DUNCAN SMART: Brands Hatch and Goodwood FOS

We head into Druids sideways, fast and very much sideways like we are on ice sideways, but then off the power dab of opposite lock back on the power and we catapult down the hill towards Graham Hill bend. Andy Priaulx is laughing and I'm giggling too as we swing like a pendulum from corner to corner. This isn't for speed it's utter joy and sublime car control from Andy, he's just having fun and so am I.

The M3 GTP slithers around underneath us but we are really, really shifting. As we come out of McLaren and into Clarke I'm certain we are going into the pits but we just slide on past and go around for another lap. I get the feeling Andy is enjoying this as much as I am. Eventually we do head in as Andy has a busy schedule and lots of corporate people to keep happy too. It's great to catch up with the master and once again he gives me a few insightful words to help with my driving and improving my speed on the track.

It’s Monday morning in June and today is BMW experience day at Brands Hatch. A beautiful M4 waits for me in the Pit Lane, the M4 has just been launched and guests have been invited along to try a variety of cars out on the track.

I hop in with an instructor and we do 8 laps of the track looking to improve my driving with each one, he’s happy for me

to push on, encouraging me to get quicker with each lap. The M4 is fantastic around brands and its lovely to really let her go.

Before lunch I get to do a bit of off road driving in an X3 and an X5 and I’m pleasantly surprised at the capability of both in steep and slippery conditions. I had no idea how good the X Drive system is and both are incredibly adept in this environment. 

Back at the track and in the pits the cars are lined up and it really is kid in a sweet shop time, the cars are arranged numerically in order on the grid two of each abreast with the 135i, 235i, M3, M4, M5.

You jump in one of your choice and go out for 4 laps, no overtaking and effectively with a safety car out front but it’s great fun all the same as everyone is a keen driver. At one point I’m asked to slow down a bit by the staff as apparently I was “a bit out of shape” and I should have the traction on, I apologise but am secretly proud of my behaviour. Gradually we work our way through each vehicle to experience the high performance end of the BMW range. I spend more time around the track in various cars have a further chat with Andy and soon another fantastic day is over.

Two weeks later and I’m at the Goodwood Festival Of Speed Moving Motor Show. At the track its rather like brands with all high performance BMW’s littering the circuit. You jump in whatever takes your fancy for some high-speed laps with an instructor. This time I choose to spend most of my time in the M5 as I’ve hardly driven her, around this old fast circuit the V8 is superb and sounds fantastic, the ceramic brakes doing a great job as we approach Woodcote at over 140mph.

I take the M3 out a couple of times too, the M3 is more nimble and I love it but I head back to the M5 for more goes as I just can’t resist that huge roar and power that the M5 can unleash.

In the afternoon I head to the hill climb and the BMW pavilion, it’s great to enjoy some hospitality but no drink for me as soon I’m making way to the drivers club and preparing to drive the new M3 up the hill climb. I’m very excited but keen not to stuff it into the hay bales!

Once again an instructor accompanies me as we wait our turn to go up the famous course. I give the M3 a good blast up the hill and it’s all over in a flash, the M3 proves itself capable and nimble once again, so sure footed yet incredibly quick, It’s such a pleasure to drive.

On Sunday I’m back at Goodwood again, it’s a little different though, as today I’m going to be passenger up the hill rather than driver and its Tiff Needell that’s driving me!

Tiff and I meet up and we take the PistonHeads M4 as we wait in turn to go up the hill but someone ahead crashes and we have to wait about an hour for the whole thing to be cleared up. It’s a great hour for me as we sit in the M4 and get to chat about all things motorsport, driving in general and of course BMW.

At last we get under way and in true Tiff style he completely turns it on, messing around on the start line with the fans along the track, he really is quite a character. The flag goes down and we set off up the course, traction is off and we scream up the straight, smoke pouring off the tyres and the car sliding around underneath us. As we go into the 2nd big right-hander Tiff pulls a Scandinavian flick and I wonder if he’s going to recover it, we do and once again we are pounding up the course at 100mph on this narrow piece of tarmac. All to quickly we reach the top paddock where thousands of people are waiting.

Once again Tiff entertains the crowds with donuts in the M4, the crowd loves it but many people with expensive cars parked very closely do not look amused, he’s definitely a maverick, very talented and I have to chuckle. Inside the drivers hospitality tent it’s a different story as its full of all the drivers waiting to go back down.

I’m greeted by Jake Humphrey who’s sat just inside, on the table is Jenson Button who waves a hello to me when I’m briefly introduced, the room is littered with top drivers from all generations, another fabulous experience and I’m pinching myself.

Tiff and I jump back in the M4 and we make our way down the hill, line astern with thousands of people waving as we go, Tiff (as usual) is happy to entertain the crowd with his antics. It’s been another couple of fabulous days and with the small matter of Jake Humphrey interviewing me live at the BMW pavilion later, they’re days I’ll never forget. 

AuthorDuncan Smart
Photography: Duncan Smart

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