BMW launched its performance driving school program yesterday on a mild April morning at the Homestead International Speedway.
I was invited to take photos and join this very exclusive opportunity -- $1,495 for the one-day school -- for BMW owners and aficionados. We were to get behind the wheels of the M3, M5, M6 and 550 series and drop the pedal to the metal for a day totally without speed limits.
After some basic theory time in the classroom with a certified driving instructor, I had one goal in mind: don’t crash these 500-horsepower monsters. My heart pounding, I grabbed a helmet and prepared to rocket to speeds in excess of 120 MPH.
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The instructors, including Le Mans Series driver Rene Villeneuve, operated with finesse. He possessed all the knowledge necessary to overcome the countless times the car would simply stretch its limits going around the track’s curves and steep banks. I watched as he demonstrated how to exercise skid- and spin- control skills on wet pavement and how to handle asphalt at top speed. The 37-year-old Canadian was unflappable as he flew in the M6 down the course.
Punctuating the driving was a lavish buffet. I chowed down with Homestead Mayor Lynda Bell and Vice Mayor John Burgess. They had climbed in brand new M5s and took an impressive one-on-one duel to the checkered flag. “Billy,” the official mascot of the Marlins, flagged the start and finish of the opening race. (For the record, Vice-Mayor Burgess won the contest).
Then it was my turn. I took the wheel of the M6 and, together with three other students, followed Villeneuve around the track. I was in the back of the pack, and slowed a bit so I could punch the gas petal hard. I felt like a lion. Taking the car up to 140 MPH, I marveled at the machine. This wasn't I-95 at rush hour -- it was more like heaven. I realized that the higher the speed on a track, the less you feel danger. Hey, what can I say? I’m Italian. I love speed.
There’s still slots available for the driving school, which runs at the Homestead Speedway until April 25th. Anyone interested should call 888-345-4269. -- Marco Kornfeld