Yes. I’ve done another driving course. This time I was at the Thruxton circuit near Andover in Hampshire. I had booked a session on the new (2014) skid pan.
My first skid pan course was at Thruxton in 1985 on the traditional oil-covered surface, and I went there several times after that. That skid pan closed many years ago, so I was interested to see what the new facilities were like.
The new skid pan comprises 3,200 square metres of polished tarmac lubricated by clean water.
The vehicles are a Toyota GT 86 with rear-wheel drive (RWD) and a Mini Cooper with front-wheel drive. Both vehicles can have traction control and ABS on or off. The Mini was by far the harder of the two cars to control. The instructor was clear that RWD is preferable in difficult conditions.
We were taught in a front-wheel skid to lift off the gas and counter-steer the exact amount you were trying to steer in the first place. So if you were steering 30 degrees to the right and getting no response, lift off and steer 30 degrees to the left. But not for too long. For rear-wheel skids as well as steering into the skid we were advised to use a little accelerator as the car corrects, being very careful not to overdo it or the car would snap into a secondary skid.
I have to say that everywhere I go on skid courses, at racing circuits and with the police, the instruction and advice is different and often contradictory. This is compounded by continual developments in vehicle engineering. With ESP fitted to my own car I should not unsteer an understeering skid because the electronics will recognize the discrepancy between the steering angle and the actual angle of travel and make the necessary corrections. Unsteering defeats the object of the ESP. When I mentioned this to the instructor he told me that if ESP fails I would need to know what to do. Fair enough: but by the time I’ve figured out that ESP is not working as I’m skidding along the road I will have crashed!
While at Thruxton I took advantage of the opportunity to have a high-speed lap as a passenger in a Skoda Octavia vRS (2 litre, 220bhp, 154mph, 0 – 60 in 6.8 seconds). My driver was a ‘tame racing driver’. I’ve been driven round Thruxton quickly many times but this was unbelievably fast and occasionally sideways! Great fun. Great driver. Great car.