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      10-02-2010, 09:24 AM   #1
JimD
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M school

I just got back from a 2 day M-school at the BMW Performance Center in Greer, SC (outside of Greenville, SC). Wednesday was my arrival day, the school was Thursday the 30th and Friday October 1st. I thought you guys and gals might like some information. The bottom line is it was a LOT of fun.

I arrived late due to an unexpected trip. Normally you should arrive before dinner so you can have your nice dinner at the Greenville Marriott. The price (more than $3000 if you are not a BMW CCA member but less than $3000 if you are smarter and join the BMW CCA and get the 15% discount (which would be several years membership cost) includes 2 nights at the Marriott, two breakfasts at the Marriott (all you pay is the tip), and dinner on the arrival night at the Marriott. It is a special menu but there are plenty of option. Dinner at the Marriott does not include alcohol if it is like PCD. Two lunches at the Performance center and 1 dinner at the performance center are also included and that one includes wine or beer (or both). All the food is good.

You also get a bunch of "goodies" with the 2 day school. You get a nice helmet, a jacket, a polo shirt, a t-shirt, a ball cap (special, only available by taking the school) and a few miscellaneous items I am forgetting. And a certificate.

Agenda is arrive the night before and then get shuttled to the Performance center around 8 in the morning. Most of the schedules are Friday/Saturday (Thursday arrival) but mine was Wednesday arrival drive Thursday & Friday. I had tons of vacation so I picked this one. I think the more typical Friday/Saturday might be a bit better, however, because during the week, there is a little competition with Performance Center Deliveries for the track (am only). They do not do Saturday deliveries at the Performance Center so I think you would have the track to yourself. It was no big issue but I think we got a little longer lecture in the morning on the second day to let them clear out a little.

OK, not the good stuff. You drive M3s, M5s, and M6s. I thought the M6s were prettiest but the M3s were the most fun to drive. I had not driven any of them before and I was impressed. The brakes are probably more impressive than the engines, if that is possible. When you are rocketing down the straight at 100+ mph, it is hard to wait until your brake point even though you know from your last lap that it will stop. But it does, every time.

We started each day with about 1.5 hours in a classroom and then spent the rest of the day driving. I got tired from all the driving and I was typical. I was not tired of driving, but my legs were tired and sometimes my forearms. Some people even pulled off (they tell you where in advance) for rest. I got a little slower but kept driving. On the second day you are in helmets most of the time and I was sweating until I figured out to turn the AC down to 62 degrees. The instructors recommend this because the BMW will turn the AC off itself when you go full on the throttle. So you loose no power.

There would normally be 15 students divided into 3 groups of 5. The instructors are all race car drivers and great. They will bug you but they are EXTREMELY polite and nice about it. They want you to go fast. You drive most of the time in M mode which will allow you to get the car loose and if you do it a lot they will say something but they want you to go fast. I know from experience that you can even get it sideways in M-mode. We had only 12 students so we were 3 groups of 4. And one guy in my group quit on the second day about half way through so we were down to 3 people. More driving time for the rest of us. I don't know if it was business stuff or what.

Each of the sub-groups does something a little different each session. Each session lasts an hour or so with a break in between, which you will need. You spend a surprising amount of energy trying to stay in position in the car and drive it. They mark the turn in points and the apexes and the braking zones. My biggest problem was staying wide for the turn ins. If I braked early enough, I wanted to go directly to the corner. The problem with that is it is far better to go into the corner slow than to come out of it slower than you can. If you turn in early, you have too small a radius coming out so you have to go slower. They teach late apexes for the highest possible corner exit speed. I got better but still have lots of room for improvement.

The first day you practice individual corners and groups of corners. The second day you use most of the track (maybe all of it if your second day is Saturday). You will go over 100 mph on both days. It's a blast.

The M5 and M6 are the older single clutch automated manuals and the M3s are DCTs. You are in M mode so it shifts hard and right now. I love my manual but for track use, the DCT is better (faster). They all have paddles which I had not used before but adapted to OK. When I started loosing concentration a little I would sometimes be in too tall a gear. You can still go pretty fast like this in a M car but it does not leap from corner to corner like it does when you are in the maximum power rpm range.

You also do wet skid pad exercises. First is understeer/oversteer. You purposely put the car in understeer to recover from it. Then you do oversteer. If you do it quick enough, you get to try hanging the rear end out. I only got about 1/4 the way around. I can do this easily in snow, it is harder on a wet track. It looked like the other members of my group spent the whole time on oversteer correcting. Understeer is easy, get off the gas is about all you do. Oversteer is a touch harder and if you haven't driven in slick conditions, it could be a bit of a new experience. On the track, you mostly get understeer because that is how the car is engineered. After you warm up this way you do "rat races" later in the day. That is two people on the pad trying to go faster than each other. You start out 180 degrees apart so you are trying to catch each other. I was the slowest in my group of 3. Disappointing but it's a real race and you have to accept your skill level is what it is. The last thing our group of 3 did was a figure 8 on the same skid pad. You were timed for both fastest lap and total cumulative time in 10 laps. We did two sets of 10 laps and then 5 extras that didn't count. Most of our laps were in the 15 second+ range. Some as slow as 17, and 14s seemed to be the quickest anybody did. I had the lowest cumulative of my subgroup, I had the most sub-14 second laps, and I had the second through about 10th fastest lap.
So I got the hang of it - which I did not in the rat race at all. They were about the same thing but I just never got the feel of the wet track the first time, I did the second. Wet is totally different from dry. You have to be gentle.

If you haven't seen this track it is a blast. You have one big corner you take at maybe 70 mph and a short straight you can go over 100. But there are also corners you have to take down around 30 mph. Great opportunity to learn.

Jim
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      10-02-2010, 03:11 PM   #2
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Thanks Jim for sharing your story. This school sounds really cool. Its the best money you can spend on your car - bc it makes you a faster and safer driver.

BMW AG also runs schools over here too. At the 'Ring, and also at the Munich airport and also in Austria's SalzburgRing for winter driving programs. The M-schools over here run from 1,300 euros for a two day or 2,800 for a four day. AND... I bet you don't get any free goodies though! lol

http://www.bmw.de/de/de/insights/dri...intensive.html

Btw... when you do a M-school over here AND you own a M-car... and you get that passing grade/certificate. You can take it to any BMW dealer and they will up your speed limiter from 250 kph to 280 kph. Ofcourse nothing is free in Germany... so you end up paying some extra euros for the higher speed limiter! lol
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      10-02-2010, 04:27 PM   #3
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The 2 day M-school is significantly more expensive than even the other 2 day schools in the U. S.. The goodies may be part of it, including the hotel and meals is part of it I'm sure. Insurance on more expensive cars is probably part of it but there were lots of instuctors too. I got a ride along at one point which really helped. Usually they are talking to you over the radio which is helpful but not the same as an instructor beside you. You also have an instructor in the passengers seat on the wet skidpad during the under/over steer exercise. They use the parking brake to force oversteer. They put multiple instructors on the course so you get tips about individual sections of the track. My big thing was remembering everything. There were parts of the track I did consistently well but other parts I kept making the same mistake (poor car positioning most typically).

You could get a lot of this experience for under $1000 in the U. S.. There is a 1 day M-school that is a little more than $1000 if I remember right. And there are less agressive driving opportunities in slower BMWs that I think are under $1000. All should be great fun, like PCD, but I'm glad I did the one I did.

Jim
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      10-03-2010, 07:50 AM   #4
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In case anyone's wondering, the 2-day Car Control class at the Performance Center costs one-third the price of 2-day M School, but it isn't really comparable. Besides using 135i and 335i instead of M3-M6, it's also more autocross oriented than high speed track oriented with max speeds around 60mph, and in general it's less challenging but still a lot of fun.
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      10-03-2010, 10:31 AM   #5
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Nice sounds like fun. Have you tried HPDE's? 3000 is a lot of money and you could easily get 10-20 HPDE's out of that. Obviously not as fun in a 128i compared to an m car though but learning to drive your own car faster and smarter and being able to control it better is different than learning to control someone else's car.
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      10-03-2010, 12:48 PM   #6
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I would like to do a HPDE but the BMWCCA has decided they know more than BMW about safety. You cannot drive convertibles in BMWCCA sponsored HPDEs unless you put in a roll bar. You can drive a 20 year old BMW that is falling apart but you cannot drive a 1 year old convertible. BMW says my windshield is reinforced to act as a roll bar but BMWCCA says this isn't good enough. The Porsche club lets modern convertibles participate but BMW's doesn't.

I can drive in BMWCCA sponsored autocrosses so I do that. It is also fun. I neglected to get somebody to ride the course with me during practice last year. I think I will do that this year. But otherwise you are on your own to figure it out. At the M school, you had lots of instruction.

The BMW track has elevation changes as was suggested in another post. If you drive it going the normal way there is a mini-leguna seca downhill turn. We hit that near redline in 2nd and shifted to third as we descended. At the bottom, you had to nail the brakes to get down to about a 30 mph turn. So from around 80 to 30 in a few feet. When I did the one autocross I have done so far on this track we ran it in the reverse direction and this was a uphill section. You have to think fast when you crest a hill and see a new section of the track.

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      10-03-2010, 03:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
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I would like to do a HPDE but the BMWCCA has decided they know more than BMW about safety. You cannot drive convertibles in BMWCCA sponsored HPDEs unless you put in a roll bar. You can drive a 20 year old BMW that is falling apart but you cannot drive a 1 year old convertible. BMW says my windshield is reinforced to act as a roll bar but BMWCCA says this isn't good enough. The Porsche club lets modern convertibles participate but BMW's doesn't.

Jim
I understand your disappointment, but as a BMW CCA instructor, I won't get in an open top car without a full roll cage at the track. I have been instructing for better than a decade and see at least one roll over each year and won't risk my neck (literally). I won't even take my convertible on track. Maybe it's just the tracks I go to, but an off at better than 100 MPH induces issues.
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      10-03-2010, 07:34 PM   #8
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Wolfpack,

You have an interesting perspective. Besides the fact that BMW says my car will protect me in a rollover, it also has stability control which should prevent the rollover in the first place. It can be turned off but I don't and would readily accept that requirement to be able to do a track day. Have you ever seen a rollover in a car with stability control that was being used at the time (i.e. not switched off)?

It is not the expense of the roll bar I object to it is the need to do this sort of modification on my 1 year old and pretty expensive little car. If it was a dedicated track car, it would be fine. But for my nice convertible to be permanently modified this way so I can drive it on a track a time or two a year just doesn't make sense to me.

The other thing I can't understand is why the Porsche club allows recent convertibles to do HPDEs but the BMW club does not. It seems like the manufacturer is in a pretty good position to judge the safety of their vehicles. I doubt Porsche convertibles are safer than BM convertibles.

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      10-03-2010, 09:43 PM   #9
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Jim,

DTC, DSC and ABS all will help keep a car in better control, but none will completely keep you from getting in over your head at high speed. These cars are amazing now, but driver error is still the biggest factor that plays an impact in the issues happening. I would guess more incidents happen with the nannies off, but it is not the full story.

A couple of scenarios that I have seen.
1. Driver enters too fast for the initial turn in and does not trail brake to remove the speed. Driver turns but the car does not react and is starting to slide (yes can still happen as long as the car is not going straight ahead). Since car is still sliding, driver cranks more input, limiting tire grip even more, and now there is no way they are going to stay on the track. Driver does not straighten the wheel and drive straight off, instead keeping the steering input hoping that the car will eventually turn. Car goes off the outside and starts to rotate on the grass, dirt, etc. As the car moves more sideways, the tires/wheels catch a ridge or a change in surface, grab, and the car goes over. The only question is how many times it will roll.

2. Driver turns in too early and does not react to not apply the gas at apex. Driver gets to the outside of the track, drops a tire off and cranks the wheel back to get on the track. The difference in surface adhesion causes car to rotate, usually to the inside of the corner with same general outcome as scenario 1.

3. Non driver error, but loss of brakes. Driver doesn't check brakes between sessions and one of the pads is used up, piston moves all the way out, slightly bending the backing plate, and all the brake fluid leaves the car. Next corner there is no brakes and the car goes straight off at speed. I have personally seen this scenario two times. in the last one, a MINI Cooper at GingerMan Raceway went straight off at corner 1 (90+ MPH), cleared the gravel trap, hit a berm and gets launched at leat 20 feet in the air, doing a one and a half rotation in the air, land on the nose, do another two flips in the air and landing smack on the roof.

A convertible on it's lid on pavement is not the big issue, it is upside down in the grass and dirt, where it can dig in and not allow head room that you would otherwise experience. It is all about the protection of your head and neck to keep you alive or letting you use all your limbs later on.

I have instructed for multiple clubs over the years and several of them have allowed convertibles if they can find an instructor to ride along, whether a Porsche club or BMW club event. I know a couple of people that will get in an open top car and instruct and they think nothing about it, but that is rare. I don't believe that there is any real difference in manufacturers roll over safety based on the design criteria that they determine for the street. They all work the same general way. The track is just a different animal.

There are other groups that still do allow convertibles, but my feeling is the instruction you get at a BMW CCA school is far superior to many of the other groups.

Scott
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      10-04-2010, 06:44 AM   #10
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Scott,

Thanks. Your replies are a lot more thoughtful than what I got from the BMWCCA leadership when I asked them.

Jim
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      10-04-2010, 10:42 AM   #11
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Awesome story! Did you get some pictures? Might I suggest you edit your story a bit, integrate some photos and send it in to the Roundel magazine? I am sure BMWCCA members would love to hear about your experience, and also see the goodies!

I want to do this!
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      10-04-2010, 12:33 PM   #12
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Quote:
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3. Non driver error, but loss of brakes. Driver doesn't check brakes between sessions and one of the pads is used up, piston moves all the way out, slightly bending the backing plate, and all the brake fluid leaves the car. Next corner there is no brakes and the car goes straight off at speed. I have personally seen this scenario two times. in the last one, a MINI Cooper at GingerMan Raceway went straight off at corner 1 (90+ MPH), cleared the gravel trap, hit a berm and gets launched at leat 20 feet in the air, doing a one and a half rotation in the air, land on the nose, do another two flips in the air and landing smack on the roof.
...
Scott
Wow, never heard of this one before. Didn't know the fluid could leak out that way. Bet you'd never know either. crazy.
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      10-04-2010, 01:35 PM   #13
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Jim

Thanks for the write-up sounds pretty awesome. Gives a pretty good insight on what the 2-day school offers which I've been thinking about for sometime now.
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      10-04-2010, 07:35 PM   #14
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I forgot my camera so I do not have pictures. But on the second day they give you a usb drive you plug into a box in the car to record yourself driving. There is a camera pointed at you and another one pointed forward. I will get a DVD in a few weeks. I think I can get some stills off it but we will have to see. I recorded my track time in a M3 and in a M6 and I recorded the figure 8 in a M5. So I should have at least a few minutes of each car.

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      01-29-2011, 02:39 AM   #15
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Thanks for the writeup. I have been very interested in this, so this was an extremely interesting read for me. Will definitely remember the BMWCCA member discount!
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      01-29-2011, 06:25 AM   #16
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This is a great write-up. I am going to do the one-day school in a couple of weeks, really looking forward to it!
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      01-30-2011, 08:57 PM   #17
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I got my DVD but am unable to get images off of it. It's fun to watch and is another nice "perk". They show you in the car on the same screen as the image of the car going down the track. You also get to see your rpm and sometimes speed. Maybe if I was better with computers I could find a way to post something but I am not. There was a glitch and I don't think any of my M3 laps are on the DVD but it is still a good DVD.

The cars and track are visible in pictures from PCD. I posted some when I did that. The hot laps for the PCD are in the same vehicles you would drive in M school. Just nice, relatively new (current year) M3s, M5s, and M6s. I wonder if they will get a 1M. My guess is no but maybe. It would help me decide to go back if they got one, however.

Jim
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      01-31-2011, 12:52 AM   #18
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Quote:
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I got my DVD but am unable to get images off of it. It's fun to watch and is another nice "perk". They show you in the car on the same screen as the image of the car going down the track. You also get to see your rpm and sometimes speed. Maybe if I was better with computers I could find a way to post something but I am not. There was a glitch and I don't think any of my M3 laps are on the DVD but it is still a good DVD.

The cars and track are visible in pictures from PCD. I posted some when I did that. The hot laps for the PCD are in the same vehicles you would drive in M school. Just nice, relatively new (current year) M3s, M5s, and M6s. I wonder if they will get a 1M. My guess is no but maybe. It would help me decide to go back if they got one, however.

Jim
Do you stick with one car the entire time, or do you switch up cars at some point?
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      02-02-2011, 08:10 AM   #19
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No, I meant: do you drive one car for the duration of the entire M school?
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      02-02-2011, 09:29 AM   #20
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^^
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You drive M3s, M5s, and M6s.
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      02-02-2011, 07:07 PM   #21
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The instructors recommend this because the BMW will turn the AC off itself when you go full on the throttle. So you loose no power.
does this happen on all newer BMW's?
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      02-06-2011, 09:04 PM   #22
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I've seen hot laps in M3s, M5s, and even once in a X6M. The X6M was at an autocross for the Sandlapper chapter of the BMWCCA at the PC. Instructors were there to protect the place and probably us too. They are good guys so they got some cars out and did hot laps. With 4 people in the car, they would have been in the top 5 times if I remember right. The X6M was only a few seconds slower than the M3.

We did wet skidpad exercises in M5s and track work in M3s and M6s. The M3s were noticably quicker around the track but M6s are really nice cars. You line up in the same order each time you go to an exercise so you go back into the same M3, M5, or M6. I like driving the M3 the best but I'm glad I also got to drive the M5 and M6. The only time I beat everybody in my group it was in the last skid pad exercise in a M5.

Now if they had a 1M..... I think it could be the most fun. But they only have automatics these days so probably no 1M.

Jim
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