In case you haven’t already realised, petrolheads elsewhere have it much better than we do.
Say, for instance, you live in Munich, have a penchant for fast BMWs, and have the urge to pedal some metal in a safe, controlled setting. No need to cross a border and drive 350 kilometres to get to the nearest racetrack, as we do. Just 30 kilometres from the Bavarian capital is BMW’s impressive driver training facility, a converted military and civilian airport near the town of Maisach.
Spanning 130 hectares, the BMW and Mini Driving Academy (to give the place its formal title) site boasts long straights, three 42-metre irrigated skidpans, dedicated acceleration, brake-test, lane-change and slalom areas, and a high-speed 1.8km-long circuit layout created from the existing runways and taxiways.
Given the space and facilities at hand, the training ground naturally lends itself to a varied range of driver training courses, with prices from just 290 euros upwards. These courses span basic-level instruction for younger drivers (aimed at inculcating the finer points of seating position, steering, braking and reacting in emergency situations) to model-specific programmes for owners of everything from MINIs to all-electric BMW i models to the high-performance M cars, and even to training for professional chauffeurs in attack evasion and crisis-handling techniques.
Back in May, I was given a half-day taster in BMW M2s. The bunch of us was let loose in a timed slalom shootout, and we thrilled ourselves to bits hurling the 370bhp coupes through sudden lane-change swerves, testing the cars’ acceleration and braking abilities to the limit on streaming wet tarmac, and playing drift hooligans on the skidpan.
We ended off with a bunch of flat-out laps of the 1.8km circuit, doing our best to keep up with our enthusiastic instructor as he hurtled through third-gear chicanes and fourth-gear bends seemingly without lifting off.
All the exercises had our heartbeats redlining as much as the cars’ twin-turbo engines, and our adrenalin was pumping like the brake pedals on full ABS-activation. From the grin on his face at the end, even our instructor had a blast, it seemed.
The opportunity to take such a high-performance car up to and past its limit in total safety, and with the benefit of expert guidance all the way, was invaluable.
This taster had whetted my appetites for more. Now, if they could just build one of these facilities in Singapore. Alternatively, fitting in a driver training day at Maisach on your next holiday to Germany sounds like a plan.