Today was a working Monday, even for us in automotive. Only from time to time, once every 3-4-5 years when you meet a PR who truly loves his job, these days are worth a week’s time spent in a detox & mindfulness resort (although I don’t speak from personal experience).
Theoretically, today we had half a day to discover the new features on 2 BMW models: the 3 series and Z4. Practically, I had one of the most beautiful days in the last few months – complete detachment. I would tell you more about bhp, engines, fuel consumption, audio systems, autonomous systems or sensors…I know for sure I shouldn’t admit this here: how to put this….I have absolutely no idea about all of the above.
Still, we did exactly what we were supposed to do: we practiced dynamic driving with the Z4 under the close surveillance of Radu David, BMW Driving Experience trainer, and we completed a clocked handling test with the new 3 Series, which emphasised the new intelligent systems such as the Reversing Assistant.
The thing is, rarely does the practical part turn out to be infinitely more fun than the schedule we receive via email. We had each car for ourselves for more than an hour, in groups of 2 journalists. This means the crew was back together – I’m talking about one of the people who positively marked my 2018 season – codriver and colleague Cornel Șocariciu.
We met the new 3 Series, we did reconnaissance on the handling route on Comfort mode, then tested our parking/backing skills without and with the new Reversing Assistant. Then we really got to work: Sport Plus mode activated, Sport gearbox on and we were off to play. We challenged tenths of a second, and in the moment one of us took the lead we changed places in the car – everything with a few millimetres precision, through the slalom, circle, obstacle avoidance or emergency braking area. The aim was to be the fastest without killing any cones.
I really had fun, but truth is a car who handles so well in borderline situations is all you could wish to drive on the street, in an unpredictable traffic in which safety and driving assistance systems really make the difference.
Only this was just the warm-up, because the true savour of this press event was given by the Z4. And I have to admit it couldn’t have been any better for my first time ever driving a convertible! On the ATA racetrack I felt free again and in the zone. Minutes and minutes in a row nothing else mattered than the symbiosis between man and car. A mixture of spring sun and a rigid chassis, a 50:50 weight distribution and a perfectly sized steering wheel was all I needed. Without music, I forgot all of the rest, all about deadlines or the uncertainty of my 2019 rally season.
I even peacefully learned a very simple, but important lesson: I am not the first, nor the last rally driver who has difficulties in having motorsport partners. The key is to not deny this beautiful, burning passion, as long as this is the true definition of yourself. That ephemeral capacity of living turn by turn, second by second – a kind of mindfulness you will only find in a car who’s priority is the sheer driving pleasure.