2017 BMW M-Festival / 24H Nurburgring: Ground Zero

Over 20 kilometres long, more than 300 metres of elevation changes, 170 corners, the longest racetrack in the World and quite possibly the most dangerous. This is the Nurburgring Nordschleife, otherwise known as “The Green Hell”, and we have finally arrived.

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It was an Friday morning when i finally set foot outside the grounds of the Nurburgring Info Center. Although big race starts on Saturday, the atmosphere surrounding the complex was absolutely buzzing and i just couldn’t believe how much was already going on so early in the day!

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On the way in, we passed by more numerous campsites, each of them packed to the brim and even the carparks were getting filled up with convoys of cars arriving from various parts of Europe. This right here, is Germany’s Festival of Speed.

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I know i’m geeking out, but just standing here gave me the chills. Time to check another one off the bucket list.

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Our agenda for Day 00 at the ‘Ring was simple, get all our paperwork sorted, suss out the hospitality areas and pay a visit to a rather special place for BMW M Car fans, the BMW M Test Center Nürburg. As you can see from the picture above, the official media center was already a flurry of activity! Time to tour the paddock.

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One of the unique differentiators of the Nurburgring race is really just how close spectators can get to the action, not just alongside the track but even in the paddock areas behind the pits. Visitors were free to just wander around the compounds where all the teams have set up their temporary homes. Imagine that happening in F1!

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Being a part of the M Festival does have its benefits as we managed to score a paddock tour with a lovely guide from BMW.

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You can get really up close and personal to the cars in the paddock area. For those searching for memorabilia, a couple of shops catering to Nurburgring fans were set up for just that purpose.

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Team Subaru shuffling about in typical Japanese clockwork precision. The WRX STI NBR had won in their class for the past two years in-a-row and were hoping for a triple whammy.

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I spotted a 944 sitting outside. This Porsche will be participating in the 24H Nürburgring Classic race. A support race that takes place just before the actual event and features a roster full of mouth watering classic racers.

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Can you identify some of the classics we spotted?

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Race cars were not the only machines running on the track as a couple of exhibition drift runs were conducted by the Red Bull Driftbrothers. It was poetry in motion.

Time does not stand still at the ‘Ring, rather, it moves pretty fast, before we knew it, it was time to hit the shuttle and make a trip to the birthplace of all M cars. The BMW M Test Center.

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Located just a stones throw away from the track, this facility is where every legendary M car to date was developed.

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Let that thought sink in for a moment, every M car to date. This is rarefied grounds we are stepping into. If these walls could talk.

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Our date here was spent with the Vice President of Engineering at BMW M Division, Dirk Haecker, who went through with us the entire range of M4s that were assembled in front of us. The original M4, the M4 Competition Package, the latest M4 CS and the very very desirable M4 GTS.

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Most of his time was of course spent on the BMW M’s latest M4 variant, the M4 CS, unveiled a little over a month ago. Created for keen drivers who want a street car with higher performance than the Competition Package but would prefer a vehicle that’s not as hardcore as the track focused GTS. (Another problem with the GTS is it’s limited edition production run has fully sold out, but i digress.)

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In its signature San Marino Blue Metallic paint, the car looked great in the garage and stunning once under the sun.

While the M4 CS does not get the GTS’s water injection system, it still comes with 454 horses. Rocketing this car to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, just 0.2 seconds short of its uncompromising GTS sibling.

On the outside, there are few key visual enhancements that set the CS apart but those in the know will know where to look. Beginning with the fixed front lip carbon spoiler and tapering off with a ducktail-style rear deck lip and splitter crafted from the same material. The bonnet is also made from carbon fiber but being that its painted over in body colour, few will ever know. Suffice to say that even with the carbon bonnet hidden away under layers of paint, it still looks the business.

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Did we show you the trick OLED rear lights? Here they are.

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We also spent some time throwing questions at Mr Haecker who graciously answered most of them.

On the questions regarding the currently ongoing power wars between the German marques and how BMW M intends to move forward, Mr Haecker assured us that pure horsepower is not what drives M development, handling and driving feel is. Assuring us that currently, they don’t foresee the new M5’s xDrive system making its way into future M3/M4’s drivetrains.

We tried to pry into BMW’s future plans regarding the direction of future 6’ers given that the 8 is now the Gran Touring flagship but no one wanted to give us any answers. They did hint at the M8 that was to be unveiled a day after our visit.

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What we did manage to get out of this choice meeting was that this new CS/GTS naming convention allows BMW M to develop more driver focused variants for other cars in the M stable. Did somebody say M2 GTS?

Was the new Toyota Supra hidden away somewhere? No. We tried.

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Before we left, i had to ogle over the GTS once again. It just looks so “right” sitting in this sacred garage.

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One day perhaps… one day…

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With our M Test Center visit concluded, we boarded our shuttle once again towards the M Hospitality suite.

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Overlooking the GP circuit, the M Hospitality suite offered guests a fantastic vantage point for overlooking the cars tackling the GP part of the circuit and was the backdrop for the evening’s event, the BMW M Night.

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What a lovely backdrop indeed.

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Shortly after we arrived, the top contenders headed out for their qualifying runs. Call me biased, but i can never get tired of hearing the violent pops, bangs and whistles that emanate from the M6 GT3s as they let off the throttle and downshift. No other car on the grid sounded as good.

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This Rowe racing M6 GT3 will soon take top BMW honours on Sunday evening in one of the most nail-biting final moments of an endurance race i’ve ever seen.

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As the evening turned to night, BMW M dropped their latest racing car on us, the M4 GT4.

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Created for sale to customer teams from 2018, the M4 GT4 incorporates all of BMW Motorsport’s expertise and was developed using bits from the M6 GT3 with a strong focus on mileage, cost efficiency and ease of maintenance.

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For those who want in on a piece of the action, the M4 GT4 starts at 169,000 Euros. All we want to know is, will someone in Japan try to convert this monster for street use!?!

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Like we mentioned earlier, time does fly when you are having fun and before we knew it, the Sun was setting, signalling us to make our way back to our hotel. Tomorrow, it’s show time!

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