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CarLimits and beyond

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Posted 05-08-2010 at 21:45 by Aidy
Updated 06-08-2010 at 00:20 by Aidy

CarLimits runs a number of driving days at a number of venues, the one I attended was an airfield day with 4 people, however they run days for 2 people too and I'm sure you could even get them to yourself if you wanted. Having so few people there was good for the turnaround, but as everything was done in your own car there was still a fair bit of waiting around as each person needed instruction on their own while the others waited. At some points you were able to practice other things on your own but that will depend on the format of your day. In terms of time behind the wheel it wasn't the best, but that is reflected in the price. Also as the venue was an airfield that comes with its own limitations such as the playing field being flat and featureless, and the surface not the best either.

The instructor (Andy Walsh) was very flexible and the day is really yours to do what you want with. As we were all fairly green Andy decided on a format with us all doing the same thing, and he picked a range of basic exercises which was fine by us. If you want to learn or practice something in particular then you only have to tell him.

Our day kicked off with something really basic, such as how to hold the steering wheel Now don't laugh…I never thought it mattered a toss how you hold the wheel, but once the holding and steering technique was explained to us it all made perfect sense. It also demonstrated how excellently balanced and well engineered our evos are as everything from the physical wheel design to the steering rack itself was perfectly in-tune with this steering technique. Driving a rep-mobile will never be the same again.

Threshold braking was the next task and as with most exercises we first did it as we would naturally which gave Andy an idea of where you need help the most. After a few goes au-natural (which included measuring our braking distances from a set speed) Andy then took us through the ABS system and the theory of braking on the limit. I found his explanations to be very explicit and simple and they helped me a lot. We re-did the braking until Andy has happy and again measured our stopping distances to see how much they had improved. The improvements were not insignificant with 10 feet or so being wiped off a 60-0 stop.

The biggest "deep end" moment was the high speed corner. When I say "corner" I mean 90 degree turn, and when I say "high speed" I mean 90mph. Ever taken a 90 degree bend at 90mph? I certainly hadn't. In Andy's usual style we were first told to "just do it" so he could observe. Not being a foolish man he did his initial observations from the grass verge, and as we had all signed our waivers I had another participant in my passenger seat. I've done some fairly hair-raising driving before that has had passengers squirming in their seats while I have felt 100% poised and in control, but barrelling down a straight at 90mph knowing what I was about to do had me very nervous indeed. What my poor passenger must have been feeling is beyond me. You have to consciously override your body's desire to slow down, or not take the corner at all (or both), but fortune favours the brave so you throw the car into the corner and all hell breaks loose.

When your car is finally stationary Andy joins you and takes you through what happened and why. He then takes you as a passenger in your own car while he shows you what you could have won. After his instruction and a few more goes you're soon taking that corner in triple figures.

Probably the best exercise we did was the understeer one. As with the other exercises Andy's explanations of what is happening and why are very explicit and easy to understand and follow. Using the massive area at his disposal you undergo an exercise where you manoeuvre the car to spots he tells you with the steering wheel locked in a fixed position - all manoeuvring is done using nothing but the throttle. As well as giving you a good foundation of a number of driving disciplines, this exercise also really taught you the limits of your car and how it feels just under the limit, on the limit and just over the limit so that you are more aware of your car's traction and what it is communicating to you through the controls.

To cap it all off Andy cones out a circuit where you do some timed laps both under his instruction and also on your own. At this point in the day Andy broke off a little and gave me slightly different instruction from what he gave the others as they were shown how not to drive, and then how to drive, but I was not given the "how not to drive" instruction because "evos are so hard to get out of shape". I'd rather he had told me it was because of the exceptional talent I had demonstrated throughout the day

As well as being great fun it finally gave us a chance to put it all together and also pitch ourselves and our cars against each other. Andy initially did the circuit himself in our cars to give us a target to aim at, and from then on we spent the remainder of the day trying to get faster and faster. When we were all driven out Andy took as around the course in his Elise and showed us all how far we still have to go.

Note that since I did my day the venues and formats might have changed but I doubt Andy's flexibility in centring the day around you has changed. And while the time you spend behind the wheel isn't abundant, as with all driving days they are teaching you the techniques and you have to go off and perfect them on your own. The CarLimits day definitely taught me some of the most useful things of the driving days I have been on so far (the techniques we learned tended to be more practical than you usually get), and I came away with a great deal of confidence in the car. Andy's instructing style is clear and easy to follow and he had a good balance between "we're here to learn" and "let's d**k around a bit".
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