We’re all road users in some way or the other, and many of us are drivers who commute to and from work in cars everyday. Well, maybe less frequently now since COVID-19 disrupted our lives. Let’s face it, driving has become a fundamental part of many peoples lives, it’s something we do so often and has become second nature. Some of you can drive with your mind in a different part of the world, plotting your next vacation. The trouble with all of this though, is that we’ve become so complacent on the road that we’re slowly becoming a danger to ourselves and others. So when Volkswagen South Africa extended an invitation for me to attend their advanced driving course and brush up on those driving skills, I was only happy to accept the invitation, because even the most skilled drivers could do with a little fine-tuning – that includes you Polo driving Lewis Hamilton.
VW offers a range of driving courses, including an off-road course for the boets and their 4×4’s. Since I haven’t earned my stripes on the rough stuff and road driving is more my forte, the High Performance Driving Course was the ideal place to start. Before confirming your booking you’re given the option of doing the full-day course in a Golf 7 GTI or the slightly more jacked up Golf R – there’s a marginal price difference between the two. Yours truly opted for the former since the ‘R’ versions were fully booked for the day.
With the assault weapon for track and skid-pan selected and adrenaline levels nearly at a peak, everyone was ready to unleash their inner racing driver on the VW’s – but first, a theory lesson was to prepare everyone for what was to come. You see, for you to understand what you’re doing behind the wheel and how a vehicle responds to different inputs and surfaces, you need to first understand the invisible elements that affect everything. Occurrences like understeer and oversteer, what causes the two, and of course how to mitigate them is covered in the theory lesson. The classroom session is also there to give you a thorough understanding of the vehicle’s safety systems like ABS ESP and EBD, which mind you are so crucial in keeping you safe.
Then comes the most exciting part of the lesson – the racing line. For the aspiring racing drivers, this is where you’ll need to pay special attention, especially if you plan on being fast on the track later. An understanding of entry, apex and exit points is key here and will make you faster and more confident when it’s time to put pedal to metal.
Finally, once all the theory is properly ingrained in you a hearty lunch is served in preparation for the more physically demanding activities on the wet skid-pan. It’s not all fun and games on this slippery surface as real-life situations are simulated, although there are some fun activities which will get the heart racing a little faster. After you’ve mastered this part of the course and gained even more confidence in the car and its abilities, you’re now primed for the racetrack!
The track driving the part of the course is the one everyone looks forward to and thankfully, each person is paired with an instructor to guide and assist in harnessing your inner Hamilton while simultaneously applying all the correct principles gained in the classroom.
At around 5 pm track activities come to an end and the day is cemented with a certificate of attendance given to each person, to prove that you participated and gained some important defensive driving skills. What made this course even more worthwhile is that I’ll be able to use my advanced driving certificate to negotiate a lower premium with my insurance company. If you’re interested in any of the driving courses offered by VW, visit www.vw.co.za and you’ll be sure to find something suitable for you.
By Gugu Masuku