Posted: July 4, 2016
Nissansportz Forum Member Lesmo Reflects on his Performance Driver 'Track' Day on Sunday 30th August 2015
I will start by saying I don't want to do track days, they don't appeal to me personally. But members of this forum have long raved on about the CAT driver training days and respecting those opinions, when a date was released for August Bank Holiday we quickly signed up, for this would be a event to be enjoyed by Caroline in her mini and me in the Zed.
The communications and information over the following weeks were extremely professional, a list of items to pre-check on the cars. Emails and personal messages answered quickly, you were left feeling you were dealing with an extremely professional outfit.
So on a damp Sunday morning in August we all arrived at the Millbrook proving grounds
6 cars arrived at the entrance. A mighty GTR also joined our fold from another forum, and 5 nissansportz members. We were in for a real treat - the GTR, Audi RS 4, Three 370z's and Caroline's Mini Cooper S.
Jo who had been behind all the communications turned up, with the first and most important rule of Millbrook, absolutely no Photography, our Camera phones would be covered with stickers - this is understandable, we were about to enter the secret world of vehicle testing. As we drove into the site, you would have been mistaken in thinking you were going onto a Military base carrying out chemical warfare testing. Turning left we had our first glimpse of the 2 mile banked oval, on it were two test cars running feet apart on a long term test. But more of those later.
Arriving at the CAT Base, we were immediately welcomed with Coffee and introduced to our two instructors for the Day, Colin and Paul. Completing the check on cars and licences. We listened to a overview of the day and a briefing on Safety. It is clear CAT take this responsibility very seriously. We sat and evaluated our driving, it was refreshing to hear the honesty in the group, content I was not sitting in a room with this years Le Mans winner. I heard the thing I most wanted to hear - Colin calmly spoke, we will not ask you to do anything you are not comfortable doing, we will try and stretch you but only if you want it. You could almost feel the anxiety drop. It was clear the main intention was for us all to have a good time. We now split into two groups Paul taking one and Colin the other. Both Caroline and I were in Colins group.
As we headed off down what we didn't realise was the alpine course to the mile long straight, you started to understand the sheer magnitude of the proving ground. Arriving at the Straight the desolate Sunday morning was soon awake with the noise of our cars.
As with each of the sessions Colin and Paul took us through the steps, the things we would learn they showed us in their cars the steps we would ourselves be undertaking.
Caroline was out first, she came back with a smile on her face - you could see the confidence building. Then my turn. Completing the first pass, with Colin next to me, I felt safe. The instructions were reassuring and clear. As we came back a pack of Porsches arrived. What is the term for a pack of Porches... Anyway, I waited for them to sort themselves out and steadily passed 911's - I needed to show them how good the little Nissan really was and how much I had learned from my first pass. The car and my tuition did not let me down, already I had learned two skills which I would use throughout the day and my confidence was high. As we all took turns, the social element of the day took over, standing in the parking area - we chatted, we looked over the cars and you never felt like you were hanging around. Watching others you could learn just as much.
With the Porsches now obliterating the mile straight we headed off for what was always going to be my highlight - the 2 Mile High banked oval. Parking up at the Handling Circuit - Colin gave us a briefing and then we loaded up with Colin and headed off the High Banked Oval. Caroline and I have been lucky to visit some of the best Oval circuits in the US. From Daytona to Charlotte, Talladega to Pocono with its triangle formation. But as we entered the Oval - the sheer magnitude of the site became apparent. Lane 5 was something you could only aspire too. As the two long term test cars came past still beating the miles, we covered the objectives and back to our cars.
Caroline was soon out and back with a thumbs up, you could see the confidence growing more and more. Then my turn, I should probably say my expectations of what I could do prior to the event with regards to how fast I would go - were higher than the reality of it. Only when you get up feet away from the barrier do you realise the magnitude of the task in hand. Its not about the speed, its about driving safely in a constant bowl. Even then I did speeds which would have given you a lengthy ban.
Coming back to the parking, I had a new respect for the Oval drivers doing what I did at 200 Mph 3 wide. Also to be fair to the Top Gear presenters who I had watched doing 150+ and thinking that's easy, my limits were not as great as I thought they would be. But I wasn't disappointed. I knew my limits and I didn't cross them. Although one of my moments was passing the long speed testing cars in lane 3 - me in lane 5 doing 120. For a second I wished to be in the test cars to see how good the Zed looked.
The final session before lunch was the High Speed Handling Course, more circuit than a road - we took the braking and steering techniques we had already learned and added the use of throttle to control and settle the car, added to that looking far ahead - the car felt completely stable - concentrating less on the corner you were in and more on what was coming. You started to understand it when drivers say things seem slow, they really do slow down, the more confidence and control you have the less effort you need to put in and the slower things seem to happen. The last corner proved the frustrating one, the chicane was pure joy, as the car floated through - all the time Colin feeding back.
Back to base for Lunch, the room had a new confidence, the rain tipping down outside. We moved on to the Alpine course, one we have all seen on TV programmes, To further develop our cornering techniques - learning how to drive hair pins, and put what we had learned about Single Input Steering to the test. What had been daunting when we first arrived and drove part of it, Felt great. If it has been a sunny day and coast had been lapping beside you - you would have said it was the best road in the world. As it was the window wipers were plodding along and we were in Bedfordshire. No sooner were you starting than you were finishing, But it felt so good when you hooked it up. You could feel what you had learned working.
Then back to the classroom to understand a little more about the physics behind cars before moving onto the low grip surface. Another highlight. I wanted to know how the car felt just before and after it was going to lose control, As I approached the wet surface with the Traction Control on, I was amazed how good it was, it turned Oversteer to understeer, then to something I never do. Turning the Traction Control off. I was soon heading backwards out of a spin. But so very safe nothing anywhere near to hit. As I watched the GTR giving us a demonstration of drifting, you could see how all the cars were different, I was massively impressed with how well the mini did for instance.
Finally onto the last event of the day, the Gymkhana - I opted to drive the Scoobie owned by CAT. I had never driven one and the opportunity was too good to be missed. It was an event using all the techniques learned in the day. As I sat at the line waiting to be counted down, I wasn't sure how it would go. Colin now my familiar passenger - as my co-driver. We left the line and off into a world of cones. I would lie if I said I had a clue where I was supposed to go. But Colin got me through it. We took to the line for our second and last timed run. Count down and we were off, No penalties and what felt like a good run. The perfect last event.
Driving back to the CAT HQ, you could see everyone doing single input driving and taking the hairpin curves. If you wanted to see how much everyone had learned you only needed to see this line of orderly cars all under control and all practicing the strategies we had learned. I was proud of all of us as we drove in. It was like we had been to University all day and this was our graduation.
So to the Prizes - Caroline was awarded most improved Driver of the Day - from someone who wasn't sure if they really wanted to attend and just really came along to make me happy, she looked confident and relaxed and following back to the HQ the Mini was being driven like a pro. Best drift went to the GTR, the drift was epic - honestly, for a few seconds I stood in absolute awe. Fastest time went to the stunning modified black 370z with its air suspension - with its lovely sound. Me - well I came third, in a car I had never driven before, I was very proud of that. Although I think had other things not happened in the day and one of our members not been side-lined through mechanical issues I would have been 4th.
I didn't want to do a track day, I did the Civic thing the other week and all I came back with was a high speed. CAT gave me more than bragging rights. I know the Zed can do 155 - what was clear though is the ability to reach it was actually governed not by the car but by me. As I drove home last night I found myself using the skills I had been taught, looking further down the road, better positioning of the car and feeling pride when in my virtual world on the main road I got it right. Outside to the other motorists - it probably didn't look that impressive. But yesterday I changed. I felt confident. I understood better what the Zed would do - in fact if you have money to spend on a Mod I would make CAT one high up on your list. The car will only ever be as in control and fast as the driver behind the wheel. The event was well run, it was will structured, it was fun, I learned so much and unlike a track day I actually came away with skills I can use every day. It made me want to do it all over again. Most important the car did not have a hard time - it didn't do much more than any weekend or commute. Even Caroline said she would do it again, Someone who was quite nervous before the day started. Loved it.
As the day went on I had more capacity to do other things than just drive, in a very short time I had skills which will make me safer on the road and that is a priceless skill. If anyone is sitting here where we were in May - having heard only good things about CAT. They are all true. Everyone of them. If you have ever wondered what Millbrook is like or to drive on the High Speed Banked oval - its a bucket list thing. The day - the people on the day were fun, we laughed - we admired - there was pride as each of us picked up a new skill. Oh and at the end of the day my MPG was 20.4 - not bad for the Zed I thought. The Zed is a great car until yesterday I didn't appreciate how great. Boy does it handle well. Driving away it felt like the end of the Breakfast Club - as we convoyed out.
Finally thanks to Jo, Colin and Paul, you made the day very special. You made the Zed feel more planted than it has ever felt, and me more confident about how it handles and how good the car really is.
Single input steering is my new best friend.
"Performance Driver Track Day Course I participated in the course arranged by Porsche Club GB and very happy to give 5 stars all round. The team has put a huge amount of thought and effort into making the facilities and training Covid-secure, which is indicative of their professionalism. I found the whole day both fascinating and a lot of fun, in briefings, on the various driving segments, and chatting with the team and other participants. I was genuinely in awe of how much Colin moved my theoretical and practical driving on, and what he got me to get the car to do in the space of one day - always building confidence, encouraging me to explore my limits, while not pushing me beyond them. Can't wait to return!"
"I have had a reasonable degree of driving training over the years as am ex police officer and advanced police driver. I took the performance driver driver training to learn about track driving, and found it excellent. My instructor was Paul who was fantastic. The training built up during the day and I learnt so much about the capabilities of my own car and although I was nervous about using my own car realised afterwards it was the best thing for me to do. The instruction was extremely informative from an engineering perspective coupled with driving, friendly and tailored to your individual needs and abilities. At no time was I encouraged or pushed to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with. It was extremely professional throughout. I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone whatever your standard of driving."
"Truly exceptional In my experience, driving instruction has generally consisted of being repeatedly told that you are 'doing it wrong' accordingly to some unknown standard or principle that you had hoped to learn about by taking said instruction. Then there is Colin. It is not that common to find an individual who genuinely understands both people and engineering. It is incredibly rare to find one who can actively apply both to deliver a sustained behavioural change. Colin adapts his teaching style to the way you learn. For me, he lead with the WHY of the learning point, grounded in physics and engineering. We'd then put it in to practice, often doing several variants of an excercise to explore how the car reacts to differing inputs, providing valuable context for what good feels like and reinforcing the learning point. Each point built on the previous ones, layering up and coming together in to a whole, one far greater than the sum of it's parts. Subtle changes to huge effect. I was concerned on the day that the learnings would rapidly fade, but I have found that because Colin has taught me an understanding the lessons have persisted, even if I do still need some more practice (48 laps of the Silverstone GP circuit last Thursday definitely helped!). Add to this the fact that Colin is great company and an absolute pleasure to spend time with, and you have one of the most positive learning experiences I've ever known. Truly exceptional. I could not recommend more highly. Thank you!"
"Superb day with calm knowledgable and professional guidance from Paul. Thank you Paul. The course is so well structured consistently building ability and knowledge in complete safety. I fully recommend anyone wishing to increase their knowledge, confidence and experience to attend."
"Far better than any track day you can imagine! There is a massive difference between a typical driver experience or track day events and CAT driver training. The main difference is that you drive your own car to the full extent of it's capabilities, and your own, while being given expert one to one tuition by brilliant trainers Colin and Paul, who come from a Motorsport and auto engineering background. Their combined domain knowledge of engineering and competitive Motorsport allows them to explain the physics of why the car behaves as it does and how you can exploit the cars characteristics for maximum performance., in a safe fun environment. The frankly brilliant experience on the track is matched by the quality hospitality hosted by Jo, and classroom training, which prepares you for what you will experience on the next stage. These stages include such delights as the ring, where you will drive with no hands on the wheel at 100MPH, providing you with a clear understanding of the fact the car finds its own balance , and my personal favourite the alpine stage, with hairpins a plenty and 'character building' drops and rock faces. I have to admit to being slightly 'corner shy' before the training, however after some brilliant coaching from Collin urging me to 'stay on the gas, stay on the gas!' I am now far more confident and safe in the twisty stuff!"
"I don’t want to make this review too long and detailed, so I think the best way to summarise it is this: I think I possibly learnt more in one day that I’ve ever learnt before and the skills are relevant to all driving and can be practised daily. On the way home, I drove the ‘long way’ just to practise and feel the difference in the attitude of the car. I used to do this now and again because there are a few good straights and it’s nice to give the car a ‘blast’. This time, I drove that way home because I wanted to drive round the corners properly."
"Extremely professional driver training. Period. I wanted a course that would deliver a very high level of training, in an organised and professional manner. The course exceeded my expectations in every way, I wish I had started working with CAT Driver training years ago. There is no doubt that if you are looking for absolute top level training, there isn't anywhere else to look. Somehow they manage to follow a very tried and tested course structure, yet it is tailored all the way along to meet your requirements and current skill set. very impressive. I cannot rate this company highly enough. I have more dates booked already."
"Very structured training Paul was very clear and methodical in his coaching. The training technique was built up in various sections during the day and all came together like a jigsaw puzzle in the end for a great result."
"It's hard not to be enthusiastic about the lasting impact CAT Driver Training will have on your approach to driving. I spent a day with Paul exploring the potential of my new vehicle. The coaching is clear, methodical and structured to allow you to go on learning for a full day without overload. The training venue is superb and quiet enough (on the day I attended) to allow uninterrupted driving. Brilliant admin team too. Absolutely 5 Star!"
"Everything you read about these people is true and i cannot really add anything apart from clicking these five stars and to say they are truly incredibly knowledgeable, professional and nice. I did the Performance Driver Track day in my amazing six-month-old 911 GTS 4 and I now know so much more about my car and myself. I was in a group of six people all with different driving skill levels from the complete novice (me) to regular track day enthusiasts and the day was a journey of discovery for everyone. I am so pleased to have done it."
"First class performance car training day. Many thanks to Paul & your great team for a really enjoyable training day at Millbrook on Friday. I learnt a lot more about the capabilities of my F430 and found many new limits! The attention to detail in the delivery of the training was exceptional. I would recommend this to anyone with a performance car who wants to fully understand and enjoy their vehicle."
"An amazing day. If you drive you should go to CAT. If you have a performance car you MUST go to CAT. A day with CAT will transform your driving, you it be safer on the road in any situation and it will be the biggest performance upgrade your car will ever get. I learned so much in one day without any pressure, effort or stress. Colin's coaching is world class, he makes it simple / interesting to understand and easy to absorb / remember. The whole day and and everything leading up to it are well organised by the team. They REALLY care that you have a great day and TOTALLY deliver. You owe it to yourself to go."
"Absolutely Brilliant! The best advice I can give: believe every one of the glowing reviews on CAT! I approached CAT because I wanted to feel more comfortable with my newly-purchased BMW, the first rear-wheel drive car to be used for every-day driving after decades of FWD cars. I wanted to find out what the car's capabilities are, what it would feel like in extreme conditions, understand what it was telling me at the limits and, generally to get advice on my own technique. I wasn't a novice, having done plenty of track days and laps of the Nordschleife but I just knew that there's always plenty more to learn... A day's Performance Driver session met every one of my targets, and then more! Paul was a patient, logical and technical instructor who took time to explain what would happen in each manoeuvre and then fully debriefed that stage so that I not only knew what the car was doing but also understood what effect on the car my own actions were having. The proof of the pudding was in the final stage - setting consistent timed laps of the handling circuit. I'd worried a little about this all day as I'd have described my driving as enthusiastic but perhaps not consistent. The results were close to unbelievable to me! By remembering all that Paul had demonstrated and explained to me I surpassed my wildest dreams. Fantastic! As a result of this day, I now have more belief in my ability to read what my car's saying to me which brings confidence and relaxation. The car and I are now a team, rather than me just sitting there making it go down the road. I can highly recommend the whole CAT experience. Professional, friendly, patient, technical when required and not afraid to challenge when necessary. Oh, and the lunch is good too! I wish I could afford to go back every month..."
"Achieve your driving goals here! Can't ask for more than that! The entire experience was a positive and pleasant one. Everyone I met at CAT Driver Training contributed positively to the day, regardless of the role, so thank you to Jo, Lynne and of course, Colin! CAT have existing programmes for teaching anyone the fundamentals and advanced techniques of how to drive fast, but Colin can identify really quickly what you can and cannot do, and is quick to understand how to best use your time. I went in with my own unique set of requirements which slightly 'broke' the programme, but it was no problem at all and the most impressive thing was that I achieved my goals by the end of the day! I wanted to understand my car, be able to find and drive at the grip limit, and also understand how to be a faster and better driver. A lot to fit into a day, but Colin managed it in the most efficient way possible, and we achieved them all! Colin has great insights into vehicle dynamics, as well as the human machine behind the wheel. He understands why we sometimes don't function as optimally as we would like! His ability to listen to you, translate your input and isolate what is not working with your current technique helps focus the day on exactly what needs attention. This focus, along with Colin's 'feeling' of how the package of car and driver is behaving, makes him uniquely qualified to provide great direction and input to help you become the best driver possible. A lot of people talk about it, but very few can translate the inputs to a specific process for you to follow as a driver. The process is all about starting with foundations and building on them. It doesn't always seem to make sense, but trust the system - it all comes together in the end! The time is not cheap, but it will help you achieve your goals, so how do you put a price on that!? Thank you CAT Driver Training!!
"Best In Class Driver Training The training provided by Colin at CAT Driver training is superb. I am lucky enough to attended training days with Porsche, Lotus, Aston Martin and the day with a Colin at Millbrook has topped them all being informative, challenging, practical and above all delivered by a true Petrol Head. Thanks again and I will be back with the 911."
"Reminding how to drive fast A day with Colin on a 'One to One' basis is almost essential for anyone who lives on a small rock in the middle of the English Channel or lives in a city. We don't drive fast and don't get the opportunity to drive fast unless we are on a track. Colin spent the day reminding me how much fun it was to have 'fast feet' and to make the Tyres 'squeak' as they reach the sticky limit. I think I lost about 7kg in weight during the day as I was worked so hard but oh what a day. Thoroughly recommended to anyone who had a petrol head. Best bit was the 'Alpine Loop' at the end of the day. Full gas on the exit with all four squeaking. 👍😃"
"Excellent! Colin, Jo, Paul and the team are amazing, professional and have a unique ability to cover all areas of driving properly. My driving capability has been enhanced beyond measure. I highly recommend them and the CAT Advanced Driving Academy Programme. During the course it became clear to me that CAT Driving are one of the very few on the planet with such experience and capability. They have designed a brilliant dedicated package focused on working with you and delivered with an attentive caring personal touch."
"Paul was amazing: awesome teacher with a great brain. Made me realize my Mustang has actually way more grip and better and better handling than I thought. Top notch facilities in Millbrook. Totally worth it."