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
Chin Liang Teh says
Great opportunity to get a taste of what it is like to be on a racing track!
Thanks Chin – yea, this track running is highly addictive!!
Great Post!! Absolutely amazing.
Tom Bentley says
Dave, that sounds like jolly fun. But what model of BMW did you drive?
I remember the trip to Stuttgart you sent me on years ago, where I went to the Mercedes and Porsche museums, one of which had a simulator to drive racing models. That’s about as close as I’ve gotten to hair-raising turns in my driving.
Thanks GBW, it was an entirely fun and entertaining experience!
Hi Tom, they had us in three of the M series, the M3, M5 and M7. Ahhh, I do fondly remember the days of international press trips. Hope things are going well in the center coastal part of CA. And how is the dragon fruit doing? Dead or Alive?
Tom Bentley says
Dave, the dragon fruit is dragging along—alive, but not thriving. Alice has replanted it in soil that’s supposed to give it more oomph. We’ll see. Hope you’re good!
Tom – the soil is critical, especially when it comes to growing Dragon Fruit. Make sure its nutrient rich – I’ve been adding gypsum salt to mine. In their early development, shade seems to be quite important rather than direct sunlight. We had a burst of beautiful blooms again last month and now I have another 5 or 6 growing and maturing 🙂 I have my first Cherimoya fruit set this year, I hope it continues to develop and not drop off.
zoi hensel says
one of the best and informative blog ever and should visit it again