Spec BMW E30 Racer Replaces Broken Shifter With a Rubber Mallet, Wins

Illustration for article titled Spec BMW E30 Racer Replaces Broken Shifter With a Rubber Mallet, Wins
Photo: Corey Smith, used with permission

When spec BMW E30 racer Corey Smith’s shifter broke during a recent race in Florida and left a two-inch nub in its place, he just kept driving until he crossed the finish line and got a break before the next race. But even that wasn’t enough time to totally remedy the problem, and Smith went back out for his final race of the weekend with a rather unconventional shift knob: a rubber mallet.


But the unconventional fix wasn’t a detriment, aside from a quick adjustment period. Smith took his E30 across the line first in that final race, making for his first National Auto Sport Association win. In the two races before that, he finished third, then second, in what was essentially the racing equivalent of hitting for the cycle.

Smith, who emailed Jalopnik about the triumph earlier this week, said he was racing with NASA—the racing association, not the space agency—at Sebring International Raceway over the weekend when all of this happened. Smith had three races on the schedule for Saturday in his E30, finishing third of 11 cars in the E30 class in his first one of the day.

The other two races, though, were where things got interesting.

Smith told Jalopnik via email that about halfway through the second race of the day, his shifter broke as he went into Sebring’s seventh turn. He said he ran the rest of the race with the two remaining inches of the shifter, going through the gears with his ring finger and pinky because there wasn’t a lot left to shift with. That led to some lost time and missed shifts, Smith said, but the results clock him as finishing second in his class by just under two-tenths of a second.

The runner-up finish brought a new challenge instead of relief, though, because there was still one race left and not much time to fix his shifter situation.

“We had about an hour between races and just didn’t have time to swap the entire shifter assembly, so we started scouring the paddock to find anything to make a solution that was able to last the next 40-minute race of hard shifting,” Smith wrote via email, saying Sebring requires a lot of shifting from second to fifth gear and shifters need to be able to handle the abuse.


Smith said they thought about hammering a socket into what was left of the shifter and adding a socket extension, or even duct taping a crescent wrench to it. Eventually, they decided on the mallet, adhering it with three hose clamps.

“We didn’t get a chance to drive it around the paddock prior to the race since we ran out of time, so the first test during the race,” Smith wrote, adding that once he was on track, he had to forget about the shifter situation and focus on racing. Smith said the makeshift assembly took some time to get used to between its giant rubber end and the flex in the hose clamps, but that it worked decently well—well enough to give him the class win by 0.016 seconds, at least.


“I definitely wouldn’t recommend it as a permanent solution for anyone looking to cut costs, but it got the job done,” Smith wrote. “My nice OMP gloves got pretty torn up from the sharp ends of the hose clamps, but it was totally worth the victory.”

Staff writer, Jalopnik



Why is he shifting 2nd to 5th, in a race of all things?