Certain activities stir the loins of men and women differently. Some ladies for example get giddy shopping for Louboutins or La Perla. And some don’t (just to be politically correct, here). Now, get the average guy behind the steering wheel of a high-powered exoticar and we as grown men devolve. We’re five years old again. We make “vroom” sounds.
However, such untempered exuberance at 110 mph can be limb altering.
BMW Performance Driving School caters to such latent Andrettis at its sprawling 134-acre facility outside Greenville, SC. The school offers a series of half to multiple-day incentive programs and teambuilding exercises, complemented by a Teutonic glass and steel conference space for groups up to 75 people.
The deal starts with a 45-minute discussion about safety. Then everyone straps into one of the new BMW coupes for skill development taught by guys like Hollywood stunt driver Matt Mullins, who mixed it up in Talladega Nights and Herbie. Participants practice slalom maneuvers, skid control, and how to navigate the quickest way through a turn without peeling off a fender. So how fast can you go?
“This isn’t golf,” says Dan Gubitosa, Director. “No one gets hurt on a driving range. Your speed depends on how you, and we, feel about your ability, but drivers can get up over 100 mph on the back stretch, easy.”
What about girls? Do they like to go fast?
“It’s funny, we had IBM here today and about 35 percent of the group was female. They tend to be a little more tentative at the start, but once they do a few laps you can see them really getting into it.”
And guys? Do the instructors sometimes come across men who are maybe a little too aggressive for their ability?
“All the time,” he says, with a detectable sigh.
Once the instructors are comfortable that no one’s going to put a shiny 335i into a wall, it’s time to get the lead out.
One by one, drivers speed down the race course while all the time in contact via 2-way radio with an instructor. He’s there to provide advice and feedback about the driver’s line through a chicane, or when to touch the brakes towards the end of a wide open straightaway.
Everyone is timed so there is a friendly competitive element to the event. But Gubitosa says beyond satisfying their primal cravings for speed, people love to feel in charge of so much responsive power and taut handling.
Multiple-day programs include more racing and training, such as practice motoring around “water walls.” These are underground water fountains that act like barriers, which spontaneously spray up out of the asphalt to improve driver reflexes. There’s also a rugged off-road course for piloting X3s and X5s, the Beemer sport activity vehicles.
“Some of the drivers, they see this as edu-tainment,” says Gubitosa. “They’re having a lot of fun and what they learn here makes them a better driver back home…. It also applies to the workplace. Basically, we’re teaching executives how to be aggressive with control and restraint.”