I as fortunate enough to be given a M3 high-performance course recently and wasted little time in making the booking. I had never driven the M3 and I could not wait to get my hands on the V8-powered German automobile. I have previously done the BMW course at Kyalami but that was in a 330i so this was a whole new animal.
We (myself and my dad) arrived at Velmore Hotel where we were given a presentation on the car’s handling around a track and things to take mental notes of before climbing into the car. A casual drive from the Hotel to the Zwartkops Raceway where we quickly got ourselves sorted and headed out on to the track. The first lapping session was a learning curve for us and the instructors sat as quietly as they could to gauge our knowledge of the track and to get a sense of our overall ‘racing’ driving style. Getting onto the track and hammering the accelerator in that Motorsport Beemer is quite an astonishing feeling, yes the gear changes are quick and yes the car provides fantastic feedback through the steering wheel but that V8 noise just overpowers all your other senses! I could not get enough of flicking up and down through the gears (especially down thanks to the throttle blip) which meant my first lapping session was not all technically correct but I had a BIG smile on my face.
Onto the 2nd lapping session and for this session, we were only allowed to use 4th gear in order to learn the lines and reference points for braking into and exiting the corners. During this session, the cones were out which made life a whole lot easier but the most important thing I found out was to carry the brakes through the corner which is something new they teach. This allows the car to remain settled even after the initial heavy braking and actually pulls the car around the corner. Since we were sitting in 4th the whole way around, it was a lot easier to pick your breaking points and look for your exit reference as you did not need to concentrate on which gear to select. I found this lapping session the most informative as the instructor pointed out what we were doing wrong from the 1st session and provided us with some very useful skills to tackle corners.
The 3rd lapping session introduced 3rd gear which allowed us to exit the corners with a lot more punch and this meant we could hear the downshift again of the beautiful V8. Corrections were once again made by the instructor as our breaking points slightly change with the increased speed into and out of the corners. After this we witnessed the insane braking distance demo which was performed in a new BMW 328i. This is the 3rd demo like this I have seen and it is just amazing how much distance these cars need to stop from a speed one would usually travel on the highway. These cars have some of the most advanced braking systems in the world so you can only imagine the stopping distance on some of the ‘cars’ we have cruising the South African roads.
The 4th and final lapping session allowed us to use all the gears we wanted and give it our best shot at producing a SMOOTH fast lap. The emphasis was on smooth because it keeps the car settled through the corners which obviously means you can exit much quicker. Too much power too soon and the DSC will kick in and hold you back. It was a fantastic end to the track session and I left with a substantial amount of new knowledge about track driving and hopefully an improved ‘racing’ driver.
We attended the skidpan after a delicious lunch which is always fun. I think that a course like this should be compulsory to all new drivers just to see for themselves how things can get out of hand. It really shows you how the new electronic aids help you in emergency situations on the road and the instructors give you valuable demo’s and information on how to avoid an impact or at the least decrease the severity of the impact.
If you would like to book a similar course then visit BMW Driving Experience and take a look at which package suits you best! I have included 2 short video’s below showing the M3 flying past the pit straight and little drifting action from the end of the day.