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This could be your last chance to drive a BMW at Indy

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The BMW Performance Driving School is hosting its yearly event at Indy, and because I like them so much, I’m giving you an offer. Buy one seat, get one seat free for a BMW Full-Day M Intensive Experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Call 888-345-4269 to book, with promo code 24MWSBOGO.

It’s valid through May 2nd, 2024, and only good at Indy, so don’t bug me if you miss it.

– Mike

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Check before you wreck

“You gotta move out of here guys.”

That’s what the cop said to us this past Sunday – a small gathering of BMWs getting coffee at Starbucks. Fine – we’ll just move down the road. But as I pulled onto the highway, I saw brake lights ahead. Rubbernecking for an accident.

Uh-oh.

Sure enough, a one-of-one Wildberry G80 M3 was up on the berm, rear bumper hanging on by a thread. No other cars involved. I didn’t snap a pic, it’s uncouth. And it could easily happen to one of us.

Or can it?

bmw-m3-wrecked
A CS that had a bad day. Photo: M3List

This incident isn’t isolated. Check out this instagram account, which posts wrecked G8X cars in groups of ten!

Why is this happening? Could it be because a car with 500 horsepower takes some skill to tame? If you do indeed want to safely reach an M3’s potential, I maintain the best place to do so is the BMW Performance Driving School. There is no track insurance to worry about, no tires or fuel to spend. It’s not your car, it’s theirs.

BMW Performance Driving School

I’ve been to South Carolina. I’ve been to Thermal. But there’s a third spot, and it might be the best – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Speed, power, and space

BMW Performance Driving School
Back straight, straight-six. Hell yea, brother.

Don’t get me wrong – South Carolina and Cali are both great, but this is Indy. Michael Shumacher has won here. So has Lewis Hamilton. It’s over 100 years old. Bomb down the back straight, and you’ll hear an S58 echo off the grand stands. It ain’t exactly like driving through the Garden State Parkway tunnel.

BMW Performance Driving School

There are places like the Thermal Club and Monticello in New York that offer FIA-certified tracks, but Indy is by far the largest. It features multiple straightaways and a technical infield layout that allow you the room to bring an M3 up to proper speed. And as fun as Ultimate Driving Events are, those aren’t run by the school and offer a more limited experience. Indy is big boy stuff.

Remember too that what an M car is has changed. When the new M5 comes out in a few months, it’ll be hypercar fast. These cars need room to run.

What can you do at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

This is set up a bit like a One-Day M School event, but with heavy emphasis on track time. They feed you lunch (you’ll get hungry), and there’s a safety talk in the morning that takes all of 20 minutes. Otherwise, we outside, as fellow kids say.

Drifting

BMW Performance Driving School
Drifting is as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.

Start out in the parking lot, which I admit isn’t the most glamorous of locations. But Indy isn’t going to let you practice drifting on their beautiful tarmac, and you do want to learn how to drift right? Giant water trucks spray down a large circle, and the instructors help you get the car dialed in for drifting. Any current M car can do this, but while I was there, the M3 was the ride of choice.

BMW Performance Driving School
Instructors give tips as they look on.

I will now admit to you that this can be tricky for me, but there’s always an ah-ha moment that comes when you finally grasp just how much throttle to apply and when to do it.

Timed Autocross

BMW Performance Driving School
Check the body roll – it’s a hard core event.

Moving in groups and remaining in the parking lot, we walk over to a timed cone course in the G87 M2.

The M2 always gets pinned for this honor, and it remains the right choice for the job. But they have become heavy cars, so don’t expect them to react the way your E46 might. If you make a mistake, you can use the S58 to pull you out of the hole. Just don’t hit a cone.

BMW Performance Driving School
Your runs are timed. Winner gets the Top Gun trophy.

The cars are run in MDM mode, so traction control is still on but allows the tail to swing out a bit. Maybe this is the most important exercise – you never get above say, 50 mph, but you’re constantly working the wheel and feeling how the car reacts. It resembles the emergency maneuvers you’ll face in the real world.

BMW Performance Driving School
End the drive by stopping in the box. Skid beyond, and the run won’t count.

Each run ends with a panic brake inside a coned-off box. It’s full-throttle to that box, meaning you need to determine the precise point at which to apply full brakes, without skidding through. Too early, and you lose time. Too late, and you lose the run.

Lead/Follow

BMW Performance Driving School
There’s a safety brief before each event.

So far everything we’ve done has been available at other locations, but for this we head to the big track.

If you find all of this a bit intimidating, don’t worry, because the instructors are what make the difference at the school verses an HPDE event (who are either great or terrible). For this, you’ll start off in a line of five cars (usually M4s), and follow an instructor’s car around the course. They will introduce you to the proper line (not an easy thing to find on such a large track), and help you quell any anxieties about driving an M4 over 100 mph.

BMW Performance Driving School

Everyone starts off slow, then gradually picks up speed. Before you know it, you’re in a rhythm, and that’s where growth as a driver really happens.

BMW Performance Driving School
The best part.

Memorizing the layout helps a great deal, so this event is broken into two halves of the track. Learn one part, then the other. When you put them both together it’ll flow.

This takes up a better part of the day, and that’s good because you’re here to drive on the Brickyard.

Rain, rain, please come here

BMW Performance Driving School
Embrace the rain.

It never rains in Thermal. Like, ever.

South Carolina, you might catch a shower. But while at Indy, it rained on and off almost every day. I went in September, while the last events are this April and May, so the weather could change, but don’t be sad if it’s wet.

BMW Performance Driving School

You’ll learn so much in the rain, especially with the variety of cars there (the RWD M2, and AWD M3/M4). If you’ve been on the fence about an M car with xDrive, you won’t be after driving one on track in wet weather.

What BMWs can I drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

BMW Performance Driving School
The M2, with full M Performance kit.

Pity that the F90 is now out of circulation (and the M8 not available for use at the school), because those V-8s would really be something out here.

Instead, you get the M2 on autocross, the M3 on skidpad, and the M4 on track. This is proper, although I must tell you after driving the M2 around for a week – I bet it’s a hoot on that big track as well.

BMW Performance Driving School
The sight of a family sedan pulling off race car maneuvers will always amuse me.

Fun fact: the M3 and M4 don’t get laser lights in case they take an object in the face (a common occurrence on track), so if you’re wondering why the cars are fully optioned aside from that, there is method to the madness. Do you know how much laser lights cost to replace?

BMW Performance Driving School
The M3 and M4 feel identical at the limit.

Speaking of cost, with you on board an M2 weights damn near two tons. If you had a good breakfast, maybe a bit more. That’s a lot of weight to push around on the tires, so you can imagine that tracking your own G-chassis car will make visits to the Michelin man quite frequent.

BMW Performance Driving School
Fresh meats installed.

A set of rear tires for my M3 – $1,000, before installation.

The school is a good deal.

Please do a lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before you start modifying your BMW

BMW Performance Driving School

Taking your class at Indy as oppose to another spot gives you the chance to turn this into a life event. You’ll probably never again get the chance to drive a BMW on this track. If you do the offer, you can bring me.

Just sayin’.

BMW Performance Driving School

Regardless of where you take the class, it’s the same cars, instructors and lessons. After scrolling through countless crashed Ms, I think it should be a requirement. Doesn’t matter if you’re young (I question the logic of a 20-year old in these cars, but I digress), or old. Believe that the instructors know more than you, and their lessons might prevent you from ruining a Wildberry paint job.

BMW Performance Driving School

Shout out to RITTA and the PDC for letting me wander around the track unsupervised for a few days.

BMW Performance Driving School at Indianapolis Motor Speedway gallery

BMW Performance Driving School
The view from the cockpit of an M2 on the autocross track.
BMW Performance Driving School
All cars at the school now use the base LED lights, not lasers.
BMW Performance Driving School
BMW Performance Driving School
The M2 isn’t normally used for the big track, but it’s still quite capable of doing so.
BMW Performance Driving School
You’re allowed inside the Pagoda tower for class and lunch, though I’m not sure if that changes this year.
BMW Performance Driving School
Family photo

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