Many of us are cursed with the desire to go fast with things that make loud brum-brum sounds, whether on four wheels or two.
Those who are particularly unfortunate feel the need for speed on both, an obsession that can decimate bank accounts, relationships and licences, but BMW has come to the rescue with the ultimate safe temptation for these bedevilled souls – the ‘M Meets Motorrad’ track experience.
Launched to celebrate the prestigious M Sport brand finally being applied to BMW’s fastest motorcycles, the event gives speed freaks like yours truly the chance to experience some of the latest and greatest Beemer sports cars and motorbikes on the same day.
As a BMW motorcycle owner, I was naturally quite keen to find out what all the fuss was about, particularly when I discovered that the inaugural event was to be held at the awesome Phillip Island GP circuit.
When the day finally arrives, the herd of petrolheads are gathered to be briefed on the ‘M’ portion of the day’s activities to take place over the morning. Lead driving instructor Derek gives us some driving tips and asks that we leave the DSC button alone until we hit the skidpan, in the interests of avoiding unscheduled track departures, and something else about being careful at Turn 2, but by then my bladder is busy telling me I shouldn’t have had that second coffee.
Helmets on, we make our way out to pit lane and are greeted by a row of thrumming new M4s, warmed up and ready to strafe The Island.
I jump in the nearest car before anyone can tell me not to, and it’s a slightly surreal moment as Derek leads us down the pit exit for the first time, the morning sun glinting off Bass Strait in the distance. He sets an easy rhythm for the first few laps, but as the pace picks up I begin to revel in the M4’s prodigious power and grip.
Having ridden a fair bit at the Island but never driven there, it’s striking how late the M4 can be braked into turns, and downright mind-blowing how early serious power can be dialled in. By taking a wide corner entry and clipping the apex late, I can summon what feels like a heroic amount of mumbo exiting the turns, the straight-six turbo snarling magnificently as the rear Michelins squirm for dear life over the ripple-strips.
Derek is really starting to hustle, so I nail the pedal to the floor before the crest coming onto the straight and we hurtle under the Melbourne bridge. With the gap still extending I hold my breath and hit the anchors as late as I dare before Turn 1, the seatbelt constricting as the car slows like it’s hooked onto an aircraft carrier landing cable.
Still carrying big speed, the M4 drifts wide out of Doohan Corner and I try to carry the momentum into Turn 2, but suddenly the front end doesn’t want to turn and I’m on the dusty section of Southern Loop, lurching ever closer to the outer edge of the track. What was Derek saying about Turn 2 again?
After what seems like an eternity, the front Michelins finally play ball and I scythe back to the second apex, hoping it looks deliberate.
All too soon the session is over and I’m cruising back down pit lane with damp palms, but absolutely buzzing. That was at least as fun as any motorcycle session I’ve ever done here.
After a few more laps in the surprisingly not-terrible X3, it’s time to go drifting in an M2 Competition, a car that’s very high on my Christmas wish list.
Skidpan instructor Scott demonstrates the correct technique on the freshly drenched concrete, executing a masterful slide transitioning into a full 360-degree drift. Yeah, looks easy...
I apologise in advance to my passenger, Rod, with whom I’m sharing skid duties, and set off down the indicated line – 30km/h, second gear, DSC off. Mid-turn I stab the gas hard and the rear of the M2 instantly snaps hugely sideways, leaving us pointing in the opposite direction.
Old Rod is laughing so hard I fear he might pass out as I come around for another pass, but this time I’m ready with a bag of opposite lock when the rear steps out, catching the slide and powering out of it with a satisfying roar from the 302kw twin-turbo. ‘Woooooo!’ cheers Rod, still cackling like a maniac. Holy heck, this is addictive.
After a few more runs with varying degrees of success I reluctantly hand back the keys to the M2, as it’s time to embark on the ‘Motorrad’ portion of the day’s activities.
This section of the day is run by the California Superbike School, with a stable of sparkling new BMW motorcycles to try out, from R9Ts to R1250s and even a K1600 police bike – complete with sirens.
For the first session I head out on BMW’s most track-oriented motorcycle, the ballistic S 1000 RR, and its superior power-to-weight ratio over an M4 makes itself felt immediately, morphing Gardner Straight into a tunnel of blurred colour as my eyes desperately search for the braking markers at 270km/h.
If driving a car at Phillip Island is thrilling, then riding the S 1000 RR here is like mainlining tiger adrenaline. But I’m riding messily and missing markers, my body tensing uncomfortably where my behind contacts the seat.
Compared to the M4, more patience is required before you can wind the throttle open, though the RR’s electronics do a sensational job of keeping the rear tyre hooked up.
In the second session I start to feel the rhythm more as some of the cobwebs get blown away, the RR feeling more like a scalpel than a hammer. There’s a moment of delight at the banked Siberia corner as my knee touches down at full lean, the cornering forces equalising briefly before the screaming 1000cc four-cylinder hurls me towards Turns 7 and 8.
By now another difference between driving and riding at Phillip Island is becoming apparent – the extra physical exertion required to hang off a charging 150kW sportsbike. It’s a weird type of callisthenic strength you need to smoothly move your body mass around on a motorbike without upsetting the balance, and Phillip Island is particularly taxing with such long, stupendously fast corners.
When I see the red flags waving to end the session I’m semi-relieved because my leg muscles are burning from the effort required to hang off the RR.
After a change of pace sampling a couple of the less track-oriented bikes in the last session, it’s finally time to peel off the sweat-soaked leathers and try to get my head around the incredible range of machinery I’ve just piloted.
With so much to fit into a single day, some of the sessions could have been longer, but that seems a churlish complaint given you get to ride and drive so much quality BMW metal on the same day, with expert tuition.
Future M Meets Motorrad dates are yet to be announced, so keep an eye on the events page on the BMW Motorrad website if you’re interested in trying this unique motoring experience.