Seven years. That’s how long I’ve been a motoring journalist, and a fan of all things petrol-headed for many years before that. So it seems absolutely criminal that in all that time, I’ve never been to the Mecca of motorsport, the home of the hooning holy grail. The Nurburgring.
Hooray, then, for Castrol.The global oil and lubricant company had organised a jaunt for lucky customers from around the world, following a competition to promote its Edge product in association with BMW. A band of enthusiastic mechanics and workshop owners would spend several days in Germany, visiting various sites of BMW interest before heading up to the hallowed tarmac that is the Nordschleife. Would I like to join them? Aw hells yeah.
And so follows a flight to Munich, living it up in the very swanky Emirates A380. Biography of Bernie Ecclestone to keep me engrossed en route.
Wilkommen in Deutschland! Here’s our lovely host Nadia to pick us up from the airport.
After freshening up, our first escapade is to BMW‘s M Division in Garching on the northern outskirts of Munich. Sadly a full tour wasn’t on the agenda, but we did get a chance to explore some of the motorsport-derived operation’s latest and most interesting vehicles, as well as custom machines from BMW Individual. Like this E38 L7, kitted out by aging terminator and fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, which started the whole idea of bespoke BMWs.
The Australians in the group were particularly keen on this M3 pick up. It’s the only one in the world, but despite the number plate, it’s not road legal. BMW uses it to haul stuff around the Garching facility.
Apparently it’s actually a bit of a pig to drive, as there’s now hardly any weight in the back.
BMW Individual options let you personalise your new ride. Who’s for a matt silver M3 with red highlights?
Or perhaps you’re a frustrated bike racer wanting to be reminded of your MotoGP passion when you’re fiddling with the iDrive?
Unfortunately, we couldn’t swipe the keys to this M3 GTS and go for a hoon. Stoopid security guards…
The (frustratingly short) visit ended with a chance for a quick chat with BMW’s motorsport director Jens Marquardt, who talked about the (then) forthcoming DTM season. BMW is back in the German Touring Car series for the first time in 20 years and Marquardt was cautiously optimistic about being competitive. That optimism proved well founded, with BMW driver Bruno Spengler picking up a win in only the second race of the season.
Quick sharp, we piled onto a coach and went to BMW World. Located next to the Munich Olympic stadium, this is an enormous facility that’s essentially a massive showroom. Or a brand experience centre, depending on your preferred level of corporate speech. In fairness, it’s more than a showroom – customers can pick up their new cars from here, lit up on spinning podiums, as well as getting a full flavour of every BMW vehicle currently on sale. And a fair few that aren’t. BMW World also hosts concerts, events and partys, and has a bevy of restaurants. It’s pretty impressive.
Did I mention that it’s big?
Seriously. Really big.
BMW World is linked by a bridge to the BMW Museum. As you might expect, this is a museum. About BMWs. Let’s go look…
In the foyer sits the BMW LMR V12, winner of the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans. Due to time shortages and the need to get on a coach for a very long drive to the Nurburgring, details gathered on the following cars are somewhat scant, but feel free to help out in the comments below…
A trio of topless treats.
Before it made cars, BMW built motorbikes. Like this one.
A 1930 edition of BMW‘s first car – a 3/15PS.
I’ve decided I want an M6 bodyshell on the wall of my living room.
Classic. BMW 328, in full Mille Miglia spec.
Nelson Piquet‘s Brabham BT-54 Formula 1 car.
Wall-mounted BMW Sauber F1.06. This can go in the bedroom, I think.
A stack of Beemers.
BMW 3 Series evolution.
A history of BMW in name badges. This was very cool and went down for several storeys.
A BMW 1 Series, hewn from clay.
The concept room – here’s the 1999 BMW Z9 GT. Shades of the 6 Series that followed…
A 1935 BMW 315/1. Awesome colour combination, and I love the rear wheel covers.
After a whistle-stop tour, it was time on the coach and take the long and very dull journey north, to the Eifel mountains. After decades of waiting, I was close to finally taking on the Nordschleife, the place where so many racing heroes have lived and died. But all that will come in part 2. Don’t touch that dial. Er, mouse.