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Performance Center Delivery
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  #1  
Old 07-31-2012, 08:34 PM
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BMW Car Control School Review

LondonBlue and I just came back from the BMW Car Control School this past weekend. We had an awesome time!! Still editing the write up and going through pics, but thought I'd share what I've got so far.


(Note: All driving tips and techniques are from my memory of the course. Forgive me if I've made any mistakes. Also, I have a financial relationship with BMW. I give them money, and they take it! And they also provided this awesome course!)


I like to think that I'm romantic. Our little girl is almost 7, and we have never spent a night away from her. So I planned a wonderful weekend for just LondonBlue and I -- just the two of us! And what special, romantic activity did I have planned? A BMW One Day Car Control Clinic in Spartanburg, SC!! My wife is so lucky, isn't she?

We left home Saturday morning and after a quick layover in Atlanta, we arrived at the Greenville airport that afternoon. Keith from the Marriott picked us up in a silver X5, and recommended we visit downtown that evening. After checking in and settling into our room, we relaxed by the pool for a while. That evening Alfred from the Marriott took us downtown, where we enjoyed a tasty dinner at Soby's followed by ice cream from Marble Stone Creamery. Soby's is a contemporary Southern restaurant --- the fried green tomatoes was a first for us and delicious! While walking through downtown, we came across an impromptu car show -- a few Ferraris, some Porsches and a gorgeous Acura NSX. We then walked to Liberty Bridge at Falls Park, along the Reedy River. Alfred picked us up later that evening in a gorgeous 5 GT, and brought us back to the hotel. We hardly slept that night because we were so excited about all the fun we would have on the track! Well that and the 2 am meet and greet with all the guests outside, courtesy of the fire alarm -- luckily all was well.
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:34 PM
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:35 PM
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:39 PM
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:42 PM
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:47 PM
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:51 PM
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We started our day with breakfast around 7am at the Marriott. As we were the only couple staying at the hotel going to the school, the Marriott took us over at 8am in their X5. We arrived at 8.15, were greeted by our instructors and signed a waiver. After a quick coffee break, we started class at 8.30am.

Ten of us showed up for class, and we had very diverse backgrounds. Our group ranged in age from 18 to late 60s and were 5 men and 5 women. There was a father/daughter pair, a few couples like ourselves and some just showed up by themselves. Some had developed their own interest in attending while others were there after parental encouragement. I was surprised to find that most were not BMW owners, but they all loved driving! Our three instructors, Jim, Steve and Clint, introduced themselves and then dove into the first ninety minute session of classroom instruction.

We started with some background information. The school was built in 1999, and the car control school focuses on how to maintain control of the car so you can avoid an accident. It is the only school actually owned by a manufacturer (as opposed to an independent school that has factory support). The goal for today was safety, fun, excitement and education. The plan was to have us drive aggressively all day, and to push their cars to the limit to see what we can do. Notice I said their cars --- they made it very clear that they were paying for the gas and tires, so we should not feel shy!

Interestingly, they found that one out of eight people that take a BMW course end up buying a new BMW within a year. And wouldn't you know -- I was number eight!

The cars they had for us were F30 335 sedans with sport packages and E82 135 coupes with the 7 speed DCT transmissions and MSport packages. I found the 1 series to be a very fun, sporty car that felt perfect for the track, especially for smaller exercises. It was my first time driving a DCT transmission and it was smooth and seamless. The F30 was very comfortable yet still sporty. I was amazed by how much technology trickles down -- our F30 sedans had all-around view cameras, heads up displays, sport and sport+ modes -- features that were only available in the 5/6/7 series during the last generation.

Now the for the lessons:

First, keep your eyes up. Whatever you look at it is where the car will go. If you look at an obstacle, you will hit the obstacle. Always look three to four cars ahead, so when the car in front of you suddenly brakes, it is not a surpise. Look and turn your head where you want the car to go; you hands will follow your eyes.

Second, seating position. The height should allow you good line of sight, and about 4 fingers width from the ceiling to the top of your head. The left foot should placed on the dead pedal, to brace yourself when needed. Hands are kept at nine and three. In the event you have to turn the steering wheel more than 180 degrees, shuffle the steering wheel with both hands. The lower back and shoulder blades should contact the back of the seat. The center of the head rest should line up at your eye level to provide proper support. And the seat should be brought forward so that when you press on a pedal all the way to the floor, there is still a slight bend in the knee. Never "hang on"
to the steering wheel for support. With good seating position, you should never have to do that.

Third, mirrors. A common mistake is to adjust your side mirrors so you can see what is behind you. Instead, tilt your head to one side and adjust that mirror so that you can no longer see the side of the car. That way you increase your field of vision and have a better chance of seeing what is next to you. Between your peripheral vision, your side mirrors and your rear view mirror, you should be able to see almost everything around you.

Fourth was weight transfer and contact patch. We all know BMWs have 50/50 weight distribution, but the amount of force on each contact patch depends on what that weight is doing. Accelerating will cause weight to shift to the rear, while braking will bring that weight forward. Which leads to an important point -- tires.

The contact patch of the tire on the road is about the only thing keeping you from flying off the road, so the most important investment you can make is your tires. The tires can either turn or accelerate/brake. You can ask them to do both, but like most men, they will do much better if they are just focused on one thing. How to remember this? Imagine a string tied from the bottom of the steering wheel to the bottom of one of the pedals. The more you turn the steering wheel, the less you can push the pedal. When asked about runflats, our instructors felt they were a convenience, and offered no advantage on the track compared to regular tires, but also had the disadvantage of worse ride quality. As for the best tire for your car, they recommended looking online for reviews to determine what the best tires was for our particular cars. Tirerack.com and DiscountTire.com are two good places to start.

Talking of tires naturally leads to brakes, and the ABS. We were reminded that ABS allows the car to stop very quickly, while still being able to steer. So if there is an obstacle in front of you, you can get 100% braking force and still steer around the obstacle (and since you are keeping your eyes up, you can easily find an escape path and aim for that!). With newer ABS systems, the computer is able to hold the brakes at 100% force, and is much more smooth and progressive than older systems. On our cars, I was able to tell when the ABS was engaged, but if felt more like driving over an intermittently rough surface compared to the severe pedal jerking found in earlier systems.

Lastly, we discussed understeer and oversteer. My personal favorite analogy is understeer is when the front of the car hits the wall, oversteer is when the back of the car hits the wall, horsepower is how fast you are going when you hit the wall, and torque is how far you push the wall after you've hit it! Understeer is not enough steering, and you've lost grip with the front tires due to too much speed. The solution is let off the gas (not brake -- that puts more force on the front tires which at the moment have no grip) and if needed, ease of the steering a little. Oversteer is when you've lost grip with the rear tires. The solution is to steer into the skid, pause to gain grip and then recover by turning the steering wheel back. Sounds easy in theory, but a little harder in practice!

We covered half the material, and then practiced on the track. After lunch (sandwiches, burgers, and delicious cookies!) we did more classroom instruction and then hit the track again! Our morning session on the track started with a slalom through several cones. The goal was to smoothly turn the steering wheel from one side to another as we went through and to always look ahead. Those that looked at the cones right in front of them tended to hit them! We then practiced braking at 30, 35, 40 and 50 mph. Easy enough, except there were cones intentionally in our way, so we had to produce 100% braking force (easy with the ABS -- just slam the brakes) and then steer away from the cones half way through. This was an excellent exercise to help reinforce the idea of braking and steering away from an obstacle. We then did a small track section that had a slalom and several turns -- this helped us practice several lessons all at once. Then we went on a nicely wet small circle, and practiced creating and then correcting understeer and oversteer, with the traction control off! With the DTC on, the cars had no problems going in circles and were quite happy to ignore my lead foot in favor of maintaining control. But with the DTC off on the wet track, it was very easy to create understeer. And oversteer -- all we had to do was tap the gas (or the instructor would quickly pull on the hand brake) and before I knew it, I was spinning in circles! I had a little track experience years ago, so I felt very frustrated with being so rusty and spinning quite often. Just when I thought I was starting to get better, it was time to go the next activity. However, LondonBlue made everyone feel better by spinning off the track into a ditch. She then calmly told the instructor, "OK, I've had enough of this." and proceeded to drive through the grass to the next track! There was so much grass and dirt on the car they took it away immediately to wash it!

The afternoon session started with making an emergency lane change. We practiced driving at 30, 40 and 45 mph in a straight line through cones, and then had to suddenly steer around a bus (represented by cones - no actual buses were harmed during this exercise!) and into another lane, and then brake. We were given just enough space to make the maneuver -- steer too slowly and cones (and the imaginary bus) get hit. We then practiced the autocross section again; a mix of slalom and several turns, including a decreasing radius turn. We ended with a friendly competition -- two cars on a small oval, exactly 180 degrees apart. Race around three times and whoever gains more on the other person wins that round. We kept going through this until we found the fastest person. Sounds easy, right? Did I mention the track was wet and the DTC off? In a way, I impressed both students and instructors alike! Mainly by being the first person to spin out!! Doh!!!

We finished up with a quick survey, a certificate of completion and a BMW school tshirt and hat! We then quickly headed back to the airport (courtesy of the Marriott again!) and flew back home. We arrived home just before midnight, exhausted but completely thrilled! Looking back, I felt frustrated for not doing better and being so rusty, especially since I had been on a track before (though many years ago). But there's an easy way to fix that --- just convince LondonBlue we need to come back again!

I want thank everyone - the wonderful instructors, Jonathan, the Marriott and everyone else for an awesome experience!!!
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Last edited by kashrahman; 07-31-2012 at 09:05 PM.
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:55 PM
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:58 PM
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driving on the track may affect your gas mileage . . .
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:00 PM
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Last edited by kashrahman; 07-31-2012 at 09:08 PM.
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:03 PM
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time for lunch!!!












cars ready for PCD use on Monday -- someone is getting a new X3!!
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:08 PM
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LondonBlue proving the F30 sedans work well offroad . . .








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Old 07-31-2012, 10:21 PM
Baquir Baquir is offline
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Dude. Great write up. I am a member of BMW CCA and our local Chicago chapter has similar ccclinics. But we gotta use our own cars....
Really want to get out to the performance school in Carolina. Hopefully with my wife's x5
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:29 AM
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Great pics! Better write up! You've planted the bug. Thanks (I think).
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Old 08-01-2012, 04:18 AM
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SailinSand SailinSand is offline
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Looks like you and LB had a GREAT time! Maybe when little Lara is 16 you can do it again with her!!!

Loved the pictures, as always, great write up!!!
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Old 08-01-2012, 07:49 PM
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thanks for the feedback!!! And I would strongly encourage everyone to attend -- if not in SC, then at your local chapter. I think the real plus of doing the BMW program is using their cars --- I've taken mine to the track years ago, and it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot, but track fees, tires, brakes, etc starts to add up!! And yes Sandy, I'm already thinking of bringing Lara with me when she turns 16!!
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Old 08-08-2012, 11:19 AM
I-Won-Today I-Won-Today is offline
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Nice job Thanks for taking the time to share!
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