A night at the BMW performance center: Part 2


No longer a newbie, moving up!
Jan 17, 2005
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Greenville, SC
So as you have been reading I had an awesome chance to visit the BMW Performance Driving School and raise money for cancer at the same time. I went with a few of my friends from BMW and we got there early and started off on the off-road course they have there. It's a massive course with several man made mountains, bridges, rivers, and potholes.


Wading through a few feet of water in a BMW X5

It was great to see how the cars I work on everyday preform off road. I wasn't disappointed, it was very controlled and didn't have any problems, even when we had it up on 2 wheels during part of the course.


BMW X5's headed up a steep hill

We also had a section of the course which brings the cars on a steep sideways gradient. These cars can just about reach a 45° angle without flipping over.


Trying to flip over an X5

The best part was the frame testing section where the car gets up on two wheels and teeters on top of this huge hill. It's incredible how the X5 routes the power from its 360hp V8 to the wheels that are on the ground only. Side note: It's also very difficult to take clear pictures and drive off road at the same time.
Overall it was a great experience, especially knowing that it only cost me $10 and all that money went for cancer research.


BMW X3 up on 2 Wheels

The next event for the night was a hot lab in an M5. Unfortunately we couldn't drive the car's but I'm not sure if I would be able to safely control the 507hp going to the rear wheels. Anyways I strapped on my racing helmet and go in with one of the BMW professional drivers. I asked him how I could get his job and he told me, "Go spend $300,000 on a race team and maybe BMW will get in contact with you." Doesn't sound to promising... Oh well I'm not sure my neck could take the ridiculous G-forces on a daily basis.


Soon we were headed off in the M5 though a series of locked gates that lead outside of the performance center. Back there we found about a 1.5 mile high speed track, complete with banked corners. He put his foot down and my head slammed against the headrest, chirping the tires in 1st, then again in 2nd at 45, then again in 3rd gear at somewhere around 80. 90... 100... 110... 120... 130... 140... 150... the speeds were growing at a frightening rate. We ended up shifting into 6th gear around 150 and hit about 155mph before he just about shot me through the windshield with the braking forces. Soon I was sucked up against the side of the car as we were taking one of the banked corners at close to 100mph. What a car! Soon we were back on the straight away... back up to 155 again. I glanced over at the navigation screen which told us we were averaging 6mpg. Good thing I don't have to fill these things up (or pay for the tires). It was great to back out of the car so I could catch my breath.

After riding in the M5 I was ready to step behind the wheel of some high powered BMW's. The last event of the night was the 335i match races. A course was set up on a dry portion of the track, and half was on the wet track. Cones were places in the course just to make things more complicated.


Wetting down the track

Basically two people were placed on the course, one at the start line, and one half way through the course. The cars would then start and try to catch each other, if someone got within 2 car lengths the race was over and the loser would have to leave the track, while the winner would stay on for another round. Pretty cool setup if you ask me.


BMW 335i getting ready to be raced

I signed up to race and got in line. After waiting for 30 minutes I began to wander around and see what else was going on. I watched the opening ceremony and took some more pictures. There was a pretty big crowd gathered, ready to walk the rest of the night until the sun came up.


Bags set around the track


In memory of others


I found my car!


Getting ready to walk


Inside the performance center

After this I made my way back over to the other side of the performance center where the Match Races started. I got a chance to ride with another driver on the course before I drove. We made it a lap and a half then flew off the track into the grass at about 80. It seemed like we slid forever, until we landed in a ditch. Instant disqualification, I barely got to see the track. This made me even more nervous as I'm not used to driving fast rear wheel drive cars on a daily basis. Soon, it was time for me to drive.




Coming through the slalom (ISO 3200)

I hopped in the car and adjusted the 56 way power seat into the proper position and was off. I started off fast, flooring the car and kicking out the tail. A little more power than my scion. I was soon dodging cones at 60mph while trying to keep my car from going sideways. My adrenaline was pumping. I soon entered the wet area and fought to keep the car from going completely sideways. I finished my first lap.


A 335i Covered in tire and brake dust (ISO 3200)


High speed section

I heard over the radio that I was in a slight lead but my opponent was catching me. I drove faster, pushing the car around the track with tires screaming and adrenaline pouring. Soon I began to catch the other car and I secured victory. I stayed on the track for my second race. One of my co-workers was in the other car. He beat me off the line and gained a slight lead. I began driving even faster but I could not catch him. After several laps he was declared the winner by a slight lead. I was almost glad to get out of the car and take a break. It was probably the most intense 20 minutes I've had in a long time. It was hard to sleep that night. I loved every minute of it.
sounds like you had a great time, i sure would love to do something like that someday.
Two of the guys in my local BMW car club went to this. They had a great time.

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