Manic M-day

For these lucky winners, the majority of the day was almost non-stop action

JEZ SPINKS

Wheels and 19 lucky readers have a special day out with a mouth-watering collection of performance cars EARLIER this year we asked what BMW’s 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.

Several brands now offer these dynamic antitheses to the static motor show, with BMW’s Driving Experience roadshow, for example, performing 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 X6M. 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 starts with some illustrated theory behind car-control basics to help discourage the meeting of sheetmetal and environment.

But the majority of the day is almost non-stop action, 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 gradually ramp up the speed once they’re comfortable with the abilities of the drivers.

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,” Wheels reader Darren Hooton said. “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 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,” BMW Australia marketing communications manager Nick Keen said. “We often have BMW owners fall in love with their car more when they see what it can actually do.”

For these lucky winners, the majority of the day was almost non-stop action

Training hard

IF YOU weren’t in it (our Wheels comp) to win it, or just weren’t among the lucky winners, BMW has more oneday courses running in 2015.

The Level 1 Intensive program is running again in October and November at Sydney Motorsport Park.

Already consider yourself a halfdecent 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.

But if you want to truly fi nd out how far you can take your fast-driving abilities, then BMW’s ultimate course is the $3500 Fascination.

“People don’t often get to drive cars to the peak of their performance”