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Driving thrills and a proper learning kerb

25.08.2014

SOME of you may remember me writing about the defensive driving course that I attended a few months back. Now that course was very informative and certainly taught me a couple of things but it’s the latest driving course, the Audi Sportscar Experience that’s given me the most in terms of enjoyment and practical knowledge.

You see, I arrived at Redstar Raceway thinking that I’d be spending the day hammering some seriously beefy quattro GmbH metal around what’s known as a very technical circuit. While I wasn’t too far off the money, there was another aspect to the day; an educational nuance that stood out for me. We began the day with a driver-briefing which explained the various activities that we’d be partaking in along with an explanation of terms that many people don’t understand such as oversteer, understeer, corrective steering and even things as advanced as trail braking.

From there, we moved on to the day’s activities which kicked off with a popular exercise, the cone slalom. Here, each driver must negotiate his way through cones, as efficiently as possible; it teaches you about throttle inputs, vehicle weight transference and steering inputs. I negotiated the slalom in the RS Q3 (perhaps not the ideal car for this exercise), but certainly more accomplished than one would expect from an SUV.

We then moved on to braking distance. This exercise tasks the participants with standing on the side of the track while an instructor brakes from speeds varying from 60 to 160km/h; the participant must stand where he thinks the car will stop. The exercise teaches you that the braking distance increases exponentially as you travel faster.

The drills that followed included a high-speed swerve, which is intended to help you anticipate an object in the road and be able to safely manoeuvre the vehicle around it without applying the brakes. For this exercise I was again in an RS Q3, which tackled the obstacle with aplomb.

The same drill was conducted using the brakes, demonstrating that ABS brakes with EBD allows the driver to turn the vehicle away from danger, even when the brakes have been fully applied. This time we used the gorgeous RS4 Avant with its V8 intoxicating roar. What was I saying about braking earlier?

We then moved on to the basics of cornering where a section of the track was reserved for us to practice hitting the apex and carrying speed without creating too much tyre road. In other words, we were taught how to be smooth while learning a certain degree of mechanical sympathy. The weapon of choice for this was the RS5 Cabriolet.

After lunch we moved on to the really fun stuff… track driving. The first session the instructor allows you to learn is to find your way around the track with the cones placed at the entry and apex of every corner, to teach you the correct lines.

The great thing about this particular driving course is that the instructor is never with you in the car, but instead, in front of you in another vehicle providing instructions from there. Anyone who’s been on one of these driving experiences before will know that having the instructor with you is not always the most concerting feeling as they can be intimidating.  However, as a voice over the walkie-talkie they appeared far less intimidating and this allowed everyone to focus more on driving.

Here we had the chance to drive the RS Q3, RS5 Cabriolet, RS4 Avant and even the RS5 coupé around the track. With each session you can feel your confidence growing as you can brake later, enter the corner faster and exit the corner more vigorously under the watchful eye of the instructor up ahead.

At the end of it all, I’d certainly recommend trying one of these advanced driving courses. The Audi version is a different take on an old recipe. I had a great stint and at the same time had the opportunity to sample some of the brand’s performance vehicles in an environment that really suits them, while learning a few things along the way.

Article written by Sean Nurse
25.08.2014
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