Brave isn’t a word I’d use to describe my driving style. It’s true that in the time I’ve had the Mazda I’ve had some amazing drives and my confidence has grown, thanks largely to the car’s forgiving nature, but recently I felt that I had reached a point where my skills weren’t progressing any further. I needed help from an expert.
Our very own ‘Ask the Experts’ expert, Colin Hoad of CAT Driver Training (catdrivertraining.co.uk), was recommended to me by staff writer Stephen Dobie, who had received some car control tuition from Colin last year. Stephen had clearly enjoyed himself, because he decided he’d come along with me for a refresher when it was my turn. This could mean only one thing: competition.
Both of us were trying to cap our excitement at the prospect of driving a Caterham flat-out around Millbrook’s handling circuit, and we were soon brought down to earth by starting the day in a Focus. Happily we quickly progressed to rear-wheel drive with a Lotus Elise, in which we explored the challenge of threshold braking on the mile straight. We then moved on to the famous two-mile bowl to practise observation and constant-radius steering.
Having honed our skills, it was finally time for us to get behind the wheel of the Caterham. The narrow, twisty handling circuit was the perfect place to put everything we had learned to the test – executing hard threshold braking before corners, balancing and steering the car with the throttle and always looking ahead for the next obstacle. The main difference I noticed between the tiny, nimble Caterham and my Mazda was how much extra information you receive from sitting so close to the rear wheels. Able to feel the slightest lateral movements, I felt more inclined to push the throttle harder than I would ever dare in the MX-5.
As the day drew to a close, Stephen and I badgered Colin to disclose which of us was the better driver. Colin tactfully explained that we were level pegged. Stephen was apparently more ‘technical’ on the brakes, whereas I was ‘braver’ carrying speed through corners. (You can read Stephen’s account of the day by clicking here.)
Driving home in the MX-5, consciously keeping a consistent steering angle mid-corner and using the accelerator to balance the car out of bends, I had one of my most confident and rewarding drives yet. Thanks, Colin.