M Club Day @ Spartanburg Recap
August 25th, 2015 by admin
On July 18, 2015, 4 members of the Green Mountain Chapter joined the National Capital and Tarheel Chapters for an ///M Club Day Driving School at the BMW Performance Center in Greer, South Carolina. It was a great weekend organized by Doug Verner of the National Capital Chapter. The ///M Club day at the Performance Center is a 1 day version of the M school except with 2 participants sharing a car. I teamed with Bram Starr from Montpelier. The other Green Mountain Chapter members attending were Stew and Pam Loeb.
The day included 8 sessions. Morning: Skid pad in M3s; Cornering exercises in M5s; Autocross in M4s; Figure 8 skid pad in M3s. Afternoon: Big track circuit in M5s; Timed autocross in M4s; Timed skid pad “rat race” in M3s; and a technical circuit in M4s. My personal favorite was the technical circuit. This was my first time driving a dual clutch automatic transmission with paddles. At first I resisted, shifting with the lever on the center console for most of the morning (really there was not much need for shifting during the autocross and skid pad exercises). In the afternoon, when we got to the technical and big circuits, the advantage of the paddles was immediately clear, and it was an easy transition. The 560hp M5 is a beast and all the Performance Center cars were set up in the competition package with M carbon-ceramic brakes. All that stopping power was put to good use, especially in the M5 for the braking zone before the 90 degree turn at the end of the 0.3 mile straight on the big circuit. If I was a better reporter and actually planned ahead for this report, I would have taken notes during the day; e.g. I’m sure many are wondering, what was the top speed in the M5 at the end of the big straight, etc. To be honest, I have no idea how fast we were going, I was just having too much fun and totally in the moment. Plus, who had time to look down at the speedometer; my eyes were often far ahead, so even the heads-up display was out of my field of vision most of the time. The interior trim on the M5 was over the top: wood grain, leather, Bang & Olufsen Sound system; but all that extravagance vanished as soon as you started the car and moved on to the track.
I had the most fun in an M4 on the technical track. I think that part of the track complex was called sector 7. It was a short circuit, which I estimate was about a ½ mile loop, with a fun double apex corner on a small uphill and the M4’s rear tended to get a little loose on the exit as you crested the hill. The timed-autocross was another highlight. This was only my second autocross experience, and while I would have loved to practice for many more laps, the session was just long enough to see some improvements in our individual lap times, and many of us finished with the best time on our last lap.
Travel from Burlington was easy. I flew to Charlotte NC (with one connection) and rented a car for the 1.5 hour drive to Greenville. National Car Rental even had a 2015 328i and for most of the drive on route 85 I ended up following a National Capital Chapter member in his 535. The Greenville Marriott is the Performance Center Hotel and a full breakfast buffet was included with the room. I arrived Friday afternoon and had time to visit the Zentrum, where, for me, the highlights included a 1972 E9 3.0 CSL, a 1930 Dixie, and the many flat-twin boxer bikes on display. Friday afternoon Doug Verner scheduled a visit to the BMW CCA Foundation Offices and a tour of their warehouse of collectables and memorabilia. The list of items is too large, but one highlight was the Korman prepared Payson Enterprises E30 M3 replica art car (check out www.kormanautowroks.com/e30_m3_art_car.htm for more of that story). Another option is to take a factory tour, but you need to plan for this as they are typically booked months ahead. And, of course, both the Zentrum and Performance Center have gift shops, but the inventory is different so it is worth waiting to decide on purchases until you can visit the Performance Center shop which has limited hours but more ///M paraphernalia. On the day of the course we started at 8:30 with coffee and other beverages available while we waited for everyone to arrive. The Protonic Blue Metallic i8 on display at the Performance Center entrance made most of us pause for a closer look before entering. Once everyone was signed in, we quickly moved to a relatively short classroom instruction session and then out to the cars for the 4 morning sessions. Lunch was provided and the gift shop was open during lunch. The instructors were all excellent, and we ended the day with an opportunity for a hot lap riding with one of them. Friday and Saturday nights Doug organized dinner for the group in Greenville and it was nice to visit with CCA members from the other chapters.
Thanks to Stew and Pam Loeb for making this opportunity available for Green Mountain Chapter members. Watch for another Club ///M school opportunity for our Chapter next summer. I am sure to return to Spartanburg for a club day and I’m scheduled for a 2-day/// M school during mud season.