I am painfully aware that never having had, or caused, a serious car accident doesn't make me a competent or capable driver. And with a personality that naturally leans more towards anxious and neurotic, I would even say I'm a bit of a scaredy cat behind the wheel. This makes me a super conservative and very cautious driver at the best of times. More than once in my life I've driven around the block using all left turns to get to my final destination rather than turn right at a 'super scary' intersection. Having very little actual driving experience doesn't help. Whilst I may have been driving all of my adult life, the main extent of my driving experience has been to go up to Safeway for groceries, or driving to work. Both within a 4km radius.
So, what on earth is someone like me doing out on the track at Sandown? Well, I want to be a better driver. I'm conscious of my limitations handling a vehicle and my capability behind the wheel. And painfully aware that I would have no hope in maintaining control should something go wrong. Having enjoyed being Andreas co-pilot on dozens of drive days within Victoria and interstate I've had the privilege of seeing first-hand what it means to be a competent, capable and skilful driver. This level of skill takes years of practice, drive days, track days and race events. So, whilst I have no intention of 'sliding' into the car park at Safeway to collect my groceries, I wouldn't mind a little bit of what he's got. I'm not greedy. Just enough to make me safer on the road and a little less anxious behind the wheel.
So it was with great excitement that I leant that I had been awarded the Makulu Vehicle Storage Driver Training Scholarship for this event. This would be my second time out on a track. The first being the BMW DCM Come & Try Day at Broadford on Monday 18 March and I was super excited to have the opportunity to take my Volkswagen Jetta, aka 'The Jet', out onto the track again. I learnt a lot through both experiences.
At Broadford Greame Bell gave us some pre-track instructions on driving position. I had a small epiphany when he explained the wedgy-thing under your left foot is actually a foot brace, not a foot rest. I was genuinely like 'WOW". Never knew. But now that I did, it made perfect sense. When you treat it as a foot brace it completely changes your driving position which changes your attitude behind the wheel. You feel more grounded, stable and in control of the vehicle. This was a good feeling and helped to alleviate some of my anxiety around getting out on the track. As my instructor, Andreas helped me gain some insight into the capability of a vehicle under speed. Prior to this I had only ever used a vehicle within I'd say 20-30% of its capacity. So I learnt the world wouldn't cave in if took a corner at more than 20kms p/h, nor the car spontaneously combust if I went over 100kms p/h on the straight. Being WAAAY outside my comfort zone out on the track, both lessons were helpful in gaining my confidence.
At Sandown I was privileged to also have Glen Kennaday and Andy Kaos as my instructors. I Iearnt so much from both of them and am so thankful for them sharing their time and experience with me. Both helped me gain more confidence, instructing me how to handle the vehicle, how to approach an apex and what to do coming into and going out of a corner. But it wasn't just the track time that made the difference. Lining up in pit lane Glen noticed my driving position was too high. And Andy noticed I was holding my thumbs over the wheel instead of under. Changing these small things put me in better control of the car meaning I was a lot more confident behind the wheel and had a better 'feel' for the road.
So with only two come & try track days under my belt I can't yet say that I'm either competent or capable behind the wheel. But I can say that I am better for the experience and I'm a little less anxious and nervous. This gives me more confidence which makes me a better driver out on the road. This is all character building and has helped me not only be a better driver but has helped me be a better person. More confident within myself and in my driving ability.
Huge thanks to Jo Mawson, Graeme Bell and the rest of the BMW DCM committee team for offering us the come & try days, always well planned, well organised and well executed events. Thanks also to all the volunteers - flaggies, pit lane officials and instructors that are the heart and soul of the club and that make these events so special. Thanks to all the sponsors whose support makes these events happen, with special mention to Makulu Vehicle Storage for donating the driver training scholarship for the Come & Try Day at Sandown. Finally, special mention to my wonderful instructors at Broadford and Sandown, Andreas Doelling, Glen Kennaday and Andy Kaos.
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