Don Palmer Masterclass review

We try the ultimate performance driver training course from Don Palmer and Mark Hales at the scenic Anglesey Circuit

I’ll be the first to admit that £1995 is a lot for some driver training. But if you’re serious about your driving, or already spend money on trackdays or motorsport, it can be a good investment. Factor in the location – a closed-off Anglesey Circuit – and two days with Don Palmer (seasoned driving coach) and Mark Hales (very experienced racer) and the cost is suddenly a lot less scary.

The clientele on the Don Palmer Masterclass course (www.donpalmer.co.uk) ranges from performance car owners getting a better grasp of fast driving to wealthy racers cleaning up their technique. Both might be shocked by the coaching cars: a diesel Audi A4 and a tired Toyota Avensis 1.8 (on low-grip Event-branded rubber).

In truth, such modest machines are ideal for learning about clipping points and car control. With grip limits low and powerbands easily utilised in the confines of Anglesey, you can put Palmer and Hales’s directions into practice at safer speeds than you could in a hot hatch or rear-driven sports car. Besides, I can honestly say the Avensis is one of the more oversteery cars I’ve ever driven…

The course is split 50/50 between classroom and circuit; the emphasis is on discussion rather than outright instruction. There are just six of you on each Masterclass and rather than being lectured by Don and Mark, you share theories with each other in a much less formal manner than I’ve experienced elsewhere. It’s refreshing to hear the two coaches disagree on some points and to hear them talk about when they’ve got things wrong in a car.

As well as the usual braking and cornering techniques, there are lessons on tyre physics, weight transfer and – most uniquely – ‘beliefs and values’. Palmer’s coaching philosophy centres around getting your mind in the right place, to the extent of picking your favourite driver and trying to think like them when you’re behind the wheel. It’s a fun and pressure-free way to learn.

The on-track stuff is varied and utilises a number of Anglesey’s layouts, all of which take in its plunging gradients and wondrous views. Highlights for me included a lap with one hand on the wheel (vastly improving the Audi’s steering feel), walking trickier corners to assess different lines and a couple of hours in a BMW skid car.

As someone who loves trackdays, I found the Masterclass educational yet fun, while driving there and back through North Wales (via the evo Triangle) made my two days even better. A couple of grand honing your skills here is cash well spent.  

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