Ever wondered what it would be like to sit behind the wheel of a high performance vehicle and try to reach both your limits as a driver and the limits of the car? Idling in traffic on the 110 is certainly no place to test out your character and comfort levels as a driver – and certainly no place for an automobile to fully perform at its engineered capabilities. But we have found a place where you can – the BMW High Performance Center in Thermal, CA.
The center is located about 2.5 hours east of Los Angeles nestled in the remote desert next to groves of date palm trees. The campus features 137 acres including several high performance and challenging tracks.
Rather than trying to cram a round trip drive into the same day from Los Angeles, consider staying in the vicinity. During our visit, we spent a night at Hotel Paseo in Palm Desert. Ideally located, this hip resort is located within easy walking distance of numerous shops and restaurants. Rooms are sizable with exterior balconies. A pool area features private cabanas, a bar and an airstream. To book a stay click here
We participated in the M School (available as a one-day option or the more in depth two-day option). The day starts in the classroom – reviewing basic handling and driving techniques, including how to maneuver through turns and choosing ones turn apex and the rest of the days activities. Participants are broken into much smaller groups for on track activities, each one led by a certified instructor.
Some of the highlights include learning how to safely go faster, some competitive runs against both one’s own times along with others, learning how to maneuver a low friction track and thoroughly enjoying hot laps to finish out the day, driven by the instructors.
It doesn’t matter if your even into cars or racing, this is an absolutely fun and memorable experience. Once you get comfortable on the track, you will simply want more and more lap time.
While drifting extracts the most fun from a track experience, it is certainly not the fastest way to reach the finish line. Participants will have the opportunities to repeatedly race against themselves – trying to better their speeds. The one takeaway from this is one gains time on the straightaways combined with knowing when to brake hard going into the curves. Those who take the curves to fast will drift and this will hurt one’s racing time.
While the racing happens at high speed its an excellent opportunity to synchronize your mind with your physical reactions, all in a blink of an eye. Yes, one is constantly thinking while on the track: do I brake here, how hard do I brake, how far ahead do I look, what is my limit of acceleration around a certain curve, etc.
The classes are held rain or shine and even during periods of extreme heat as is common in the summer months – although during the heat of the summer the classes often start at 6am.
For more information about the BMW Performance Center offered experiences and to book the One-Day M Experience, click here