Hard as F*ck!- Mike Essa’s BMW Z4 Drift Monster
By Mike Kojima
In the 2010 Formula D season, GSR Autosport/Nitto Tires driver Mike Essa grabbed plenty of Media attention with his shrieking V10 M5 powered E92 BMW. The BMW was probably the best sounding car in Formula D and looked pretty killer as well. The car’s baller profile, killer looks and glorious sounds made Mike a darling of the media.
|The Z4 has a conventional and straightforward McPherson strut suspension that is easier to modify for more steering angle and Ackerman which works well for drifting. Multilink and other designs can prove to be problematic when modded.|
Although Mike had moments of glory during the season, such as his crazy reverse entry qualification run at Road Atlanta, there were also low moments such as failing to qualify at Irwindale and breaking down right off the trailer in Sonoma. The complicated V10 engine proved to be temperamental and difficult to tune.
|You can see how the spindle has been sectioned and welded to change the steering geometry. The base of it has been angle milled to change the steering axis as well. You can see how the tie rods and lower ball joint has been replaced with sphericals with longer spacers to adjust the camber curve and roll center as well as the bump steer.|
The E92 chassis also proved to be difficult to get dialed in. When modified to give enough steering angle for drifting, the odd double articulated lower arm front suspension had incredibly bad geometry with tons of bumpsteer and a lot of scrub radius offset. This made the car’s steering difficult, with lots of initial understeer and a reluctance to turn in. The car also lacked forward bite and needed really soft rear springs and shock valving to put power down.
|The tie rods will be located lower later with longer spacers to reduce the bump steer further.|
This combo made the BMW exceedingly difficult to drive consistently and masked Mike’s driving ability. In 2010 Mike would lay down a tight run and throw away the next due to the car’s handling difficulties. Although the E92 chassis would excel in grip driving, in drifting it is not the best way to go without significantly re-engineering the suspension geometry in a very expensive way.
|The lower control arm’s rear rubber bushing has been replaced with delrin.|