BMW AT GOODWOOD
DOING something for the first time usually goes one of two ways. You’ll either hate it, or be hooked and left eagerly anticipating the next opportunity. I’ve never driven a car on a track before so when I was invited to take a selection of BMW M cars around the historic Goodwood Circuit, I desperately hoped the experience would fall into that latter category. Cars are something I’ve always loved and the opportunity to spend a morning blasting around a circuit seemed pretty choice to me.
However, the excitement of my first track day was mixed with an underlying sense of dread I’d run out of talent in spectacular fashion. Would I spin out in an M4, or put an M2 backwards into a wall? All of these thoughts had crossed my mind in the days leading up to the event. They were still present at the driver briefing where Tiff Needell, of Top Gear and Fifth Gear fame and an accomplished racing driver in his own right, introduced us to the track.
Words such as “narrow”, “fast” and “prestigious” were all used with enthusiasm to describe the circuit, presumably to get us pumped up before we took the wheel. In my case, they served only to heighten my anxiety. The briefing over, we were herded into the pit lane to be greeted by an enviable selection of metal. There were BMW M6s, M4s and M2s, as well as a Mini John Cooper Works Challenge to name but a few.
As we had only half an hour on track, there was no way we’d get to go out in all of them, so I decided to take an M4 for my first three laps.
Reassuringly, there was an instructor in the passenger seat. So, with slightly more confidence than I’d started with, I gave the car in front of me plenty of room and planted my foot. The traction control cut in immediately as the rear tyres struggled to grip the damp circuit, but soon the car launched itself towards the first bend.
With 425bhp and 550Nm of torque, the M4 is a quick car – and I wasn’t even pushing it. Not yet, anyway. I rounded the first bend and punched it again towards the next corner. Before I knew it, the first lap was over and I was starting to feel a lot more confident, braking later, turning in more aggressively and accelerating harder out of the sweeping turns.
By the time I got to my third and final lap in the M4 any reservations were long gone. I not only had a feel for the car, I now knew the layout of the track. I even had to slow down to avoid getting too close to the driver in front of me.
I jumped out of the M4 and into an M2. After starting it up, I even asked the instructor if I could switch the car into Sport mode, an idea he dismissed immediately. For legal reasons.
It quickly became apparent the M2 was a different beast to the M4. It uses the same 3.0-litre straight-six engine, but with 365bhp as opposed to 425bhp. But it’s smaller, lighter and has a shorter wheelbase – meaning it feels much tighter and sharper than its big brother. You really don’t notice it’s the best part of 60bhp down on the M4. The M2 is still a rapid thing.
Before I knew it, I was at the end of my third and final lap of the morning. I jumped out of the car, hoping we would have time for one more go. Unfortunately, we didn’t, but that was okay, because I was buzzing for the rest of the day. I’d gone from being nervous about my first track experience, to looking at how to get a racing licence.
Oh, and if I were to pick between the M4 and M2, without a doubt, my money would go on the M2. Not only is it cheaper, it also feels like more of a hooligan than the M4, and that counts for quite a lot in my book.
Simon Davis takes the BMW M4 out on to the historic Goodwood race track. the choices included an M2 and Mini John Cooper Works Challenge Below left,