How to conquer the BMW Performance Driving School as a Beginner

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One of my many brilliant couriers of the day.  Yeah, I have to be Dale's # 3 car.

One of my many brilliant couriers of the day. Yeah, I have to be Dale’s # 3 car.
Photo: Elizabeth blackstock

There is a certain pressure when you show up at automotive related events as an automotive journalist, and I really felt it when I introduced myself to my group at the BMW Performance Driving School in Thermal, in. California. We were all about to take part in the M Driving School Day Program, and we were getting there from all experience levels as I was only attending a regular old event.

But stay. You say you write about cars, and there is a certain expectation, although I was sure to preface the situation by noting that I had already had about ten full minutes of track experience.

So I was grateful when the BMW instructors and my fellow drivers were extremely cold about my status as a longtime automotive journalist but inexperienced track driver. It allowed me to easily fit into the program in a way that I feared I would struggle with, meaning I can tell all of you good people how to conquer your first driving school.

(Full disclosure: BMW North America flew me to Palm Springs, CA and hosted me for a few nights while I took the BMW Performance Driving School for A girls’ guide to cars. They were kind enough to let me write about Jalopnik’s experience as well.)

What is the BMW Performance Driving School?

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Photo: Elizabeth blackstock

As its name suggests, the BMW Performance Driving School is a program where you show up at one of BMW’s two North American race tracks to learn the ins and outs of fast cars. BMW will provide you with the machines and the instructors; you just need to be prepared to improve yourself.

There are a few different events and experiences. You can take your teen here to learn how to drive, or you can knock out one of the various M driving schools offered by the company: One-day, Two-day, Advanced and M4 GT4 schools are all available. You can even get your racing license here.

BMW made me attend the one-day M school, which will cost you around $ 1,550. From eight in the morning until four in the evening, you’ll learn the ins and outs of sporty driving with a lunch to keep you motivated. There is a brief classroom session in the morning, then you will get behind the wheel to learn how to tackle a single turn, skid on the ice rink, create the optimal line on an autocross course, and get the most out of a ride. advance. -follow the session on the big boys running track.

It’s hard. You will have six 45-minute track sessions; five-minute breaks between sessions to hydrate, use the bathroom, and get comfortable in your next car (always a struggle for short people like me); and a one hour lunch. To put it simply: your brain is going to be crammed with knowledge about performance driving, so knowing what to expect when you get to the track can help.

Be prepared for criticism

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Photo: Elizabeth blackstock

You are driving school, so you are here to learn. This means that you need to be calm and hear a lot of criticism from the instructors throughout the day. Nobody is ever mean, and any feedback you get can be directly applied to a skill you can hone on the track, but you’ve got to be prepared for a few punches to the old ego (or, at the very least, be comfortable with the fact that you are an absolute beginner).

There was one person in my party of 14 who had obviously come on behalf of the people who took them out, and at the end of the day that person looked downcast. They were ready to go as soon as they could.

You will get the most out of a driving school if you are there to learn, not to flex. it would be absoutely be nice to end the day as the fastest person on the track, but, in my case, there was only a seven percent chance of that happening, which didn’t even take into account that there were a lot of really qualified people in school who still weighed the odds against me.

But seriously, this is going to be the biggest contributing factor to your success or failure. There is this common stereotype that writers are really bad at accepting criticism, but after years of creative writing workshops, I feel like I’m well prepared to adjust to the necessary criticism ( which was … pretty much whatever the instructors said) and throwing in the things I didn’t think would benefit me (basically I was being told to drive faster; I knew I was pretty much on the outer limits of my abilities and that going faster was going to make me sacrifice my ability to climb the race line, which I had prioritized as the goal of the day). If you think you already know all about speed, you probably won’t get much out of school.

Track your progressive success

I will swallow my pride and share my lap times, which were not very fast but still better!

I will swallow my pride and share my lap times, which were not very fast but still better!
Photo: Elizabeth blackstock

You are probably going to experience a crazy learning curve during the various components of the track day. Follow him.

I kept my notes app open on my phone and recorded the lap times and speed after each run as I stood in line to try again. I’m the type of person who can easily be overwhelmed and immediately forget every number I tried to get into my brain, so keeping track of my runs was a way for me to actually understand how I was improving and how. my most recent change in driving style impacted my speed. If I had had more time, I would also have noted what specific part of my riding I was trying to change, but things are changing pretty quickly.

All in all, hard numbers are a great motivator and provide a measure of your success. If you regularly go faster, that’s great; you are making progress. If your times are consistent then that’s pretty cool, but is there anything else you can do to pick up the pace? Are your speeds everywhere? Buddy, you have some soul searching to do.

Try to calm down

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Photo: Elizabeth blackstock

I live a pretty smooth lifestyle, so I just don’t click with the activities that force me to use adrenaline to make quick decisions. This is why I am very bad at most video games, racing simulations, or fast driving. That’s why i can feel totally at ease with someone other drive me really fast, but why I have a hard time doing it myself. This is why I find it hard to watch my sister play such a simple game as Valley of stars.

But being tense and panicked is downright the worst thing you can do when you’re in a successful driving school. If you get tense, your mechanical driving skills will falter. If your mind is racing, it will be more difficult to keep the racing line straight.

Being so nervous was my biggest enemy, especially when I knew I was competing with other people. It was nerve-racking to follow the autocross course during practice. I was in the absolute mess, however, when we started timing the races to determine the fastest driver for the day.

If this sounds like you, be sure to focus on deep breaths and try shutting down your brain for a few seconds. I haven’t found the best strategy to relax when I was behind the wheel, but I think there is also an important part of that that will come with training.

Stretch the

Go fast button.

Go fast button.
Photo: Elizabeth blackstock

You know how every once in a while there’s a big debate about whether or not race car drivers are athletes? I challenge all of these people to go through one driving school program and tell myself how painful they are the next day.

I was shocked how much my whole body hurt. I had funky blues. My left buttock had pain holding my body in place on the static pedal. My right thigh ached from pushing both the accelerator and the brake to the ground at a rapid pace. My arms and back still felt the muscles were tense as I walked home the next day. I’ll admit I’m not in the best shape of my life right now, but I started to get to work with weight training and shadow kickboxing classes – and I always had a hard time.

You’re definitely going to want to stretch before and after your day on the track, and I would honestly recommend stretching between in-car workouts as well. You will probably feel much better the next day and your driving will benefit because you won’t get tired from keeping so much tension in your muscles.

Above all? Have fun.

The face of exhausted joy at the end of a long day.

The face of exhausted joy at the end of a long day.
Photo: Elizabeth blackstock

It’s not every day that you learn to drive fast cars in a bunch of different race track situations. Enjoy it! You are going to gain so much more from the experience if you don’t get there with a bunch of expectations for yourself. Make fun first and foremost, skill will follow.


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