blien - PCD

Monday, May 30, 2005

Performance Center Delivery - Part 2, May 26, 2005 - Driving events

The next day, I grabbed some breakfast road food from the hotel restaurant and boarded the Marriott shuttle bus to the Performance Center. Wendy had decided not to accompany me on this trip down to South Carolina because of all the stuff that's going on with the house, as well as not wanting to leave Miranda for 3 days. Plus, she hates long road trips. My friend Ken, who is a fellow BMW enthusiast and owns a Le Mans Blue E39 M5, originally was going to drive up and join me for the trip, but he had to bail at the last moment due to a conflict with work. So I was by myself. Two other couples were joining me for delivery that day. One was taking delivery of an E90 330i, and another was getting an E46 cab.

When we got to the Performance Center, there were two 645Ci's parked outside (Black Sapphire and Mystic Blue), gleaming in the SC morning sun. We walked inside to the entrance foyer, and there was a Silver Gray M3, right there! This was a mild, but pleasant, surprise to me, and I forgot to take pictures; I went straight over to check it out. It looked great! Frederick pointed out that it was, indeed, my car. It turned out my "delivery bay" would be the entrance foyer, while the other two deliveries would happen in the regular delivery bays. I guess they put the hottest car out front. :)

We were briefly introduced to our Delivery Specialists: Jon, Gail, and Frederick. Frederick would be my Delivery Specialist. Our luggage was handled by the staff and placed into safekeeping. They told us that as a smaller group, we would be doing all the events together, rather than being split up as larger groups are. The driving events would happen first, then we were to take individual delivery of our vehicles. After lunch, we would visit the Zentrum (museum) and take the factory tour.

We were then introduced to our driving instructor, Ben Burrell, Director of Driver Education at the Center, and a road racer with over 30 years experience. We all went into a classroom for some brief chalktalk, as well as the signing of a waiver for the driving events. Ben explained some car control basics using a balloon and a water bottle to demonstrate weight transfer and grip levels, and a piece of paper to demonstrate the total area of the contact patches. Finally, he wrote "NYC" on the easel, and asked what it stood for. "New York City?" one of us offered. Nope. "Not Your Car," Ben answered. Don't be afraid to drive it hard, Ben said. In fact, he said, we want you to drive it hard to test and explore the limits, because we know you won't do it in your own car. Ha! I thought. Before we left the classroom, Ben asked me to raise my right hand and promise to break the M3 in correctly: Not above 4000 RPM for the first 600 miles, keep it below 5500 RPM and 105 MPH for the first 1250 miles.

We then headed outside and to a large collection of automobiles, M3s heavily represented, that the Performance Center uses for driving lessons, delivery events, etc. Ben demonstrated correct seating and mirror positions. I was glad to see that he validated the mirror positions I use. I wish Wendy had been there to hear that, because she always questions how I set my mirrors. :) Then it was time to drive!

I read that they give you a car very similar to the one you purchased, so that you can learn the dynamics of your own car. There were 3 E46s, one of them a silver M3 ZCP for me. I guess they didn't have any E90s, so that couple drove an E46 instead.

In each car was a radio clipped into the driver's side map pocket so that Ben could communicate into each car. We first followed Ben in a white X5 out to the autocross course portion of the Performance Center testing area (professionally rendered in blue on the map). As we made our way slowly around the course, Ben would drive the correct line, and give out tips over the radio along the way.

After a couple of laps, Ben pulled over and got out. The other cars' passengers also got out. We then started driving the course a little bit faster, with Ben offering suggestions and encouragement from his vantage point. He kept encouraging us to drive a bit faster. "OK, start pushing it, people!" At one point, he told me I wasn't giving enough steering input through the slalom section; I guess I was trying to cut it too close. He told me to look ahead and steer the car into each gate, not try to slide past each one. Doing so immediately set up a better rhythm, and the car responded beautifully. "Much better!" Ben replied.

After 10-15 increasingly aggressive laps, Ben told us to pull over and line up in a starting gate. We were to launch from the gate, head through the slalom, around the right hand sweeper, brake hard for the tight right hander, head into a S-curve section with elevation changes, and then brake hard into a stop box. These runs would be timed. Through the course of 3 timed laps, I was able to cut my time by over 2 seconds, although admittedly my first lap was hampered by my lack of familiarity with SMG, as well as some competitive trepidation.

After our timed laps, we got out and the ladies took their turn.

We then headed over to the small skidpads (lower left, in purple), where we would be given a demonstration of the effectiveness of DSC. One at a time we got into our cars, with Ben riding shotgun and reaching over to give steering inputs, and started going around the skidpad. When Ben said "floor it!," DSC intervened to keep the car going in a circle. Then we paused to turn off DSC. When Ben said "floor it!" again, the car spun out. Here's a video of a spin on the small skidpad. It was an effective demonstration of DSC, but not as much fun as the autocross portion, in my opinion.

This concluded the driving portion of the day, and we all drove back to take delivery of our cars.



Post a Comment

<< Home