At its third edition, the 2013 M Festival has gathered thousands of M fans from around the world who came to celebrate the “Most Powerful Letter In The World”.
The now annual event is hosted around the 24 Hours of Nurburgring race which brings together 90 teams, 800 racing drivers and this year, 250,000 fans. In a single package, the M folks promised to offer a 3-day unforgettable experience, one of those “Bucket List” items that any car fan should cross off at some point in their life.
DAY 1 – M Corso
The festivities kicked off Saturday, May 18th, with the M Corso event at the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife. Every year, a day before the 24 hour of Nurburgring race, the “Green Hell” becomes available to 200 M Festival visitors who celebrate the iconic race track in their own M cars. Our first M Corso experience dates back in 2011 when we lapped the Green Hell aboard our own head-turner 1M. Fast forward two years later and the experience is just as memorable, especially when driving the all-new BMW M6 Gran Coupe. The nearly thirty minutes slow paced lap brought us in the middle of thousands of side spectators that at times joined the cars on the track in order to admire some of the most exclusive M cars. The custom here is to rev up the engines and use the honk as many times as possible.
The 200 cars caravan was led by Albert Biermann, BMW M Head of Engineering, and his M3 GTS. Other M cars that stood out were a Lime Green BMW M6 Coupe, a 3.0 CSL Frozen Red M3 and M5 models, and our favorite, 1M.
DAY 1 – M Night
After the M Corso parade, thousands of M Festival ticket holders headed over to the M Hospitality Lounge which gives a 360 degree view of the track, the perfect spot to watch the 24 Hr race. The two story building was the chosen venue for the unveiling of the facelifted BMW M5.
Dr. Friedrich Nitschke, BMW M CEO, along with Thomas Schemera, Head of M Marketing and Sales, and Albert Biermann, revealed the new M5 during an exceptional lights and sounds show that emphasized the dynamics and power of ///M vehicles.
After the M5 ceremony, the M guests stepped inside to enjoy the endless food and drinks while a live band entertained them for many hours to come. Late in the night everyone headed back to their rooms for a good night sleep before the long and exciting 24 Hr race.
DAY 2 – M Engineering Facility
Second day kicked off early for us. At 7am, we headed towards the M Engineering Facility at Nurburgring where, courtesy of BMW M Communications team, we had the unique opportunity to have coffee and breakfast with Albert Biermann, M’s top engineer responsible for all the great M cars. Charming as always, Biermann shared with his guests the story of the M facility and how Nurburgring became BMW’s main test track before.
The morning workshop focused on the new BMW M6 Gran Coupe and the components that makes the four-door M6 one of the most fun and entertaining M cars on the road. Biermann walked us through the benefits of ceramic brakes, the unique technology behind the M Dual Clutch Transmission and the Limited Slip Differential that makes the M6 Gran Coupe so special.
Next step in our workshop was a visit to the M garage where we had the unique opportunity to view the underbody of the new M6 Gran Coupe Competition Package while up on a hoist. Along with a power boost of 11 kW to 423 kW/575 hp, the Competition Package comes with revised suspensions, damping systems and stabilizer bars. The Active M Differential on the final drive is also issued with its own control unit.
While under the car we took a closer look also at the sport exhaust system featuring customary M twin tailpipes in black chrome. An interesting tidbit that came out of the workshop is the process of replacing the ceramic brakes. Compared to “regular” brakes, the ceramic brakes give no physical indication when they need to be replaced. The brakes need to be weighted and if the difference in weight is above 140 grams compares to its original state, the mechanics will have to replace them. Biermann also said that despite the high price on the ceramic brakes many German customers have been ordering them in order to cope with the 300 km/h speeds on the Autobahn.
DAY 2 – Scenic Drive
The sun is up, temperature is rising and we are ready for a new drive aboard the M6 Gran Coupe. Courtesy of the same folks at BMW M, we took the powerful M6 GC on the backroads surrounding the beautiful city of Nurnberg. Through twisties and narrow roads, the M6 Gran Coupe took us by surprise. Despite being larger than than its M6 Coupe sibling, the four-door M6 is just as agile and confident on the road. The steering wheel is sharp, the brakes are there when you need them the most and the car dances through corners with such agility that it makes you wonder what other tricks has BMW packed within. Our chase car, a BMW X5M, is having a hard time keeping up, but nonetheless, we are both enjoying the spirited driving.
150 miles later and nearly an empty tank, we are ready for the 24 Hr of Nurburgring and the night-long racing marathon, or so we thought.
DAY 2 – 24 Hr Race
Just before 5PM, the Nurburgring track is packed, not just with hundreds of race drivers and cars, but also with tens of thousands of fans mingling on the straightline just before the race starts. We took a walk through the paddocks where you can feel the energy and excitement that comes from one of the most famous racing events in the world.
The 2013 24 Hr race is ready to begin and we are heading over to the M Lounge in the TUV tower which offers the best view of the start line. Hundreds of M fans gathered on the rooftop to enjoy the engines’ acoustics.
For the first time since its premiere in 2011, the M Festival now allows the 3-day ticket holders to enjoy the coziness and amazing view of the TUV tower. Coffee, food and alcoholic beverages are plenty to last for the next 24 hours.
But instead of a full night of exciting racing, the weather had different plans this year. After dodging heavy rain early in the day, the Nurburgring got hit hard with in the evening. The race comes to a stop and won’t resume until 9am the next morning. But the M fans found the M Lounge to be the perfect hangout spot for the night.
To fill up the spare time, we headed over to the “M Tower”, a metallic cabin at 80 meters above the ground that oversees the track.
DAY 3 – Race Day
After the racing activities resumed in the morning, the weather started to clear out and the highly awaited sun came up. Just in time for the helicopter rides above the track. The 10-minutes long air rides give a breathtaking view of the race by following the cars through the corners, an experience that no one should miss at Nurburgring.
To live the race through the eyes of the teams and engineers, we went back to the paddocks where you can feel the intensity and importance of this iconic racing event. Radio waves and TV monitors are aplenty, mechanics roam around while team captains give out the final orders.
The end of the race is near and everyone lines up at the paddocks awaiting the final laps and the chance to see their favorite drivers. BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS and its Z4 GTE finishes second, and the fiesta can now begin.
Our last night at Nurburgring ends with a dinner at Pistenklause, a restaurant where many drivers and locals meet after the race to enjoy a German beer and great food.
The 3-day M Festival experience has been memorable and year after year the M folks are putting out a greater show, one that it’s absolutely worth the 479 euros admission price.
To live the full experience, see the photo gallery below: