Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Alright, so last week was a solid week for driving. First off, one night I got bored after work, so I headed out to this long, straight country road where there usually aren't many cars. Now, in a car like a BMW, a long stretch of road with no curves is fucking boring. But you can make up for some of that if, say, you're going 130 miles an hour. Okay, so that's clearly not smart, but I was pissed and needed something to get my mind off of work for a bit, and doing a buck thirty can help in that endeavor. That's still well off that car's top speed of 155 MPH (assuming I don't get a new chip that removes the top speed limiter), but we're getting there.

That was just a precursor to... The track. This past weekend, the local chapter of the BMW Car Club of America was holding a performance driving school down in my hometown of Pueblo. And yeah, that was bad-ass. The main focus, at least for us beginners, was just getting us to learn to work the track properly. Follwing "the line," apexing at the right time, proper braking, weight transfer, etc. Just taking all sorts of basics and puttig them together to work our way up to being able to drive fast and well. So that meant that things started out slowly, but by the end of the day, I was getting up some good speeds. Not 130 mile-an-hour speeds, but still pretty fast, and doing most of it where Bimmers excel -- in the turns.

If you've got a decent car, I'm telling you: get yourself some performance rubber (if you don't already have it) and hit the track. That's a solid way to spend a day. It's nice because your only concern is one that you normally have when you're driving like a shithead -- not fucking up your car. Otherwise, though, you can be as fast and aggressive as you want without the consequences or hazards of normal street driving, and that's neat.

Part of the driving school was classroom instruction, and that was worth it just for the horror stories we got to hear, like one incident that the instructor had recently seen. Someone was flying through a corner in their 911, and they ended up sliding off the track sideways into a wall. And they did it with such force that the engine was ejected from the car. In the words of Oak Express, that's not natural. But I'm sure they were able to fix that car up. Then there was the story about a guy who had gotten one of the first E36 M3s (the E36 3-series being the generation preceding mine), and while on the track he got off a bad shift, doing something like going into second when he meant to go into fourth -- a so-called "money shift." Needless to say, that was the end of that engine. The amusing part, though, was that since it was one of the first E36 M3 cars out there, BMW's engineers were very anxious to get their hands on the destroyed engine, so they cut the guy a deal on a new engine.

Luckily, I have no horror stories to tell from this outing. The worst I came away with was things that were expected -- like brake and tire tread wear. And speaking of the tires, yeah, those things are fucking great. They definitely saved me a time or two when I came into a turn a little too hot. There was one time that the instructor who was riding along with me was even impressed at how much grip they had. It's sad, though, because I'm going to have to swap tires here in a little over a week now that the cold weather is starting to set in. My snow tires, Pirelli SnowSport 240s, aren't too bad in terms of grip, but of course they're not the Bridgestone Potenzas I'm running on in warm weather. I don't wanna have to move anywhere at this point in time, but if I've actually sat there thinking that if I was ever compelled to move somewhere like the west coast or somewhere further south, it wouldn't be so bad because I could keep summer tires on year-round.

One of the best parts of the day was one where I wasn't even driving. After lunch, they had a session where the instructors drove us around the track in their cars, and I lucked out and got to ride in an E46 M3. Holy shit. The raw speed of that car combined with an experienced driver who could work the track well was quite a bit of fun. Well, okay, the first lap you're just kinda scared out of your mind even though you know that the driver knows what they're doing, and then after that it's just fun.

So yeah, that's my excitement for the time being. I would say that I pay way too much for that car, but it's so bloody entertaining that it's worth it to me. Hey, everyone's gotta have their hobbies. Some just make us bigger assholes than the rest.

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