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Land Rover
17 Sep 10 14:12
Intense IMC Skill Driving on the Bridgestone Track in Bangkok
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       The 2010 monsoon season had arrived in the Kingdom of Thailand and yet it was the perfect Bangkok morning with bright light blue skies and the Saturday was flowing smoothly as I drove my black family 1,6 liter Thai built Nissan Sunny passing container yards, industrial estates, LPG and Esso petrol stations – getting out of the vast flat horizontal concrete, the metropolitan Bangkok.

       Approaching in Saraburi province on the frontage road next to the big four lane North Eastern trunk road I almost miss the sign, the bright IMC SKILL driving directional aid with a big arrow > leading the way and suddenly I in the middle of green rice paddies, small white temples and newly built concrete roadside shop houses. More > arrows and IMC SKILL driving signs. I am not lost - yet!

      And suddenly out there in the middle of the field there it is the brand new Bridgestone Driving Ground. The venue for the IMC Skill Driving. Without the signs I would have certainly been lost in rice fields. The international standard test track, the driving ground is a solid new, white two story building with steel fences and uniformed guards at the gate.

       I show my passport and the guard says: “Oh, Mr John welcome. This way”. Onwards to registration. The usual procedure. Sign, and receive presskit, polo shirt and the ubiquitous base ball cap. Onwards to the hot & cold refreshments and mini sandwiches in the comfortable lounge area. Soon the presentation of the instructors followed by the briefing with audio visuals and we are ready. Ready to hit the tarmac at 10:00 (as we officially say in Europe and Thailand)

       The cars an impressive line up of luxury and and sport sedans Mercedes Benz C-Class, and powerful all wheels drive Subarus Impreza and Subaru Forester and the ubiquitous four door Toyota Corolla Altis. Different cars, different engines and different performances.

       First station the skid pad with a huge circular concrete pad with sprinklers in the center and peripheries providing constantly wet driving pad. The idea here was to experience over steering and under steering. Round and round we went. G-force. More acceleration – no brakes. The rear starts fish tailing. No control. That's over steering. Can be dangerous. The worst scenario you'll exit the a curve the with the rear first. Here the Subaru with their all wheel drive did very well. While the 'Benz' 2,5 liter engine had so much power and without the ESP (Electronic Stabily Program) the heavy German salon car tented to go straight on in the curve. An example of under steering. A very useful exercise. Switch on ESP
no more understeering. Voila!

       On ward to the multi purpose test track. Lane shifting and Emergency braking. 20- 40-60 kph lane shifting. 20 and 40 easy but at 60 kph and every team started hitting the cones. The two liter Toyota felt a bit light but did quite well in comparison to the more expensive and more balanced Benz and low center of gravity Subarus. We're again informed how important it is have a proper driving position and 09:00 – 15:00 ( 9AM and 3PM) hands position on the steering wheel. And brake and next station. Emergency braking. Flat out 80 kph. Full tilt on the steering wheel. Avoidance manoeuvre. Everything happens so fast.

       Again we tried different cars and with different engine displacements and and front wheel, rear wheel and all wheel drive systems. Here also a focused view a is important. Straight a head with anticipation. Safety is key that's why each team
waited for the Ready- and Go! Signal. Our instructors, the driving assistants Natavude Charoensukhawatana,Wudhinant Sabhavasu Sirakoop Medhanee at hand all the time with their walkie talkies. Keeping everything safy. And the IMC Skill Driving staff at hand all the providing us refreshments and umbrellas when the afternoon showers hit the Bridgestone tarmac in the afternoon.

       And finally emergency braking. A high speed turn. Full speed a head. And suddenly there is child size dummy made of fabric lying on the tarmac just behind the red cone after the 60 degrees turn. A slam on the brakes exercise. The luxury Mercedes Benz did well in this exercise. And the AWD Subaru. The 2 liter Toyota had also adequate stopping power. A very realistic exercise. Which was appreciated by all participants. The dusk started descending upon the Bridgestone Proving Ground. Final laps and practise came to an end.

       I definitely left the IMC Skill Driving course with more skill than I arrived with, picking up a evasive, emergency stop techniques and lane changing to make my driving smoother and safer.
No doubt this driving course did something for me. I learned several techniques that I had never seen before like the importance of the seating position and a the special steering technique used to go faster through the slalom. But I also had a good time driving, spinning out on the skid pad and chatting with the other participants. I picked up some useful information that will likely help me later in my driving career. Finally, do not try type of driving at home or on public roads.


"Stay focused and drive defensively" - In French "Au Volant la Vue c'est la Vie" Carsanook Magazine
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