Use your vision to avoid a collision.
When I learned to drive, or, more correctly, was taught to drive by an instructor, there was more to it than simply strapping in and engaging a gear, whether it be manual or auto. Seating position, mirrors in the right place, looking around before moving off were part and parcel of what I was taught. As times passes a lifetime of habits creep in….yet we are not retested and for all of the posturing of the governments and law enforcement groups, there is still nothing concrete to check our progress since our first test.
There are many groups that do “aftermarket training” and they all have one goal in mind, to improve the driving standards of the drivers on our roads. A Wheel Thing, one of Australia’s leading independent car review sites, was granted the opportunity to spend a day with Ian Luff’s Sydney based “Drive to Survive” and saw how this 30 year long campaign to improve driving standards focuses on what is within each of us, to help “see” what we can improve and try and break a lifetime of bad habits; in effect, reducing the chances of our “colliding” with a crash potential.
You’re In Control Or Out Of Control
Ian has a number of phrases that are used to demonstrate, simply and effectively, what Drive To Survive’s philosophy is all about: Cars don’t crash or lose control without either a mechanical failure or, more likely in most cases, a human interface failure, the driver. The courses that the company run are all designed to find and explore the capability of the driver and provide some simple yet salient suggestions that will improve their capabilities.
The course completed was the “Advanced” session, running through from around 8.30 am to 4.30. It was limited to just over a dozen drivers and we able to use our own vehicles. With the gracious permission of Guido Schenken at Hyundai Australia, who also sponsor and supply Drive to Survive’s in house vehicles, A Wheel Thing piloted the new i30 SR with six speed manual. Drive To Survive also ran their own SR, this with the auto.
The morning kicked off with a meet and greet designed to bring the group together; broken down into two teams the day would be run with one group on one section of the flexible layouts and either on a wet or dry surface. Ian introduces his team including his business development manager, Stewart Nicholls, plus ex cop Paul Green, Erebus team member Guy Stewart and Production Car racer Scott Bucton.
The first session of the day is relatively simple. Accelerate to about 85 kmh, throw out the anchors at a pair of traffic cones and swerve slightly to the right before coming to a stop. It’s intended to be a illustration of faith, both in yourself and the technological firepower packed into today’s cars. There certainly was plenty to look at including a pair of BMWs, a Toyota 86 (with a driver in dire and desperate need of retraining), a Nissan Skyline and four Renault Meganes including a wagon. Of interest was the inclusion of water, intended to both heighten the tension of the driver but increase the perception of what the car can do when used properly. The instructors weren’t in the car for this session, relying on the expectation there was enough ability to deal with this relatively simple task. There’s feedback and encouragement all the way through, an atmosphere of camaraderie and easy going enjoyment being fostered. Ian is the ring master, joking with participants with a liberal sprinkling of hearty language thrown in for good measure. There’s no offense given and none taken. Not unexpectedly but disappointingly there’s a bare handful of women, including a young Khaleesi (Game of Thrones, for the uninitiated) lookalike in her Nissan Silvia. She readily admitted to being more of a drag racer, evident in her tentative driving style into turns. Out of the session also came a subtle, understated need to have an idea about your own vehicle, as the Silvia was too tightly sprung and lowered to provide a measure of true comfort for anything other than a flat, straight surface.
Session two extends the first by distance and skill; there’s three chicanes and water to deal with. All of the cars deal with it well but it’s the drivers that have some issues. That’s what today is all about, forcing the water and carbon (you) element of driving a car to realise their skills and how to minimise their limitations. There’s more banter, more good natured ribbing, some frank admiration for the sounds and handling of a couple of the vehicles brought along. “My” i30 SR is holding up well, with its six speed manual barely making it past second as the torque band and that gear suits the distance and dynamics of the course. It handles nicely on the road, with the Australian tuned suspension, after myriad changes, soaking up the bumps and thumps with barely a whisper. On the circuit laid out, part of the Sydney Dragway complex hardstandings, it’s more the driver than the car that’s being pushed, up to a point…timing is important but it’s not a race, it’s all about doing the same thing, over and over and trying to improve. Habits are easily made and hard to break; one thing pointed out is the “wanker” grip, so named for hands attached to the steering wheel with the palm on the inside instead of the outer, plus the “knob” grip as we tend to change manually by keeping our hand on the lever and not the wheel in between changes. No one is offended by the titles as they smack home something we do but shouldn’t. Another habit and one with more potential for death is what is called “suicide glass”. Drivers like to be comfortable when driving and that includes being cool. Some drivers wind down their window to half way, it’s just the perfect height to decapitate should a vehicle be involved in a side impact. Again, it’s a simple and effective message and highlights Ian’s “Why do pencils have erasers” allegory. It means that you can make a mistake but once learned you can change/erase it and do better.
Life is about making smart choices
It’s time to look at my car for the day, the Hyundai i30 SR. It’s the i40’s two litre engine with direct cylinder injection with a reasonable 129 kW (6500rpm) while torque is at 209Nm (4700rpm). That second figure is why second gear is the one of choice on the tight and flowing circuits put forward to test us on the day. The clutch and gear shift are light, initially too light (I’d just come out of the heavier to drive HSV Clubsport, so the brain was still tuned to the weight of effort compared to the SR). The shift was gear-snick-gear but still, after a week, with no real feel in between. The clutch point was well positioned and sprung just enough to make a progressive take off easy to achieve. Acceleration is ok, without being either rapid or sluggish. The steering is electrically assisted with Hyundai’s proprietary “FlexSteer” offering three settings. There’s Comfort, Normal and Sport, all feeling slightly odd and unusual to a driver used to just one weight for the tiller. Sport seems, naturally, the most responsive, with only a subtle difference between the other two. Of more note is the suspension; although it’s the “standard” torsion beam rear and MacPherson strut front, it’s the Sachs dampers that make the SR a standout. With the majority of Australian roads resembling the face of a 17 year old that doesn’t wash well, the level of agility is high with the SR with even the bigger speedhumps found on roads reduced to a mere momentary annoyance. On the freeway the SR sat flat and true, the gearing in sixth turning the engine over at around 2600 rpm and with minimal wind roar and tyre noise intruding. Not unexpectedly the cabin is a comfortable place, with leather coating the well bolstered seats, a push button start that is easily seen, mirrors that unfold when the car senses your presence holding the key fob. It’s a compact yet well spaced interior which feels airy despite the dimensions of the i30. The only exterior clues to the warm hatch are SR badges and some quite pretty 17 inch alloys, wrapped in 245/45 Hankooks, the Achilles heel of the SR. Noticeable tyre squeal, even when not under as much pressure in parts of the courses plus some noticeable push on understeer; given the Meganes were a mix of RS and GT spec, the SR was at one point just 1.5 seconds off the pace of the French hot hatches, leading to speculation the Continental tyres (or something similar from the Hankook/Kumho stables) fitted to the Meganes would have been a better fit. Having said that, Hyundai do emphasis the SR is not intended to be a “hot hatch”, making that gap even more remarkable. It’s priced competitively against the non turbo Meganes with around $28K plus ORCs for the manual.
In life it’s win or lose.
Part of the morning’s briefing is running through some examples of why there’s no cars that lose control, it’s the driver. The point here is that a car is a tool, a machine, that gets told by the HID (Human Interface Device) where to go and how to do it. During the final session there’s an emphasis on preplanning your approach to a turn, looking ahead to where you want the car to go. The pictures used as examples depict what happens when vision failed to be used properly; use your vision to avoid a collision. The final part of the day revolves around a longer, more technical layout, with braking, handling and, importantly, looking ahead one to two turns. The Hankooks came close on a number of occasions to exceeding the adhesion limits and did, indeed, on one tough right hander. They would scrub in underneath and were a touch slow to react when a steering correction was made, although, admittedly, a touch of excess turn-in didn’t help, another point raised by the instructors with their team.
The course provided was a test of putting together all that had been demonstrated and, hopefully, learned, throughout the day. Slow in, fast out; steering input; braking points; looking ahead. The Toyota 86 driver had shown his driving limits were quite low; slow entry and exit speed into turns, with one instructor somewhat breathless after a quick reactional save earlier in the day (thanks to a foot not lifting from the go pedal) demonstrated why the driver’s “closed listening ability” would possibly be detrimental out on the road. As it worked out, I spent time with Paul Green and Guy Stewart; Green with over twenty five years experience with the police force and vehicle supply had a quiet, encouraging approach whilst the Erebus team work of Stewart was evident in his ready, easy going but up tempo manner. Bucton however has missed his true calling as a career in stand up comedy beckons, with his quick fire patter lighting up the faces of his team.
Ian Luff and Drive to Survive are not utterly anti speed nor is it a case of being pro speed. Their “arguments” are relatively easy to digest; drivers make mistakes and simple ones, that’s why they and not the cars crash. Habits are formed and invariably they’re dangerous. Anyone can pilot a car, but it’s becomingly increasingly rare that people are taught how to DRIVE to survive. Subtle yet far reaching changes are required in order to contribute further to lowering the Australian road toll but propaganda and brain washing from respective governments have too many believing speed is the sole cause for crashes. An adjustment of attitude, a decrease in the belief you’re invincible on the road, modifications to the style of driving are parts of what are espoused. Drive to Survive also talk about the technological benefits available to drivers and firmly believe that Hyundai are at the forefront of offering that tech with quality cars. It was fortuitous for me, timing wise, that I was able to trial Hyundai’s trial car, which showed both why Hyundai do make some bloody good cars and how important good rubber can be.
But, also, we all took away the fact that we can all learn more about what we can do with our cars and how we can Drive to Survive.
A Wheel Thing offers deep thanks to Hyundai Australia and Scott Bucton, Paul Green, Guy Stewart, Vicky and Susan Luff, Stewart Nicholls and Drive to Survive’s power source, Ian Luff.
Link to YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbGEekF9FwM&feature=c4-overview&list=UUgodc4veF7r9XJtIZoTikPQ