In a nutshell, the Spa-Francorchamps Lotus experience was a flop. Financially, emotionally. I was drained, I had not driven half as much as I wanted, and I was slower round the track in the Lotus in the dry than I'd been in the Megane in the wet. With the latter, I had been able to chase 911s with decent success, whereas with the Exige, it was the question of keeping it together. And it has nothing to do with driving skills. Think Linux. Using one of those DYI distributions does not make you into a better techie. Merely one who likes to labor unnecessarily. Perhaps for professionals and Steve McQueen wannabes, a wholly analog car makes sense. But when you're out there to have innocent and safe fun, you don't need the amateur drama of badly assembled parts.
On the bright side, my lady companion was the only ... lady on the track, so she automatically received +100 XP mana and respect from the guys, including the driving instructor. After all, how many women voluntarily don a helmet and go speeding at 150+ km/h on a race track? That's the only redeeming factor in this whole thing.
I tried to put away the less than optimal track day experience behind me by focusing on the joys of unlimited autobahns and the turbo-charged goodness that is BMW M4. The engine noise, the acceleration, the tightness, and then, the opulence and luxury. You really get to enjoy yourself, and it's never a strain. Our destination was Dusseldorf, much like the last time, a city of architectural delights, but also some other hidden goodies.
A city of a thousand ... automotive delights.
And here be one of them.
Last time when I was in the city, I visited the museum for vintage cars. This time? There was a supercar festival, and hundreds of people came by to show off their muscle. Old cars, new cars, fancy models, anything you can think of. Then, as they paraded out of the parking lot, each driver would briefly floor it, giving us an aural performance, with some extra burnt rubber for good measure. Really sweet. And there was much rejoicing.
It's a matter of style, you can make it, mile after mile, feel the heat ... cannonball.
The bold and the beautiful.
Last time, we had the old Corvette; now we have the new one, with a 7-speed manual gearbox.
Notice the one odd cobble - chaos in Germany.
I then decided to take the M4 on to the next challenge - more autobahn fun, but also a visit to a bunch of nice, picturesque medieval castles, with narrow, one-lane approaches and steep, winding hill climbs. You may think the BMW would dislike this kind of setting, but you would be mistaken. Despite its bulk and the less-than-gentle clutch at low speeds, the car still managed the snug alleys quite well. The few local kids were quite amazed to see a performance car slither down their 'hood.
In fact, at one point, I had to reverse about 10-15 meters down a two-meter-and-bit-wide road to let a VW Transporter van take a squiggly turn. Not the most enviable place for such a maneuver, but then, the parking sensors are precise, and you know what you're doing. Rear visibility is reasonable for a coupe.
Medieval fortresses, narrow roads, sweet.
Then, on my way from a castle restaurant to the car, a bird shat on me. Something massive. I was forced to take my shirt off and walk the rest of the way humming to the iconic tune of Right Said Fred. The passersby were allowed to admire my half-naked form, and there was much rejoicing. Or something. I probably am the luckiest person in the universe, because that poo was huge. Whatever it was that inflicted its waste on me totaled the shirt, btw. Even after dry cleaning, there was still a distinct yellow-reddish stain across half the right shoulder. The shirt had to go.
Spectacular view, spectacular cars; notice the forest - there lurks a bird that defiled my shirt.
Several more days, sun and light rain, more driving, mostly in the urban settings. Typically, M4 is not a city car, but it never makes you feel uncomfortable. At one point, I found myself behind a Lambo at a traffic light, with the asphalt glistening with rain drops. We both did a bit of responsible speed accretion, but with the advantage of a four-wheel drive, the Lambo had it better. I do have to say I was pleased with how the BMW handled the wet. Yes, you are aware of the fact there's half a thousand horses snagging your rear axle. But if you don't behave like a fool, and you keep the electronic safety systems turned on, it's all fun. You never get the impression the car is trying to embarrass you.
This town is too small for the two of us.
I am utterly pleased with the trip, the race track fiasco notwithstanding. Germany is THE country you want to go for carefree, guilt-free driving fun. Yes, you can probably get away with something like 150-160 km/h in a few other countries, braving the local traffic enforcement, but it's only here you can do that legally, on a road infrastructure that allows such speeds and behavior, and with the right mentality and culture to match.
The BMW M4 proved itself to be an excellent - and relatively cheap - all-rounder, with good qualities both in the open, inside 17th century towns as well as big, shiny cities. Likewise, it's pleasing to drive in all road conditions, and it comes with a plethora of comfort that exceed its sporty pedigree. And even if you come by in a rather less remarkable car, you can still have a lot of memorable moments. Dusseldorf is a great base of operations. Two of the most famous racing tracks in the world are within 1.5-hour driving distance, and the city itself always has something for car enthusiasts. Well, it's been an excellent high-power week. A bunch of videos to follow soon.