The Beginnings of BGKP Racing – From Honda To Saab


We are BGKP. An acronym representing the last names of our race team’s founding four, Hassan Bakar, Gabe Garcia, Chris Kotansky, and Tony Poma. We currently race a 1997 Saab 900SE in the Champcar Endurance Series, and are well underway building a 1999 Saab 9-3 ‘Vert for our second car. We are working on a lot of projects and plan to attend some exciting events this season, so keep an eye out for our upcoming content. For now, allow me to revisit a time when we were just a group of automotive engineers who simply enjoyed motorsports.

Beginnings

Hassan had been offered a beat-up 1995 Honda Civic from a fellow colleague free of charge, delivery included. The offer couldn’t be refused, and in a few days we had a half disassembled Civic that hadn’t run in over five years sitting in our driveway. We wasted no time getting to work, and within a couple of months, the Civic was restored back to running condition. We upfitted the Civic and my 1997 Saab 900SE track car, (our current BGKP Champcar), with some upgraded brake pads and ATE TYP200 brake fluid and headed to our first track day with both of them.

The ’97 900SE in the paddock at Waterford Hills Race Track

After having a blast at our first track day, we decided that the Civic would be the perfect candidate for an amateur endurance racecar. Gabe and Tony were quick to jump on-board, and just like that, we rushed to prep for the 2017 season. The car saw its first race in April at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and outside of a clicking CV near the end, made it the full eight hours.

 

The Civic waiting to grid as it sat on pit lane at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, RBank Racing 9-3 in the background

We spent the next month preparing for Watkins Glen International Speedway, upgrading suspension parts and installing new wheels and tires.

Freshly detailed and ready to race at Watkins Glen International

Unfortunately, the Civic’s second race would be its final, as it fell victim to some lift-off oversteer through the “Bus Stop” at The Glen.

Way to go Gabe. (left to right: Chris, Tony, Gabe, Hassan)

We had no intent on letting the season end there. We discussed different options for what to race next, but ultimately we decided to build what we already had; my 1997 Saab 900SE. We worked diligently over the next two months to prepare for its debut at Gingerman Raceway in August.

Our collection of Saabs in the paddock of Gingerman Raceway

The BGKP 900’s first event was far from perfect. The braking was horrendously unstable, the handling was poor, there were fueling issues, and thirty minutes into Saturday’s race the car spun a bearing. We were able to swap the engine and be on grid for the green flag Sunday, but being so unstable we packed it up soon after the race started.

We spent the winter focusing on getting the 900 dialed in for the 2018 season. We removed the powertrain, had the flywheel resurfaced, installed a 9-3 Viggen clutch kit, and rebuilt the engine with OE valve stem seals, piston rings, and bearings. We also removed the balance shafts and installed a balance shaft delete kit. We performed a maintenance overhaul that included ball joints, stanchion arm bushings, tie rod ends, sway bar endlinks, wheel bearings, hubs, rebuilt CVs, and brake lines. In addition to maintenance, we installed Bilstein B6 front shocks, B8 rear shocks, and lowering springs to improve the handling.

Shoutout to Illias and the rest of our pit crew that event

We started the 2018 season at Nelson Ledges road course for our first 24 hour event. We had some issues during the day, but nothing we couldn’t recover from. We ran mid-pack until around 2AM when a catastrophic steering rack failure forced us to retire.

The broken steering rack from Nelson Ledges

We returned to Gingerman Raceway, eager to redeem ourselves from our poor performance the year prior. We posted our first issue free race that Sunday, finishing 6th in class and 16th overall.

A solid weekend of racing at Gingerman Raceway. (Left to right: Hassan, Chris, Gabe)

That brings us back to today, where we are hard at work making improvements to our 900SE and preparing our 9-3 ‘Vert for the upcoming season.

The 900 as it currently sits.

The 900 has a refreshed transmission with welded differential waiting to be installed, we’ve added an aftermarket radiator for improved cooling, and we plan to add a fuel cell and new fuel pump to improve weight balance and vehicle safety.

The nearly complete roll cage in the Saab 9-3 ‘Vert

The BGKP 9-3 is midway through its safety prep, with the cage just about finished. Additionally, we plan to install upgraded brake pads, Bilstein shocks, and some lowering springs before it makes its 2019 debut.

Stay tuned for our upcoming stories as we prepare for our first Champcar race of the year at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

If you want to hear more about any of the builds mentioned in this article, head over to Saabros.com via the links below!

Saab 900 Build

Honda Civic Build

Comment with your facebook account

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.