40 YEARS OF EMPOWERING SHEER DRIVING PLEASURE.
The decision to make knowledge about correct vehicle handling and driving in critical situations available to all motorists, and to teach drivers how to identify dangers in traffic in good time, was made by the BMW Board back in 1976. 22 April 1977 saw the official start of the first BMW Training events in Manching, organised and managed by BMW Motorsport GmbH. With a starting attendance of 15 participants aged between 22 and 45, these training sessions were not only an immediate success, but also one of the first driver training programmes ever offered by a car manufacturer. The aim of them, both then and today, to create an ideal balance between perfect cars and equally perfect driving skills – ‘to raise the performance of the unity of man and machine to a new level’, as could be read in similar words in the first training reports. Not purely on the grounds of teaching safe driving skills: even at the beginning, the wish was to combine experience gathered in motorsports with the excitement and joy of driving at the limit.
On 3 February 1976, the BMW Board of Management took the decision to establish a “driver training school”. That same year, the necessary contacts were made to execute the project professionally. In August 1976, BMW Motorsport GmbH’s managing director at that time, Jochen Neerpasch, and Börries von Breitenbuch, long-serving sport secretary of Germany’s automobile club, the AvD, agreed to devise a wide-ranging training programme together. Von Breitenbuch was appointed Director of Training by Neerpasch, while Finnish professional rally driver Rauno Aaltonen was named Head Instructor.
On 22 April 1977, BMW became the first carmaker to stage a driver training course. The participants completed the training exercises in a BMW 320i. The BMW driver training school advertised a further 15 courses for groups of 20, inviting drivers to refine their skills at the wheel.
A handshake in 1990 between Josef Bücherl, Head Instructor for the BMW driver training courses at the time, and Hans Falkner, manager of "DAS CENTRAL – ALPINE. LUXURY. LIFE", one of the Tyrol region’s finest 5-star hotels, set the seal on an exclusive alliance and fired the starting gun on a series of pioneering winter training events. The training courses got underway the following year, initially with a six-day format where skiing was every bit as important as driver training. Since then, the world’s highest winter training facility – at an altitude of almost 3,000 metres – has hosted several thousand BMW Winter Experience courses. Today, participants can sample the full spectrum of the latest BMW, BMW X and BMW M models at a wide variety of training events, ranging from drifting to off-road courses on the glacier. After an action-packed day at the wheel, "DAS CENTRAL – ALPINE. LUXURY. LIFE" is the perfect place to unwind, with its premium ambience and award-winning gourmet cuisine.
The BMW Driving Experience joined forces with major German daily newspapers to launch a training programme for young novice drivers aged between 18 and 25 – by far the highest-risk group of motorists. Special training courses were devised to teach these drivers how to handle a car correctly, thereby helping to increase their sense of responsibility and improve road safety. The newspapers advertised the courses while BMW staged them professionally at discounted prices. This training programme remains the only one of its type.
The BMW driver training courses relocated to Munich Airport. Covering an area of 63,000 square metres, the new facility offered previously unimagined possibilities in terms of the scope and number of training events, and signalled the start of a new growth phase for the BMW Driving Experience. Prior to this, the courses had taken place on the site of another airport in Munich-Riem.
In the 1990s, efforts got underway to roll out the BMW Driving Experience internationally. The overriding aim was to transfer the high standards developed by BMW M GmbH in Munich to other countries without compromise. To this end, the BMW Group Instructor Academy was founded in 1997. Here, trainee instructors acquired all the skills needed to show customers in their home countries how to drive more safely and have more fun at the wheel while following the BMW Group’s precisely defined guidelines.
From 1999, BMW driver training was also conducted at the Nürburgring – home to the BMW Testing Centre and the venue for countless test drives by BMW engineers over the years. The first model to be piloted by customers through the awe-inspiring ‘Green Hell’ under the instructors’ expert guidance was the BMW Z3 M Coupé. The courses at the Nordschleife circuit were such a big hit with the participants that they soon became a permanent feature of the training programme and are still among the most popular and in-demand events offered by the BMW and MINI Driving Experience today.
The first BMW X5 adventure trip in the summer of 2000 explored the Atlas Mountains and desert sand of Morocco. Further destinations in Africa followed, including Kenya, Namibia and Botswana, with their stunning landscapes and amazing wildlife. The off-road tours serve up a perfect blend of wildlife adventure, luxury motoring in the BMW X5 and top-class accommodation. Today, our programme of tours is managed by our local certified partner, BMW Driving Experience South Africa.
2003 marked the launch of a whole new series of driver training events with MINI models, ranging from safety training to track driving. The training programme was tailored both to the special handling qualities of the MINI and its target group of customers, with fun and entertaining elements designed to create a light-hearted atmosphere among the participants, who tended to be relatively young.
When the BMW Testing Centre in Arjeplog opened, the BMW Ice Training events moved from Finland to Sweden. The seemingly endless expanse of frozen lakes here provides the ideal venue for spectacular drift training sessions in BMW M models with spiked tyres. But that’s not the only thing that makes Arjeplog so fascinating; all the major car manufacturers winter-test their new production vehicles here, giving participants the chance to spot the occasional camouflaged prototype. And the scenery, just outside the Arctic Circle, is extraordinary.
The BMW and MINI Driving Experience upped sticks again, with the new ‘home of driving pleasure' located at a former airfield in Maisach, some 30 kilometres west of Munich. A place where military and later civilian aircraft once took to the skies now hosted one of the largest driving safety centres in southern Germany. The 130-hectare facility, including a 1.8-kilometre circuit and numerous dynamic driving areas for all kinds of exercises, is a dream come true for passionate drivers. But the BMW and MINI Driving Academy is more than just a driving safety centre – it also serves as a top-class venue for exceptional events, including incentive activities with an active driving element for employees, clients and business partners alike.
With the BMW i3 eDrive Experience, BMW became the first premium carmaker to offer a driver training course specially designed for an electric vehicle. Participants got to grips with the BMW i3 at the BMW and MINI Driving Academy in Maisach, where they also learned a great deal of useful information about the BMW i mobility and lightweight design concept, battery and driving characteristics, as well as servicing and maintenance for the new technology. The programme was extended to include the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car in subsequent years.
Following the decision by the Board of Management in Munich to open up the enjoyment of maximum driving pleasure with the BMW and MINI Driving Experience to fans in other countries, potential international partners were carefully scrutinised. The training courses, instructors, infrastructure and marketing all had to be of the very highest standard. In 2015, the local partner in the Netherlands became the first outside Germany to obtain ‘BMW Driving Experience, Official Partner of BMW M’ certification. The BMW Driving Experience now has an official presence in five continents, with partners in Europe, the USA, Australia, South Africa and South Korea.
Now attracting some 100,000 participants worldwide every year, the BMW and MINI Driving Experience celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special event at the BMW and MINI Driving Academy in Maisach. Here, the assembled guests and journalists embarked on a high-speed journey through time that allowed them to test BMW models past and present head-to-head.
33 class wins and around 100 podium finishes earned the BMW M4 GT4 the title ‘Race Car of the Year’. And BMW also entered the customer sport arena. With its new BMW M Race Track GT Training events, the BMW Driving Experience now enabled ambitious private drivers to get the very most out of the thoroughbred BMW M4 GT4 racer. Participants fine-tune their skills at the wheel on selected race tracks, always under the watchful eye of an instructor.
BMW and MINI Driving Experiences were now offered in a total of ten countries around the globe. With the Netherlands having become the first to qualify for the ‘Official Partner of BMW M’ certificate in 2015, China, the USA, Australia, South Africa, South Korea and the Scandinavian region also received inspection-based certification in the years that followed. In 2019, Poland, Russia and Thailand joined the list of international partners, bringing the total to ten.
The new BMW M Track Day event format brings together the community of active motor sport enthusiasts. This was the first time that BMW M customer racing teams (with their race cars) and BMW M customers (in their own road cars) had been invited to meet up for a joint training event on famous race tracks. The BMW Driving Experience and BMW M Customer Racing pooled their unbeatable power to make the event happen. The first BMW M Track Day was held at the Hockenheimring in 2020 and met with a very enthusiastic response from the community. Encouraged by the very positive feedback, the organisers are planning more BMW M Track Days for 2021.
The strong and reliable partnership with the winter resort of Sölden has created some fantastic opportunities over the past three decades: peerless conditions at training areas in the valley and on the glacier, with eleven different courses that cover a total of three hectares, reach an altitude of 2,800 metres and include three mountain passes. To mark the anniversary, the BMW Snow Training Deluxe: 30 Years Edition package offers some stunning extra highlights, such as ski training with a difference in the company of former four-time World Pro Skiing champion Andre Arnold and a helicopter tour of the breathtaking mountain panorama provided by the Ötztal Alps.
40 Years 40 Heads.
Portrait Dr. Peter Waldmann.
Portrait Tom Blomqvist.
Portrait Chamaiporn Paphatphong.
Portrait Olaf the Husky.