my girlfriend and i both like to spend time out on the track.. she has a 97 318ti(hatchback) that was bought from a performance driving school. it's really low, and has a full coilover setup, bilsteins, slotted rotors, upgraded calipers, race fluids, pads, a bolt in roll bar, clutch, short shifter, and 17inch m3 wheels with 225s in front and 245 falkens in the rear, great tires btw.
engine is just a 4banger with a header, cold air and a full exhaust.
in the associations we have raced with they have 4 classes, starting at novice, that you have to move up through before you can be certified as a good enough driver where you can be signed off to race by yourself and not with an instructor in the car.. she's been doing it long enough that she no longer needs an instructor.
she got me into it this year and i went out looking for a bmw to race with her.. well a deal fell through for a race spec street 328, and on the way home i happened upon a carbed 83, '86roller-302, t-speed car with an 8.8, 3.55s posi yada yada for 2500 and i bought it. this is a hatchback, T-TOP car.
I put in stock cut springs from a sn95v6, stock shocks and swap bars, and with the stock long block, a b cam, performer intake and holley 600, full exhaust, home made SFC's, and the STOCK 83 brakes with autozone lifetime warranty cheapo pads i was able to take the car out there my very first time, as a novice with an instructor and turn lap times about a second slower than her at Loudon International Speedway(they have a road course too).
the mustang was not putting distance in the corners with any of the cars out there really(mainly because i had to brake MUCH sooner in order for the brakes to slow me down enough), howevere i was hardly passed. there were parts when i could just let off enough to take the corner well enough to set myself up for a small or big staight and was leaving STI's, carreras, and pleanty of BMWs in the dust(i'm not kidding, EVERYONE was astonished).
when the max mph in the main, and second straights for most cars was 105-110, and 85-90, i was hitting just under 120 in the main and just over 100in the back. don't know what it was but i was overtaking cars in groups in the straights, not just one.
now don't mistake me, the car handled ver well on the 16inch pony wheels with 225potenzas and 245 dunlops, very well, but it really isn't even dusting the surface of what can be done to make the car handle better.
since then i have added a 6pt roll bar, jacking rails connected to the SFCs, a new clutch, short shifter, brakes/spindles/calipers from an 89v8 w/ss piston upgrades, 1 1/4" fron swaybar, and a brand new 350+hp 302.
i plan on new springs and shocks before the next day out and i can't wait to see how much better the car is out there..
believe it or not the biggest thing is brakes... the longer you can stay on the throttle comming into a corner and the faster you can brake the more of an advantage you can have on other cars.. a well built smallblock can very much outpower any bmw in a striaght, you can make up HUGE distances on those cars in a decent straightaway, it's in the corners that you need to make sure you're ready to keep them behind you.
i've found that means the following:
-a good suspension
-and practice, practice, practice on driving YOUR car to the best of IT'S ability.
that doesn't mean drifting around corners and ripping the tires loose coming out of corners.. i actually gained more when i stayed in third during the sharpest turn(180), slowest(100+ down to 20mph) and up a HILL turns than if i downshifted into 2nd. i could just get on it and get up that hill with minimal tirespin compared to blips of the throttle in 2nd all the way up.
it absolutely, positively can be done.. just watch some of the SCCA races that feature some of the fastest M cars driving by TURNER MOTORSPORTS (just up the road from me here in New England).. if you look closely you will find that the finishes typically look something like this...
granted these are 05stangs but prior to that it was still the same.. my girl hates it when we watch the events because her pride and pretty M cars always go down to the fords..personally i love it!
just get out there and learn to maximize what you have and you'll then be in a position to asses what it is you need further to make the car quicker.
enjoy and have fun.