[THE FOLLOWING ACCOUNT IS A WORK OF FICTION AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED FACT. NAMES AND PLACES CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT]
We drop my daughter off at my mom's on Saturday night and by the time we leave, it's 9:45pm. Karina says, "Can we go for a drive in the Alpina?" So we ditch the SUV, pull the AlpineWhite beauty out of the garage and we're off.
I'm gentle. Alpina warns to warm up the engine oil to 85*C before pulling over 3000 rpms for mechanical sympathy. Soon I'm rowing the short-shift kitted gearbox with between 2nd and 3rd matching the downshifts with heel-and-toe. We head to downtown Vancouver and cruise Robson before parking on Georgia & Jervis. Its dry. Its quiet and relatively warm. Small groups of people still stroll Robson on a warm winter's night. A brisk uphill walk to the french cafe only to find it closed at 8:30pm. We weren't even close as its 10:15pm by now. Ah, a glance across finds Mondo Gelato. We share a scoop of milk chocolate and a scoop of Horlicks ice cream. Haven't done that since my daughter was born. Back on Georgia Street we glance at Karina's old apartment where she was living when we first dated 7 years ago. Has it really been that long? Memories.
I take the long way to Richmond via Dunbar and southeast Marine Drive. Turning east onto Marine, we see a group of about 25 teens wandering the streets swarming a fresh accident between a cab and a "N"-plate driver. Uh-oh. They didn't have the sense to pull to the side of the road. We steered around them. Get onto the Arthur Laing bridge. Conditions are good. Road not moist. Traffic is sparse. I check the outside temperature indicator to make sure its above freezing. Pull hard in 3rd up the bridge. I'm doing 130 km/h quickly leaving adjacent traffic far behind. Here comes the right exit to Richmond. Turn, turn. Balance the car with a stab of brakes, now back on the gas holding the car through the S-curve. Normally, 80 km/h would be a good speed through this curve. I've done it at 110 km/h on R-compound tires in another car - in the summer. I glance and its about 90 km without being anywhere near the edge. I'm amazed. Damn if the steering linkage replacement and steering box adjustment didn't remove all the slack I was previously feeling. The car now tracks beautifully through the turns. Still understeers by nature, but no slack. Good.
Wind through the 'S" shaped turn and look ahead to the 90* right hand turn. Heel and toe to 2nd, hard on the gas but don't floor it as 360 horses will certainly trigger traction control in second gear. Its 110 km/h leading to the decreasing radius merge on ramp to north Richmond. Heel and toe to 2nd, turn the wheel back on the gas through the decreasing radial. "Look on the outer edge of the curve" I tell myself while applying more steering input. Focusing on the inside of the apex leads to more steering corrections than looking on the outside. HPDE instructors always emphasize vision and looking where you want to go - I guess it really works.
The car continues to load the outside of the chassis as we sling around the corner. The new Bilstein front shocks and front suspension pays off now. Wout has always recommended changing the suspension top hats and various bits and pieces. He's right. So a month ago when I sent the car to the shop, all the front suspension bits were changed including new shocks and new M5 heavy-duty upper strut mounts (expensive!). The rear had the SLS accumulators, hoses, washers and bushings replaced. Engines mounts were changed at the same time. Transmission mounts were upgraded to a non-tapered beefier version. The transition through the corner is seamless, balanced and controllable.
Shoulder check. Merge. Almost redlining in 3rd, shift to 4th on the small bridge. Crest and bear right off the bridge to No. 3 Road. Apply gradual firm pressure on the brakes slowing the car to the corner. Heel and toe to 3rd. 4000 rpm. Another blip finding 2nd 3000 rpm. Turning onto No 3 Road heading south. Highspeed is over. Cruise back home normally. 60 km/h.
"So tell me again why you wanted a ride in the Alpina", I asked Karina.
"Its more exciting than driving in the SUV", she replied nonchalantly as she relaxed her grip on the passenger armrest.
What a wife. And yes, a good night only got better.