On Wednesday this week, General Motors invited me to attend an advanced driving skills course with them at the Aldo Scribante race track in Port Elizabeth.

They sponsored 3x Lumina SS V8’s to the Port Elizabeth Flying Squad (in addition to another 3 vehicles in 2009), along with an advanced driving skills course, so they know how to operate these high performance vehicles. Several members of the media from around the country were also invited.

The guys from Yokohama Tyres based in Pretoria conducted the safe driver course with us. I was fortunate to be given an opportunity to attend a course like this, as it was an eye-opener. Many people I know don’t even bother putting on their seat belts because an “airbag” will save them. What they don’t know is that airbags deploy at speeds of up to 300km/h, so chances are, you may end up with a broken nose, but you still need to wear a seat belt. Personally, I’m fussy about this and when I give anyone a lift, in some cases, have to remind the passenger to put their seat belt on before I drive off.

The cars in the fleet were Opel Corsa OPCs, Chevrolet Cruzes and the Luminas.

After a lengthy presentation we got to demonstrate what we learnt. We drove through cones at 40km/h keeping our hands steady on the wheel in a 10-2 / 9-3 position. I messed up the first one because I was nervous but got better by the third go. For this, we picked the Corsa OPC, which by the way, I loved driving! So much of power and the size was just right. I found the Lumina’s to be a bit too big for me.

Thereafter we got to experience how anti-lock braking system (ABS) works. We had to drive down the track at 60km/h before slamming on the brakes really hard and an obstruction was created, so we had to swerve almost immediately. Three of us got into one car, and I went second. It wasn’t so bad because of the safety features of the car, or in this instance, ABS. We felt safe performing these tasks, which is the most important thing.

We didn’t get to drive but were driven down the track in the Lumina to experience electronic stability program (ESP). It’s that button in your car the sales person told you never to turn off (unless you’re doing donuts). It was quite an experience, because you don’t know which direction the car would spin in, while ESP was off.

We were taught how to take corners, how to approach and how to take off. It all comes down to: slow in, fast out. A method used by Michael Schumacher was demonstrated – he approaches corners “deep” or “late” and then takes off. You have to slow down when approaching the corner, and take off fast, which would be in a straight line, within the corner. It would help if I had a diagram to illustrate this. We got to drive three laps at a time, before switching drivers, and going until each driver went around the tracks three times each, to perfect the cornering techniques. I drove a Lumina and the Corsa OPC with Christo from ZA Car Show.

It was a fun and informative day at the tracks for me and I’m grateful that General Motors invited me to participate. I returned to Johannesburg with a weird sunglasses tan on my face, which has now faded! *phew*