Jon Nurse takes on AA Drivetech's advance driving courseBy Jon Nurse
January 28, 2013
Drivers faced treacherous conditions last week as ice and snow swept the borough, with many choosing not to venture out unless necessary.
But help is at hand for those less confident in wet and icy conditions at an advanced driving course in Crowthorne.
Reporter JON NURSE hit the skid pan to learn some tricks for driving in difficult conditions.
I'm never going to be the Stig. I enjoy driving, but hold up my hands and accept I’m a rookie.
So I jumped at the chance to drive on a skid pan.
I joined a session with the AA’s DriveTech – the company’s post-test driver training and commercial driver development arm – at the Transport Research Laboratory in Nine Mile Ride.
As a Rover with what looked like four large supermarket trolley wheels strapped to its body approached, instructor Keith Freeman explained: “Everything we do is fun with an important educational element.”
The four pivot wheels can be raised and lowered to change the grip and simulate different road surfaces.
With the flick of a dial I was spinning at every turn and the stench of burning rubber was wafting Wokingham’s way.
Instructor Hannah Toakley went over the basics of understeer and oversteer and diagnosed what was causing the spin – the speed and the sharpness, I was attacking the bend with.
The engine revved as we took the next corner, I waited for the back end to kick out and as it started I countered its causes – taking my foot off the accelerator and steering against the skid.
The car slid Hollywood-style before correcting itself for me to continue on my way. Job done.
There were still some pearls of wisdom to learn. For the first few slides I’d look immediately in front as I felt the car disappearing beneath me and end up pirouetting with the grace of a heavy ballerina.
Soon I was looking towards the next roundabout as the oversteer threw out the back end and with my vision fixed further in the distance I’d control the slide and be on my way. Even Bond couldn’t have done better.
Next was a braking lesson in a BMW.
First was emergency stops and I was stunned to see the difference in stopping distances between 30mph and 40mph is over 10m.
Cones were then sprawled around the skid pan in different-coloured bays.
“This time I want you to get to 50mph and brake as hard as you can when I say,” Keith said. Moments later I was hurtling across the tarmac before screeching to a halt neatly inside a bay.
“Is it safe here?” photographer Mike asked, standing perilously close to one of the bays I was about to drive into. “It’s fine,” Keith assured us. “If I say left, you brake and go left. Right, and you go right.” Mike was on the right.
I hurtled towards my keen cameraman.
“Left!” Keith shouted, I slammed on the brakes, jolting towards the bay and smash! A cone massacre. Some were dragged under the wheels, others were bumped into orbit. The car finally stopped well beyond the bay.
Keith added: “I called ever so slightly later and see what a difference it makes.”
Mike gave me a death stare from across the tarmac. I doubt he’ll let me drive a car at him at 50mph again.
n AA DriveTech training provides advanced and specialist coaching for a wide range of vehicles, as well as group workshops and fun days. For information visit www.aadrivetech.com.