A transporter arrives at my gate and a week of BMW M3 excitement begins. Inside is a 1989 E30 Ravaglia from BMW UK’s classic car collection. The E30 is the first of the M3 line, built as a homologation special, and this one is a special edition named after highly successful M3 racer Roberto Ravaglia.

It will be with me a few days before we join a bunch of other M cars at the latest Bicester Heritage Scramble to mark the 50th anniversary of BMW’s revered and hugely effective M division. The weather is brilliant, so I use it in the lengthening evenings for junkets on favourite roads after the infernal screen is folded away.

It’s so interesting to get back into a car that I praised to the skies three decades ago. It’s so low, so different in proportions and so narrow. Light, too. The pillars are thin, which usually means body flex, but not this time. The 2.3-litre four-pot engine is game and revs well, but it’s a shade inert by modern standards. Later BMW gearchanges got better, too, and I suddenly see why variable-ratio steering is a good idea. Still, the cornering grip is great and the narrowness means there’s a proper line through every corner.

What an important car for BMW to hold onto!


Lovely sprint across the Cotswolds to Bicester, impressed by this race special’s built-in integrity. There we swap for one of the greatest of all BMWs and another UK collection car, an E46 M3 CSL.

It’s 110kg lighter than the regular E46 M3 and one of only 1400 produced. It’s also seriously fast, with a meaty 350bhp straight six in the nose, and trick suspension set as low as a snake’s armpit. It rides firmly but well, considering the obvious lack of suspension travel. People complained about its standard SMG automated manual gearbox at the time, but I got on with it fine. I might be a bit less happy with the leisurely shifts on a track, mind.

Tuesday AM

A day away from the coalface to attend the annual SMMT Test Day, staged at the Millbrook Proving Ground by the vital body that represents Britain’s whole motor industry, notably to the government.