iDriveSoCal’s Professor, Clinton Quan, is dialed into all the best automotive events and experiences throughout the Southern California Region.
In this iDSC Podcast the Professor explains just what an autocross event is and how you can get yourself access to future events.
But you have to hop to it because there’s not nearly as many of them as there once was. Not to worry, sign-up for the iDrive SoCal newsletter and we’ll keep you posted on all the best automotive events.
Recording date – August 21, 2018, in Los Angeles, CA
Compete in a Brand New Beamer
Clinton Quan: BMW Ultimate Driving Experience is an annual event where you get to drive. It’s a timed event, so it’s a lot of fun.
You get to compete in one of the new vehicles and this year they had both the 5 Series, the eDrive, and the BMW X2. It’s measured to the 1,000th of a second, as soon as you pass those first set of cones the timing begins.
Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal the Podcast, all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. Tom Smith here with our good pal the professor, Mr. Clinton Quan. Say hello, Clinton.
Clinton Quan: Hi, Tom!
“It’s measured to the 1,000th of a second, as soon as you pass the first set of cones the timing begins.”
Tom Smith: Hello! Happy hot Tuesday. We’re recording this on a Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles and it is still darn hot here and I guess we’re on the last third of August, huh?
Clinton Quan: Yes, I believe it’s in the mid-90s.
Tom Smith: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Clinton Quan: Triple digits I’m sure, right?
Tom Smith: Oh, yeah. At any rate, today’s Podcast, this here little thing we’re doing is on the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience. We actually had this one automotive event posted on iDriveSoCal.com, the events page, and pretty much I’d say 95-98 percent of our events page is curated by the good professor here, Mr. Clinton Quan, and Clinton, of course, attended this event and he’s gonna tell us all about it. So, what do you have Prof?
Autocross @ Santa Anita Race Track
Clinton Quan: Well, the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience is an annual event where you get to drive a brand-new BMW vehicle on an autocross track and it’s a timed event, so it’s a lot of fun. You get to compete in one of the new vehicles and this year they had both the 5 Series, the eDrive, and the BMW X2.
Tom Smith: So it’s a timed event but the location was out in Arcadia, the Santa Anita parking lot?
Clinton Quan: Yes, Santa Anita Park in the parking lot.
Tom Smith: In the parking lot. From the competition perspective, you’re just running against other people’s times, right?
Clinton Quan: Correct, other people’s time.
Tom Smith: How do they do it? Do they lay out cones, pile on kinda things, and you just follow the course through the cones?
“In a regular autocross competition, typical event, there would be a two-second penalty if you hit a cone.”
Clinton Quan: For those of you who don’t know, an autocross is basically a timed competition where there are cones-
Tom Smith: For those of you who don’t know. Myself, included.
Clinton Quan: No, a lot of people ask what an autocross is.
Tom Smith: I know, it’s just funny. It struck me as funny a moment later.
Clinton Quan: You have cones set up throughout the course and-
Tom Smith: Right. And you do donuts around the cones. I’m just kidding.
Clinton Quan: Well, you try to get around the course as fast as you can without hitting any cones. In a regular autocross competition, typical event, there would be a two-second penalty if you hit a cone. So you’d be done with if you hit a cone. So usually it’s a lower speed event but it’s a very technical event so you really have to know the lines on the course.
This one, all participants, they get to drive both the 5 Series and the X2, however, depends on which group you’re in which vehicle you actually drive for the actual competition and it’s measured to the 1,000th of a second.
For a lot of autocross events they do have sensors, so as soon as you pass those first set of cones the timing begins. For this one it’s not as accurate, they just had someone in vehicle use their stopwatch.
Tom Smith: Okay. Do they ever get so technical that they actually have sensors in the cones? I mean, with so much technology these days it would seem completely conceivable for cones to have little sensors if you should come so close as to just brush one but not actually hit it so hard that you knock it over and get penalized for that.
Clinton Quan: I have not seen that, but usually it’s pretty obvious if it gets knocked over.
Tom Smith: If somebody clips a cone?
“…a lot of autocross events they do have sensors, so as soon as you pass those first set of cones the timing begins.”
Clinton Quan: Yeah.
Tom Smith: Okay, so we have this thing on the iDriveSoCal website, on the events page, and it’s actually, I think it’s like a Friday to a Friday, right? Or something like that?
Clinton Quan: It’s a Saturday to a Friday so it is seven days. It runs for seven days and there are four sessions per day, they’re each two hours. There’s a 9:00, an 11:00, a 2:00, and a 4:00. So there’s still quite a few more days to participate if you’re interested, it’s definitely a lot of fun. I believe it’s my fifth year, this time I got third place in my group-
Tom Smith: Congratulations.
Autocross Events of the Past
Clinton Quan: -I was off by .27 seconds but the previous four years I garnered Ultimate Driver award and they give you a little blue cone.
Tom Smith: Professor, congratulations. I’m sorry you only got third.
Clinton Quan: Well third in my group, there’s a lot more people that got much better times during the rest of the day.
Tom Smith: Thank you for correcting me. Does BMW post a leaderboard or anything?
Clinton Quan: Actually, they do.
Tom Smith: And you have people working on hacking into it so that your name actually gets bumped up a few notches on the leaderboard?
Clinton Quan: I wish-
“…I would say maybe 10-15 years ago I’d be going to events like this a couple times a month from all manufacturers.”
Tom Smith: Not quite like that?
Clinton Quan: I wish I would be able to do that, no.
Tom Smith: ‘Cause they don’t really promote these things, I mean maybe if you’re a BMW owner, ’cause this is put on by the BMW factory and SoCal BMW dealers, right?
Clinton Quan: Yeah, I believe it’s a partnership because one of the instructors he did mention definitely let your BMW dealers know that you are interested so they will continue doing this year after year.
Tom Smith: So maybe the SoCal dealer body gets together and votes yay or nay to continue doing these. Before we turned the mics you had actually said that these types of events were more proliferate than they are now, they seem to be kinda scaling back.
Clinton Quan: Yeah, that’s true. Well, with all manufacturers, I would say maybe 10-15 years ago I’d be going to events like this a couple times a month from all manufacturers.
Whether it’s luxury automakers including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo to non-premium brands including Subaru, Mazda, Toyota, Honda, now there’s probably a handful of events that take place throughout the year.
Freedom to Drive
Tom Smith: Okay and they’re just not doing them as much as they used to anymore?
Clinton Quan: They’re not doing them as much.
Tom Smith: Do you know any particular reasons?
Clinton Quan: I think there’s a number of reasons. One, the costs, I’m sure it’s very very expensive to lease out a space. For example, what BMW was doing, it’s seven days and they have a full staff running these events and they have a full fleet of vehicles.
It’s not just the X2s and the 5 Series, they also do a street drive so you can drive a number of BMWs, it’s about a 10-15 minutes drive around the Westfield Santa Anita parking lot. Well, around the facility.
Tom Smith: So you’re actually on the streets, though? Outside of the parking lot?
Clinton Quan: You’re actually on the streets. Yeah. You’re just driving around the block.
Tom Smith: And then obviously they’re not just tossing the keys and saying, “Have fun.” Somebody’s going along with you, right?
“…you can drive a number of BMWs, it’s about a 10-15 minutes drive… around the facility.”
Clinton Quan: No, no one’s going along with you.
Tom Smith: Oh, really?
Clinton Quan: No, you fill out something. They’ll have your information.
Tom Smith: Okay. Should you disappear with one of their brand new cars.
Clinton Quan: Yeah, they’ll take your driver’s license info and phone number.
Tom Smith: So, how did you get turned onto these things long ago?
Clinton Quan: It was in 2000 that coworker of mine had purchased a Lexus and she got invited to a Lexus ride and drive at Calamigos Ranch in Agoura Hills and that was the very very first time I attended a driving event and I just had so much fun.
How You Can Attend
Tom Smith: Yeah, now you go to all kinds of ’em, you got tchotchkes out the wazoo from all the different driving events.
Clinton Quan: Pretty much every manufacturer.
Tom Smith: They all know you. They’re like, “Oh, Clinton!” It’s like Norm from Cheers when he walks into the bar. Outside of iDriveSoCal listeners and traffickers, users of our website, traffickers of our website, how do people find out about these events?
Clinton Quan: There are numerous ways. One, is sometimes if you go on the manufacturer’s website there might be-
Tom Smith: Upcoming events page, or something like that?
“…you sign up and they will target those people that are interested”
Clinton Quan: Yeah, there might be an events page and then you can click on that. Another way is, when you know that a manufacturer is gonna come out with a brand new vehicle.
Let’s say, for example, BMW, you know they’re gonna come out with an X2, then you can go to the BMW website, go to the X2 page, and they’ll have a link that it’ll usually be like “Stay Informed” or “Keep Informed.”
You sign up and they will target those people that are interested in the X2 because they know if someone’s taking the time to fill out that information they’re probably more interested than someone who’s just looking at the website.
Tom Smith: And you sign up and there’s not charge, right? It’s free.
Clinton Quan: Yeah, it’s free and they’ll send you a direct invitation via email usually.
Tom Smith: Are any point are you corralled into a room and have to watch a PowerPoint presentation with a hard sell, like a timeshare, on the whole process?
Free Racing Lessons
Clinton Quan: No. There are no sales people whatsoever, however, usually with events like this, there is what they call a classroom session or a tech session where will talk.
They’ll talk about the cars but these are professional race car drivers in various forms of motorsports, whether it could be stock car racing, indie car, rally car racing, and they will give you pointers on how to get through the course as fast as you possibly can.
Tom Smith: That’s kinda cool.
Clinton Quan: Which is really, really cool. Yeah, they’ll tell you what the driving line is, proper seating position, proper hand position on the steering wheel, a lot of things you may think it’s very easy and everyone knows about it but-
“…one little thing will make a difference between winning and losing. That’s what’s so fun about these events.”
Tom Smith: Oh, no, there’s a lot of technique to driving. A lot.
Clinton Quan: If it’s a difference of 1,000th of a second, then one little thing will make a difference between winning and losing. That’s what’s so fun about these events.
Tom Smith: Yeah, no, I learned that a little bit years ago covering sports for CBS and beginning of my career I was a TV news producer and we covered a lot of different things and racing was one of them.
Clinton Quan: Yeah, it’s interesting ’cause you see people there they think it’s so easy. They get on the course and they start knocking down cones.
Tom Smith: Uh-huh (affirmative). Usually the most macho dude too, right?
Clinton Quan: Yeah.
Tom Smith: Uh-huh (affirmative), yep, I’m pretty sure I was that guy at one time. I’ve learned my lesson and was like, “Well okay, this takes some serious talent. It’s not just, yeah.”
Driver Education Upgrade Options
Alright, well cool. The BMW Ultimate Driving Experience going on at Santa Anita in Arcadia right out there in the parking lot.
Clinton Quan: Oh, also wanted to mention, there’s actually three different programs. The program that I was talking about, that is the complementary program, so it’s completely free, there’s no charge to drive the cars, there’s no charge for parking either. There are two other programs, I believe there’s also a teen driving program and there’s also a-
Tom Smith: Is that like a safety component in it? Like don’t text and drive kind of thing?
Clinton Quan: Yes, there’s probably a safety component in that one as well. Then there’s also a high-performance course, I believe it’s a half day or could be a full day and-
“…a safety component in that one as well. Then there’s also a high-performance course…”
Tom Smith: Going on at the same location and same time?
Clinton Quan: Same location. Where you get to spend a lot more time behind the wheel. I don’t remember what the cost is but I remember going to one many years ago at Auto Club Speedway, I think I paid back then it was only $600 for a full day.
Tom Smith: Only?
Clinton Quan: Yeah. Well, I think now it’s probably close to $1,000, if not $1,000.
Tom Smith: But that’s for the performance?
Clinton Quan: Correct.
Tom Smith: So for the teen driving one, is there a fee for that one? Or do you know?
Clinton Quan: I believe there is a fee for that one too.
Tom Smith: There is a little.
Clinton Quan: That one should be a lot less.
SoCal Autocross Events
Tom Smith: Okay. Alright, well, cool. So if you are lookin’ to do somethin’ get your butt behind the wheel of a brand new BMW and wanna experience the Ultimate Driving Experience then Santa Anita is the place to go.
Of course, by the time this Podcast come out, by the time we post this Podcast. Boy, I did not have my coffee before this Podcast, it’s very apparent. By the time we post this one, I believe the event will be over.
However, stay tuned to the iDriveSoCal Events page and we will continue to keep these posted on the page there so that when these things come up.
Oh and also sign up for the iDriveSoCal newsletter because what we’re starting to do now is hit all the events that are upcoming through the newsletter so we got you covered and it’s pretty handy right there, it shows, “Hey, there’s gonna be a cost associated or not.”
But in this case, you can take the free option or it sounds like you can pony up the cash to do the Ultimate Experience. Okay, very cool. Professor, thank you as always. Unless there’s anything else?
Clinton Quan: I think we’ve covered it all.
Tom Smith: Alright, lovely. For iDriveSoCal, I am Tom Smith, thank you for listening.