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Turn 1 at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas will forever live rent-free in my head.

  • Car: BMW 3 Series with M Performance accessories.
  • Location: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas
  • Photog: Tony Markovich (Instagram + Twitter: @T_Marko)
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T5i, 18-55mm IS STM len

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend one of the BMW M Track Days with BMW at COTA. Not only did I get to take a hot lap during which it felt like the car was on skates the entire ride, I also drove some laps of my own in the 3 Series, 4 Series, and 5 Series. Although the cars were memorable, the first turn is what looms tall in that room of memories. It’s impossible to forget.

Overall, there’s about 130 feet of elevation on COTA, and much of it happens during that first turn. As the driver, you’re bombing straight ahead and all you can see in front of you is the sky. Unless you know the track and how it snakes, there’s no way to see where you need to be to hit your line. Then you start to crest the incline and you realize you have to immediately change course from 12 o’clock to 8 o’clock. Those who make the turn correctly have full understandings of momentum and weight management, as the car feels like it’s being thrown all sorts of directions you don’t necessarily want it to go.

With only a few laps of practice, this corner expectedly caught me slippin’ every time, even with the help of all the track nannies included on these BMWs. This photo shows the car near the starting line, where I spent a lot of time staring at Turn 1 trying to figure out how I could conquer such a mountain.

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