Hidden in Huntington Beach, about a block from a remarkably European coffee shop, lies a Porsche haven. The unassuming building in a distinctly American setting gives little indication to its content. Stepping into BBi Autosport’s headquarters will leave even the most hardened Porsche enthusiast wide-eyed.
Walking through the glass doors and into the waiting area, you are immediately greeted by a pair of bright white Porsche Turbos. Both are awaiting conversion, surrounded by carbon-fibre wheels, ceramic brake kits and motorsport accolades.
They’re in the safe hands of Betim Berisha and Joey Seeley, co-owners of BBi. Betim and Joey took the non-academic route into motorsport, where persistence and hard graft is the key to success. 1,000 miles apart and unbeknown to each other, Betim and Joey started their journey right at the bottom, sweeping floors at local shops.
Coincidence saw the pair at the same California race event, each preparing 993 RSR racecars for different privateer teams at the age of 20. This is where the Porsche seed was sowed; fast-forward five years and they would be at Le Mans with Porsche Motorsport.
With this background it’s little wonder that the BBi workshop is so meticulously laid out. There’s an incredible team feeling and it instantly feels more like a factory race team than a traditional tuner outfit. Walking through the immaculate workspace, it’s clear that everything has its place.
Everyone on the team knows the part they have to play and despite being a hive of activity, meshes together like a well-oiled machine. It’s especially surprising given the day we have chosen to visit, the day the cars are loaded to make the trip to Las Vegas for display at SEMA 2014.
Liberty Walk’s Wataru Kato entrusted the team to prepare not one but two widebody 997.2 Turbos for the show. Going against the grain, the team entered one in the famous Optima Batteries street car challenge. These were Liberty Walk cars that could sprint and were not just show pieces.
Wandering around the shop floor, one little Porsche kept catching my eye from the corner ramp. They called it ‘Project Nasty’ and being the only air-cooled car in the shop I had to find out more.
I found Joey trimming a 993 carbon-kevlar arch lining to fit his creation. It turns out these were sourced from legendary creator of the Kremer 935 bodywork, DP Motorsport.
Reading like a wish list of the hardest-to-find air-cooled items, Nasty is the embodiment of BBi’s fanatical attention to detail. With DP motorsport composite 935 rear lights, RUF Yellowbird front air dam and a reworked 3.6 RS America engine being just a summary of the highlights, as we stood talking behind the car the faint glow and familiar hum of TIG welding could be heard.
It turns out Nasty’s exhaust system, including manifolds, silencers and bumper exit tail pipes, were being built just behind it. In fact all of BBi’s exhaust and intercooler kits are produced in-house and fabricated from scratch for each project.
Louie, or ‘The Fabricator’ as he is known, is responsible for these works of art. Assembled in a purpose-built room, the exhaust systems bark the tune of BBi’s bespoke engine builds that come to life just to the left through a sliding door.
Jared is the resident engine builder, and the ‘engine only’ clean room is the perfect theatre in which to create his masterpieces. Hybrid GT3-based twin-turbo engines, BBi’s signature 4.1-litre GT3 and 1,500-plus-horsepower Turbo motors are all created and built here.
One such engine residing in BBi’s long-running research mule is King Kong. If this car could tell stories, I’d certainly like to hear them. From 180-mile-per-hour blowouts to shredded sequential gearboxes, if it lasts in King Kong it makes it to the road car program.
BBi says it’s 1,500-plus bhp because it is not entirely sure what it kicks out right now. The last dyno pull saw over 1,500 wheel horsepower, but since then the boost has been increased another 0.5 bar.
Sitting five paces away from King Kong is the car we travelled here in hope of seeing – Jeff Zwart’s Pikes Peak GT3 Turbo. Jeff Zwart should be a familiar name for those into the Porsche brand. Director, racer, photographer, but above all, he’s a Porsche guy.
Jeff heard of BBi’s 1,000-plus-horsepower engine builds and paid the team a visit with the idea of an all-out attack on Pikes Peak. Betrim explains: “I’ve always looked up to Jeff, so seeing him stood right there in my office was a little surprising!”
With the summit of Pikes Peak standing some 14,000 feet above sea level, reliable power is crucial. That’s not something usually associated with 700-horsepower builds, but BBi has a secret weapon.
Clocking up 30 years of Porsche Motorsport experience, four Le Mans 24-hour races, nine Daytona 24-hour stints and eight Sebring 12-hour events under its belt, the team is incredibly well prepared for a gruelling event like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
With an impossibly short build time of just two months, the team conquered the peak, making Jeff a seven-time Pikes Peak victor in the process. Never before have I seen the expression ‘do it once and do it right’ carried out with such clinical precision on a racecar. Most of the car is familiar as a Porsche Cup Car, but the BBi additions blend in as if Porsche intended them to be there.
Owner: Betim Berisha and Joey Seeley
Location: Huntington Beach, California, USA
Rarest 911 in the shop: Porsche 959
Most expensive 911 built: Pikes Peak GT3 Turbo
Interesting fact about the business: Berisha and Seeley cemented their friendship as Betim moved to California from Seattle to fill Joey’s position at a race shop he worked at. This followed Joey’s move back to his native Washington State. The reason for the move was to recover from a broken shoulder received celebrating a Porsche race win with Betim. Betim was on a bike pulling Joey on a skateboard at the time!
BBi is genuinely one of the most welcoming and warm shops I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. The lighting is bright, the music is chilled and the walls are adorned with the team’s many achievements.
It’s more like a creative studio than automotive workshop. It leads you to wonder how it’s possible to assemble a team where everyone is pulling so strongly in the same direction. “It’s not been easy.
The passion, the energy and the heart of it are only ten per cent,” explains Betim. “The rest is insanity. There has to be an extra driving force – whatever that is, we all have it and that’s why we are under the same roof.”
Leaving BBi, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. Maybe it’s the California sunshine or maybe it’s the extra strong coffee, but after an afternoon with Betim, Joey and the team, I can’t wait to start tearing into my own projects and make them a little more ‘BBi’.