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      09-27-2009, 07:12 PM   #1
VictorH
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Advanced M Class at VIR (huge fun)

I just completed the Advanced M class at VIR this past Thursday and Friday. If you ever have the opportunity to take this class I would highly recommend it. The experience is really great. You get plenty of seat time by yourself. Each of the M cars is available, the M6, M5 and M3. Evidently the school is considering the X6M as well but they were not there for this class, and probably not missed. No manual transmissions, SMG in the M5 and M6 and DCT in the M3.

Iíve never run at VIR but the course is really tremendous. Lots of fun corners from low speed to high speed and a couple of straights where you can really air out the cars. The first day is a combination of orientation to the north, patriot and south courses as well as skid-pad exercises. The instructors are uniformly excellent and really know how to judge the driverís comfort level on the track.

We had rain almost all day the second day.. The instructors and most of the students were disappointed but I thought it was great fun. Ever driven 140 mph in the rain? You would think you should spin off the course and do cartwheels off the track but thatís not what happens. If you think that is interesting, then slowing from 140 to 50 mph in the rain is even more interesting. It really is a great learning experience about car control. Everything you do has to be gentle. First time out in the M3 I had the DCT set on S5 coming onto the front straight just before I had the car completely straightened out, under full power, everything was great until I changed gears (to 4th I think) and the rear end completely stepped out sideways. Switched to S3 and everything was good for the rest of the session.

Of course you have to compare all the different vehicles and they are all quite nice in their own way. I would say the M6 was my least favorite mostly because of the low amount of headroom. Though Iím picking up a 2009 M3 tomorrow, Iíd have to say my favorite car was the M5. No, itís not the most nimble, but it corners reasonably well and once you get it pointed straight and apply the power, itís like a cruise missile. It required a bit more finesse in the rain and maybe I liked it for that reason. The M3 of course is quite nimble. The motor is quite nice but really feels more like a really good bike motor. Very flexible and drivable from low rpm but really needs to get up in the rpm band to make serious power and doesnít have nearly the pull above 100 mph that the V-10s in the M5 and M6 have.
To run these cars out on a proper track is really a completely different experience than the performance center. The Performance Center is very nice in its own right but not quite the same as a 3 mile dedicated track. The cost to attend the class might seem high and certainly itís not chicken feed but the cost to BMW must be substantial as they have to haul the cars, rent the track for 2+ days, plus change tires, pads and rotors as well as what must be a huge amount of fuel. All of the vehicles that I drove were averaging less then 10 mpg (mostly 7-8.5 mpg). Anyway, if you get a chance itís worth the time and cost.
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      09-27-2009, 09:09 PM   #2
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good review, thanks for posting, I want to sign up!
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      09-28-2009, 08:28 AM   #3
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good review. I did the 2-day this past July and I'm planning on doing the advanced next summer.
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      09-28-2009, 09:03 AM   #4
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Great Review
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      09-28-2009, 09:09 AM   #5
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Nice review. Thoroughly enjoyed the read.
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      09-28-2009, 09:36 AM   #6
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Awesome review.. Thanks for writing it up. What beginner-level school had you had before? (eg, did you do 1-2 day MSchool, or autocross training)?
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      09-28-2009, 11:02 AM   #7
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Did the power steering on any of the M3s give up the ghost? When I went to VIR in May, almost half failed due to overheating of the fluid. All were fixed quickly and back out on course.

VIR is a great track. We had rain on our first day and dry on the second. I think that's the way to go if you have a choice , because you start with a day of car control and then you wring the cars out on the dry day.

Would you go back? I'm thinking of going again next May if my schedule and budget permits.

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      09-28-2009, 05:34 PM   #8
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Thanks for the comments, yes it really was a very enjoyable experience.
Re the questions: I had taken the 1 day M course before, however, I would say we had experience levels from very experienced (some had taken the VIR course 4+ times) and some were what I would consider as minimal but some experience. The instructors are great at grouping by experience. I was initially with some more inexperienced drivers (I would consider myself a low-intermediate to intermediate driver) and in the lead follow groupings we would leave the other students, so I was moved to a more experienced group and we were very compatible.

I don't know what to make of the "power steering issues." We had no problems with any of the vehicles. I spoke at length with the service tech while he was doing a brake rotor and pad change on an M3. I asked him specifically about power steering pump and reservoir issues. He had not seen any power steering problems except in those cars whose reservoirs were running too high in terms of fluid. He had never seen a M3 power steering pump failure. Evidently there is a level for both cold and hot and they try to ensure that the hot steering pump reservoir level is "at spec." I took that to mean at the top of the dipstick (i.e. full). The problems he's seen were spilling of power steering fluid out the breather hole when the motor is hot and the reservoir is too full. That is the extent of the problems he's seen.
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      09-28-2009, 07:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VictorH View Post
...

I don't know what to make of the "power steering issues." We had no problems with any of the vehicles. I spoke at length with the service tech while he was doing a brake rotor and pad change on an M3. I asked him specifically about power steering pump and reservoir issues. He had not seen any power steering problems except in those cars whose reservoirs were running too high in terms of fluid. He had never seen a M3 power steering pump failure. Evidently there is a level for both cold and hot and they try to ensure that the hot steering pump reservoir level is "at spec." I took that to mean at the top of the dipstick (i.e. full). The problems he's seen were spilling of power steering fluid out the breather hole when the motor is hot and the reservoir is too full. That is the extent of the problems he's seen.
Interesting indeed. Maybe they found a fix since last May.

Dave
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