BMW and the Art of M Performance

Written by & Photography by Shaun Keenan on .

BMW M3 GT racecars at Road America

The launch of the all-new BMW F8X took place at Road America in rural Wisconsin last week where I drove the 2015 M3 (F80) sedan and M4 coupe (F82) on the world-renowned 6.515-kilometre (4.048-mile) road course. Not only that, BMW was kind enough to haul a handful of historic M3 racecars out of their museums – one from every generation – to middle America and offer hot laps with some of its pro drivers.

It would have been rude not to oblige. Tee-hee.

2011 ALMS BMW M3 GT racecar 2011 ALMS BMW M3 GT racecar

My previous experience with Road America is in the virtual world via Forza Motorsport for the Xbox 360, and iRacing for the PC. I’ve driven many laps in various virtual cars, but after riding shotgun with Bill Auberlen driving the real-life No. 55 2011 ALMS E92 M3 GT racecar around RA’s 14 glorious turns at speed, none of it means shit! This will be tough to beat.

2011 ALMS BMW M3 GT racecar

The only thing that could top that, perhaps, would be getting to experience that while Auberlen is playing a fast game of cat and mouse with his younger teammate John Andrews driving the No. 56 sister car. As luck would have it...

2011 ALMS BMW M3 GT racecar 2011 AMLS BMW M3 GT racecar

There were so many moments over what amounted to just one and two-third laps. Very intense ones. Five minutes worth! From sling-shotting past the unfortunate mouse and late-braking hard into turn one to jumping the curb into Hurry Downs and sustaining 3+ Gs through the Carousel, to blasting through the Kink at 250 km/h and flying through Canada Corner and over crest at Bill Mitchell Bend, every moment was butt-clenching. Very.

BMW Team RLL driver, Bill Auberlen 2011 ALMS BMW M3 GT racecar

After the violence ended and the screaming from the engine went away in pitlane, I turned to Bill and said. “You’re an animal! Thank you for that. Holy shit man! That was insane! How’d we qualify anyway?” He did a quick double take with his eyes and, with a loud ringing in my ears, I think I heard him say: “Pretty good actually. Yeah, not bad at all.”

2011 ALMS BMW M3 GT racecar

Surely “Wild Bill” hadn’t been as fast as the last time he raced here with the E92 M3 GT (2012 ALMS, round seven) when he qualified with a 2:04.913 lap, and went on to win the race with co-driver Jörg Müller. Was he? Hot dammit! It sure felt like it!

Many people would have vomited after getting out of the car. But not me dammit! Not me.

I jumped straight into the second-gen 1995-2000 M3 GT racecar, sat back and watched Andrews school himself in the art of M performance for a few laps. Its 425-hp inline-six was music to our ears, only louder. And only the unfortunate mouse had been wearing ear plugs.

Ill be writing about my experience driving the new BMW M3 and M4 at Road America in the Fall 2014 issue of PRN Ignition, Canadas #1 magazine for car enthusiasts. In the meantime, heres some More eye candy.

Team RLL drivers John Andrews and Bill Auberlen chatting with Albert Biermann, head of M Engineering

BMW M3 GT racecars 128

2001-2006 BMW M3 GT racecar

2001-2006 BMW M3 GT racecar

1995-2000 BMW M3 GT racecar

1995-2000 BMW M3 GT racecar

1995-2000 BMW M3 GT racecar

1995-2000 BMW M3 GT racecar

Ray Korman stands next to his old first-gen E30 M3 GT racecar

1987-1991 BMW M3 GT racecar

1987-1991 BMW M3 GT racecar

 

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