We have all, at some point, thought that we can drive like Lewis Hamilton. But let us be honest. On well-designed highways and in modern cars stuffed to the gills with safety features, it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of supreme ability.
Do deflate that ego though, because when things go pear-shaped, it does nothing to help you handle the crisis. You would want instead to be well-equipped to the point that every correct move comes from muscle memory.
So if you have not steered a sport utility vehicle on ice or escaped from a terrorist road block – or simply wish to train to be a race driver and experience how it feels like to drift a car – sign up for one of these driver experience programmes.
Two tonnes of the metal, wood and leather. Hundreds of horsepower. On a frozen lake. Mayhem ensues? Perhaps. But that is the whole point of this luxury carmaker’s winter driving programme in Finland – by the end of the four-day itinerary, the finer points of handling massive vehicles with ease under even the most extreme of situations should become second nature to you. The cars offered for each season are always fresh off the delivery truck. For 2017, they include the world’s fastest four-seater, the Continental Supersports and – yes, you have guessed it – the world’s fastest sport utility vehicle, the Bentayga. True to the marque’s promise, luxury villa accommodations and private charter transfers are standard.
While this course is targeted at professional drivers chauffeuring dictators or just about anybody worth assassinating, nothing stops you from participating out of morbid curiosity. In all seriousness, the stuff you learn here will come in handy should you work at an insurgent area and wish not to be kidnapped. The starter “Intensive” programme (two nights) teaches you the basics on high-speed manoeuvres and emergency J-turns in a heavily armoured BMW 7-series, while the next-level “Perfection” training (three nights) adds night sessions, escape scenarios under paintball fire, vehicle-to-vehicle contact and face-paced laps on the ideal racing line. Essentially, all the skills you need to get out of serious trouble in the wild, wild west.
03: Pilota Ferrari
Designed as a series of four separate courses that culminate in an exam – if you pass, it qualifies you to compete in Ferrari Challenge races. In other words, this is not just fun and games – it preps you to enter the realm of professional racing. At locations in Asia, North America and Europe, you learn about sport driving techniques and theory, moving on to fast driving and vehicle control, on track sessions measured with on-board data acquisition systems and telemetry analysis. Then, you get one-on-one coaching by one of Ferrari’s experts as you learn cornering limits and how to improve your lap time. In the final stage, you get into the seat of the 488 Challenge competition model and put through actual race procedures, like car setup, starting, and overtaking.
04: AMG Experience
Jeremy Clarkson makes it look so easy on screen, presenting to the camera while steering the car sideways – sometimes with only one hand on the wheel. But trust us: the manoeuvre takes years of experience to perfect, requiring careful amounts of steering input, matched by finely calibrated right foot action. You can, however, pick up the basics at the AMG Driving Academy. Here, you get into the cockpit of one of the latest AMG cars and learn how to break traction in the rear wheels on a skid pan. The day ends with a challenge where you pit your newfound skills against other participants.
Modern cars possess bags of electronic gadgetry to keep you from killing yourself. These are so effective that many younger drivers no longer know how to handle a car without anti-lock braking or electronic stability. If you are a collector of classic cars that you plan to drive, do yourself a favour and sign up for this Porsche Sport Driving School class. Open to any brand of car up to and including 1997 vintages, the one-day racetrack training programme teaches you how to maximise enjoyment from your investment while maintain a good safety margin. The bonus: interaction with other like-minded collectors as well as guest lectures by race drivers from the sport’s hall of fame.