Like many a Saturday throughout the year I find myself at a San Diego BMWCCA Autocross event at Qualcomm Stadium where one of my customers drifts through the first turn of an S curve, attempts to recover for the second, and starts failing miserably. This pristine 2004 M3 was in my shop 2 days prior to re-align the bumper, replace the wheel house liners, and remove a bunch of cone marks. Having already devoured about 10 cones, it is now spinning out of control and is headed for a massive concrete light post. It comes to a halt about 3 feet from what would have been a total disaster.
“Who’s that dude in the M3?” questions a fellow next to me as we work safety patrol on course.
Me – “Sidney Chang”
Fellow – “He’s Crazy”
In his defense, he’s not used to seeing many women at an Autocross event, but the numbers are steadily growing (at least in San Diego). To assume that only a ‘dude’ would be driving an M3, and driving that hard and fast, is still an unfortunate mental blockade in a male dominated arena. Unless your name is Danica Patrick of course. Sidney loves cars and she loves driving fast and being aggressive . . .
” . . . but part of why I’m so dedicated is also because I’m out there to prove people wrong and enlighten them.. even though it’s almost 2016, many people still have the mindset that women can’t drive or that women aren’t fast race car drivers. That women can’t be competitive in the male dominated world of racing. It’s just not true.”
I remember when the e46 M3 was first coming to market in the year 2000 and it was a huge hit before a single unit landed on the lot. While the e36 M3 was a great car, many were unimpressed with the US spec model as it lacked certain Motorsport features such as individual throttle bodies and the lines of the car were not much different than the regular sedan or coupe. With the release of the e46 M3, BMW went back to its roots as the car was distinctly different than the common 3 series and the performance was cutting edge. I remember there was a ‘wait list’ to buy one and people were selling their spots for close to $2,000. Fast forward 15 years and the car still has great appeal, and Sidney was sold from the get-go.
“I love M3s, particularly the e46 body style . . . it’s sexy, aggressive-looking, and a beast. And it has the best ass of all the M3 body styles and it is the perfect blend of sexiness and performance. It truly is the ultimate driving machine. You can feel the raw power of the beast thru your hands on the steering, thru the pedals, and thru the seat. It puts a silly grin on your face with every gear shift and press of the gas pedal.”
At under 50k miles, this garage kept beast, affectionately named ‘Fiona’ is as immaculate as it is aggressive.
“The 2nd day I got her, I parked her at the garage at work. A co-worker, that I do not know, took a photo of her and posted it to facebook with a caption saying, “someone parked Shrek at work! It even has Shrek ears!” A friend of mine saw it on facebook and sent me a screenshot of the post. I had been thinking about names for her, so I dubbed her Fiona, named after Princess Fiona from Shrek.”
The Phoenix Yellow paint is well cared for and protected while the black leather interior is as if a rear end has yet to hit the seat nor a bare hand touched the steering wheel. Spend minimal time on a detail and this car could easily win any clean car contest. Phoenix is one of those colors that people love or hate with seemingly no one in-between. Dubbed by many as ‘PY’, those who hate it commonly refer to it as ‘Puke Yellow.”
“Yellow is one of my favorite colors, and I’ve always liked the e46 body style. The Phoenix Yellow signature M3 color is perfect because it’s unique and rare. If I’m going to buy a fun car, it’s not going to be in a boring, typical color like black, grey, or white. I love the dimension Phoenix Yellow has . . . the color looks different depending on the lighting. It can range from warm, bright sunny yellow to Shrek green depending on the lighting.”
Phoenix Yellow can be harsh, obnoxious and commanding of attention. It can also be sleek, engaging and a calculated performer. Once you get to know her, you realize that Sidney is the perfect owner for this car. A self proclaimed ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ combined with her absence of a literary filter, is much like the ‘PY’ that covers the chassis. You love it or hate it. Her blunt honesty and no bullshit approach matches the spartan interior of this M3, as it is devoid of the many distractions that are now standard equipment on today’s cars.
What I love about this car, aside from the Phoenix Yellow over black leather, is the way she uses it and why she bought it. This car was touted as the Ultimate Driving Machine (like every other BMW), which is its primary purpose for Sidney. I see this car on 2 different occasions. First is at autocross where I’ve seen her spin it a total of about 3600 degrees and smash over 200 cones over several events. Second is in my shop for after-care, or, removing cone marks and fixing plastic fender liners and for pre-checks before her big day. This car goes through tires at a quicker rate than it needs oil changes but is cared for and maintained to a level that keeps pace with the way it rips through a course.
Sometimes I look at this car and think “you poor car . . . you are so damn lucky”
“I attend all of the local SCCA and BMWCCA events, which means I autocross her about 3 to 4 times a month. It’s not my first choice to race my pristine and rare Fiona, but I love autocross racing, and it’s abominable to allow an M3 beast to be a garage queen.”
Watching Sidney race this distinguished M3 is akin to when Lady Gaga performed ‘The Sound of Music’ at the 2015 Oscars; once it starts you just don’t know how things are going to turn out, but in the end it’s resounding.
Sidney Chang and her 2004 Phoenix Yellow e46 M3. A perfect match.
Follow Sidney and Fiona on Instagram @miss.sidlicious or head down to the next local BMWCCA or SCCA autocross event and witness her and Fiona in action!
5836 Autoport Mall
San Diego CA 92121