Oversteer. The one word that separates beginner and advanced drivers.
To a lot of casual drivers, oversteering is unheard of. In fact, I dare say not many drivers have actually experienced an oversteering car first hand. But I had.
A couple of years back, I got into a nasty accident because the car I owned back then oversteered. Being a relatively new driver, I panicked and didn’t know how to respond to the tail sliding out.
Fast forward a couple of years, the phobia of my car’s rear end sliding out came to an end as I attended my first-ever BMW Driver Training.
The course is designed to suit drivers of all ages and experience levels, from newbies to the seasoned.
Building on my earlier experience at Advanced Level, I was recently invited by BMW Malaysia to further my training at Intensive level. Globally, BMW offers even more advanced levels, but Intensive is the highest available in our country.
Back to my oversteering experience.
Part of the BMW Driver Training exercise required us to be able to feel the BMW 420i’s rear end sliding out and counter-steer, effectively preventing what happened to me a couple of years ago. Granted, it took me a couple of tries before I got used to counter-steering, as it took careful throttle and steering input to not cause the 420i to spin out.
Compared to the one-day Advanced syllabus, the Intensive course takes place over two days. That meant more runs to sharpen my skills. While it is easy to correct an understeering car by easing off the throttle, managing an oversteering car, as I mentioned earlier, takes a bit of time getting used to. Those additional runs proved extremely useful in helping me finetune my steering and throttle inputs which, the instructors told me, were often excessive.
Overall, this exercise is a good chance to experience oversteer in a controlled and safe environment, as opposed to trying to slide in a car park or open roads. The driving instructors are more than willing to assist participants with managing the cars.
If I had attended this driving course prior to my aforementioned crash, the skills picked up could have helped me escape it altogether; then again, it would have been a wiser choice to avoid driving fast in the rain in the first place. Besides, most modern cars are fitted with Electronic Stability Control, or ESC, which prevents the car from understeering and oversteering in most cases.
Oversteer aside, another crucial lesson I learnt from this driving course is line of vision.
During every session, our driving instructors constantly reminded us about our line of vision. Doesn’t matter if we were on track or on the gymkhana course, line of vision is always critical. Here’s why.
In the double lane change exercise that we went through, line of vision was required to exit the course safely. More than often, drivers would be fixated at the obstacles or a first entry point of the course, instead of looking for a safe exit path. Similarly in the oversteer exercise, line of vision is also needed to steer the BMW safely into the designated spot.
On track, line of vision is just as crucial, as we as drivers need to constantly look ahead for upcoming corner entry points and braking points.
The mistake many drivers make while driving is not looking far ahead enough, instead they focus on what is directly in front of them.
By doing so, reaction time of these drivers are severely reduced, as opposed to drivers that look much further ahead, thus able to anticipate whatever that is incoming.
While the first BMW Driver Training was an eye opener for me, the second one was far by a more insightful and valuable driver training course for anyone looking to further sharpen their driving skills.
Now, if you would excuse me, I need to find ways to shave off precious seconds off my gymkhana lap time.