Two years ago, we underwent BMW’s Driver Training Programme, an introduction to the Advanced module course that combines technology and driving skills to assess and overcome potential hazards. The Driver Training Programme in essence, is a course that was introduced by the BMW Group in 1977 as an initiative to provide drivers a way to improve their skills, reactions and awareness on the road, at the track, and showcase the potential of BMWs cars. For BMW Malaysia, 2018 marks their 12th year organising the Driver Training Programme.
Drivers in the experience are placed under the guidance of certified instructors, where various course exercises conducted throughout the day are designed to educate drivers both in theory and practical. The Advanced course taught us the proper driving and seating position, practical exercises in typical traffic and hazard conditions, as well as emergency and targeted braking manoeuvres amongst others.
Only drivers that have completed the Advanced Driver Training programme are able to progress to the Intensive module, where drivers learn even more challenging manoeuvers and techniques, as well as professional guidance on basic racing skills on the track. Equipped with a fleet of BMW 420i’s, the two-day event at the Sepang International Circuit was our playground for the weekend.
Before undergoing practical exercises, drivers had to learn theoretical basics of driving, including proper steering and seating positions. But two of the most important ones – Braking and Forces on the tyre, best explains the dynamics of a vehicle where it matters most. Here’s what we learnt.
Braking – Understanding Reaction Times and Stopping Distances
Stopping distances and the obstacle ahead is most crucial in emergency braking situations. Considering a total distance of 62 metres is available before hitting a brick wall, a vehicle travelling at 100 km/h would require just 34 metres* of stopping distance when the brakes are applied fully.
However, this distance does not include the reaction time that the driver needs to slam on the brakes. Assuming the driver takes 1-second to hit the brakes, the vehicle would have travelled an additional 28 metres before braking. Here the reaction distance of 28 metres and braking distance of 34 metres equals the actual stopping distance of 62 metres. Thus the driver would have stopped just in time before hitting the brick wall.
This is where a driver’s lapse in reaction time makes a startling difference. Should the driver just take an additional 0.2-seconds reaction to hit the brakes, the vehicle travelling at 100 km/h would have travelled an extra 5 metres in distance and hit the brick wall at the speed of 38 km/h.
(*Stopping distances vary differently across all vehicles depending on brakes and tyres)
Driving Physics and Forces On The Tyre
Standard physics tells us that when we drive along a right corner, a lateral force exists on the grip and traction that the tyre has on the road. The forces acting on the centre of gravity that goes on the opposite is known as the centrifugal force.
The most important part in understanding the limit of the forces on the tyre, is understanding the Kamm Circle, or better known as the Traction Circle. The simplest explanation to the traction circle is knowing that tyres are responsible for the traction that’s required to move the vehicle – allowing for acceleration, braking and cornering. Here the driver needs to know that there is a limit to the amount of grip or force that can be applied to the tyre.
By using the diagram above, the limit of available grip is represented by the red circle. In this scenario, a driver that is executing a right-hand corner needs to know the proper steering angle (lateral force) to match the limits of acceleration so that the tyres maintain its maximum available grip.
Should too much steering and speed be taken into a corner, grip is lost, and the vehicle would begin to run wide. Situations such as this is known as understeering. Understanding a vehicle’s physics and the traction circle is why racing drivers are great at what they do because they’re able to take the grip to the limit. But what happens when a driver reaches the outer limits of braking?
Brake In Corner exercise
Instructors Kitson and Ivan explaining the dynamics of Brake in corner exercise.
One of the practical exercises aptly named Brake In Corner, provided us participants the experience of safely executing emergency braking whilst going into a corner. In vehicles that aren’t equipped with Cornering Brake Control, the load shift caused by braking can reduce traction on the wheels on the side towards the inside of the bend. The load imbalance results in a loss of directional control, which would cause the vehicle to skid out of the curve.
How Cornering Brake Control helps in this situation is by distributing brake pressure to the left and right side of the brakes or by reducing pressure to the rear axle even if the driver brakes outside the normal range of ABS.
Drivers are required to travel 80 km/h towards the first cone, conduct a full emergency brake, and then slowly ease off the brakes whilst going through the corner before coming to a complete stop.
In the video above, we can see the differences between a situation that would arise without Cornering Brake Control and the subsequent clips of a successful Brake In Corner exercise.
Double Lane Change exercise
Here drivers are required to maintain a 100 km/h speed until mid-course, conduct a lane change, and then full on emergency brake upon straightening the vehicle.
What did we learn in the end? A lot of which is better experienced than explained. Apart from equipping one’s self in various emergency situations, the Intensive module allowed us to learn the classic racing line around Sepang – braking, apex and acceleration points. Another big thanks to instructors Ivan Khong, Kenneth Chiew, Kitson Hooi and Andy Kow for the technical knowledge and expertise throughout the weekend.
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