My home chapter of the BMW Car Club of America had its first-ever HPDE this past weekend at the brand new Palmer Motorsports Park. The track, sometimes referred to as “Whiskey Hill Raceway,” is built in a quarry. Cool, right? It looks like this:

They haven’t quite decided whether there are actually 15 turns or 14, because the way the paving is now on 12 an 13 it’s more like a single double-apex corner than two independent corners. Anyway, the first impression really blows your mind. Here’s the view from the paddock.

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The main straight is beyond the pit wall to the left, and the huge hill you see in the background is where turn 5 is located. Beyond THAT if you look closely the track goes up even farther. Yes it does. In fact, all told there’s 190-some feet of elevation change here. Dang.

So what’s it like to drive a brand new track? Well, a bit confusing at first. Not even the instructors know what the preferred line is. By the end of the first day of the event I felt like I had developed a reasonably smooth and consistent “default” line, which I tried to drive quicker on the second day and refine a bit here and there. There’s really no substitute for seat time on any given track. I was happy with the progress I was able to make and the lap time I was able to put down, even considering the fact that everyone was being a tad more cautious (and respectful) than usual because the facility is unfinished. Putting a wheel off and kicking up rocks and dirt is bad news for everyone at a place like this because it takes forever to get the track swept off, not to mention puts a lot of windshields and fancy street car paint in danger.

Anyway, this is a session’s worth of onboard from our grocery-getter 330i. It’s still very close to stock in this video. We’re pretty happy with how reliably it performed in back to back sessions (50 minutes at a time on this grueling track!), so we’re eager to get on with the race build. Should be going to the cage builder in a couple weeks, with our sights eventually set on endurance racing and/or Spec E46. This video is just me and a friend (who was trying to get used to a new-to-him M3 track car) having some fun at the end of the event and following each other around. If you want to watch a stock 330 try to keep up with a track prepped E46 M3 being driven conservatively, skip to about the 6 minute mark. One final comment - can’t wait to be back in a HANS and harnesses, it was a real chore trying to hold myself in the seat on this track with the insane corkscrew, carousel, downhill esses and every other thing. Track itself is an absolute 10/10. Can’t wait to go back next year with the curbing, grass and track facilities completed. If you get the chance to try Palmer, do it!!