Gerotek, Pretoria - The advanced on-road driving skills course presented by Yokohama Driving Dynamics at Gerotek is something I have wanted to attend for quite a while now.
A day at Gerotek with the Opel training team of Marius Janse van Rensburg and Barry Ingle is the stuff of petrolheads' dreams.
High speed oval, skidpan manoeuvres, development track runs are all in a day at the on-road driving skills course.
So. Why would you want to spend a day driving fast; losing control, on purpose and practicing high speed lane changes on a very slippery wet surface, nogal; when you could, well, read a book, or mow the lawn.
Let me tell you.
Getting to grips with yourself
You will learn so much about your own driving style and about being a better driver that you will kick yourself for not doing the course earlier. Besides which, its heaps of fun!
Here's another good reason. Some insurance companies reduce your premium on proof of attending an advanced driving course.
The facilities at Gerotek are simply brilliant. From the lapa where you have lunch and attend the morning briefing to the various tracks and skidpans, everything is top class.
The fleet of Opel cars, from Astra OPC to Adam S to Mokka, provide a car for every taste. I really enjoyed driving the Adam S round the tight development track.
My day on the Yokohama Driving Dynamics driving skills course which was sponsored by Opel started with a briefing which covered the basics of attitude, awareness and defensive driving principles.
We then moved on to the skid pan where we spent the rest of the morning practicing high speed emergency lane changes, regaining control of a vehicle and correcting over- and under steering.
After lunch we went to the development track where we learned about steering, gearing, braking and cornering. We then did four sets of three laps in the different cars during which the instructors helped us to improve our driving.
The cherry on top was the high speed oval where we workshopped seating positions and steering techniques. The team then demonstrated braking and the distances involved at the various speeds. This was quite an eye opener.
Gallery: 15 years of Opel OPC
Our final exercise was a set of three two lap runs around the oval at high speed. Scary stuff. It's amazing how one develops a kind of tunnel vision when you are on the steep slope on the banked corners. The armco barrier looks very close. I got new respect for Nascar drivers.
During the day we discussed the K53 rules in the context of today's cars and best practice. Some of the rules are no longer correct. For example K53 says: When coming to a stop, the brake pedal shall be depressed before disengaging the clutch, in order to prevent coasting. In other words K53 tells you to first use the clutch then brake.
With modern systems (and at speed) its far better to engage the brakes first and then the clutch. It’s high time K53 was revised.
In South Africa we experience 23.5 accidents per 100 000 people, while the international norm is 17.4, and it's only 9.2 in developed countries. Just as scary is a statistical death every 37 minutes on our roads. 80% of the deaths on the country’s roads comprise of adults and males between the ages of 19 and 34.
The safest time to travel is between 01:00 and 06:00.