BMW paired up with four-times dirt-track world champion Karl Maier and his speedway bike to show us how a BMW M235i can drift for five straight hours.
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On the Monday morning after Germany had won the football World Cup final against Argentina, the Landshut/Ellermühle speedway stadium at the AC Landshut club witnessed one of sport’s more unusual match-ups. It was the first time a representative of a leading German car magazine took a BMW M235i with M Performance Parts onto the almost 400-metre-long track to compete in a drifting contest against Maier.
The respective starting points for the driver and rider could not have been more different. The BMW M235i M Performance is powered by a 3.0-litre BMW TwinPower Turbo petrol engine developing 326 hp and 450 Nm (332 lb-ft), has a DIN vehicle weight of 1,470 kilograms and measures almost four-and-a-half metres in length. The speedway motorcycle, meanwhile, has an air-cooled 500 cc single-cylinder engine, weighs 80 kg (as per speedway regulations), makes do with just a single gear and has no brakes. The specially designed methanol-fuelled machine produces up to 80 hp and has been built exclusively for speedway track use.
Equipped with original M Performance Parts, the BMW M235i provided the perfect recipe for consistent drifts through the approximately 12-metre-wide corners of the Landshut track, just as it does on the road. The driving dynamics for which BMW is renowned are the result of 50:50 weight distribution, a low centre of gravity, BMW M Performance sports suspension (lowered by 20 mm compared to standard specification), a mechanical limited-slip differential at the rear axle and forged 19-inch light-alloy wheels. In June 2014 the car’s BMW TwinPower Turbo six-cylinder engine was crowned “Engine of the Year”. With peak torque of 450 Nm (332 lb-ft) on tap from 1,300 – 4,500 rpm, it offers consistent power delivery across the entire rev range to complement the car’s finely balanced chassis.
Despite the vastly different profiles of their machines, both driver and rider succeeded in fulfilling a common goal: five hours of “sheer drifting pleasure” on the tightest of tracks. Its first ever meeting with the speedway bike gave the BMW M235i M Performance the chance to demonstrate its dynamic performance capability for the first time on dirt rather than asphalt.
Five hours of uninterrupted sideways action had failed to sate Karl Maier’s appetite, so the former world champion rounded off the day with a few laps of the track on a specially modified BMW S1000 RR with studded tyres. The RR weighs a shade over 200 kg with a full tank of fuel on board and develops output of 193 hp. But the directional stability, outstanding handling and communicative responses of the super-sports machine allowed Maier to drift his way smoothly over the speedway track, setting the seal on what was dynamically a quite extraordinary day.