Racing a 2011 BMW M3 GTP


Google "PalmerSport" and you'll notice they call themselves "the best corporate motorsport event in the world". A moderate bunch, those guys over in Bedford, England. But you know what, if I had the exact chunk of change lying right here in front of me I wouldn't hesitate for even a second to fly over and do it all over again. In fact, PalmerSport has hooked me on racing, and more specifically, on racing BMW's M3.

On Saturday June 4th I found myself in London, driving about a 100 km North to the WWII airfield just outside Bedford. I hyperlinked to Google Maps so you can check it out for yourself. These days it doesn't look like an airstrip as much as it looks like motoring heaven. Four tracks that differ in configuration, length, and speed are configured on this historic piece of property, also host to the idyllic 306th Bombardment Group Museum. I recommend to anyone that makes it to Bedford to make a brief stop at the Thurleigh Museum which lies just next to the front gates. It's run by a charming older couple, who are renown across the world for their serving in WWII, and their vast knowledge of it's history, and extensive collection of artifacts. It's like what you'd come across in the Imperial War Museum, only more authentic, as it's all presented to you in an ex bomb depot.

But I digress. After a vast lunch - big mistake - we were bussed to the first circuit upon having been given a safety briefing. A briefing which consisted of the instructors telling us to go as fast as our brains would allow our bodies to go. The word 'slow' was only introduced once as we were told that sometimes the quickest way around a bend is to slow down before you steer in, then lay off the power until you clip the apex, where you'll want to exit by giving it a boot full. Furthermore we were also shown the trophies we'd receive for quickest lap times of the day. Message received. Game on.

The first part of the day consisted of 11 laps in a Caterham 7 Superlight. Needless to say I had a blast drifting the tail happy kit car. Coincidentally Chris Harris, the famous Evo TV journalist, just released a road test today between the Porsche Cayman R and the BMW 1M on the exact same track. Hit the hyperlink for the video and you'll soon see that the track's layout with it's wide turns and long chicanes stimulate continues sideways action. Then along came a brace of Renault Clio Cup cars and an army of Porsche 996 GT3 Cup's. Although I didn't like the track's layout very much, I had a blast sitting behind the what looked like a rally car's interior setup in the Clio. Just as I mastered the front wheel drive slow turn-in forward staggered Renault, it was time to jump in the don't-let-off-in-the-corners tail heavy 911 GT3. To be honest I was a bit underwhelmed by the measly 320bhp that the flat 6 mustered up, and a bit frustrated with the clio's lack of grip. Maybe those were genuine concerns, or maybe I was subconsciously comparing these cars to what I was about to drive next. Something that would blow these cars right off the track. A car I've been waiting on for my entire life to present itself on an empty track, the E92 BMW M3.

The car I drove was dubbed a BMW M3 'GTP', P standing for Jonathan Palmer (ex-F1 driver) or PalmerSport edition. What they've done is taken a stock E92 M3, fiddled with only the aerodynamics - read big spoiler -, interior, and fuel tank. The GTP runs on LPG, which doesn't affect the performance, saves the environment, but basically turns the car in to a V-1 buzz bomb on 4 wheels. The interior is now home to a full roll cage, BMW Performance seats, 5-point harnesses, a lap timer, a kill switch, fire caution button, larger steering wheel shift pedals, and alcantara everything. And what can I say. It sounded phenomenal, it drove like mad, and it handled like nothing I've ever even dreamed about. What's happened now is that I want one more than any car I've ever wanted before. And not one to parade about in. To drive. Flatout. On a track.

I'd write much, much more about the M3, but my left index finger fell victim to a potato knife earlier tonight and I'm afraid I'm going to have to follow up on this article tomorrow. Until then, please enjoy my video, and visit the PalmerSport website at www.palmersport.com . The autodrome will soon become a training site for the 2012 London Olympic athletes so get over to Bedford, England before the flying race cars are replaced by javelins and disci.