BMW SA to host BMW M Festival

The performance statistics of BMW M models have made them pin-ups in many kids’ rooms. (Photo: Fabian Kirchbauer; BMW Group)

The performance statistics of BMW M models have made them pin-ups in many kids’ rooms. (Photo: Fabian Kirchbauer; BMW Group)

Thanks to Kyalami and Shell South Africa, motoring enthusiasts will be treated to a festival of motoring excellence, where attendants will be treated to a preview of current and upcoming BMW M models.

South Africa has large following of BMW M devotees; evidenced across the country by the amount of BMW race meets, M Car clubs and last but certainly not least, strong sales. South Africa rose from fifth on the list last year to third in overall BMW M market share and sales.

To reward its customers Alexander Baraka, brand manager for BMW Group South Africa, has brought this festival to our shores.

There will be drifting drag races in one of the larger showrooms that will feature cars for sale with attractive finance options. While the date is set for the event on October 21 and 22, I have no doubt that as soon as ticket sales open, this event will be sold out.

What does BMW M power mean? How did they come about? And why are they so big in South Africa? For this we have to roll the clock back a few years, a trip down memory lane if you must. South Africans have always loved their big, powerful cars from the big six all the way through to the iconic 333i and 325is, both built for South African market specifically. Sure, you could buy a 325is in the UK, but it only shared a body with the South African model. Born out of hot rivalry on the Kyalami race circuit the BMW 325is Evo 1 was born to take on the Opel Boss; later, the BMW 325is Evo 2 was created to take on the Opel Super Boss. Research and development has always been key to the success of the BMW M division and this shows in the accolades the brand has collected.

Born out of this racing was a batch of 748 right-hand drive 3.0 BMW e36 M3s, produced in South Africa from semi-knocked-down kits during late 1993 and early 1994. They came higher spec’d than the European counterpart and had different colour options: some came with BMW M Cloth Amaretta and sports seats, while later models came with what today are referred to as “Vader” seats. This car was touted breaking the 100bhp per litre; the only other road car capable of this at the time was the McLaren F1.

These kinds of performance statistics made the BMW e36 M3 a pin-up for every kid’s room. When I was in high school a local businessman who owned a spares shop near where I stayed had a Daytona Violet. Oh, how I loved that colour; I would walk past on a Saturday and just admire the car standing with its forged wheels and black Vader seats. The lines on that car were simply amazing and as soon as I could afford one, I moved heaven and earth to buy one. Well, in my case, four.

I must say I was not disappointed, and judging from the amount of BMW M cars sold in South Africa, I was not alone. The brand has had many highlights since the E36 M3. None of them have really managed to capture my heart as much as the E36, but nevertheless, M cars will always have a place in my heart. It was the first truly epic car I owned and for that I’d like to say “thank you M division” for the memories.

With the advent of the revamp at Kyalami and the hype around the new circuit, expect to see the return of some really epic racing and rivalry developing between the brands. This will invigorate interest in racing brands.

They will step up their game and South Africa, a country with a racing heritage, will once again take its place among the greats. This is all because of a track that was once destined to be turned into a estate, but was saved by a South African businessman (Toby Venter) who, before he became what he is today, was and is still very much a motoring enthusiast. Like BMW M Division, it all started with a dream.

Driving a BMW M car is proof that dreams do come true.