The pitlane exit on the South Palm Circuit puts you right onto the longest straight of the track. This gives you a great run onto the straight and you get up to somewhere around 130-135 MPH at the end of it. And that’s when you notice that the brakes are very different from the road car! They are much, much firmer and take quite a bit of effort to get them to engage. But this is on purpose as they are designed to not overheat during long endurance races. If you’ve been on track, you know how brakes can start to feel rather squishy as the pedal throw gets longer throughout the session. That won’t happen in this car.
Once you do get it slowed down, the next thing that instantly jumps out at you is how well the M4 GT4 corners – it’s on absolute rails and can change directions very quickly! The full slicks and aerodynamics make it feel so much more planted and composed. The lateral g-force that it produces is just awesome to feel. In the M4, there’s some suspension compliance and you can play with the edge of adhesion with the tires – not so much in M4 GT4. And that’s why we worked on a different driving line while in the M4 earlier. With the M4 GT4, the line isn’t as arcing, it’s sharper and more geared to get the car pointed straight sooner.
I found out very quickly why that is too: traction control.
The M4 GT4’s traction control was clearly tied to the steering input. If there was a lot of steering angle, there was less power available. As you opened up the wheel, it would give you more, and as soon as the steering wheel went straight, you had max power. This was a cool experience as the power-to-weight ratio was much better than the M4, plus add in the additional traction from the slick tires, and it would just rocket out of the corner!
We ended up getting two, rather long sessions in the M4 GT4 before the experience was over and they had to drag me out of the car. I had an absolute blast and could have continued on for hours.
In all, we ended up spending a good hour with the M4 GT4. But the way they have structured the BMW M4 GT4 Experience makes it feel like I spent half the day with it. The interactions were sprinkled throughout the day – the walkaround, safety gear fitting, steering wheel and controls overview, and driving past them getting prepared trackside as we headed out on circuit in the street cars. All of this didn’t just extend the excitement, it built it up so that when we did finally jump into the cockpit, got our seatbelts sinched tight, and our radio jacked into our helmet, we were amped and ready!
Plenty Of School Sessions, Even For Beginners
For those who desire to take it to the next level, the BMW Performance Center also offers a SCCA-certified racing school to take the next steps to becoming a pro driver. Students can even add this one-day school to an Advanced M School or Two-Day M School session and get qualified all at once. They will coach you through the art of passing under both braking and acceleration, you’ll learn how to navigate with other cars on track, and even practice starts to help you set up for that first turn after the green flag drops.
If you are looking for more seat time, they also offer a half-day program which includes 125 miles of track driving and a full-day program which includes 250 miles. These programs are geared for people who are looking to get plenty of seat time so they can compete with the best in any global GT4 racing series.
The school alone is amazing, but to make the experience complete, it was recommended that we stay at the Hotel PASEO – and we are glad we did! This boutique hotel is the first new luxury hotel in Palm Desert in over 30 years, and carries on the Palm Springs vibe, but with a modern twist. Just off El Paseo, which is known as the “The Rodeo Drive of the Desert”, there are plenty of nice restaurants, shops, and entertainment within walking distance. And after a long day at the track, they have SPA LA LÉ right on site so you can wind down with a nice massage. Plus, they have partnered with the BMW Performance Center to offer exclusive discounts of up to 25% off their standard rates to those attending a driving school.
Memories Of A Lifetime
The BMW Performance Center is more than just a driving school, it provides premium experiences that create memories of a lifetime. This was something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time and I’m very happy to be able to finally check it off my list. Guess I need to come back and get my racing license now so I can hit up BMW Customer Racing teams for some seat time. This was just the start of the dream, ultimately I ended up at the Nürburgring 24 Hours!
To find out more about the BMW M4 GT4 Experience, or any of their other driving schools, visit their website at bmwperformancecenter.com.