Fight or Flight

Also from Issue 106

  • 205-hp hot-rod 1600
  • Comparison: F30 335i vs. 328i
  • Not for U.S.: F10 528i Touring
  • Market update: E39 M5—The first supersedan
  • E1: An electric BMW from 1991
  • Sonic MS street-and-track-ready E92 M3
  • Dinan twin-turbo: E32 750iL & E31 850Ci
  • 1960s BMW 1800 TiSA sports racers
  • Tips to improve your driving
  • Dorkfest V.2: E36/8 gathering in NorCal
  • Ice racing in a BMW
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“That’s a tricky one,” Dirk yells as he accelerates into sixth gear down the start/finish straightaway before braking hard again into Turn 1.

With our sighting laps complete, Adorf returns into the pits and hands me the car.

“It’s easy,” he smiles. “Just do what I just did.”

Strapped into the four-point-harness and given the instruction to favor the clutch a bit, I promptly stall the M3. Three times.

But after I finally get the car running, it turns out to be pure joy. Having driven quite a few race cars over the course of my life, I was prepared for a hard-core, tooth-shattering ride, a beast that would require careful handling. But the M3 behaves with surprising civility on the Spanish circuit. It is indeed a gentle giant, or pretty close to it.

Of course, when you drop 550 lbs. from a car with a powerful 4-liter V8 engine, the term “gentlemen racer” ceases to apply. First, it only takes 3.4 seconds to go from zero to 62 mph. That’s more than a second quicker than the M3 road car. Second, this thing eats corners for breakfast, making your neck muscles cry for mercy pretty fast. Even though I take it easy for the first two laps, the more I get in tune with the track and the car the more grateful I am for the seat’s gigantic “ears,” which keep my head from flying sideways in every turn.

The M3 is set up so you get a bit of understeer going into a corner, but when you hit the turn-in point on the nose and get on the gas just a tad before the apex, you can bring the rear over quite nicely, thank you.

For a competition car, the M3 is indeed an easy ride. It handles predictably enough, although hitting the brakes hard while turning the car is a considerable challenge. And I do need to brake hard—really hard—in the middle of some corners. After three laps, I work up the nerve to take Turn 2 full in second gear, just like Dirk did, accelerating through Turn 3 and setting up an almost perfect flow into the two hard rights, 4 and 5. I’m really working it now, getting to full throttle as quickly as possible out of every turn.

Which reveals another unique aspect of the Valencia track: The fact that spectators can see the entire circuit also means that the whole Schubert Racing team can watch me lose traction in Turn 11 and spin the M3 after getting just a little too early and a little too hard on the gas before the M3 has fully settled. Okay, way too hard on the gas.

Embarrassing as it is, I’m so not coming in. I just need a faster car.

Which brings us to the Z4 GT3.

Z4 GT3: A harder, faster ride

Extremely low slung, rolling on enormous 18-inch slicks and wearing an impressive array of aerodynamic aids…just standing in front of this GT3 racer raises your heart rate. So does trying to get into it, thanks to a roll cage that would challenge Houdini.

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