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BMW Driver's school: Day two conclusions

Posted 06-30-2008 at 08:47 PM by ws6transam
Updated 07-07-2008 at 10:25 AM by ws6transam (Added the link to the BMW club)
Wow, Sunday was great at Gingerman Raceway. The Windy City BMW club really knows how to put on an organized event. It turns out that the stereotypes of BMW owners are not always correct: These folks that were here really didn’t care what you drove, so long as you showed courage, attention to track safety, and were willing to learn. The driving school consisted of thirty-minute track sessions, followed by a half-hour rest, and then a thirty-minute classroom instruction. They were pretty strict in that you had to attend the class in order to drive in the next session. Not only that, they took roll call at the half-hour mark, and you couldn’t be late. Seriously! It might seem awfully strict, but that’s how they managed to handle nearly 100 students, and offer everyone plenty of track time.

Each track session started out with you and your instructor setting a discrete series of goals of what you were going to work on for that particular session. The goal might be to work on nailing a certain corner, or it might be to work on optimizing your braking points. My instructor Dave suggested that I was sacrificing way too much corner entrance speed by over-braking and coasting into the corners. He then noted I was trying to make it up by over-accelerating out of the corners. So, we spent Sunday working on hitting the brakes a little later, then turning into the corners earlier with more velocity. It was downright scary at first, as I thought the car was going to fly off the course. But you know what? We didn’t! Instead, the car slid predictably into the corner, and the act of turning scrubbed off the excess speed, leaving us with a smoking-hot line out of the corners. So, we spent the most part of Sunday morning working on entrance speeds into the various corners of the raceway. Soon I was overtaking my fellow students not only in the straights, but in the braking zones, and in the corners, too. It became a pleasure, not a chore, to reel in yet another car, and get the thumbs-up from them as they approved my passing maneuver.

Sunday afternoon was where we began to work on cleaning up turns 6 and 7. I was somewhat fearful of the grass going into turn six, but once I got over it, and went wide in turn 5 and rode it out to the edge of the track, turn six became a true pleasure: You could dig into the concrete on the outer edge of turn 5’s exit, hug it up to turn six, then dive left deep and sharp, put your left tire over turn 6’s curb, and slide out to the right edge of the six’s exit, then power up the straight to turn seven. Dave finally convinced me that I was braking too much and turning too late into seven, so when he shouted TURN! I let off the brake, and made what seemed to be a right-hander into the grass. However before we got to the grass, turn seven opened up and we flew right past the apex, and into the long sweeping right-hander that sets you up for the high-speed corners of eight, nine, and ten. Those corners I hit in third gear at about 4500 RPM with the tires lightly howling the whole way. It was those corners that I would really come up on my fellow students: Dave said I had that section of the track nailed, and I was using pretty much all the car had to give. The sweep out of turn ten onto the straight was super-cool if you got the apex, and we’d accelerate to about 100 MPH by half-track. There was a lot more engine there, and we could have piled another 25 MPH of velocity onto the straight if we wanted, but we had discovered that the 1LE brakes and the street tires just didn’t have enough stick to consistently handle that kind of velocity change at turn eleven. In a sentence: I have more engine than tires or brakes. Thus, I pretty much left the car to coast at 6000 RPM in third gear for about one-third the straightaway before braking and setting up for turn eleven.

Sunday was also a day where we got to talking to each other more in the class: I noticed that most everyone had their own little group of two or three people, and we didn’t interact that much. However it was obvious that they were talking about the “monster” musclecar, because I kept getting asked if I really had a live axle under there…” Yup, all 225 pounds worth of unsprung weight, plus tires… “ It must have been the fact that my old-school American musclecar was out-braking and out-cornering a good portion of my classmates that was puzzling the disciples of independent rear suspension.
However I hold no illusions to the superiority of the F-body. I did well in the intermediate class, against BMWs that had otherwise fairly stock suspensions. The experienced class, and the instructor class cars were all very, very fast. I checked my lap times, which were in the neighborhood of 1 minute, 48 seconds against the instructors, and their cars were clocking 1 minute, 38 seconds. Ten seconds faster PER LAP. Thus, put some suspension under those cars, add some race tires, and whether or not it’s a BMW, Porsche 911, Porche CS3, or Z06 Corvette, those cars are wicked fast when combined with experience and lots of seat time. The biggest question I had running through my mind was, if I were to add better brakes, put on some race tires, and mix in a couple season’s worth of track experience, how would I stack up against those cars? Perhaps someday I’ll get the chance to find out. BMW track schools are a great way to learn how to drive your car really, really fast.

All up, my costs for the weekend were $395 for the school, plus $130 for the alternator, about $100 worth of brake pads, and $100 worth of fuel. I drove 170 miles of race course, which is about ninety laps, over the course of six thirty-minute sessions. I used 24 gallons of fuel, which works out to seven miles per gallon. My commute to the track was a total of 560 miles, in which I used 23 gallons, for a highway mileage of 24 miles per gallon. Total cost for the weekend: About $830.

Total Comments 2


JakeRobb's Avatar
Sounds like an awesome experience! Some day I'm going to try something like that.
Posted 07-01-2008 at 10:46 PM by JakeRobb JakeRobb is offline
mudbone's Avatar
Wow! What a great blog post. I would love to have that experience someday.
Posted 02-18-2009 at 08:01 AM by mudbone mudbone is offline

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