“For someone learning to be a better winter driver, having appropriate tires, a mechanically sound vehicle and the right teachers will certainly increase confidence…”

Mecaglisse, Quebec.

Whatever your craft or hobby of choice is, having the right tools to execute your activities is paramount.

As an avid scrapbooker, I couldn’t imagine my life without a sharp pair of scissors, photos, flashy paper and double-sided tape. If you’re a runner, proper footwear mitigates injuries and minimizes blisters.

For someone learning to be a better winter driver, having appropriate tires, a mechanically sound vehicle and the right teachers will certainly increase confidence in slippery situations.

Enter Porsche’s Camp4: a winter driving program available to everyone. It’s an event I’ve attended before and learned a lot from.

But what’s it like for someone who’s already considered a professional driver? – BC resident Scott Hargrove is well versed in racing. He joined our group of international journalists on the program.

At 20 years old, he’s the current GT3 Porsche Cup Challenge champion in Canada. He also took home second place in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. That was just his 2014 race year. His résumé is impressive and he knows a thing or two about car control. Then again, we can all learn something new, no matter how good we are.

“Driving on snow and ice is extremely different to any situation I have been in before,” remarks Scott.

“The technique is completely different compared to racing on pavement, where the fastest way around the track is the smoothest. On snow and ice, it’s all about pitching the car sideways and using the throttle to execute the turn. So despite my extensive racing background, this was a whole new experience for me with a whole new learning curve.”

Each Porsche at Camp4, whether it be a Cayman, Carrera, rear or all-wheel drive, were equipped with Nokian 1.5mm studded tires.

Yes, we needed grip but we also wanted to slide these amazing machines sideways!

As the group is having the time of our lives, the purpose of the activities is to connect with the car and feel how the ice track beneath us is ever changing. Each lap brings new challenges – sometimes it got so slippery our only option was to spin out – or as the instructors would say, “we’d run out of talent!”

The unnerving feeling – exhilarating in most cases – of pitching a car into a corner and holding the slide leaves you with a real sense of accomplishment. Or left me wanting to become a rally driver.

Underneath the smiling faces is a much more satisfying feeling; the feeling of being more confident in yourself and your abilities to adapt to different environments.

As Scott and I are chatting, I ask why he thinks this kind of training is both good for him and every other driver out there.

“Camp 4 will teach you more about car control over any other form of high performance driving school,” Scott says.

“Being in a low traction environment allows you to slide a car at slow speeds. Drivers can then get a feel for what is like to slide a car, react appropriately and recover. This experience will translate directly to the street and help any driver in an emergency situation.”

Learning to be a better driver and having a lot of fun doing it? Yes, I’m ready for that.

So is Scott.

“I would go back in a heartbeat,” he adds.
“Who wouldn’t love to drive a whole range of Porsches in the snow? It’s an experience you don’t get to have very often and one you definitely don’t want to miss out on!”

Visit http://www.porsche.com/canada-pde/en/yourcamp4/ for more information on Porsche’s Camp4.

Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Drives-U-Crazy-LogoWhen the snow falls, watch out for drivers who couldn’t be bothered to sweep the white stuff from the roof of their car before setting out in the morning.

They are a danger to themselves and other road users. When the car heats up that snow generally slides down in a block over their windshield causing one-car white out conditions, long enough for them to collide with you!

What drives-u-crazy?

Contact: keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

“Actions by cars and trucks will alert you more quickly to problems and give you a split second extra time to react safely.”

IH winter driving

The rain and windstorms have started and it won’t be long before the temperatures start to dip. Northern B.C. and the Interior have already experienced the cold.

At the coast, it seems every year the first snowfall creates chaos and adjusting to the conditions is a big challenge for many people. That said; driving in the winter season generally presents more problems than driving in other seasons wherever you call home. The vehicle and the driver must be prepared as well as possible to cope with these kinds of driving conditions.

In winter driving, braking and stopping the vehicle, of course, cause the most difficult moments. The tires play a critical role in stopping the vehicle, and they need even more care and attention than in the other seasons.

Most SUVs have a passenger car tire classification with M+S stamped on the sidewall, for Mud and Snow and are considered all-season tires. If it is not, your vehicle must be fitted with tires suitable for any type of climate, even the most severe ones.

In winter the pressure of the tire must also be controlled more frequently. This is because a reduction of the outside temperature causes a contraction of the air inside the tire, accelerating the normal and gradual pressure loss process by a value around 1-2 PSI for each 5° C decrease in temperature.

Contrary to popular opinion, a lower inflation pressure than normal does not improve tire traction on snow. It makes them much more liable to damage. Always remember that in any season and with any temperature, insufficient pressure is always the main cause of tire damage. Here is some advice to always bear in mind it is during winter driving conditions: Use brakes carefully. Brake early. Brake correctly. It takes more time and distance to stop in icy conditions. Watch for slippery bridge decks, even when the rest of the pavement is in good condition. Bridge decks will ice up sooner than the pavement. Do not use the cruise control in winter conditions. Even roads that appear clear can have sudden slippery spots and the short touch of your brakes to deactivate the cruise control feature can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Don’t get overconfident in your 4×4 vehicle. Remember that your four-wheel drive vehicle may help you get going quicker than other vehicles but it won’t help you stop any faster.

Many 4×4 vehicles are heavier than passenger vehicles and actually may take longer to stop. Don’t get overconfident in your 4×4 vehicle’s traction. Your 4×4 can lose traction as quickly as a two-wheel drive vehicle.

If your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes, do not pump them in attempting to stop. The right way is to step on the brake pedal and steer against the slide. Look further ahead in traffic than you normally do. Actions by cars and trucks will alert you more quickly to problems and give you a split second extra time to react safely.

Contact: ian [dot] harwood [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Drives-U-Crazy-LogoTis the season for seeing four-wheel drive vehicles in the ditch and I saw my first on the Coquihalla just the other day.

So many SUV owners seem to think they should go twice as fast as anybody else in winter conditions because they can. Then they try to brake… (more…)

“With a good blade, you could get that driveway cleared during the commercial break and return to watching the game…”

We have had a beautiful summer but you just know we are going to pay for that as fall rolls into winter. (more…)

Learning car control in less than perfect circumstances is available to all who have $795 . . . it’s money extremely well spent…

The BMw Winter Driver Training course.
The BMw Winter Driver Training course.
The BMw Winter Driver Training course.

The man from BMW once called me a hooker.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t that offended. I actually laughed at such a descriptor, as did everyone else around me.

I didn’t feel so bad because I wasn’t the only one in the group labelled thusly at the brand’s Driver Training; a full day of driving 3 Series sedans (back then) to improve our own car control. I didn’t have too many years of driving experience back then but I unfortunately had picked up a few bad habits on the road.

What’s a hooker, according to the instructors at the German automaker’s training?

Someone who hooks his or her hand into the steering wheel when making a turn. It’s a big boo-boo and not an effective way to drive. It’s also totally unsafe, should an accident occur in the process. Needless to say, pointing out the hooker in me caused me to change my habits for the better.

And in the most recent installment of learning car control with BMW, no such noun was used when relating to my technique. Thank goodness.

It’s minus 15 degrees at the ICAR track in Mirabel, Quebec. The sun is out and there’s a lineup of all-new 435i coupes just begging to be driven.

Some are equipped with the brand’s all-wheel drive system. Some are rear-wheel drive. Regardless, I’ll have my way with both configurations by the end of the day, so to speak.

The adventure is better known as the Winter Driver Training program, offered exclusively at the ICAR location. That said, you don’t need to own a BMW to participate. Learning car control in less than perfect circumstances is available to all who have $795. In my opinion, it’s money extremely well spent.

The day starts out with an in-class session that goes over theory and what will be executed throughout the various exercises. It’s kept relatively short so we have more drive time.

It’s mentioned that we’ll be practicing manouevres with and without electronic help, to put both power and performance to the test. Oh yeah.

Proper seating position is outlined when we initially get behind the wheel. Then we’re off.

You might ask what is the point behind putting one of BMW’s latest products sideways on an ice track in subzero temperatures. My initial answer is only three letters long and to the point: fun. But that’s only a byproduct of what the impetus behind the program is; a program that started back in 1977 and is now offered in 35 countries.

The main goal is safety. It’s designed to introduce drivers to techniques that might help correct the car if it is not doing what you want it to for whatever reason.

For example, if your wheels are pointed in one direction, but your car is going straight ahead, what should you do? That’s called understeer. The instinctual thing to do is keep adding more steering, but that won’t help. Ease off the throttle and try to straighten your wheel so your tires can regain grip.

Or, if you feel the back end of the car breaking loose, how do you wrangle it in? You countersteer and don’t lift off the throttle. It sounds easier said than done, but the techniques do work!

Putting yourself and the 435i through the paces in a safe and controlled environment is the best place to learn. If you spin out, you’re not going to go into oncoming traffic. You just stop, turn the car around, and keep going. You’ll probably giggle a little in the process and tell yourself you’ll “get it next time.”

Heck, if you knock over a few cones, no one will judge you either. It’s all part of the process.

There are also dynamic braking exercises that teach you how the car reacts when you have ABS, and what you can do in these conditions. You’ll even learn reverse 180s.

Philippe Létourneau is the head instructor of the program and says, “People learn a lot more when they’re having fun.”

I agree.

He also mentions that if people walk away from the course with a couple of newly established driving habits that make them overall a safe driver, that’s ideal.

However, if your face doesn’t feel stiff from smiling, or your abs don’t hurt from laughing, perhaps you weren’t trying hard enough. What’s not to like about that?

Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Drives U CrazyThe recent snowstorms have brought out the best and the worst in B.C. drivers.

I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every person I’ve watched over-rev a car in a futile bid to escape the combined clutches of snow and ice.

If your car is not shod for the winter weather, then stay home or take a cab. Otherwise, take off slowly in a higher gear than you would in dry weather. You will stand a lot more chance of gaining traction and less reliant on those good people who dig you out! (more…)

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