Now, for the fun stuff!
Following our interview, BMW’s Adam Seaman and I took to the track to put some of the efficiency driving theories we discussed to the test. Adam is a BMW certified international instructor and holds a Formula Pro Drift license that has allowed him to compete in Pro Drift races throughout the country. So, what was I in for with a guy that obviously enjoys controlling the rear end of a sliding car?
I soon found out, as, after a short safety briefing, we headed over to the skidpad that has a diamond-polished concrete surface. When dry it is as slick as a wet road, but when drenched, it is like slushy snow. Fortunately, we were on the dry which, for my driving ability, did not keep me from “killing” eleven of the twelve cones on the circle we were sliding around. Adam stressed what he mentioned in the Q&A, that vision far ahead of where we were on the course was key to successfully, and in control, skidding around the cones. He repeatedly told me to “keep my head up!”
Out on the Circuit
We then ventured over to the 1.2-mile BMW-blue curbed North Palm Circuit at The Thermal Club, where the BMW Performance Center is located. Adam and I strapped into our 2018 BMW M3s with the optional Competition Package. Shod with grippy Continental ExtremeContact Sport tires, we took a couple of slow speed laps using the lead/follow coaching style. Instructing with a walkie-talkie, Adam took me through the 10-turn course, pointing out turn-in and apex points for each corner. When Adam calmly said we were going for it, he told me to stay in his tracks and within three car lengths. As Adam became more comfortable with my ability, the speed picked-up.
Having spent time on racetracks, I was already familiar with cornering at-speed. But what Adam stressed and taught was how to minimize the angle of the corner and maximize the apex of the corner. He demonstrated ideal apex speed is attained through one flowing movement: turn in and pick up the throttle, very smoothly.
Lastly, it’s ideal to brake while going straight and only tap the brakes while turning to set the car for the exit. About the brakes on the M3: The optional carbon-ceramic brakes were amazing! Exiting turn 10 and burying the accelerator pedal got the M3 up to about 115 mph before slamming on the brakes to dive into turn one at about 40 mph. Exhilarating! I kept saying to myself, “Can we do it again, but only faster this time?”
Not So Simple
Sounds simple, huh? Well let’s start with what makes all of the above even remotely possible-the BMW M3. I left it in automatic, but with paddle shifters, you have the option to blip through the gears. For me, the course was so tight and my learning curve so high, I let the ZF eight-speed dual-clutch automatic guide me around the track. It never stumbled and was always in the proper gear for the revs and demands chasing the twisties.
Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of driving schools and track days where everyone can learn how to become a better driver. As Adam outlined in our Q&A, good driving is efficient driving. Consider making the BMW Performance Center a bucket list destination, as it is a perfect excuse to visit the Palm Springs area and improve your driving skills. The result will be more fun behind the wheel, but you’ll also likely see better fuel economy, too.
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