So thanks to my amazing fiancÚ I had an opportunity to attend BMW’s two day performance driving M-School at BMW’s facilities in Greer, South Carolina. The experience was nothing short of amazing and will rank up there on my automotive “bucket list” along side my European Delivery/Nurburgring
adventure a few months ago. Thought I share some of the experiences with all of you just in case you were thinking of attending.
All of the students (15 in our class) were shuttled from our hotel straight to BMW’s Performance center for an 8:30AM start. The facilities looked great and reminded me a bit of the BMW Welt in Munich.
What do we have here to greet us? A brand new M6 coupe configured with every single option! Gorgeous car.
We were greeted by our lead instructor in the lobby and told to pick up some coffee and head into the classroom. I got a pretty big chuckle seeing this sign on the wall along the way.
A two hour classroom session was kicked off covering basic vehicle handling fundamentals. Concepts such as oversteer, understeer, weight transfer, braking and cornering were thoroughly discussed.
Our lead instructor giving us a sense of the track layout and which portions we would be using for the various exercises.
After our two hour classroom instruction was complete we were told to saddle up and head out to our rides for the day. Rows of E92 M3s, F10 M5s and F12 M6s awaited us!
Before we headed off our instructors emphasized the importance of seating and hand positioning.
Onto my ride for the day a white E92 M3 with the competition package and DCT seven speed dual clutch transmission.
We started our cars up and headed to the track to line up for the first runs of the day. The exercises were grouped into three major categories:
Short Autocross Track
A quick autocross track with some elevation changes built to emphasize lower speed handling. Initially we were assigned M6s, which proved a bit challenging considering it was 38 degrees and we were on cold summer tires. On my second lap I got a little too enthusiastic with the 550hp behind the throttle pedal and managed to do a complete spinout narrowly missing a concrete barrier. Oops. Later on in the day we returned to the course in M3s to conduct timed trials and it felt much better.
The PCD has two skid pad areas, one is a circle with polished concrete and the other is a rectangular asphalt wet pad. We used the circular pad to practice oversteer and understeer recovery. This was probably the most valuable exercise during the whole course that you could apply to everyday driving. We also had a chance to try our hand at drifting which I have to say is a lot harder than it looks!
The rectangular pad was used to focus on car control with stability control completely off in the wet. Turning it off has a profound effect on vehicle dynamics and you are forced to tiptoe around with 414 hp on tap.
Instructor power sliding
A student trying his hand in power sliding while the instructor looks on
Full Road Course
The full road course was definitely my favorite exercise and it really allowed us to push the various M cars to their limits. During the two days we drove on smaller portions of the track and on the last day we drove both the M3 and M6 coupes on the complete course. A great way to top off the whole experience!
An instructor showing us the best lines
Powering through the straightaway
Entering the braking zone of the instructor deemed "Man Corner"
A video from my GoPro on the full road course
A Few Takeaways
– The instructors at the course were simply awesome, all of them are current or retired race car drivers. They were all extremely knowledgeable, nice and patient and gave great pointers on how to improve our driving. I think one of the key elements to the success of M-School can be attributed to these guys!
– After driving the M3, M5 and M6 hard for two days through varying conditions I think we all got a good sense of the pros and cons of each car. My personal favorite was the M3 as it felt the most nimble and predictable when pushed hard. The M5/M6 have incredible amounts of power in the straights but that same power was also tricky to manage when powering out of corners. If you didn’t watch yourself you could get into trouble pretty darn quick. For dash strokers though the M5/M6’s interiors were in another league compared to the M3. Any time I stepped back into the M3 it felt like I was driving a car from a different car company.
– Now I am a tried and true manual fan but wow that DCT can shift gears fast! I thought our new F30 335i with the sport auto ZF 8AT would be comparable but I was wrong. The DCT at its fastest setting was ferociously quick. If I wanted a car whose sole purpose was to return quick lap times on the track the DCT would be my choice.
Having said that I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have any 6MTs for us to use during the course. The instructors said that in previous years they did and students just ended up burning up clutches. So it makes sense they went to DCT only. I’ll tell you though I was happy to come home to my 6 speed manual sitting in the garage ☺
Stability Control / M Dynamic Mode
– It is absolutely amazing how well modern day stability control systems can prevent you from losing control of a car when you make a mistake. On the flip side of that DSC can also be a bit interruptive when you want a little rear rotation when taking a corner on the track. MDM is absolutely fantastic in allowing the car to do that without sending you flying off the asphalt. Of course if you were really a skilled and smooth driver the system shouldn’t even be triggering anyways
Well that pretty much sums it up, let me know if you guys have any questions! Thank you BMW and PCD instructors for putting together an amazing and informative experience.
I apparently caught a near production next gen X5 prototype undergoing testing on the neighboring test track. Didn't realize this until I started editing my shots!