WE ASKED earlier this year what the BMW M badge meant to you, and the best answers – just saying “Motorsport” didn’t cut it! – won the chance to participate in a specially tailored performance driving day.
Multiple manufacturers now offer these dynamic antitheses to the static motor show, with BMW’s Driving Experience roadshow, for example, covering 90 days every year, with about 3000 punters accelerating through three levels of courses.
The Intensive Driving Experience is BMW’s $1395 entry-level course, though for our winners there was a twist to turn it into the M Driving Experience – with the usual 428i Coupe, M235i, M3 and M4 joined by the M5, the recently refreshed M6 and the new, second-generation X6 M. That’s a collection of cars worth a princely $1.2 million.
This is a course attracting varied levels of driver skill, so the day begins with some illustrated theory behind car control basics to help discourage the meeting of sheetmetal and Armco steel.
The majority of the day is almost non-stop action otherwise, with braking and skidpan exercises – plus a timed motorkhana course to add the obligatory competitive element – sandwiched between two decent stints of full circuit laps. The instructors set the pace, gradually ramping up the speed once they’re comfortable with the abilities of the drivers behind.
The temperature of the pace is more rogan josh than vindaloo, but higher-level courses are available (see breakout), and it certainly didn’t stop our lucky readers from having a blast.
“The experience of driving these cars on the track isn’t something you get to do every day,” said Wheels reader Darren Hooton. “The [M] cars are all set up for speed, beyond 200km/h, but you can’t do that on the road.”
Fellow reader Steven Ktenas was still smiling half an hour after returning to the pits for the final time. “That was unbelievable; awesome. The vehicles were amazing and the course lived up to its name. Thank you, Wheels.”
And even if BMW is sometimes preaching to the converted (driving experience vouchers are included when you purchase an M car, for example), it still sees great value in reinforcing the brand.
“[People] don’t often get to drive M cars to the peak of their performance with expert tuition, and I think people really engage with that,” said BMW Australia marketing communications manager Nick Keen. “We often have BMW owners fall in love with their car more when they see what it can actually do.”
IF YOU weren’t in it (our comp) to win it, or just weren’t among the lucky winners, BMW has more one-day courses running in 2015. The Level 1 Intensive program is running again in October and November at Sydney Motorsport Park. Already consider yourself a half-decent steerer? Then it’s worth paying another $600 for the $1895 (Level 2) M Dynamic course, where the techniques taught and lapping pace step up another notch or two. And if you want to truly find out how far you can take your fast-driving abilities, then BMW’s ultimate course is the $3500 Fascination.
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.