Every driver should do this

Good editor Carolyn Enting joined some Lexus Women’s Day action at Hampton Downs.

When an invitation to do a day of racing around the track at Hampton Downs landed in my inbox I instantly felt nervous. And because it is something I have never done before I immediately said ‘yes’. On the day I turned up a bundle of nerves but was so glad I did this, and firmly believe every person with a driver’s license should do a day at Hampton Downs. 

Why? Because it improves your driving. Educates you about your car. For example, how far your car will slide when you slam on the brakes at 100kmph.

Learning about ABS technology was the first exercise. Driving in a straight line at speed and then breaking at the first cone, it was remarkable to feel the ABS braking system kick in. And also to measure the distance of the slide. We also learned to swerve and brake too! It gave me confidence to know that if I ever have to slam on my brakes on the road, to do so with confidence, and also to keep an eye on my following distance.

We also learned how to approach corners and accelerate out of them, and take a car through a slalom of orange cones. It was so much fun as well as an educational experience.

Every year Lexus hosts a women’s day event as part of its Summer of Performance driving experiences. It offers you the opportunity to sample a wide range of Lexus models including the hybrids (LC and LS 3.5L V6 Hybrid Electric), which were what I was most interested in. You get the opportunity to push the cars to their limits around the race track, learn about technology like ABS to ESC while highly qualified advanced driving instructors assist to improve driving techniques allowing you to get the most out of the cars safely.

It turns out there’s a real science behind driving a car correctly. Once you understand this, you will be a safer more in control driver.

Chris Pither, lead instructor and one of the drivers at the Lexus Summer of Performance Women’s Day event, provided me with some great tips. I also felt safe doing a hot lap around the track with him. A New Zealand racing driver, he has won eight national championships including; three New Zealand karting titles, the New Zealand Holden HQ Series in 2003 and 2004, the NZ V8 Ute Championship Series in 2010 as well as and the NZ and Australian V8 Ute Racing Series in 2011. 

Chris Pither’s driving tips:

  • Vision is the most import aspect of driving. Your hands will follow your eyes, look to where you want to end up.
  • As a driver you are managing inertia and the way you manipulate weight transfer will have a large impact on the cars response.
  • Be patient on the throttle, wait till you start to open the steering angle before accelerating. Your hands and feet need to work I sync with each other to manage weight transition through corners.
  • Keep a relaxed loose grip on the steering wheel.
  • Smooth inputs on the steering wheel and pedals are not only key to driving a car to its full potential on a race track, but also to be safe and in control on the streets.
  • Lexus technology has developed an extremely long way in a short period of time, but drivers haven’t evolved their habits to follow. For example, it was previously taught to hold the steering wheel at 10 and 2 o’clock but modern thinking is to hold the steering wheel at 3 and 9 resulting in all the controls like paddle shift and volume adjustment being at finger tips reach. It’s also the centre line of the steering wheel, so this grip offers the best range of motion and balance.
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