Saturday, February 13, 2016 9:00 am ·  0 Comments
I am often asked whether high performance driving techniques are worth learning. Today’s cars are generally well equipped with safety features to reduce (but not eliminate) the likelihood of losing control and crashing the car.
In fact, some of these features such as all-wheel drive and stability management systems actually give us a false sense of security. They often allow us to drive much faster than the road conditions allow for. Every time we get some snow or heavy rain, we see this false sense of security by the number of cars “in the ditch”.
If these “safety” features were not present, you as a driver would feel the car slipping and sliding much more readily and perhaps you would slow down. So what do these safety features really do? Most of the time they compensate for our minor driving mistakes. Sometimes they just give us underserved confidence and allow for a crash to happen at a much higher speed with more serious injury and damage.
Driving mistakes are made by both novice as well as experienced drivers. Drivers often lack the awareness of proper car control and the ability to control the car in difficult situations. Especially for your younger drivers, becoming aware of the car’s limits, learning and practicing the techniques of car control can reduce the likelihood for serious consequences.
For us southern Ontario residents, there are ample opportunities to properly learn high performance driving techniques. We are blessed with several excellent high speed controlled-access tracks and high performance driving schools where you can bring your daily driver or even your “Sunday toy” to safely learn performance driving techniques, experience the thrill of higher speeds and explore the limits of your car.
A one-day course in high performance driving can reduce the risk of losing control of your car. Highly recommended for younger drivers as well as experienced drivers.
Is high performance driving just for the car racers? Absolutely not! Many of us enjoy our cars and just wish that we could experience a little more of the driving experience in a safer environment – which does not include the 400 series highways or the QEW – or even our country roads or residential streets.
Who can benefit from performance driving (car control) techniques?
I have been an active “trackie” and performance driver/instructor for over 20 years. I encouraged my daughter to take a performance driving school with her “every day driver” to learn car control, accident avoidance and skid control. She will tell you that this training gave her the practiced reaction that saved her from serious injury when she was T-boned and pushed into oncoming traffic. She kept her composure and managed to safely steer her car away from oncoming traffic and to a safe location.
One of the unfortunate realities of our “driver education” system is that it does not allow you to experience and thus learn to improve your outcomes in difficult driving situations. Are you or your younger drivers prepared and experienced enough to handle the car when a corner is taken a bit too fast on a wet road and the car starts to slide? Or when you have to brake very hard and drive around something to prevent a crash? For some, this first experience often results in an unfortunate collision. All licensed drivers, regardless of age or experience can benefit from learning, experiencing and practicing performance-driving techniques. Even very experienced drivers develop poor driving habits and become over confident in their modern equipped car. Everyone can benefit from a driving skill “tune-up”. And best of all, you can have a lot of fun doing it.
What are some of the performance-driving (car control) techniques?
A driver uses performance-driving techniques to increase the performance potential of the car as well as the ability to maintain car control during braking, turning and acceleration activities.
You can learn these techniques in a variety of ways including from reading articles or books that describe the techniques, watching videos that demonstrate the techniques, or attending a performance driving school that specializes in teaching the techniques and allowing you to actually experience and develop them. Books and videos are good learning modes, but nothing is better than actual practice.
So what are some of the things to learn?
• Proper seat and hand position
• Proper mirror adjustment to eliminate blind spots
• Correct vision – looking ahead
• Proper braking, turn in and track out points
• Recognizing and controlling oversteer and understeer
• Accident avoidance and skid control
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do I need a sports car to learn and experience performance-driving techniques?
Absolutely not! In fact, you should participate with your daily driver (compact, mini van, SUV, whatever). As long as the car is in safe mechanical condition and has been properly maintained, this is the best vehicle to bring. If you have a Porsche or BMW, both these have local car clubs that offer high quality structured track days with instruction.
Will I damage my car?
Performance driving is taught on controlled access surfaces at speeds that are generally lower than you would experience on the QEW/401. All drivers are paired with an experienced instructor/coach who is very focused on having a non-incident day.
What does it cost and where are they?
Many of the high performance driving schools have programs in the range of $275 – $400 for a day on the track with lunch. There are two favorite locations used by most schools. The Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport) located north of Bomanville and about a 90-minute drive from Oakville. The Shannonville track located just east of Belleville, about a two-hour drive from Oakville. There are plenty of nearby motels/hotels for those of you that don’t like to get up too early.
Is there a downside to attending one of these schools?
YES! You might very well get hooked on the adrenalin rush and the ear-to-ear smile that most participants experience after a day on the track. Fortunately all of the schools have programs that can take you from a beginner through to becoming an experienced trackie.
How do I get started?
The best place to start is to look at the websites of some of the local car clubs and performance driving schools. I have instructed for, familiar with and can recommend:
all-wheel drive, BMW Club, Brack Driving Concepts, car accidents, Ferrari Club, Hanson International Advanced Driving School, high performance driving techniques, high speed vehicle accidents, Porsche Club, stability management systems