How It All Began
Written by Bill Spornitz
During the 2001 race season, several of us who had been racing E30 series BMWs were wondering what to do with our cars. The E36 was proving to be very hard to beat in the ITS class, where the E30 had fit nicely for many years. Rather than be satisfied with a non-competitive car, other options were being explored.
One option was to add some engine modifications that produced more HP and run the cars in a Conference class called EIP (E Improved Production). With the added horsepower and a 100-pound (at the time) lighter minimum weight (2650 vs. 2750) the cars were slightly faster and also a bit more competitive in the P2 class at the season-ending Cascade Enduro, an added bonus. The biggest problem with that approach was that the EIP engine modifications could add several thousand dollars to the price of an ITS engine.
As has so often been the case with the BMW racing community in this region, Ken and Wes Hill led the way with an alternative. They came up with the idea of proposing to ICSCC a class (more on that later) that would allow the lower minimum weight of EIP but keep the essentially stock driveline of ITS. The vision was for a class that required relatively minimum expense (a bit of an oxymoron in racing) to produce a competitive, if not front running, racecar.
While not a true spec class, where every component is mandated, the class has never the less produced quite close racing. The choice of the Toyo RA-1 (succeeded by the Toyo R888) as the spec tire has helped in that regard. By allowing suspension to be relatively free, the class allows the driver to build a car whose handling suits his/her preference or driving style.
All of this might explain the growing popularity of PRO3 but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Two factors have added greatly, in this writer’s opinion. One is the fact that some of our local BMW Club members including Ken, Wes and Lance Richert have made their cars available as auction items at the annual BMW Club banquet. More than one current PRO3 owner started down the slippery slope by having the last hand up when the gavel came down. The second, equally important, factor is the existence of the International Conference of Sport Car Clubs. This regional sanctioning body has been around for 50 years and is unique in allowing its competitors to write the rules through an annual voting process. Without the top-down bureaucracy of a large national sanctioning body, Conference can be more responsive to changes in the racing community and allow a real feeling of involvement for the drivers. As mentioned earlier, PRO3 was proposed as a provisional class for the 2002 season and with more than sufficient participation became a permanent championship class in 2003. With the numbers of cars being built and the pipeline of potential drivers coming through various club and professional school ranks, one can envision PRO3 being around for many years to come.
The PRO3 drivers participated in giving charity rides to children at the Dorenbecher Dash at Portland International Speedway, helping raise $20,000 for the Portland, Oregon Children’s Hospital. The drivers also personally donated $3,100 to the Dorenbecher Dash in a weekend “pass the hat” at the track.
PRO3 drivers have also donated the ability to RACE a PRO3 car in a local ICSCC “Novice” race. At a recent BMW Club banquet and charity auction three people each bid $2,400 to drive a PRO-3 car in a 30 minute race. (Novice races are part of the licensing process to acquire a full Senior racing license in ICSCC).
In January 2011, PRO3 drivers rallied together and pledged over $10,000 dollars for Team Seattle and Seattle Children's Hospital. This pledge got them a PRO3 decal on the Team Seattle, Dempsey Racing, JG Sport Mazda RX8 and presence on the charitable tote board. Read about this in the press coverage section.