The Audi Advanced Driving Experience is a one day course, this particular one at Sandown Raceway in Victoria. It's the first in a series of courses aimed at gradually improving your skills. Today we’re driving a number of different models from the A & Q range – as well as a quick run in the new TT.
First up, a safety briefing and a rundown of what we’ll be doing. The Audi driver trainers are led by a well-known Aussie race driver, engineer and automotive commentator Steve Pizzati.
We’re paired off and put into teams, to work through the series of exercises. Before we start our engines, I take the opportunity to get a bit of one on one advice from Steve.
The first exercise is oversteer and understeer, driving the A3 sedan and A5 coupe. One of the driving instructors gives us an in depth rundown of what to do. And I have to admit, this scares me.
A water truck is brought in to soak the track to make it slippery. The aim is to experience it with traction control on, then off and feel the difference.
I’m top of my class for this one! But I think I may have made my driving partner a little nervous.
Oversteer versus understeer – it’s a lot simpler than it sounds. Oversteer is when the car turns more sharply than the amount of lock you have on the steering wheel, understeer is when it doesn’t turn as much as you’re trying to and your line is straighter than intended.
Next up is a task that highlights the technology behind the anti-lock braking system (ABS), we'll be driving the A5 and A8. We start at relatively slow speeds – getting a run up towards the cones, then slamming the brakes on as hard as we can to engage ABS. It allows you to retain control of the steering, by locking then unlocking the brakes quickly. The car feels like its shuddering, which can be startling and the first time you may think something’s gone wrong – but rest easy, that’s the car doing what its supposed to.
We work our way up to a full ABS stop at speed – with no hands on the steering wheel – do not try this at home.
We also have to steer around the cones that represent an obstacle while ABS is fully engaged. But it really helps you appreciate just how much control the car has, and how much control you have over the car.
The slalom – the aim is simple thread your way through the line of cones in an A7 and Q3 – trying not to squeal the tyres or knock any over. The laps are timed, and again I’m pretty sure my driving partner thinks I’m a crazy lady – and I earn the dubious nickname – The Cone Killer. I need more practice at this.
The final challenge is a motorkhana. The course involves a slalom, tight turns, and a full ABS stop at the end.
Again the laps are timed, and we get to have a run in the A1 Sportback and then the TT.
They are very different in the way they feel to drive in this scenario – the sportback feels light and spirited while the TT feels sturdier through the turns.
This time most of the cones survive, and though I clock some good times, I’m just off the pace and miss out on a podium finish.
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