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      02-20-2012, 08:28 PM   #1
Money2536
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Having Never Been to Track Which Car Would You Take?

All, I'm about to sign-up for a Chin Motorsports HPDE at Sebring, FL. I'm wondering which car you guys would recommend taking. I'm thinking about taking my S4 with the girlie DSG transmission instead of the M3 (6MT) for the first time out. I'm 32, so I'm not a newbie driver. I do get that learning on a track is a lot different than rolling around normal roads. My goal is to really learn how to drive the sports cars that I have.

At first thought, I had no plans of plowing around the turns in the S4. This being my first time out, the thought occurred to me that I could take the S4 with the auto, learn how to enter/exit, and figure out the basics of track decorum. Then, having figured out track rules, take the M3 later in the year and work on heal-toe, etc.

Thoughts?
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      02-20-2012, 08:35 PM   #2
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I'd go for the ///M . IMO, the M3 is better suited than the S4 for track duty (we also own an M3 and an S4). The M3 being better balanced will give you more opportunity to learn about car control. Might as well get comfortable in the ///M right from the start.

Don't get me wrong, the S4 is a great car and can be fun on the track, but the M3 is superior in this respect.

As far as heel and toe goes, I would definitely recommend that you practice it on the street before heading to the track. You will have your hands (and feet) full your first time out. Heel and toeing needs to become second nature before you apply it on the track.

EDIT: Agree with what others are saying, you won't need heel and toe for your first times out. But do practice on the street before you use it on the track.

Last edited by CanAutM3; 02-23-2012 at 10:38 PM.
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      02-20-2012, 09:04 PM   #3
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Take the M3. For the most part when learning, you can probably get around the track in one gear (4th). I don't know much about Sebring, so you may need a couple gear changes. Take with a grain a salt since my track car is an SMG.
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      02-20-2012, 09:45 PM   #4
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Have to concur with taking the M3. Most likely, this will be a 3rd - 4th, with a little 5th thrown in track. Heel and toe are not important. Car control, situation awarness, and driving smooth are far more important than anything else. Your instructor will talk you around the track. Listen, learn, and have a good time.
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      02-21-2012, 10:48 AM   #5
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Take the S4. Leave it in auto for the first session or two. You'll have so much information coming, it is beneficial to have one less thing to worry.
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      02-21-2012, 11:11 AM   #6
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You don't need to be great at heel toeing your first time out. I'd take the M as well.
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      02-21-2012, 06:02 PM   #7
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If they were both RWD it might be a tossup, but assuming your long term plans are to track the M3, then I'd start with it right away. AWD and RWD will behave differently on the track, and not to say that you can't relearn certain habits, no reason not to learn things from the beginning the way you need to longterm. I'm in advanced, and still haven't started heel/toeing on the track (I've been practicing, and plan to try this year), so it's really not a skill you need right away. You can absolutely learn plenty just staying in one gear.
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      02-21-2012, 06:57 PM   #8
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Take M and don't worry about shifting quickly - shift normally and in straight line only until you are sure you can shift without upsetting the car. Heck, with M3's rev band you can do the track using one or two gears and be almost as fast initially. I drive DCT now, and still don't downshift aggressively when learning a new track for the first few sessions - line is far more important to get right first.
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      02-21-2012, 07:17 PM   #9
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Take the M3.
Drive with traction control on, until you have mastered car control - you instructor will tell you when that is.
Dont rush the learning experience - it's so much fun getting one thing at a time right!
Practice your rev-matching on the street, but it's very different on the track where you have to maintain constant firm pressure on the brake pedal while rev-matching. You simply don't brake that hard on the street, ever.
Don't worry about it until you have learned to brake hard and straight, and you have learned the lines. When you have that as second nature, then you can work on heel and toeing
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      02-21-2012, 07:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shosholoza View Post
Take the M3.
Drive with traction control on, until you have mastered car control - you instructor will tell you when that is.
Unfortunately, you can't master car control if you have traction control on all the time. You won't necessarily know whether it's you or traction control saving your butt.

I recommend turning traction control off from the beginning at the track, unless it's wet. That way you do learn car control from the beginning and develop good habits, like being smooth and avoiding over-driving.

By the way, it's a good idea to do a car control clinic or an autocross or two before your first day at the track. That way you learn what your car feels like at the limit without traction control. Some HPDEs offer skidpad exercises for newcomers. Take advantage of them if you can.
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      02-21-2012, 07:52 PM   #11
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Another good reason to start with traction control off: If you wait until you think you're good and fast to turn off traction control, you're probably going to be going fast when you do exceed traction for the first time. Novices don't usually wreck. Intermediate and advanced drivers wreck because they are going fast and the consequences of even small mistakes are magnified by the speed.
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      02-21-2012, 07:53 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yyoo View Post
I recommend turning traction control off from the beginning at the track, unless it's wet. That way you do learn car control from the beginning and develop good habits, like being smooth and avoiding over-driving.
There are pros/cons and considerations to this advice, and I advise the OP or any new track person to consider this VERY carefully before making a decision running on/vs off. I personally think it is poor advice to make it seem like a black/white decision. Considerations include:
  • Are you fully insured?
  • What is the track like? Is it fast/slow, with adequate runoff area?
  • How forgiving is the car to mistakes with traction and/or ESP off?
  • What is the quality of the track (not just is it wet)? Are there any significant traction reducers (oil/sand/cold/wet)?
  • What is the "quality" of your run group?
Bottom line, I don't think it's a decision to be made lightly, and when in doubt, ask your instructor. I absolutely agree that running with it off is likely to teach smoothness, but also recognize the E9X is a fairly powerful expensive track car that can likely get you in trouble quick depending on the track.
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      02-21-2012, 08:14 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yyoo View Post
Unfortunately, you can't master car control if you have traction control on all the time. You won't necessarily know whether it's you or traction control saving your butt.

I recommend turning traction control off from the beginning at the track, unless it's wet. That way you do learn car control from the beginning and develop good habits, like being smooth and avoiding over-driving.

By the way, it's a good idea to do a car control clinic or an autocross or two before your first day at the track. That way you learn what your car feels like at the limit without traction control. Some HPDEs offer skidpad exercises for newcomers. Take advantage of them if you can.
+1
Do couple car control clinics, and autox. Turn off the DSC there. Track is a good place to turn off the DSC, yes, but if you mess up, it will be expensive.

I took my sweet time before I start doing HPDS. I took 2 CCC, and volunteered in 10+ CCCs where I got to do autox at the end of the day. It was a very smooth transition for HPDS (still I was scared shirtless in my first one). I have seen (and passed with my MINI) many people with M3s, GT3s, Turbos driving at 15mph through corners while missing turn-in, apex, and track out... All because (I'm guessing) it is their first time ever behind a wheel at high performance environment...

High performance driving is no joke! It is not easy, or safe. Respect it. It is FUN if you do it right.
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      02-21-2012, 08:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swartzentruber View Post
There are pros/cons and considerations to this advice, and I advise the OP or any new track person to consider this VERY carefully before making a decision running on/vs off. I personally think it is poor advice to make it seem like a black/white decision. Considerations include:
  • Are you fully insured?
  • What is the track like? Is it fast/slow, with adequate runoff area?
  • How forgiving is the car to mistakes with traction and/or ESP off?
  • What is the quality of the track (not just is it wet)? Are there any significant traction reducers (oil/sand/cold/wet)?
  • What is the "quality" of your run group?
Bottom line, I don't think it's a decision to be made lightly, and when in doubt, ask your instructor. I absolutely agree that running with it off is likely to teach smoothness, but also recognize the E9X is a fairly powerful expensive track car that can likely get you in trouble quick depending on the track.
Good advice. I didn't mean to imply this decision should be made lightly. Ultimately, the driver must decide what he or she is comfortable with while being fully cognizant of the risks.

DSC OFF is the way to go given acknowledgment of the risks AND:

1. If you know that you can restrain yourself and not over drive the car...i.e., if you're patient and the kind of person who can approach the limit from the bottom up instead of the top down.
2. If your instructor is comfortable with you and your car.

With that being said, unless you plan never to turn off DSC at the track it's best that you wean yourself off of it before you get very fast.
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      02-21-2012, 08:58 PM   #15
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Also consider that if you don't have track insurance or are not willing to write off the loss of your car, that it may be the wrong car for you for the track. You can always get a cheap track car.
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      02-21-2012, 10:03 PM   #16
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My advice initiallty would be to run with as much help as the car will give you. Turn your traction controls on, and take advantage of what the car will help you with. Since this is you first trip over and around the track, then not using they systems BMW has built into their car is foolish. At the level you are beginning at, shifting on the track is not all that different than on the street. Drive at a reasonable speed so control will feel natural. If you push the envelope, increase speed too quickly, then the chance of going off track is bigger - and if you go off the track, you will hit something - and if you hit something it will bend your car - and if you bend your car you will have to take it to a body shop - and the people in the body shop are likely to think you are a nerd - and they will offer you a reefer - and you will get arrested. Don't get arrested, take it easy at the track.
Good luck\
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      02-21-2012, 11:01 PM   #17
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Take the M3.
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      02-21-2012, 11:58 PM   #18
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Thanks for all of the feedback! This was extremely helpful. At first, it never occurred to me to take the S4. After hearing all of the comments, it is clear that I will be taking the M3.
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      02-22-2012, 12:19 AM   #19
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Take the M3, its a great car to learn in and ultimately what you want to get comfortable driving on the track.

For your first time run MDM and just enjoy the experience. It will be a little scary until you get used to the speeds and pace. by the end of the first day you will relax and have fun. Again, don't worry about the shifting yet. Focus on where to brake and turn.

I do like the suggestion to try the DSC off on an autocross event ( or empty parking lot). the car will slide much easier with DSC off and you need to get the feel of that. At low speeds its fun, at high speeds less so until you get comfortable with it. Autocross is a great way to practice ( and dirt cheap).
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      02-22-2012, 11:37 PM   #20
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Thanks for the input again guys. I just signed up for April 22nd and will be taking the M3. Time to go buy some more painter's tape and a helmet!
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      02-23-2012, 03:20 PM   #21
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For Sebring, do yourself a favor and keep MDM on at the very least. This track will bite you and bite you hard. Good group to run with you'll learn a ton!
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      02-23-2012, 05:19 PM   #22
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You have a 6MT M3 and you're wondering if you should take your wife's car instead? Beats me!
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