THE UL­TI­MATE PLAY­GROUND

WEL­COME TO THE DESERT OA­SIS IN CAL­I­FOR­NIA KNOWN AS BMW PER­FOR­MANCE CEN­TER WEST

Super Street - - Etc. -

There are plenty of race schools scat­tered around the na­tion, but many aren’t lo­cated in the most at­trac­tive places, and, in ad­di­tion, you don’t want to be driv­ing a Ford Mus­tang. While we’d pre­fer to hop into a GT-R or STI for a day, we’re afraid there just isn’t an af­ford­able school out there with many new Ja­panese sports cars read­ily track­able. How­ever, if you don’t mind high per­for­mance Eu­ros (and we def­i­nitely don’t!), the new BMW Per­for­mance Cen­ter West in Ther­mal, CA is the an­swer to your pray­ers.

As the name sug­gests, Ther­mal is a hot place. About 30 min­utes from Palm Springs (2.5 hours from LA or Or­ange County), triple-digit temps are the norm from May to Septem­ber; how­ever, it’s also its off­sea­son so it was the per­fect time for us to check out and trust us when we say the ex­pe­ri­ence was noth­ing short of amaz­ing.

Upon ar­riv­ing, we were greeted by a mas­sive fa­cil­ity. This ain’t no winky dink park­ing lot au­tocross, but there’s 5.1 miles of ex­pan­sive track lay­outs, and four dif­fer­ent tracks in all. There are 30 pro in­struc­tors on the ros­ter and 130 BMWS in the sta­ble, reg­u­larly main­tained and all a blast to drive. No base mod­els here, but we’re talk­ing ve­hi­cles like brand new M3s and M4s with more than 400hp for you to play with.

BMW Per­for­mance Cen­ter tells us more than 10,000 peo­ple went through their pro­gram in ’17, and it’s no mys­tery why. Af­ter a quick class­room ses­sion, we were pow­er­s­lid­ing around on a 330 ft. wet skid pad in a pair of new M3s. Af­ter what felt like 100 rev­o­lu­tions, we headed to a 1.1-mile course that fea­tured plenty of dif­fer­ent cor­ners, some man­made el­e­va­tion changes, a long enough straight where you’ll be kiss­ing 120mph, and hair­pins tight enough to get the car­bon ceramic brakes smok­ing hot. We man­aged to con­vince our in­struc­tor to al­low a 40-minute hot ses­sion–not the usual sched­ule of events but an ex­am­ple of the flex­i­bil­ity the fa­cil­ity of­fers.

Pro­grams can be catered to ac­com­mo­date any­where from one to a cou­ple hun­dred peo­ple. Ad­vanced M schools dive deeper into things like mas­ter­ing weight trans­fers with full trac­tion off, while begin­ner classes teach more of the ba­sic fun­da­men­tals. Pri­vate coach­ing is also avail­able, in fact, dur­ing our visit, there was a 60-year old lady get­ting one-on-one coach­ing. Need­less to say, she was pow­er­s­lid­ing as good as we were, and just goes to show that BMW Per­for­mance Cen­ter West is open to all ages and all skill lev­els.

Be­sides the thrill of be­ing out on the track all day, its two-story fa­cil­ity/of­fice is be­com­ing quite the venue for cor­po­rate meet­ings and pri­vate par­ties. Imag­ine hav­ing to go to the BMW Per­for­mance Cen­ter for a con­fer­ence, while the rest of the af­ter­noon is spent do­ing hot laps. Or how about or­ga­niz­ing your buddy’s bach­e­lor party there next year be­fore the Coachella Mu­sic Fes­ti­val only a few miles away… Any­thing is pos­si­ble, there’s a lot you can learn from just a day out there, and we’re stoked there’s fi­nally some­thing like this in L.A.’S own back­yard.

CON­NECT: bmw­per­for­mance­cen­ter.com

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