Posted: June 6, 2017
Over the next few months we’re going to be taking a look at some of the inspirational journeys our customers go through on their way to becoming advanced drivers.
We’ll be looking at how they started, the skills they’ve learnt and what’s made them the driver they are today and hopefully, this will inspire more of you to grab hold of your passion and get behind the wheel.
And if you are looking for inspiration to become a better driver, you need look no further than this month’s superstar, Stef Leaney. From being a relative novice behind the wheel at his first session with CAT Driver Training, Stef has just come off the back of two race wins at Silverstone and is leading the 750MC Bikesports Championship in a Radical PR6 in his first season. So, let’s dive straight in to look at how it all began.
Image courtesy of Jonathan Elsey Photography
The journey began in January 2015 with a Track Day Novice and Drifting & Over Grip Limit Handling course. Stef had raced bikes previously and had a powerful road car at the time. He wanted to take it on the circuit and thought it would be wise to get rid of any habits that he’d picked up over the years and see how to get the most out of the car. As many of our customers do, he started with just 1 day initially and then went on to book more.
It was the facilities at Millbrook that really pleased Stef. “Millbrook has everything you would ever need to become an advanced driver” he commented. He was also particularly complimentary about Colin. “He talks to you in a certain way, he explains things well and has the right balance in terms of his attitude”.
If you’ve been on a course at CAT Driver Training, you’ll know that we tailor our courses to the needs of each individual and that’s one of the reasons why our customers learn so much more. “How much you can unbalance the car with both the throttle and the brakes was quite an eye opener for me” says Stef. “That and lane changing and how small inputs in the steering wheel can have a big difference. I learnt how to drive smoothly and with precision.”
A month later Stef was back with us to focus more on Grip Limit. “Once I’d done some more training with Colin, I went for a day at the track and everything fell into place” says Stef. “Then I did one more day and Colin said, “you can’t really go any faster than what you are in this car”. He could see my desire to go quicker. He said, “I think you need to go racing”.
A BMW M4. “I actually did a day where Colin helped me set up my M4 for Spa” says Stef. “I put racing suspension on it that was fully adjustable. We did an evening on the Handling Circuit and I had bucket seats at the time so I could really feel what was going on. I learnt a lot from that one session, just going around and adjusting the suspension lap after lap and feeling the difference.”
Image courtesy of Jonathan Elsey Photography
“I did a run down at Spa after my two days with Colin” says Stef. “Then I sold my M4 and tested a Radical SR1 which is an entry level Radical and really liked that so I bought it and did 6 or 7 track days with it. I was looking at my times on the test days and they were really competitive so I decided to sell the SR1 and buy my current car which is a single seater PR6.”
“It was when I bought the Radical that the training from Colin came into its own” explains Stef. “Because it was a proper race car, everything could be adjusted, everything could be changed. A lot of the theory work I did with Colin over the 3 days and on the circuit made so much sense when I was putting it into practice. Because I had done all that training, I could then apply what I had learnt in my M4 to a car where you’ve got no ABS, no traction control, no power steering. It’s just stripped back. I don’t think I would be as successful as I am now without that training. It’s like making a good base, a good foundation layer from which you can build upon.”
The proof came in Stef’s first race. It was a really wet Donington and relying on what Colin had taught him, Stef managed to get the car balance “pretty well sorted” and he came third in his first race. No minor achievement considering that PR6s don’t traditionally do well in the wet because they are so light. Just to put the result into context, the next PR6 finished 16th so it was a really good result. He then went on to Silverstone where he won two races in a row.
“If I had just gone out and bought a Radical to begin with” explains Stef, “I wouldn’t have had that understanding of what is going on with the car and why it behaves the way it does. When I see some of my counterparts at the track and they’re talking about their cars behaviour and they’re wondering why it’s doing it and just expecting the mechanic to sort it out for them, I think - if you don’t understand what’s happening, how is your mechanic supposed to fix it?”
“It’s really made the difference between me and my Radical competitors”
Are you feeling inspired by Stef’s story? Would you like to explore how you can do the same? Take action and contact us today for an informal chat on 01234 757 633 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to keep an eye on Stef and follow his Radical racing success, the results of the races are posted on the Bikesports Championship’s Facebook page which you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/bikesportschamp
"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."