Posted: October 15, 2018 Read time: 10 Minutes
Car Control - do you have it? Do we all know what it is? The phrase is habitually used amongst driving enthusiasts. Yet after 18 years of coaching and instruction with more than 4800 customers, our Chief Instructor Colin Hoad says, “I’m still not sure what it is! I know what the words car control mean to me, but what do they mean to you?”
Is there more to it than just learning how to control understeer and oversteer?
To exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command. Source Dictionary.com
Every course with CAT Driver Training begins at the CAT Hub, our Millbrook Proving Ground centre within Alpine Loop 3. During our discussion on your unique objectives for the session, we often hear “I would like to improve my car control”. We’ve learnt these words mean something different to us all.
Take a minute and think of what that phrase conjures up in your own neural networks:- Ken Blocks crazy gymkhana skills; Lewis Hamilton saving a twitch of oversteer at 150 MPH; perhaps the ultimate WRC high speed power slide on gravel?
Jan. 26, 2010; Gladwin, MI, USA; Rally racer Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino during a private test on a county road in northern Michigan. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas
Or is the picture more real, vivid and personal? An uncomfortable half spin on your last track day or perhaps that impending feeling of doom when you realise you’ve entered a corner too fast on a road you’ve driven hundreds of times? At these moments on reflection, the mental summary of the challenges you experienced are often re-capped by the umbrella term “Car Control”.
Should it be, or is this whole driving thing more complex than just a summary?
Observing drivers from the passenger seat has given Paul, Steve and myself a unique insight into driving behaviour. If we take the Human Fight and Flight survival mechanism as an example, at its most basic level we are designed to respond to threats to our life in a prescribed way. Our physiological response will serve us well if we need to stand and fight a menacing animal or run as fast as we can to escape.
Fight and flight are apparent when for example driving on a racing circuit for the first time, or driving through the first hour on a course at Millbrook. Drivers will instinctively look closer to the bonnet than they are aware they should, or grip the steering wheel tighter than they need. The net result - a poor line through a corner or an unstable braking zone.
What the driver senses is poor car control. What we sense from the passenger seat is the emotional state change in the driver, consequently disturbing the dynamic balance of the car and the line we have taken. Once these learning triggers have been identified by the client, we can work together to find coping strategies and learning outcomes to take to the next exercise, corner or lap.
Have we evolved over the millennia to transpose our instinctive survival mechanism to car control skills? Probably not. Humans are designed to run, walk and ride a horse, not drive down a German autobahn at 140 MPH. Consequently, what we have learned at CAT and what we pass on to you in every course is the human aspects of car control.
The CAT Instructor team have all attended Accredited Coaching courses in Driver Development covering the psychological aspects of driving. It backs up what we have learned and gives us our unique approach to developing your car control skills. Find out more about our instructors' qualifications here.
If you find yourself in an over grip limit situation, you need to make inputs on the controls correctly and at the right time, to recover the vehicle. Your survival mechanism may intervene and ironically, convince you to react in the instinctive manner we are born with and is inappropriate for the situation. Having coached and trained large numbers of drivers, this I believe is often the reason we have crashes. Even if you know how to react, unless the process of recovery is muscle memorised, you may not react appropriately.
What we have learned at CAT is in times of stress, deep concentration, moments of new learning and on occasions apprehension, what we think we are achieving behind the wheel and through the controls may not be the reality. Living in the moment and learning how to reflect accurately on your own performance is one of the key pillars of driving with true precision and accuracy.
Car control can only begin to become instinctive and unconsciously competent (Ref 1) if we are acutely aware of our own execution of the driving process.
The words are easy to write but their understanding has taken Paul, Steve and myself years to master. CAT prides itself on being unconsciously competent when we coach and instruct. The benefit to you: the most efficient and cost-effective way to learn and develop your car control skills, whatever your objective.
When optimising your driving process, a pivotal consideration is to understand how vehicles behave: a fundamental feature of every CAT course, deep routed in our brand DNA.
Understanding your performance car's engineered DNA is key to your driving enjoyment and safety. What have the ride and handling and dynamics engineers designed into its heart to give you the best possible driving and ownership experience?
In one marque, for example, you can fine-tune the turn in phase of a corner by understanding the unique steering response characteristic. Another, the relevance of the aero package on high speed stability - some become significantly more stable the faster you go. The CAT dynamic experts coach you to discover this knowledge and understanding or perhaps simply put, we help you improve your car control.
Racing drivers also rely on telemetry and information accrued on a data logging device such as VBOX, or one of the many Smart Phone apps to optimise each corner of every lap.
Do we need that level of interrogation for a holiday road trip through the Alps? No of course not - especially when we already have an in-built data logger: the human brain! My brain has become very good at sensing, feeling and accruing data. Deciphering the information coming through the seat of your pants, hands, feet, ears and the hidden G sensor which we all have in our human VBox, will all help with? Yes, you guessed it... car control.
Take a look through the blogs on our website and you will find lots of information to improve your car control. But let’s finish with the part of the car that’s in the equation but often forgotten - the driver.
Are YOU ready for your next driving experience whatever it will be?
Is your car:
Coaching and Training is often contextual, presenting information in a format that makes sense and is relevant to the client is key for successful learning. At CAT we truly understand the context and meaning of car control and how you can achieve it. It’s a life quest, an art form and has many components, therefore in summary “Car Control” may just be too simplistic a phrase to do justice to the wonderful art of driving.
"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."