Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne - Believe it or not, the biggest takeaway from any driving course is 'patience’... well that and looking ahead to where you want the car to go, of course!
After you strip away the exuberance and enthusiasm that come with being at the helm of three M sportscars on a race-track, the amount of speed (or slip) you carry through the different stations all boils down to waiting, watching... and then whacking!
We’re at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit again for the sequel to last year’s BMW Driving Experience Advance 1 – the BMW Driving Experience Advance 2, which costs S$2,200 – where we’re hoping to enjoy a lot more frippery with even more slippery, sideways action than we dabbled with in Advance 1.
However, as we’d discover in the course of the course, there’s actually a dedicated M Drift Training course if you only want to be indulging in sideways hooniganism!
Happily enough, a day spent at an open track session is never wasted, because it’s always good to hone our driving technique under proper tutelage.
There’s a small niche of instructors that can both drive and teach and we’ve found the BMW instructors to be consistently spot-on.
After all, the art of instruction requires a lot more introspection and analytical skills to assess and instruct than imaginary beard-stroking and smoking drift demos.
In this follow-up course, the focus is less on learning the track (as we did in Advance 1) and more on fine-tuning one’s driving style to carry maximum speed through the corners. Remember we talked about'patience’ in the introduction?
The urge is always strong to barrel into a corner too quickly and/or try to get back on the gas again even before you see the exit to the corner.
Botching one corner often affects the subsequent few, because you end up carrying less speed through the sequence than you should.
Similarly, during the oversteer station, there’s a natural inclination to dial in a dose of opposite lock to correct the slide immediately, but the downside is it’ll never have a chance of developing into a drift.
Fast (and/or sideways) progress is all about patience, and most times, all it takes is for the driver to wait a hastily gulped breath or two longer before getting back on the gas – a small flare in the grand scheme of things when we’ve already made our way all the way to Phillip Island from Singapore.
You’ll always know when you get it right because of the sense of satisfaction that washes over you as you successfully string together a series of corners.
With the opportunity to hammer the M3, M4 and M2 Competition around the circuit, we find they respond differently to our ministrations (even from M4 to M3), and that’s where the muscle memory and experience developed from the track drills come in useful.
These courses are less about learning about specific models and circuits, but more about learning to analyse what’s happening, what’s causing it and what you can do about it to improve your pace.
After all, when it comes to learning to drive fast, safely, it’s best not to play the waiting game...
PHOTOS Derryn Wong