Performance Delivery Center, March 2002

This is why a lot of people want to take delivery at Spartanburg. Whatever BMW you purchase, you will be outfitted in a car as similar to the one you're picking up as possible. Colors and optional trim aren't of any concern, but engine and drive train were as we had ordered: a 2002 330ia with steptronic. The car they gave us had fewer than 300 miles on it and we beat it like a stepchild. "Drive it like you stole it!" a lot of people like to say. In a way, we had, and in every way, we did.

-Track Time-
"I giggled like a schoolgirl"

We were taken from our delivery in the front of the building to a room inside. Herein, it would be time to sign waivers and get to know the other couples you are there with. We all talked for a few minutes and our instructor, Matt Mullins, asked us how many BMW's we had owned or owned. One of the guys in our group had owned TEN. I was second with seven- six of which are still in the family. If you can believe it or not, the ten bimmer guy hadn't joined the BMWCCA. I may have looked at him like he was crazy, but the benefits of membership are so incredible that I could not imagine anyone not taking advantage of them. More on that in a moment.

To the right, you see a good picture of the track where we are about to drive. The blue is paved road for bimmers of all sorts. The green is where the X5 delivery guys go. Unpaved, off road, and generally inappropriate for anything but AWD.
What I did NOT know was that we would be sharing the track with Z8's and M5's. I also did not know that upon exiting the building, I would be surrounded by what can only be described as BMW Nirvana. It was like bimmer church out there. Z8's, M5's, 3's, X54.6is's, even 745i's were everywhere. I truly was on hallowed ground.
Here is probably a good place to let you know that while I talk a big game, I do not actually worship BMW's. I just really really really like the cars. I always have. I suppose I would be as passionate about 74 Nova's if that were my first car. But it wasn't, and I'm stuck with the hand I was dealt. If you continue reading, you're stuck, too.

Click any picture for a larger (640x~480) version.

A good picture of the track. And, I suppose, of Matt. Ha!

Alright, I kept the pens. So I'm a nerd.


As soon as I walked out the door: SPAH-ROING!

Matt, the instructor telling us how to adjust mirrors, seats, etc. for the best driving experience.


Two of these, one of those, three of those...
I felt like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack.

Here is where I had hoped my wife would gain something from the delivery. Matt told the students the same thing that I had learned so many years ago at Skip Barber's. Adjusting the mirrors so that you do NOT see the edge of the car will eliminate the blind spot. He even went through the motions that most people do when they try to change lanes. It was fun to hear everyone agree that this way made sense to them. I have tried to explain it so many times, but I guess people listen more intently to actual instructors. She listened about where she should sit in relation to the steering wheel and pedals for the best combination of comfort and control. When she got back to our new 330 out front, she went through the same motions. I swelled with pride at the prospects of my wife becoming a bimmernut.
To the right and above is our parade lap. The instructor gave us all radios so that we could listen to him guide us through the exercises. This was a great idea, and it really helped us experience more completely what we were supposed to be doing and when. The cones are laid in the direction we should turn upon our approach. We did a slalom and then some ABS braking exercises.
Below is an idea of the ABS demonstration. Matt moves the cone further and further into the turn. When we are even with the cone, and not before, we are instructed to hammer the brakes and cut the wheel to avoid the other cones. Great fun and great demonstration. As in all the pictures, click to see a larger version. It will aid in the perception

Each of our group was there taking delivery of E46 3 series. Some 325's, some 330's.

At Skip Barber, we learned of a point in braking just before ABS kicks in that is actually more effective than letting the computer pulse the brakes for you. I kept trying to find this threshold and the instructor kept telling me to hammer them and let the ABS do its thing. Old habits die hard, and I didn't want to ask about what I had learned so long ago. It was, after all a BMW show. Might as well dance to the music while I'm there.


Well, we had to get going to the skid pad, but there was one problem. It seems that the Z8 driving experience had taken over the skid pad with all of the sprinklers, and so forth so we were also not going to be able to do the ABS demonstration in wet conditions. There is another, smaller skid pad that the instructor would take us to, so we followed over and got to see some more eye candy on the way.



An M5 and a Z8 in the same photo on the same track. I'll never see it again. At least not until I take delivery of an M5. Mooohahahhaha.


Click any picture for a larger (640x~480) version.

We got to the other skid pad and waited for the kid with the fire hose to come and wet down the track. While we were waiting, Matt radioed another instructor, Donnie Isley, and said, "...and have him bring that Imola M5 up here, too." Inside, my heart leapt like a rabbit. I just knew we were gonna get to drive M5's!
While we were waiting, Matt had three of us climb into the M5 and get to the skid pad with him driving. The skid pad was dry, so he REALLY had to torque it up to get the back end to swing around. Smoke was everywhere and the loudest noise wasn't from the brand new Michelin Pilot tires he was broiling- It was from me giggling like a schoolgirl. I'm not ashamed. It was as fun as the first time I rode the Tower of Terror in Orlando. I couldn't wait to drive.
Matt Mullins, our instructor, also drives for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, so we were certain of his abilities. Of course, there are no pictures of me driving, but this is a shot of a lady in our group. She had great fun, too. in the picture above with the water tower and the red M5, you can just make out the spray from the hose. I actually envied the kid. I still do, sorta.

Matt felt badly about not being able to give us the complete experience because of the scheduling mix-up. This is why the experience is so great. He took control and decided to let us take the M5's on the skid pad to make up for shifting us around on the track. The objective of the exercise was to demonstrate BMW's Dynamic Stability Control, or DSC. First, you slowly drive around the wet circle, gradually increasing speed to the point the nose pushes out and the wheels can't steer which pushes the car straight instead of turning. After that, you slowly amble along the circle until the instructor yells, "PUNCH IT!" When you do, with DSC turned off, the rear end sweeps around and you spin out to the music of my giggling in the back seat. When DSC is switched on, none of the exciting stuff happens, and you just sort of sit there with your foot to the floor while the computer cuts power and modulates brakes to keep your silly ass in line. Another great demonstration and done oh so well with the help of the M5. I wanted to give Matt a hug, but instead I shook his hand and thanked him profusely. He'd made my year and it was only March.

On to the Museum!

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