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.


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!!

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