Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 1

Formula D’s hard charger finding new pace in 2016.

Formula Drift veteran Chelsea DeNofa’s career began of humble origins. Like many aspiring US drivers, he got the bug early, even before he was old enough to legally drive. At 15, he attended his first local drift event, and by age 22 decided to invest his full energy into the sport. He won back-to-back XDC pro-am championships in 2010 and 2011, earning a Formula D license. Midway through the 2012 Pro season, a wreck forced him to upgrade to another chassis early, the same 2001 E46 sedan you see here. In 2016 spec, it soldiers on as the BC Racing GT Radial BMW 3-Series, new and improved with plenty of aces up its wide-fender sleeves.

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 17When the time came for the build (or re-build) for this season, he and his Chelsea DeNofa Motorsports team kept things simple. Use what works to make the car lightweight and functional, while avoiding unnecessary extras. The front end is graced with added downforce via a simple PTG front splitter, beneath a standard M3-style fascia. Level7tune fender arch extensions cover off the sides, while Doozer One carbon-kevlar rear quarter panels reduce mass. An Uras vented hood sits over the engine, and a Brooks Motorsports Elite rear wing rounds out the package. The wing is fully adjustable to suit each track layout, and can be fitted with large end plates to help stabilize the car during huge sideways passes. Finally, AV Wraps handled the graphics package to give the car its signature look.

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 21Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 23

Inside, the office for tandem battles remains practical, sticking to DeNofa’s grassroots background. A Sparco Pro-ADV bucket driver’s seat with 6-point harness was chosen to hold the driver in place, and meet Formula D’s safety regulations. Straight ahead sits his favorite TryHard steering wheel, while stage right features an ASD handbrake setup for engaging the separate rear Wilwood e-brake. Last, but certainly not least, the factory BMW dashboard remains intact, complete with original burl wood inlays. Classy!

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 25

More impressive than the OE dash would have to be what lies ahead of it - the heart of this monster. DeNofa selected an M52-based BMW inline six-cylinder engine, displacing 3.0 liters with an M3’s S52 crankshaft. M&B Cylinder Heads tackled the build, swapping in fully forged race parts to lower weight and increase durability all at the same time. Think of it like the jail cell S.H.I.E.L.D. had in the Avengers, just in case the Hulk got a little angry.

Well, the whole idea is for this 3-Series to bring the fury. What better way than by adding some forced induction, especially that of a Turbo by Garrett GTW3886r turbocharger. Inflow starts at a Vibrant Performance air filter and velocity stack, fed down through their signature frontmount intercooler, before making way to a Russel Walker turbo manifold and Ti Con charge pipes and exhaust. Boost pressure is regulated by a GReddy Profec B controller, and the whole unit was precisely mapped by RK-Tunes. As if that wasn’t enough, this particular engine is also getting a dual-fuel diet. First up, Ignite Racing’s special E90 Ethanol blend is pumped in as the base for the energy shake. Then, a shot of good ol’ Nitrous Oxide Systems’ finest is sprinkled on at key moments throughout the rpm range, resulting in the perfect protein punch for a day at the smoke factory. The result is a whopping 850 horsepower, and 800 lb-ft of torque.

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 31All of that power needed just the right transmission. A four-speed Andrews A431 box does the trick, together with a Clutchmasters twin-disk kit. Power is sent back through a Driftshaft Shop central spinner and axle, where, finally, a Syncro Design Works limited slip differential rounds out the rear end team.

Tons of horsepower can get the car moving, but navigating through the turns is a whole other animal. This is where title sponsor BC Racing came in. The 3-Series was fitted with their finest ZR Type Coilovers and Swift springs, giving the right blend of damping force and bump travel in high-G fly-bys. Normally coilovers are only applied to the four corners, but DeNofa’s drift machine sports a pair in what was once the trunk. They attach to the rear basher bars, the pipes that look like something out of a skate park, and are instrumental in allowing him to play bumper bowling with the concrete barriers that line various tracks. The suspension package perfectly suits his aggressive, no-holds-barred style, and aided DeNofa in being named Formula Drift’s Hardest Charger in 2014.

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 26Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 7

Each driver is constantly looking for ways to get more angle. On this Bimmer, an SLR Speed Ultra steering kit allows three times the standard amount of turning. With that much lock, spacers alone weren’t enough for clearance, so DeNofa opted to use a staggered Enkei RPF1 wheel setup: 17-inch front, and 18-inch rear. Couple those with GT Radial’s finest Champiro SX2 tires and you’ve got one mean stance. Wilwood brakes totally fill the space left inside of those white/gold Enkeis, providing ample stopping force at a moment’s notice. Whiteline sway bars, and Achilles Motorsport control arms/ bushings round out the mechanics. Altogether, it puts DeNofa into a fully connected state, able to pivot and maneuver the car as if part of his own body.

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 2The quest for speed and aggressive slides has been a long and arduous journey. DeNofa’s BMW has seen more consecutive seasons than almost any other car on the grid, and continues to get better and better with each passing lap. 2016 is proof positive of that improvement, taking home an overall victory at the first round in Long Beach to kick things off. Where it goes from there, you’ll just have to follow along and find out. Fortunately, fan-favorite DeNofa makes that easy with a huge social media presence and killer behind-the-scenes video series titled Say Howdy Get Rowdy. Be sure to tune in, and keep up with their three-episode downloads from each race weekend. Like a spirited prize fighter, his BC Racing GT Radial BMW 3-Series will be along for the show, ready to take a few hits and dish out even more to the competition. #PASMAG

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 4

DRIVER: Chelsea DeNofa
VEHICLE: BC Racing GT Radial 2001 BMW 3-Series Sedan (E46)
BUILT BY: Chelsea DeNofa
Motorsports, M&B Cylinder Heads
ENGINE: BMW M52 3.0L I-6
TORQUE: 800 lb-ft

Instagram: Chelseadenofa
Facebook: chelseadenofa

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 28Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 29Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 3

BMW M52 engine stroked to 3.0L w/ S52 Crankshaft
Engine built by M&B Cylinder Heads
Ignite Racing Fuel E90 ethanol (10:1 compression ratio)
Garrett GTW3886r turbocharger
RK-Tunes ECU tune
Vibrant Perfomance (intercooler, air filter w/ 8-inch velocity stack, fittings & lines)
TiCon charge pipes
Russel Walker turbo manifold
Radium Fuel surge tank
Nitrous Oxide Systems wet kit
Speedway rear-mounted radiator
GReddy Profec B boost controller

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 6Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 24

TiCon exhaust system

Andrews A431 four-speed race transmission
ClutchMasters twin-disk clutch
Driveshaft Shop (driveshaft, axles)
Syncro Design Works limited slip differential

SLR Speed Ultra angle steering kit
BC Racing ZR TYPE Coilovers w/ Swift Springs ∂ Doozer One chassis stiffening
Whiteline sway bars
Achilles Motorsport (rear lower control arms, subframe bushings)
Syncro Design Works trailing arm bushings

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 12

Enkei RPF1 wheels - 17x8 (f), 18x9.5 (r)
GT Radial Champiro SX2 Tires - Fr: 245/40R17; Rr: 265/35R18
Wilwood (Thin Rotors, Superlite four-piston calipers)
Xcessive Manufacturing caliper brackets
ASD handbrake

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 27Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 30

Doozer One carbon-Kevlar rear quarter panels
Level7tune fender flares
PTG front splitter
Brooks Motorsports Elite rear wing
URAS vented hood
GP mirrors

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 14Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 15Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 18
Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 8Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 13Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 5

Sparco (Pro-ADV racing seat, 6-point racing harness)
TryHard steering wheel
APEXi tachometer
SPA fire suppression system
Nitrous Oxide Systems carbon fiber bottle
Doozer One roll cage

Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 21Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 22Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 19
Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 10Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 11Chelsea DeNofa BMW M52 PASMAG 9

Chelsea DeNofa Motorsports, BC Racing North America, GT Radial USA, Turbo by Garrett, Enkei Wheels, Sparco USA, Doozer One, SLR Speed, RK Tunes, Biggest Baddest, Radium Engineering, Wilwood Brakes, Brooks Motorsport, AV Wraps, Vibrant Performance, Nitrous Oxide Systems

Contributor: Andrew Jennings

More Vehicle Features

The Goldilocks Zone: Dustin Ng's 2JZ-GTE Powered 1998 Nissan Skyline GT

This Kiwi Skyline is not too hot and not too cold - it’s just right To you, mid-July probably conjures up fond memories of long summer days, cold beers by the lake and barbeques in the back yard, but all…
Read More

The Real McCoy: Brad McCoy's 2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec II Nür

It’s always best to retire on top. Nothing is more pitiful than a former shining star trying to make a half-hearted comeback with a series of disappointments. Take for example Roy Jones Jr., the greatest pound-for-pound fighter on the planet…
Read More

Diamond for the Rough: Calvin Eng's 2011 Mercedes-Benz G Wagon

A G Wagon That Isn't Instagram Famous. Over the years, you could say the Mercedes G Wagon has lost its reputation as the bad boy in town. Back in the day, this vehicle was originally designed for military use and…
Read More

Turning Point: Jules Gabriel's 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X

Jules Gabriel recalls being a youth in the Philippines when he caught a glimpse of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX cruising down the highway. That simple glimpse inevitably became a turning point in Gabriel’s life because it was that moment…
Read More

Last Call

As part of our rolling Scion showcase, our project received a number of upgrades and tweaks. Whether it’s the design of the project, the prototype wheels or the new audio system, the Project Scion is barely recognizable from last year.…
Read More