Posted: June 6, 2016
Have you driven the “Ring” in November? I’ve recently returned from a wet and wintery 4 day visit, honing my grip limit driving and enjoying the empty circuit. Tiptoeing through high-speed corners and ever changing gradients, the multitude of changing road surfaces adding a degree of driving complexity no other circuit can match. But what happens if your Nissan/Evo/Subaru gets out of shape? Are you comfortable correcting understeer and oversteer?
It is difficult to convey the dynamic feel required to control a vehicle driven at its limit of adhesion through words on a page. However, I can answer some of the questions and queries that are often asked and explored on our drifting courses. Using Caterham 7s we regularly deliver one to one Drifting courses. The same questions come up time after time - let me share some of them with you.
If my vehicle is understeering, the front of the vehicle is travelling quicker than the rear. It is steering less than I need to negotiate the turn. Imagine driving on a large circle at grip limit as I increase power - the front of the vehicle will leave the circle.
If my vehicle is oversteering, the rear of the vehicle is travelling quicker than the front. It is steering more than I need to negotiate the turn. Driving the same circle at grip limit as I increase power, the rear of the vehicle will leave the circle.
Inexperienced drivers have a tendency to react much too slowly and too conservatively on the steering wheel when attempting to control an oversteering vehicle. Counter steer input has to equal oversteer angle in order to correct the slide. In essence, if the back of the car steps out by 30 degrees, it will take a 30 degree counter steer(turn into the slide) at the steering wheel to correct the slide and see you heading off in the intended direction. Problems can occur if the driver has not sensed the speed of the oversteer (Yaw rate). Your counter steer needs to be at the same rate as the yaw rate. Let the car get too out of shape and ahead of your counter steer and the car will spin. Work your hands at a speed that is ahead of the yaw rate and you will find it easier to correct the slide.
It is simply to allow the steering angle to equal the yaw rate of the vehicle. If the vehicle oversteers aggressively it may not be possible to counter steer quickly enough to arrest the slide. Momentarily releasing your grip on the wheel allows the yaw rate and steering input to equalise. Only try this under supervision with an instructor, and in a safe environment. It takes practice to perfect.
Complex 4 wheel drive, yaw control and stability systems can help to correct a sliding vehicle and, depending on the system, can proportion drive away from the over speeding wheels aiding correction and corner exit speed. What they can’t do is defy physics. They can only help manage the available grip between the tyre and the road. The safest advice is to smoothly and precisely reduce the amount of power to the over speeding wheels gently. Getting out of the gas will aid recovery. It is important not to snap the throttle shut as the vehicle needs some forward driven motion to aid recovery. If you are driving a front wheel drive configuration then the opposite applies. Increasing power helps to pull the front of the vehicle straight.
It is a safety issue. Manufacturers irrespective of the configuration and drive train layout of the vehicle, tune understeer into a vehicles platform as it is safer. It is less complex to correct than oversteer - it’s correction is instinctive: ease out of the gas pedal and the understeer will reduce. For the general public and the untrained driver it reduces the risk of a crash. Oversteer correction is a complex process requiring timely and accurate counter steering input from the driver. It is a skill that needs practice and often tuition to perfect. When faced with a dangerous driving scenario, oversteer correction is not as instinctive as simply reducing your foot pressure on the gas pedal to reduce understeer.
I have lost count of the cars I have been in at Millbrook that once on the Steering Pad, the circuit where we explore understeer and oversteer, they behave inconsistently. Our own training car - a Classic Subaru - last year left a puddle of oil on the garage floor around the near side rear wheel. The rear damper seals had let go. A rebuild of all four dampers has breathed new life back into our trusty work horse.
Track days accelerate the wear rates of many components, so it pays to be vigilant with your maintenance. Running heavily over kerbs and rumble strips is enough to change geometry settings and damage wheel rims. Periodic alignment checks will help to keep your vehicle pointing in the right direction through corners. If you have adjustable dampers fitted, make sure the settings are as intended. Handling irregularities can simply be incorrect settings side to side. This regularly seems to be the case when clients have recently purchased their vehicle and not checked the settings.
The simplest advice is often the most effective. If you are all out of shape through a corner don’t forget to keep looking where you want the car to go. Over grip limit driving, as with all driving activities, is based on looking in the correct place. You may be surprised at the drift angles you can recover from if you keep looking at the tarmac and not the scene of the accident.
Take care through the winter months and look out for those track day winter bargains. Yes the speeds are slower if it’s wet, but you can have just as much fun.
"Cat Driver Training - September 2021 If you want to understand and explore the dynamics of your car then this is the team to help you whatever your level of knowledge. Personally I learnt many things about the dynamics and capabilities of the Porsche 911. Things that had not been explained to me in such detail even on Porsche factory tours and track events. The level of instruction out on the handing circuits and tracks is of the highest standard and brings to life the theory discussed in the classroom. My driving skills were taken to the next level and I will continue to work with CAT to further develop them. The facilities available at Millbrook are outstanding and it is a privilege to be able to access them via CAT Driver Training."
"Do you think you know it all? Well set up, well briefed and spendidly delivered. This training covered technical aspects of driving skills and then followed (and backed) those up with practical exercises. The learning was continuous and developmental. Whether it was simply understanding what your car could do (or what you might be able to make it do) or what you could do, there was a whole range of skills, techniques and aids that would enhance anyone's understanding of motoring. Whether it was how ABS could be triggered (or not), understeer/oversteer, trial braking, dynamic forces, on-limit driving; you name it, this course covered it. Delivered by people who clearly knew what they were talking about, but in a friendly, clear and accommodating style. I learned something from every session."
"The best decision I ever made! I have trained with CAT Driver Training twice now & looking forward to coming back in the future. I trust in their expertise & there is always something new to learn, a habit to be explored & an exhilarating experience that pushes me to my limit & builds confidence in myself & the car. The knowledge, experience, understanding, patience, compassion & professionalism of the team are just some of the qualities that make them unique & I highly recommend them."
"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."