), Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 tires - 235/40R18 (f), 255/40R18 (r), Wilwood brakes (calipers, rotors, pedal assembly, E-brake)

EXTERIOR // DTM Fiber Werkz body kit, G1 Design wrap

INTERIOR // OMP steering wheel, Sparco (EVO seats and five-point harnesses), MoTeC CDL3 dash display

SPONSORS // GSR Autosport, Yokohama Tire, Bilstein Suspension, Wisefab, OS Giken, DOC Race, Ignite Fuel, Clutchmasters, Litespeed Racing Exhaust, DTM Fiberwerkz, Turbo by Garrett, Forgestar, Radium, TCR PARTS, CSF, Valor Collective, CP Carillo, Synapse Engineering, Wilwood, Whiteline, Shift S3ctor, G1 Design

Related Features

DMCC: 2013 Preview

The 2013 DMCC season is about to start and there are a number of changes sure to bring excitement to drivers and fans alike. After last season, the DMCC announced that the Pro-Am category will merge with the Pros. With…
Read More

Ryan Tuerck's 2JZ-powered Retaks Scion FR-S

There’s no denying the Supra is the preeminent performance car in Toyota’s lineage, but it is also one of the most heralded cars in the tuner world. When Ryan Tuerck started building his 2013 Formula D competition car, he knew…
Read More

Installer Institute HID Install

It is amazing the difference between a factory head lamp and an aftermarket HID head lamp. The difference is huge, especially when you are working with quality equipment. In this article we will be going over the installation of two…
Read More

Authentic Achievement: Luigi Arroyo's Honda S2000

Written by Robert Kochis | Photos by Randy Goco Dedication. It’s the one word that describes this build. In fact, I have never seen someone so dedicated to a build in my life. The amount of changes that this car…
Read More

Slide-to-Side: Tommy Suell's 1986 SR20DET Toyota AE86 Corolla GT-S

Alright, clear your head for a bit and picture this. Yours truly and PAS Editor Mark Pereira are standing out front of the Paris hotel in Vegas after getting waaaay to involved at one of many open-bar parties during SEMA.…
Read More