We frequently meet people who tell us they want our jobs. Working for any large corporation has a propensity for overwhelming BS but that one day in one thousand can make you forget the bad times.
Somehow, we got two days in one thousand during the production of this issue, and I’m still buzzing. I didn’t think we could top a day at Portimao circuit until BMW presented the 1-Series M Coupe. I’ve been annoying people with the tales ever since!
We all love a racetrack but Portimao in southern Portugal is so new it still sparkles. The course climbs and falls along the natural topography, creating a rollercoaster ride. It’s the sort of facility you create in your mind while waiting for a plane... only better.
Thanks to our friends at Continental Tires, we found ourselves disembarking a bus behind the pit garages.
At this point, most tire test events would take you away from the track, afraid you might hurt yourself. Instead, you circle cones in a parking lot with an instructor by your side, in case you get lost. For this Conti event, however, they did what you always hope for: opened the track, pointed at some cars and told us to be back in two hours!
Again, the typical scenario is a row of BMW 328i automatics (you’d be astonished how many writers can’t drive stick!), but the German company gave us a full compliment of manual cars including the incredible Audi TT RS, amazing Golf R, cute Fiat 500 Abarth and dark-horse BMW 135i.
We spent the allotted time jumping from one car to the next, sampling everything and doing it again. The TT RS was the highlight for its brute power and quattro traction, but the Golf R had an effortless fluidity that was very forgiving at the limit.
The Fiat was a special treat because it felt so nimble and responsive. We preferred it to the Cooper S and can’t wait to see it here.
To be honest, we would have loved the track in a Dodge Neon! The corners were strung together effortlessly to create a challenging but inviting environment. Portimao is currently my favorite, but the very best track is always the one you’re on at the time!
Speaking of tracks, I’d never been round the big track at Willow Springs in California until BMW invited us to try its new 1-Series M Coupe. We generally use the tighter Streets of Willow facility next door, especially for our annual eurotuner Tuner GP event, where “Streets” is a better test of chassis setup than the high-speed “Big Willow”.
Being my first time, I took a couple of laps of instruction before heading out solo. It has some very fast turns that will catch you if you’re offline, so I took my time to learn the layout. Fortunately, I was in the new 1M and M3, both of which are ridiculously fast but very forgiving.
I genuinely wouldn’t be able to decide which car to drive home. Fortunately, we had Project M3 on-hand to simplify the debate. Yet the 1M is a winning combination: with the M3’s Competition Package chassis under it and a torquey twin-turbo motor up front, it might be the best package BMW currently sells.
Check out the video of our Project M3 lapping with the 1M at eurotuner.com or at youtube.com/eurotuner
Every feature, every month, we talk about a car’s stance being a crucial factor in its overall success. We often get emails from readers asking us to feature their car but if the stance isn’t right, it often won’t appear in eurotuner. It doesn’t have to be low, it just has to be “right”.
With a combination of air and coilover suspensions, plus an unhealthy obsession for wheel offsets, the European tuning scene is probably best known for the stance of our cars. Whether it’s an E46 M3 on 20s or a Mk5 Jetta on air-ride, we certainly know how a car should sit.