Mud, sweat Mud, sweat and gears

Taranaki Daily News reporter Hannah Fleming in a BMW high performance M3 at Boomrock
Taranaki Daily News reporter Hannah Fleming in a BMW high performance M3 at Boomrock

Along a dusty dirt road half an hour from Wellington lies 1200 hectares of privately owned farmland known as Papanui Station.

It is the home of Boomrock Lodge, perched on a cliff 250 metres above sea level with sweeping views across the Cook Strait to the South Island.

It is also the home of a purpose-built car testing circuit constructed in 2002 with the assistance of Peter Brock.

That track was to be my sanctuary on Wednesday as I embarked on my first BMW Ladies' Day Driving Experience.

When the bus pulled up to the location it was time to prepare for hands-on track driving in BMW's latest models - the 125i M Sport Hatch and the BMW 320d - as well as a 4WD all-terrain adventure in an X5 and a few "hot laps" in a high- performance M3.

Always the adrenaline junkie, the prospect of doing these "hot laps" appealed most.

Apprehension reared with the knowledge me and one other were the "newbies on the block" among our group of 12.

Adopting the "I don't know what I'm doing so I'll be the idiot you all laugh at" role, stiffened the resolve.

To further set us at ease the folk at Boomrock rolled out a few activities including clay bird shooting, archery and knife throwing.

Armed with a Beretta shotgun, having never pulled a trigger, I nailed four out of 10 targets, which was four more than expected.

A quick biff of knives at a wooden stump followed by a woeful attempt at archery led us to the 4WDs.

A bloke named Andre took us up hills, down hills, around hills, through some decent-sized puddles and even got us stuck on a rock at one point, all the while talking through the X5's features.

Some of its most impressive traits included traction control and hill descent control.

Andre stuck his legs out the door and let the car take over while going down one rocky hill which proved the worth of each feature. It was then the turn of the ladies and I was handed a key to the 125i M Sport Hatch for an emergency stop test and three laps of the track.

Professional BMW driver trainer Martin Collins immediately took points off me for holding the steering wheel at 10 and 2.

" Best at quarter to three," he said.

First time I'd heard that.

That glitch aside, the emergency stop test was passed with flying colours despite exceeding the 80kmh speed limit and stopping just past the desired cone.

A hopeful request to be allowed to wrap up the third lap with a good old hand-breaky was knocked on the head.

That thrill came later, when his colleague Mike Eady took us for three hot laps in the M3.

Drifting round corners, getting air on the straight while travelling 180kmh, and a few donuts at the end was the best thrill in ages.

The whole BMW experience, topped off with a three-course meal at Boomrock Lodge and a spot of golf on their cliffside hole-in-one challenge, made for a great day out.

And to sum up my driving - let's just say I didn't win the bottle of Boomrock pinot noir that went to the best driver. But it was fun trying.

Taranaki Daily News