No matter how skilled and experienced a driver you are (or think you are), you will come away from BMW’s Advanced Driver Training course having learned something that will serve you well.
The skills and good habits taught by the instructors are not only required for the race track; some might argue they should be required to get your driver’s license, too.
A full day of instruction covers the fundamentals of safe driving, while teaching the finer points of car control.
It starts in the driver’s seat: a reminder to place your body at the controls in such a way that it allows you to sense the feedback the vehicle gives to you through the steering wheel, seat, and pedals.
Not only that, you must be close enough to your controls and braced so that you are able to respond that feedback quickly and efficiently.
I had my seat jolted upright and brought right up to the pedals. My mirrors were adjusted to give me a complete sweeping view of the area behind the car – gone were the slivers of rear door that I had been taught all my life to leave in my field of view.
All of it can be disorienting and very uncomfortable, but once you get out on the track and open up the throttle; you feel the difference and understand the benefit to your driving.
Our course was led by a pair of veteran Canadian racing drivers-turned driving consultants.
You might recognize Philippe Letourneau from his time in the open-wheel racing but he is perhaps best known for his work on reality TV; Discovery’s Canada’s Worst Driver.
Kelly Williams is a veteran of the CASCAR Super Series (today known as the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series).
Letourneau and Williams start by explaining and illustrating lessons on basics like the proper steering technique (hands at 9-and-3, please) to more advanced maneuvers, like purposely getting the car to oversteer – and how to correct it.
Classroom theory is applied behind the wheel of some truly outstanding German driving machinery – 435i coupe’s decked out in BMW’s sporty M packages.
Not only are these cars exclusive and stylish – they’re fast, responsive, and a hell of a lot of fun to thrash around – especially on maneuvers where the instructors turn your electronic driver aids off and you’re left to grapple with a vehicle that can be – to say the least, “tail-happy,” if you don’t give it the respect it deserves.
Good thing the only thing you have to worry about mangling are a few rubber cones (and yes, I mangled my share of cones).
The skills you learn will help you drive defensively.
Emergency braking exercises (with and without ABS) show you how to give yourself the best chance of avoiding a crash in both dry and slippery conditions.
Lessons on front- and rear-wheel skid control will certainly come in handy when the cold weather returns.
I walked away from BMW’s Driver Training Program struck by a point made by Mr. Letourneau. He reminded me that for the most part, the manoeuvers and exercises stressed in his course are not mandatory requirements for an Ontario driver’s license.
It is his opinion that if there was as much emphasis placed on advanced driving techniques as there is on parallel parking, then there might be fewer injuries and deaths on Ontario’s roads and highways.
If you’re interested in checking out one of BMW’s several Driver Training offerings, remember that you do not have to own or have access to a BMW to purchase one of these courses.
If you’ve got a valid driver’s license, the company will take care of the rest.