Ever since my dad told me about his experience at Skip Barber's BMW Driving School, I knew I had to attend a BMW school of my own. Growing up, I was always driving something fast whether it was an ATV, Go-Kart, UTV, dirt bike, and finally once I was old enough my own car. Something about driving fast no matter what it was just always seemed to get my blood flowing better then anything else. Some may say I have a little bit of a lead foot, but I'm really just trying to feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins and get the feeling of being alive. While most people when asked what they want for their High School Graduation request money, or they would like to go to a tropical location, or even Europe. I on the other hand had only one place in mind Spartanburg South Carolina. Most people don't even know where Spartanburg is, let alone dream of going there.
Spartanburg South Carolina is the location of the home facility for BMW manufacturing in the United States. BMW Produces their X based models, and their Z based model cars. BMW built a test track in Spartanburg, to teach Americans just like me how to feed their need for speed. They show you how to properly do accident avoidance, hit the perfect we apex, and the art of the heel-to-toe downshift. If you don't know what any of this stuff is, don't worry I didn't either until I went to the school.
With various options like a one and two day M School, an advanced M School, a Teen School, a Girls School (although women can attend any school), a Motorcycle School, an option to pick up your new BMW there where they would allow you to drive a copy cat of your new car and beat it to death on a race track, and lastly even an Off-road School. With each school specializing in specific categories I was lucky enough to be able to choose the Two Day M School, because lets face it even two days of driving a five-hundred horsepower cars isn't enough. Upon making the long nine-hour drive from my home in State College, Pa I couldn?t be more excited to finally arrive at the 4 stars Marriot in Greensville that was included in our fee. It was a hotel that was designed specifically with BMW participants in mind and included everything we needed, and was all-inclusive including all of our food, drinks, and anything else we needed to make our stay enjoyable. With an early wake up, we were off to the racetrack, where they actually came to our hotel and picked us up in what could only be called a large van limo. Complete with mirrors inside, leather couches, and even a mini fridge; it was far from a typical shuttle. Once at the track headquarters we could quickly see how amazing of a facility it was. There was every BMW, most not even a year old just lined up waiting for us to drive. The facility was complete with classrooms, lunch break rooms, office space, and of course a gift shop that was all top of the line, high class, complete with large glass windows. They had everything there that you could possibly need and were throwing stuff at us left and right, we didn?t even need to visit the gift shop. Before they allowed you onto the track, you were given a brief lecture before the skill building exercise you were about to do. They had step-by-step power point presentations demonstrating what and how you were supposed to do the next activity to be most effective.
Professional Race Car Drivers would even visualize with diagrams why doing certain things like trying to accelerate while turning too hard cause things like under-steer. They not only taught us, how to avoid our cars from being ?over-driven? but also taught us why those activities actually slowed you down. After they demonstrated the activity, you were thrown into the car with one of the Professional Drivers and they demonstrated the exercise and really shows you why you should be listening to them. From there it was your turn; you were given a M3, M5, or sometimes an M6 depending on the activity and what they were demanding from you. For the most part we drove the M5?s, which I actually tended to like better then the M6 surprisingly by the end of the school. We did exercises like corner speed entry by flying into a corner as fast as possible hitting the apex and accelerating out of turns at speeds of up to eighty miles per hour. We did drills that demonstrated recovery control, and how to properly maintain control of your car while on a wet, or ice surface. We played games like rat race where two of us would start at opposite ends of a slippery track, and we would try to catch one another slowly while drifting around a circular track. They taught us the art of the heel-to-toe downshifting, and made us the fastest and most importantly smoothest standard car drivers possible. However as the first day went and the second day started we entered the more fun, challenging exercises pulling all of our skills together and were put on a full out race track full of challenging sweeping turns, steep hills, and sharp ninety degree turns. We were essentially all racing each other put at a distance apart. It was amazing watching somebody drive an M right in front of you squealing the tires around the corners while you tried desperately to catch them. You weren?t allowed to pass, however though they had a specific lappers lane that they would force either the slower driver into allowing the faster one to pass. Sufficient to say, you were constantly either checking your rear view mirror or staring down the brake lights of a cautious driver in front of you. It was surprising how sitting in a car all day, somehow got so tiring. I guess it was from your brain thinking at eighty miles per hour constantly, or the constant pumping of adrenaline through every bone in your body. Whatever it was, this trip was by far the most fun I have ever had. By the end of the trip, every participant walked away with windbreaker jackets, custom painted BMW performance helmets, a t-shirt, a collared three button down shirt, a ball cap, and even a duffle bag that all said ?BMW Performance Driving School? on them. Given the chance, I would gladly go back any day I just to be able to experience the raw power of the M. Now that I am an official BMW M School participant I am allowed to go back to attend the advanced M School, where they put on the Michelin mans track to really test your skills as a driver. For more information regarding the school please go to the BMW Performance Driving School Site.
Published by BimmerMike