Posted: June 16, 2016
The beginnings of a strong relationship
2008 has been a great year for CAT Driver Training. Track and circuit tuition, our core business, has developed beyond our projections for the year - Millbrook now feels like my second home. A percentage of our accelerated growth is down to our association with the MLR. Our first event for the MLR went well in October 2007. We must have pressed the right buttons, as January this year found Jo and I enjoying a meal with Darin, Chell and Mick discussing driver training plans for 2008.
So a year on what has taken place? A Performance Driver ‘Track’ Day in March at Millbrook, a Sprint Training Day at Silverstone in May, another Performance Driver’ Track’ Day in August at Millbrook and very recently the third for the year, the successful Performance Driver ‘Track’ Day event in October. I would also like to thank all of the MLR Members who have returned for further training. The Club Performance Driver Days allows us to nurture you in the core skills needed to drive at speed on circuit. A positive spin off being, we get the opportunity to showcase our training methods and the fantastic facilities that Millbrook has to offer. We can further your driving development with a variety of training courses all designed to fulfil your individual objectives and needs. To find out what you are missing, if you didn’t sign up this year read on, I’ll give the instructors angle on the Performance Driver ‘Track’ Day on October 26th.
Through the ‘CATs’ eyes
October 26th 2008 was a very grey & wet day - the safety briefing will always emphasize the relevant points we need to focus on, to keep everyone safe. In this instance it is how slippery some of the circuits can be in the wet. At this point it is not unusual to see a few heads drop in the audience, fear not. As Instructors we have empathy with your concerns, a little apprehension is a healthy response to our briefing. Consequently I will always try to break the ice at this point, and put drivers at their ease, driving in the wet or dry is a systematic process and that is what you are all here to learn, have faith and enjoy your day! Dynamics Briefing next: we want you throughout the day to be thinking not only of your driving technique, but as importantly, how your Evo is behaving underneath you.
Briefings and paperwork completed, we just need the ‘ok’ from our engineer Mark Bell who has been scrutineering all the Evos. We have an Engineer on hand to cover the health and safety elements of the day, and to build in a level of comfort for you guys. Our priority is to keep you ‘on track’ and on a few occasions through the years, there has been the need to sort out a few mechanical gremlins that otherwise would have cut the day short for the unfortunate driver. That said we always offer one of the CATs cars as a replacement so that you can finish the training.
The 8 drivers are split into 2 groups of 4 and assigned to either Nick or myself for the day. Nick has been with me since Jo and I started CAT 4 years ago. It is important for me to work alongside a fellow instructor that I trust and respect - Nick fits the bill and beyond. Nick has experienced the CAT brand of training and therefore understands our methods and objectives. He brings his own mix of humour and expertise to the days events, along with a long list of road and track training qualifications. As importantly, we both have a similar ethos to driver training: we nurture and coach calmly, no shouting or short tempers. There is a structured itinerary to work to, which we follow, but we will deviate from it if we need to. The aim is to match your session to your objectives and your skill set on the day.
What a good lot you are!
So off to the Mile Straight for the first exercise with my group - Paul Smith, Richard Marriage, Martin Allen and Simon McNair. Confidence is built gradually helping you dial into the dynamic capability of your Evo under extreme braking conditions. Along the way we have explored ABS capabilities if fitted, and keeping the platform of the vehicle balanced prior to turning into a corner. The ultimate exercise is threshold braking from in excess of 100 MPH. Nick and I are working away dialling into each EVO ands it unique characteristics. You may find it surprising just how much of a variation we experience jumping from one Evo to the next.
Then a drag strip run for fun and to raise the appreciation of travelling at speed. We always aim to take you safely out of your comfort zone. I’m getting to know my team: the pensive expressions are turning into smiles and conversation. All are braking efficiently and driving well. Nick’s smiling and looking relaxed, as is his group who are Simon Tollworthy, Chris Sykes, Simon Berry and Jasper Williams. Once you are driving and enjoying yourself we know the nerves will evaporate away.
Both Nick and I always enjoy the MLR days, you’re a sociable forum, the cars are always well presented and prepared, and we both like Evos. The lateral acceleration and cornering capability of an Evo is awesome. I’m hankering after an Evo 6 myself ………. sorry I digress!
Onto the High Speed Circuit for exercise number 2 followed by a stop for lunch. Time to relax and stock up on the carbohydrates. It is nice to know CAT lunches are attracting as much attention and praise as our training - they always seem to get a mention and go down, (literally) well. Come the afternoon there is always enough cake and refreshments to make a serious dent in your power to weight ratio: we like to look after you! Ok, you’ve had your lunch, back to work. A briefing on tyres and advanced cornering skills and we are off to the Handling Circuit and the Alpine loops to explore cornering techniques.
Our objective is for you to leave us with a systematic approach to cornering and an appreciation of the grip limit capability of your Evo. The circuits at Millbrook are designed to test vehicles. In contrast they make fantastic training circuits. Subtle features built into the surfaces and corners challenge your technique, accelerating the learning process. There are no hiding places if you have areas to work on, the circuits will find it. This is a great time of the day, confidence is high and we are all buzzing and starting to feel at one with our cars.
Will the red mist descend?
Nick and I finish our main coaching duties on the Mile Straight Apron. A large expanse of tarmac that allows us to explore the grip limit capability of an Evo and as importantly, how each individual platform behaves. Understeer, oversteer and equal lateral acceleration can all be found depending on how many digits there are displayed on your boot badge.
So it is over to you now. The Caterham is warmed up, briefings and demos given, stop watch at the ready. Final session of the day: a high speed challenging coned course against the clock – our end of day Gymkhana. Always great fun, the Caterham is guaranteed to make you smile and get your adrenalin pumping. Put all of the skills developed during the day together effectively and you might just win the Champagne!
So who did triumph, keeping cool under pressure?
3600 magic (Richard Marriage) was our Driver of the Day Sider (Chris Sykes) won the Quiz and Sybez (Simon Berry) picked up a well deserved bottle of bubbly for FTD in the end of day “shoot out”.
I would like to thank Mick for all of his help and support in organising and managing the training calendar. Mick’s project management skills are much appreciated by the CAT team.
So what is on the cards for 2009? 3 to 4 Performance Driver ‘Track’ Days, a Ladies Day, and a day for those MLR members travelling from the Channel Islands. For the competitive amongst you watch out for CATs new telemetry course being launched in the New Year. All this and more will be confirmed when we sit around the table with Darin, Chell and Mick once again in January. Wow! Where did the year go?
"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."