Driver of BMW in fatal crash sought Web advice on making it go faster
BY RICK CUNDIFF
(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) OCALA - Less than 12 hours before he died, Joshua Ammirato was posting messages on an Internet message board seeking advice about how to drive his 2008 BMW M5 faster.
Ammirato, 18, logged onto M5board.com Thursday and Friday, asking other M5 drivers how to shift smoother in the 500-horsepower machine.
“The problem is when I’m going pedal to the metal pushing 140 and upshifting, there tends to be thud noise with the gear change,” he wrote in one post.
Ammirato and four other young Marion County men were killed at about 3:45 a.m. Saturday, when the BMW M5 he was driving sailed off the end of the Greystone airstrip in Anthony and crashed into a tree.
Messages on the board devoted to M5 enthusiasts show Ammirato logged on shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday as “AmericanM5.”
“Let me say I am beginner when it comes to high performance cars as I am only 18 so take it easy on me,” he wrote.
Other members of the board expressed skepticism that Ammirato could have a car with a base price of $82,900 at such a young age, but warned him to take it easy until he gained more driving experience.
“Maybe your 2 years driving experience in your whole life is the problem,” one member wrote.
“The fact that I never drove a manual car before may be true, but I’ve been driving for a lot longer than two years buddy,” Ammirato responded.
Ammirato’s M5, according to his posts, was equipped with a “sequential manual gearbox,” which shifts like a traditional manual transmission, but without a clutch pedal.
Automobile Magazine has described the M5 as “a fearfully intimidating machine,” with writer Michael Jordan adding “we’ve found that the SMG transmission … makes you feel like a victim of speed, not its master.”
Ammirato told forum members he’d had the car for about three weeks. The vehicle is registered to his father, Santo Ammirato, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
In his posts, Joshua Ammirato listed his other cars as a 2008 BMW 535i, a 2007 BMW 335i and a 2007 Cadillac Escalade. All have less horsepower than the M5.
News of Ammirato’s death drew condolences from forum members on Saturday and Sunday.
“My prayers are with Josh and his family as well. Being that I am 21 and going on my second M5 I know the temptation is great and sometimes hard to handle at that age,” one member wrote. “This is a very serious car with extraordinary performance, i have learned to respect it because there is a VERY, VERY thin line between losing it and keeping it on the road.”
Another hoped others would learn from the tragedy.
“Truly a sad, sad event. May God be with the families and friends,” the poster wrote. “Hope that they have not died completely in vain – that many young drivers (and their parents) will take this to heart and learn from it.”
Ammirato asked forum members on Friday about turning off the M5’s electronic stability control for higher performance. A member wrote back with concern.
“With all (due) respect, gradually learn your car before you turn off (stability control),” he wrote. "With a little mistake combination of your mind and your right foot, you can be history. Be safe and enjoy.
“P.S. People on this board care about each other, especially when someone owns 500 hp car at age of 18. Don’t take it personal. We all watch each other(s) back.”
Another member expressed concern about Ammirato’s maturity.
“[I]t’s just disturbing to know, if you’re for real, that an 18 year old who is asking these questions about a 500hp car is driving the same streets I am. I don’t have anything against young guys driving nice cars, but an 18 year old behind the wheel of an M5 is what accidents are made of,” he wrote.
Ammirato responded at 5:33 p.m. Friday that he was responsible.
“I completely understand where you are coming from assuming that I am irresponsible … that is definitely understandable. I do sometimes make bad decisions but I am young and I do drive safe and I will not endanger the lives of others.”
A member from Australia again cautioned Ammirato to be careful.
“My only bit of advice matey – If you crash in a big way expect to be on the news,” he wrote. “Enjoy and resist the temptation to drag others at the lights.”
Ammirato responded, in his last post, at 9:02 p.m. Friday.
“Thanks guys, don’t get me wrong I never said I didn’t respect your wisdom,” he wrote. “[T]hanks for the welcome and I am looking forward to getting to know you guys better … Josh.”