Sunday, February 04, 2007

Through the Esses

Well, I was up early this morning and a little bored. Decided to head up the mountain and have a little fun. There's a section of road called the Woodford Bends which is about a 2km section of double laned esses. You pick the straightest line and have a hoot trying to stick to it. Terrific fun and of course frowned upon by the nanny state at the moment.

I enjoy driving and enjoy driving enthusiatically even more. At 6am when I shot up, daylight was just approaching. The coppers were changing shift and the roads were almost empty. A good change to open the old girl up and try out some of those glorious left and right hand sweepers. I may have been speeding a little but not much.

I know about understeer, oversteer and how to get out of a skid after learning to drive on pebbly gravel roads. I've done driving courses on closed roads with skid pans and traffic cones. Raced for a little bit in some pretty scary pine forests and on mud tracks. My car is cared for and in top notch condition.

So I can get out of trouble.

The purchase of the new house has seen people ask at work, "But isn't that too far away?" .....if you love driving and have a good bit of road and a half decent car. The trip home becomes a joy.
And if driving is a hassle in peak hour, load up your i-pod or stereo with your favourite music and r-e-l-a-x.

Which reminds me I've wanted to throw up an article from Michael Stohl at Australian Wheels magazine. I've had this saved since January 2005 and never got around to putting it up or write to Michael praising him for a great bit of motoring journalism. He describes this enthusiasm so much better than I have.

Saw a remarkable thing a couple of weeks ago: a Volkswagen. A real Volkswagen, I mean, a little-'b' beetle. This vee-wee was mildly modified. It was subtly slammed and knockkneed with negative camber, a couple of skatewear stickers on the back window. Alone inside was a mid-twentyish guy at the wheel.

It was bucketing with rain, not much traffic on the road; I was tucked in behind him as we rumbled along a broad, three-lane arterial. We approached a long, armco-bordered, constant radius left that I knew was there. Something told me that he knew it, too; we were going 60 or so, quickly enough that you'd need to have a clue.

Dak-dak(volkswagen) dude merely blipped it back a cog, drifted out a little on the entry, loaded it up nice and gentle, and turned in.

And here's the even more remarkable thing :because this was a young guy in a preened and cared-for car, I stayed with him, admittedly hanging back a couple of
car lengths. Had this been your average cardigan-wearing, motorists' association member in his six-cylinder shitter, I'd have flicked on my hazard lights, set up a
reflective triangle, banana-chair and phoned the nearest newspaper to pre-sell photos of the impending accident.

Instead, I watched the Volksy's rear end ooze ever so slightly outwards, skate-dude smoothly and quickly feeding on the opposite lock, calmly holding a constant throttle, the car drifting just-so through the entire length of the corner. The guy had it nailed beautifully.

My heart sang. I don't know how long it had been since (outside of a Wheels comparison test) I last saw somebody driving enthusiastically - let alone well - on an Australian road. Here was somebody who clearly knew his car, and was calmly in control.

Sure, it's not totally cool opposite-locking in the 'burbs, but this wasn't luck; this was practice.

Gee, or maybe it was all down to something that I remember reading in the traffic authority's handbook; something about steering into the direction of the skid. There you go, then: it works.
It got me to thinking about all the things one is required to do when driving a car, and how (to quote the handbook), "because learning is a gradual process for everyone, it takes time for a new driver's confidence to build". Practice, as they say, makes perfect. Unless you want to practise something that might one day save your life.

Umm, reverse parking, seems like there's a technique to be learned. Should I practise that? "Oh, yes, most definitely."

And, uhh, this lane-changing, looking in the interior mirror, then exterior, then a glance over the shoulder ... Sounds like I need to be conscious of that, keep doing it until it becomes a habit? "Why, yes, certainly."

Well, gee, this panic-stop scenario; sounds like it could actually be life-threatening. You reckon I ought to find somewhere safe and supervised, even the Police Driver Training School, and ... "Don't even think it."

Michael had some quips added in text boxes at the end of the article which in his (an my) opinion go against the grain of enthusiatic driving.

Some handy hints from the Australian Driver Trainers Association. the representative body of professional driving instructors.
Steering technique:
"With the introduction of airbags it is better at speeds over 30km/h to use pushpull steering (shuffling the steering wheel), as this will allow the airbag to deploy
without interference from your forearms. At lower speeds where the airbags would not deploy handover-hand steering is acceptable ... "

Cornering lines:
"In days gone by ... people were taught to try andgot out mystraighten out a corner. With modern cars this cornering line is not only unnecessary, it is potentially
very dangerous ... For our modern traffic environmement much safer line is to simply slow down and keep left.


  • I drive home through Belgium. Drive Spa every day. Love that Eau Rouge. Otherwise Hockenheim -- the old route; through the forests...magic :).

    By Blogger Mike Golby, at 3:39 am  

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