Sound of Silence

There’s no other recipe for fun: the drive should be at the rear and the engine at the front. It’s simple, yet we do not get to see many cars today that are built for fun: most of the time, things like marketing and a wide public whose the majority is not composed by petrolheads.

No matter how you’ll put it, the whole thing about loving cars is just because of the fun they deliver. Just take the cars you see here: their sight will make everyone of us scream with excitement and looking forward to some memorable drives.

This is an enthusiast’ wet dream: the 1M vs the M2 Competition, on an empty track, all for us.

Introduced not so long ago, the 1M is already walking among those truly memorable cars that will sure find their place in collector’s garages of the future. For those who still do not know why it is the only M car named with the number before the letter, it’s simply because to differentiate it from the M1 from 1978, the only mid-engined BMW in history and a design masterpiece of Giugiaro.

The 1M was a true factory hot rod: a widened body shell from the E82 Series 1 coupè and the turbocharged M54 straight six from the 135i, fitted to a lightened flywheel and the same suspensions of the E92 M3. Truly an old-school project, it was the brainchild of a group of dedicated engineers who worked on the project on weekends just to make their dream happen. Like every great story, what they were able to create was something that left a mark in the automotive industry.

The first “baby M” was strictly limited to 6000 units worldwide and its unique liveliness and feedback made it become a serious threat to the E92 M3. The compact size, the gorgeous wide-body and the manual shifter brought some E30 nostalgia to the world.

While initially subjected to some criticism for its turbocharged engine (at the time, a first for the M division),  the 1M became a hit as soon journalists tested it and was able to start a whole new genre. If today we’re around Franciacorta with the M2 Competition is thanks to this white and lively German pepperbox.

When it went out of production in 2012, everyone was left wondering if BMW was ever going to replace it with a new model. Thankfully they did and the F22 M2 followed in 2015, becoming another great hit. Everyone loved it and the success it received was so significant to have BMW to develop it in the brand new Competition, which we have here today.

In many ways, the new model can be described as a lighter and shorter M4. Many “fancy” bits like the 410 hp S55 engine, carbon-fibre strut and the whole suspension have been taken from the M4 and put on the body of an F22 Series 1 coupè and the result is absolutely fantastic. Also…did I mention it comes with a manual transmission as well?

There are times when the sequel of a great film is better in many ways. On a track these two cars show their true potential and they’re first and foremost ridiculously fun to drive. The behaviour is the same for both, with a little understeer at the entrance and the typical mid-corner oversteer on the exit.

The 1M is perhaps the most “mechanical” of the two. Although is (obviously) slower at the corner entrance, it rewards the driver with crisp gearshifts and a predictable and stable handling. There’s plenty of feedback from the chassis, and the response from the engine is quick and immediate, although there’s a little turbo lag in the slower corners. The steering is a little numb in its feedback but the way the car always wants to break out of the grip will tempt you to turn everything off and try to slide it at every corner.

The traction control comes on a little too soon and being “old school” the 1M doesn’t have any further settings that allow to dial back the electronics a little. This being a pristine 80.000 km from-new example, it was not the ideal test-bench where to shred the tires to pieces and drive like a complete maniac. Still…the temptation was there and was strong.

On the other hand, the M2 Competition shows how much advancement has been made in the dynamics. Here the M4 engine pushes like a fury and the car impresses for its quick and precise turning into the corner. It is more precise and agile  than the 1M but it lacks a bit in feel. It has so much grip and when it looses it, it turns into a quick yet easily controllable oversteer.

They’re not very different between each other and they maintain the same wonderful characteristics. Both cars are comfortable over the bumps and offer the thrill of pure driving: thank God BMW didn’t change the formula and kept a brand new car true to its origins. It’s a thing of beauty to see that we can still enjoy driver’s cars which are still untouched by the laws of marketing and branding. Sure, the M2 competition has too many badges around but…who cares when you know you can still have fun in a world of rules, norms and boring routine.

As I said above…fun is the defining aspect of why we love cars. It’s the excitement, the hooliganism in going sideways and burning rubber on an empty track that makes us happy…and as long as it will be like this, we’ll all live happier lives.

Many thanks to Nanni Nember BMW!

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