Sidorov Precision Driver Training

June 19, 2010

Inside The Circus: Fitness For Racers and Street Drivers

Filed under: advanced driving, adventure travel — spdt @ 7:18 am

                                    Inside the Circus

 This season’s first Formula One race, the Grand Prix of Bahrain, took place on March 14. Bahrain, an island kingdom near Saudi Arabia, is a popular stop on the circuit or “the circus” as it is called by insiders. More recently, Formula One returned to North America with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. The race was run on Ile Notre Dame, the island built there for Expo 67. The track is named Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, after the Canadian ace who died in a crash in 1976. I can attest to the fantastic atmosphere in Montreal from having run in supporting races there in the past. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton won this year from teammate Jensen Button.

 Television does not always do justice to the spectacle of Grand Prix racing. Seen in person, it is a different story. Each car is dazzling in its purpose-built perfection. Even parked in pit lane, the contained violence is akin to that of a fighter plane. The engines don’t roar, they scream. Watch from a fast turn and cornering speed, as well as the punishment drivers are taking, becomes clearly visible. It is all madly intense, light years beyond a freeway commute or an enthusiastic drive on a country road.

 The heat on race day in Bahrain was around 33 C, with track temperatures between 45 and 50 C. Fernando Alonso, driving for Ferrari, won the race, with his teammate Felipe Massa in second. None of the drivers had to be lifted out of their cars after the event, which got me to thinking about the physical and mental fitness requires to race at that level.

 There are no party boys on the circuit anymore, it is simply too tough. Every driver has a personal trainer and an intense fitness regime. These are the fastest racing machines in the world, with cornering and braking forces approaching five Gs. That means, effectively, that competitors are at times supporting five times their body weight, while trying to be precise, even delicate, with the vehicle’s controls. Drivers may lose 3kg of sweat during an event, while heartbeat will hover around 150 for the duration, with peaks approaching 200 bpm. Critical decisions have to be made, corner after corner, for the better part of two hours. Consider the concentration required to perform under that sort of pressure. To put that into perspective, let’s look at the average participants in a racing school.

 Most racing courses have a wide range of students, from older enthusiasts to those actually considering a career on the track. The schools I have worked at the most use Formula cars, small open-wheeled vehicles that you slip into like putting on a body-length sock. Some find it claustrophobic, and everyone has to get used to the tight confines. Many students are surprised at how demanding it is to drive a purpose-built racing car. After all, on television it doesn’t look that hard. The truth is, the need for concentration is unrelenting, which is why we generally limit sessions to ten laps or less at a time. We are demanding as instructors, for good reason. It is not enough to be merely in the vicinity of the right line or braking point for a corner. At speed, nearing the limits of tire grip, mistakes can be costly, so precision is a must. After the chequered flag, just about everyone needs a rest. It is a genuine eye-opener, even for dyed in wool racing fans who arrived driving Porsches and the like.

 A separate message from all this is that staying fit, if not to Formula One competitor’s level, can help you drive better. For those who spend a long time in their vehicles, a small improvement in core strength can reduce backaches and the like, while better oxygen uptake improves concentration. You don’t necessarily need to follow my example, and carry a jump rope in the car. I just prefer a quick parking lot warm-up to a caffeine overdose. A sign that this works is that after a couple of hours behind the wheel, the first few jumps are somewhat uncoordinated. It takes a few moments, and a couple of good whacks on the head from the rope, for timing to return, and then I’m refreshed for the next driving stint. You could probably get a similar effect from a bit of stretching and deep breathing.

 I’ll cover other race-based preparation tips in an upcoming article. Unfortunately, nothing to do with interviews, autographs, or squealing tires, but they should nonetheless be useful. In the meantime, enjoy the spectacle, and give a thought to the athletic endeavour going on inside a racing car’s cockpit.

December 10, 2007

Sidorov Advanced Driver Training Newsletter Dec.2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — spdt @ 4:51 pm
Welcome to our winter update, which could be called the blue-box issue. This is, more or less, a quarterly publication.We are getting closer to a series of engineering breakthroughs that should, in combination with some consumer restraint, significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. New concepts are being developed at a dizzying rate, by groups as diverse as research labs, the military, and traditional vehicle manufacturers. The intense development cycles of automobile racing have helped in this regard. These days, diesel power is de rigueur in events like the 24hrs of Le Mans. Formula One teams are chasing after new ideas, as well as squeezing maximum efficiency out of the old.The solutions, both short and long term, are not likely to come from a single source, such as hydrogen or biofuels. Instead, look for a variety of choices, as well as useful synergies, including more sophisticated hybrids, alternate fuels, much better batteries, solar power and more. The buzzword is energy density, or in simple terms, how much locomotion you can produce for a given cost.

Hydrogen is at a disadvantage for mobile applications right now, in part due to the immense infrastructure required to make the fuel accessible. Newer lithium batteries, as durability issues are dealt with, look better and better. Today’s best diesel vehicles, such as the upcoming VW Jetta, may beat a Toyota Prius in real-world economy as well as performance.

Fuel from algae is, apparently, feasible if not yet economically viable. Green slime as a good thing might be a surprise, especially to carefree and fridge-challenged single folks. Lab pictures show the stuff bubbling in vats, and you can almost imagine cackling witches or crazed scientists stirring the brew. If nothing else, reruns of movies like The Blob will have a resurgence.

Even for those with no interest in personal transport, all of these developments will have an effect. Everything is subject to change, from how we heat our homes to the way we run home entertainment systems or computers.

Air Cars RevisitedImageOur last newsletter made mention of an air-powered vehicle, developed by MDI, a French company. Word is that the car is scheduled to go into production in India next year. When will we see it in North America? This really depends on levels of desperation, from governments, consumers, and environmentalists. I”m sure this joke has been made before, but I can’t resist it. Maybe the car could be fueled from blasts of hot air provided by blustering politicians.click here

The World’s First Energy-Autonomous VehicleImageThis one comes from France. That red wine with lunch must stir up a few creative juices. I love the concept, though in this form, it wouldn’t be much use during a Canadian winter. Still, it serves to demonstrate what can be done. The power comes from solar panels, aided by a small roof-mounted windmill, which is not shown in this picture. Low-flying birds could get a rude surprise.The Eclectic can also be charged in a few hours from a normal AC outlet.

click here

Synergy at Work: VW Space Up! BlueImageThe Space Up!, with a more conventional powerplant, is not that far from production. For some reason, the company is fascinated with exclamation marks for this series of concept cars, which does not detract from a very clever design. The small Volkswagen can be fitted with an electric motor, a diesel or gasoline engine, hydrogen fuel cells, as well as various hybrid combinations. It is part of VW’s new generation of compact rear-engined designs. Roof-mounted solar panels help recharge the batteries.This configuration makes for great space!(sorry) utilization. Contrary to popular thinking, getting rid of the front-mounted engine and transmission make it easier to engineer decent crash safety characteristics. The Smart is another example of this.

VW engineers admit that despite the functional prototype, with its advanced high-temperature design, hydrogen fuel cells may not be an ideal power source. If storage units (batteries) for electric vehicles reach a high enough energy density, they will be a more practical proposition.

It is this lack of battery energy density, rather than apathy, oil company intrigue, or a GM conspiracy, that has been the Achilles Heel in previous electric car designs.

click here

Solar CarportsImageA tidy design, but quite expensive. Not very practical, at least where I live, for the winter months. A steeper roof angle that could shed snow might work better. I imagine someone could build a version themselves for less money, but it is good engineering in a turn-key kit.click here

One Laptop Per ChildImageI really hope this program works. The concept is fantastic, making a simple computer available to children throughout the world. I was guest speaker at the MIT media lab some years ago, and have great admiration for the combined creative energy contained within those buildings. A laptop that uses minimal energy, can be recharged with a few pulls on a string, and is weather resistant sounds great for other uses too. Regular consumers pay full price, part of which will go to support the project.click here

How to Wreck Almost AnythingImageSafety organizations all over the world are touting the life saving benefits of stability control systems, which can reduce power and selectively apply brakes to keep a vehicle from spinning out or rolling over. In theory, single-vehicle crashes could be reduced by as much as 30% if all road-going automobiles were to be fitted with the technology. I would love to see this prediction come true, but it flies in the face of the human ability to screw up.You can put the most advanced traction management system in the world on a vehicle, and all a driver has to do to run the thing into a guardrail or off a cliff is enter a corner too fast for the available traction. The laws of physics win every time.

We had a nice little Smart at a recent winter driving school, and I made sure the participants got to experience the joy of excessive entry speed. Under normal circumstances, the Smart is hard to fool. Jump on the throttle, or slam the brakes, and it stays serene.
However, overcooking approach speed means the little car sails, albeit calmly, off the chosen path and into the shrubbery, or in this case, a well-placed snowbank. The process is smooth, almost slow-motion, since it is generally neither a front nor rear-wheel skid. The vehicle simply moves down the line of momentum.

An advantage to crashing in this fashion is that there is plenty of time to call your friends, or the paramedics, to let them know what is happening.

To avoid this sort of incident, stick to the racing rule, slow down enough before you get to a turn or intersection. Electronic driver aids do have their place, and can be very valuable. They are no substitute for good judgement.

click here

Sticks and Stones…According to the latest studies, some twenty percent of drivers read and send text messages while driving. That number jumps to 33% among 18-34 year olds. This is truly bizarre. We already know that a huge number, possibly 80%, of all collisions involve distraction. I suggest to the texting multitudes, and other committed motoring multi-taskers, could you please do this while hang-gliding or parachuting instead? The clean-up is usually easier, innocent people are less likely to get hurt, and if the wind is right, the whole mess gets covered up by the chute.click here

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us at Sidorov Advanced Driver Training.

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July 28, 2007

July 2007 Newsletter

Filed under: Uncategorized — spdt @ 4:02 am

Welcome to the summer update. This is, more or less, a quarterly newsletter.

SAVE MONEY- DRIVE LIKE A PROImage

Many people don’t realize that fuel economy, as well as reduced vehicle wear and tear relative to speed, are major concerns in car racing. Some of the advanced technology in today’s road cars comes from the intense environment of competition at the highest levels. The same can be said, to some extent, of safety features. If you are hoping to survive a car crash, there is no better place to be than firmly belted in the cockpit of a modern Formula One car. No street vehicle on the planet comes even close to offering the same level of driver protection, yet Grand Prix cars weigh about a third as much as an average family sedan. There is a lot to be learned here. Tight belts, worn properly, are a major aid to safety. Lightweight vehicles can offer a high degree of occupant protection. Highly skilled drivers on the racetrack will usually get better fuel economy for a given speed than their rivals. The same is true for commuters. Smooth, aware drivers save money at the pumps, and likely on their insurance bill as well.

AIR SHOW

A company in France, MDI, has come up with what appears to be a workable vehicle, the Mini C.A.T., which runs on compressed air. After many years of research, the company is ready to partner with an India-based outfit, with production in mind.

What a fantastic concept. I’m sure there are safety issues, but this is just one of the developments that may allow for personal mobility in the future. Think about it. You are on a road trip, well away from any settlement, when your air-powered vehicle wheezes to a halt. You hook up the solar powered compressor, and hope for good weather. Alternatively, you spend a couple of hours taking turns at the hand pump. Sooner or later, the journey continues.

What about the entrepreneurs who might build windmill-powered air stations? One big storage tank, with perhaps a generator for emergency back-up. As Bob Dylan wrote, on a different subject, “the answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…”

http://www.//theaircar.com.
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UNLIKELY HEROES

Today’s CNN Hero is Savannah Walters (July 24, 2007). See http://pumpemup.org
or http://www.cnn.com/heroes.
This is taken straight from the website. There is a donation link on the home page.

“In second grade we studied the Arctic and its animals. I wanted to protect that environment and then learned we could also save people money and cut down on air pollution too!” -Savannah Walters
Pump ‘Em Up! is a fuel conservation call to all over the world to spread the word to drivers that the power to conserve fuel is in their own tires! Pump ‘Em Up! was born in 2001 when nine-year- old Savannah Walters, concerned by proposals to drill for oil in the Arctic, learned that the U.S. could save as much oil as would be produced by the new drilling if drivers simply pumped up their car tires to proper inflation levels. In 1995 the U.S. Energy Department said that under-inflated tires waste an estimated 4 million gallons of gas daily in America.
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HYPERMILERS

This is becoming increasingly popular, the art of wringing that last bit of distance from every drop of fuel. It doesn’t necessarily mean going slowly, either; the emphasis is on efficiency. This means the vehicle must be properly tuned, and free of unnecessary weight or aerodynamic drag. Tires will be on the higher end of the recommended pressure scale, which, incidentally, improves handling in both wet and dry weather, as well as reducing the chance of catastrophic tire failure. The driver will try to be as smooth as possible, looking well ahead and planning each move.

All of this is good driving advice regardless of economy concerns. The hard-core hypermilers go beyond this, and some of the behaviour, such as drafting semi trucks on the highway, is downright dangerous. However, little things count for a lot. On my Volvo AWD Turbo wagon, the roof-mounted bike rack is a serious mileage drain. I drive more slowly when we are carrying the bikes, but economy still suffers. For longer trips, we may switch to a trailer hitch mounted carrier, or perhaps a lightweight aerodynamic utility trailer, if we can find a good one at a decent price. Either that, or knock another ten kilometres per hour off our travelling speed, which isn’t that big a deal.

The ski box doesn’t affect fuel use to the same extent. However, I use it sometimes to carry cones, flags, and hoses for the advanced driving school. This raises the vehicle’s centre of gravity, which hurts handling and increases suspension wear. The answer is, if there is junk in or on your car that you don’t need, get rid of it. Your wallet will appreciate the difference.
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ARTICLE REPRINT

This is from Twists and Turns, my weekly newspaper column. I wrote the piece a couple of years ago.

Blind Trust and Loose Luggage

In major bookstores, there is generally a pop psychology section. Many of the titles seem to follow a set formula. You could create your own with this simple template: men, women, cats, bowling teams (select one) who love, trust, need, obsess (again, select one) too much. Our theme here, using this pattern, is People Who Trust Fasteners Too Much.

We recently bought a nice, expensive two-bike carrier to fit on the Superwagon’s official Volvo roof rack. For those who care about these things, we picked a fork-mount version to make for a slightly lower centre of gravity and reduced aerodynamic drag. It still cuts into fuel economy, and the bikes collect their share of bugs, but it’s better than wedging the cycles into the back and fitting road trip luggage around them.

It is worth repeating something I’ve mentioned often in this column, a lesson learned from years of racetrack work and development testing. No matter how carefully something is designed, chances are, sooner or later, it will fail. The fastening system on the roof rack involves a stout skewer holding the front bicycle forks in place, along with a reasonably robust plastic clip that latches on to the rear wheel. This is fine as long as the rig is not subjected to undue stress, such as an emergency swerve, hard stop, or even a stretch of twisty, bumpy road. My racer’s eye and reasonably logical brain took a look at all this and said, “Not good enough.” That is, too big a gamble, too many chances for something to go wrong, and far too much faith in plastics.

Here is what I ended up doing, and once the process was worked out, it took all of five minutes to set up. First, an extra strap holding each rear wheel to the rack. Then, a heavier tie-down connecting the roof rails around each bike frame, and drawn taut with a simple come-along. Rope would have done just as well. Finally, bungee cords holding the pedals in position, reducing the chance that they could start spinning from air flow, throw the chain off, and create a rooftop mess. All of this worked flawlessly on the drive from Whistler to Prince George, one hundred kilometres of which is the beautiful and winding Duffy Lake Road across the coastal mountains.

Obsession being what it is, I started paying a lot more attention to how other people had secured their bicycles on the roofs or backs of vehicles. Out of the hundreds of examples observed, perhaps three had even one single extra tie-down. Some of the bicycles were swaying alarmingly over bumps. Think of bending a wire coat hanger. There are only so many fatigue cycles before it breaks. This is the equivalent of having no safety chain, or an inadequate one, on a trailer. If a bike breaks free and flies into a farmer’s field, killing his prize cow, it is a fair bet the person who fastened the thing to the car or truck could be considered liable. Also, minus one bicycle.

Professional risk takers, whether whitewater kayakers, mountain climbers, or racing drivers, are inherently cautious people. That is why we have the term “calculated risk.” Amateurs tend towards going with the feeling of the moment, and generally don’t prepare very well. These are the folks we rescue in the mountains because they thought the day would stay sunny, the trail would be well posted, and running shoes should be adequate for a light hike. They are also the ones most likely to have stuff, whether bikes, canoes, or souvenir lobster pots, inadvertently fly off of roof racks.

Let’s bring a more positive meaning to the phrase “Tie one on.”
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INDUSTRY NOTES

Ford appears set to flog both Jaguar and Land Rover, which are steady money-losers, but for now, is hanging on to Volvo. Ford actually turned a small profit this past quarter, but expects to lose money again in the near future, while re-structuring continues.

Volvo has maintained a lot of independence, and many of Ford’s new products share a lot of Volvo technology. The Swedish company is, according to StrategicVision, the most trusted car maker in the world, way ahead of second place Toyota. Now if Volvo could match the near-faultless build quality of a Lexus, that lead might even grow.

If Ford sells, interested companies include Volvo’s Truck Division, which is doing very well, or perhaps BMW.

Click the picture or this link for our site.

Sidorov Advanced Driver Training: Update and Driving TipImage

Switches and Other Controls A racing driver or fighter pilot needs to be totally familiar with the cockpit environment. The same is true for road drivers. Practice this while stationary. Without looking down, identify the location and operation of every important control. Time spent fumbling around is a dangerous distraction.

One more part of being a complete and skilled driver.

Our teenage and new driver clinics are up and running. For more information, please check our website.

On behalf of the team, have a safe and enjoyable summer.

Alan Sidorov

http://www.sidorovprecisiondrivertraining.ca

February 4, 2007

February 2007 Newsletter

Filed under: Uncategorized — spdt @ 6:18 am

Welcome to our winter update.

Long-time subscribers will notice that we are sending this newsletter
as Sidorov Advanced Driver Training, instead of Sidorov Precision
Driver Training which is the title of our web site.

The former is a legal DBA, or “doing business as” name, for Sidorov
Sports Consultants Inc. This reflects that we are now operating some
training schools at the Pemberton Airport in British Columbia’s Sea to
Sky country. Precision was taken in the provincial registry, advanced
was not.

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Newsletter, February 2007
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THE CANADIAN DRIVING PACKAGE

If I were a manufacturer looking to focus on the Canadian market, this
is what I would put on a vehicle, either as standard equipment or as a
package.

HEADLIGHT WASHERS. I have these on my current Volvo Turbo all-wheel
drive wagon, and they are great. Driving north a couple of weeks ago,
we were faced with the usual winter muck, slime and shrapnel. Every
twenty minutes or so I gave the headlights a rinse. The result was an
instant improvement in light output, without the need to stop at the
side of the road and wipe the lenses clean.

FUNCTIONAL MUDFLAPS. Not only do these make it safer for other
vehicles, as well as pedestrians, by reducing spray and flying debris,
they cut down on damage to your vehicle’s paint and underbody.

SEAT HEATERS. Once you’ve tried them on a minus 25 morning, you’ll
understand.

HEATED SIDE MIRRORS. Mirrors are tough to scrape properly, but crucial
to maintaining that 360 degree bubble of awareness around your
vehicle.

REALLY GOOD DEFOGGERS. What works in Tulsa or Paris may not do the job
in Winnipeg.

SKID PLATES OR OTHER UNDERBODY PROTECTION. Those lumps of snow and ice
that decorate our winter streets can literally gut a car by gouging
the oil pan, or breaking other delicate parts. You may be able to get
these plates standard on something like a Subaru Outback, or as an
aftermarket piece..

Beyond that, bulletproof front glass would be nice. A couple of winter
road trips have left my windshield  looking like a road map of
Ontario.

HOW OTHER COUNTRIES DEAL WITH DRIVING SAFETY

In Germany, prospective new drivers must take a first aid course,
aimed at dealing with vehicle crash trauma, before they can apply for
a provisional learner’s licence.

Sweden requires several hours of skid pad/slippery conditions
training, as well as night driving practice, as a prerequisite to
taking a driver’s test.

Many European countries are focusing on attitude, as well as skill
building. In Denmark, the requirement is four to five 45 minute skid
pad, or skid pan, sessions. In addition, there is considerable
emphasis on the psychology of performance, self-assessment, social
skills, and environmentally responsible driving.

In Sweden, the program that covers all aspects of road safety is
called Vision Zero. No, this doesn’t refer to certain politician’s
degree of insight. It states, simply, that the goal is to reduce
traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero.

Food for thought.

SHRINKING COMPANIES

Through a combination of years of indifferent design as well as
corporate myopia, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler are down to an
all-time low portion of the North American market. While all three
offer some good products, many other manufacturers simply design,
produce, and service to a higher level. As consumers, we don’t want to
use our money as a sympathy vote.

For those who don’t think these companies could disappear, I suggest a
look at the British automobile industry. Where are Austin, Morris,
Hillman, and so many others? Bentley and Rolls-Royce are owned by
Volkswagen AG and BMW respectively.

Interestingly, what has remained, and grown stronger, is the British
boutique car industry. Small manufacturers, especially of lightweight,
hand-crafted sports cars like Noble, Caterham, Morgan, and Marcos, are
still plying their wares. Let’s hope the Big Three can do better than
downsizing quite that much.

OBEYING ORDERS

This came across the Reuters news feed just after I finished an
article on the subject. Yet another German motorist crashed because he
turned when instructed to by the vehicle’s navigation system. In this
case, he crossed an empty field and smacked into a building of some
sort. Are we really becoming so reliant on technology that we won’t
question an order from a dashboard-mounted electronic device?     www.spdt.ca
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 Our Driving Tips page is due to be featured on the Canadian
Association of Road Safety Professionals website this month. If you
have any questions, or are looking for specific driving information,
please send an e-mail.

December 9, 2006

SPDT Performance Driving Technologies

Filed under: advanced driving — spdt @ 5:50 pm

We operate two divisions that deal with precision driving. Our winter driving programs, risk management courses, skill and tactics clinics, and other training seminars operate under Sidorov Advanced Driver Training.

Development testing, racing, coaching other racing drivers, as well as film and television work operate as SPDT Performance Driving Technologies.

We are members of the British Columbia Safety Council and the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals.

Our courses in the Whistler/Pemberton area of British Columbia’s beautiful Sea to Sky corridor are conducted at Spruce Grove in Whistler and at the Pemberton Airport. The airport is in a spectacular valley, near the Village of Pemberton, which can serve as the base for many other activities including golfing, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding.

November 21, 2006

In a Flap

Filed under: adventure travel, social commentary — spdt @ 2:24 am

It seems to me the trucking industry should be spending more time on safety issues than on lobbying. It is unfortunate that the whole business operates under a sketchy initial premise, one that comes from the United States military-industrial complex, or at least it did at one time.

The military wanted Interstate highways, modeled after the German autobahns that were so useful in shipping war materials. As part of all this, the trucking industry was heavily subsidised, and this lasted for a few decades. Therefore trucking companies grew in a false paradise, and now they are dealing with a harsher reality, one in which profits are hard to come by.

This is no excuse to neglect safety, including the health and fatigue levels of drivers, general maintenance, and to top it all off, mudflaps.

There are some really good mudflaps available,  ones that almost enclose the wheels. This prevents massive curtains of spray during rain or snow, minimizes flying rocks and other debris, and also mitigates the danger of flying tread when a tire comes apart.

In Northern Canada it is not unusual to have to replace the windshield on an annual basis. Most of this damage, as well as paint chips, broken headlights, and the like, are the result of rocks launched from semis or other trucks with inadequate mudflaps.

Regular motorists shouldn’t have to endure that sort of shooting gallery. Besides, those flying rocks and treads could kill a cyclist or pedestrian.

October 1, 2006

Three Cures In One

Filed under: advanced driving, social commentary — spdt @ 3:19 am

I cannot believe how many people choose to use drive-through windows at fast food joints, coffee shops, liquor stores, and perhaps even barbers or hairdressers. I can understand this if the weather is truly horrible or the store in question is in a bad neighbourhood, but otherwise this is motor-driven laziness.

Think of three of the many major issues facing our part of the planet these days. Obesity is at an all time high, fuel may be becoming scarce, and pollution continues to mess up the air we breathe.

Park and walk. Preferably, park far away. How often is it that one action can make a dent, no matter how small, in three major problems?

September 15, 2006

September Newsletter

Filed under: advanced driving, social commentary — spdt @ 8:56 pm

Sidorov Precision Driver Training Issue 5/September 14, 2006

*Changes at Ford

Bill Ford has stepped down as the CEO of the company that
bears his name. The interesting part is that his
replacement, Alan Mulally, does not come from the
automotive industry but from Boeing. I guess that is a sign
of the desperation we see in the North American auto
industry, or at least from the Big Three. Well, perhaps we
can leave Daimler Chrysler out of this. Even though many
thought the combining of the two companies was a merger, it
was a takeover by the German giant. I was doing development
work for the old Chrysler Corporation at the time, and
watched a lot of people walk the plank. Bill Ford will stay
around in some sort of capacity. Meanwhile, the auto giant’s
new Save Our Company program, Way Forward, starts by
chopping 30,000 jobs. There’s a fair chance Ford will sell
Aston Martin and perhaps Jaguar as well.

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*Volvo Wins

Recently, a Volvo racing car (not an oxymoron), driven by
Michael Galati, won a World Challenge GT race. The event
was run at Mosport, Ontario, on September 2 2006, in the
pouring rain. Other cars in the field included Dodge Vipers
and various exotic Porsches, plus a couple of Cadillacs (not
a misprint) including one driven by my friend Ron Fellows.
Aided by all-wheel-drive, the racing Volvo, based on the
S60R model, made a demon start, and disappeared into the
lead. On the last lap one of the turbos blew, but the
driver did an excellent job of nursing the thing home.

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*That Music Thing

It is too late to put the genie back into the bottle, but
here is a thought. Way back when the first car radios made
the scene, there should have been a decibel level imposed.
My police officer friends go nuts when they have the siren
on, but some cool dude can’t hear because the tunes are
cranked so high. There is nothing wrong with high quality
music in a car, as long as it is quiet enough that more
important driving-related sounds can be heard. I know this
line of thinking will be unpopular with many. Sorry folks,
I’m a professional driver, and consider the driving part
the important bit when a vehicle is in motion.

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We welcome your comments. Our website, www.spdt.ca, has a
section of archived articles as well.

August 29, 2006

Sleepy Truck Drivers

Filed under: advanced driving, social commentary, Uncategorized — spdt @ 12:55 am

A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania comes up with the conclusion that one out of ten long distance truck drivers may be dangerously sleep deprived. Given the sort of dent a truck can put in the landscape, not to mention other vehicles, this is a major concern.

 It is also worth noting that a large number of those driving ordinary vehicles may be impaired by lack of sleep. Not a terribly comforting thought. Between fatigue, lack of basic skills, multi-tasking, and brain numbing stereos, it is no wonder crashes are still a leading cause of death.

 There is no easy answer to the problem, which seems increasingly rooted in our culture. We hustle around, always busy, then try desperately to relax in those small intervals of free time or vacation. None of this gets better until we realise we are our own puppeteers, forcing this mindless dance.

Driving or even living better requires a more mindful approach. Make what is happening now important, not the stuff at either end.

Inaccurate Reporting Can Be Dangerous

Filed under: advanced driving, social commentary, Uncategorized — spdt @ 12:20 am

Trusting the News

A common saying among racing drivers in
England is “Don’t believe everything you read in the comics.” In this case, that applies to racing papers and magazines as well as the sports sections of the daily print media. We said this as a form of self-protection. If you were touted as star material one weekend, and believed it, you were then obligated to do the same at the next event when you might be made to look like a total prat. The truth was likely to lie somewhere between the two.

A variation of inaccurate reporting applies in other situations. Anyone who has been interviewed knows the danger of being misquoted. The value of whatever information is passed along is largely dependent on the work ethic of the individual reporter. It is their responsibility to double-check facts, eliminate potential misunderstandings, and so on. This is difficult at times because it is open to a degree of interpretation. I only give another writer a public thrashing when misinformation becomes potentially dangerous.

While surfing the net I came across an article in Careers Journal.com, which is part of the Wall Street Journal. The subject was how large companies are sending employees to advanced driver training schools. It turns out that in the States, and presumably in
Canada, crashes are the leading cause of death among workers in clerical and professional specialty jobs, and the second leading cause of death for executives, sales workers, and technicians. The article gave the source for this as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is interesting, because you might want to think of injury in a car wreck as being a preventable disease.

I read further, since a large part of what my company, Sidorov Precision Driver Training, does is safety, risk management and skill development programs for businesses and corporations.  There was a lot of good information in the piece, but a couple of bits that were dangerously wrong. One was about wheel handling, claiming that modern cars have precision steering that needs little hand movement. The correct answer is, some do and some don’t. The big mistake, and the one that set off alarm bells, was in the section on skid control. The article claimed that steering into the skid was only true for rear wheel drive cars, while doing this in a front drive car will send you in the wrong direction. No mention of all-wheel drive, or a vehicle coasting down a hill in neutral. In addition, no mention of whether we were dealing with a front wheel or rear wheel skid, though we have to assume the latter.

 “Steering into the skid” may not be the clearest terminology. What it really means is steering where you want the car to go, a technique that will serve well with any drive system. This is mentioned later in the piece, but I suspect what will stick with most readers is that in a skid, front drive cars need to be corrected by turning the wheel in the opposite direction to what they would have done in Dad’s old Dodge Monaco. Total rubbish, though I’ve had fairly bright people, including doctors, lawyers and the like, ask me about this during precision driving schools. Probably the best way to figure this out for yourself, which should take about fifteen seconds, is to borrow a kid’s model car. Draw a road on a piece of paper, put the car sideways as though the rear wheels have started to skid, then decide where you would like the front wheels to be pointing. This will also help understand the importance of dealing with the car’s rebound in order to avoid “fishtailing”.

I wrote to both the reporter and the editor of the paper. I doubt the Wall Street Journal will publish any sort of correction, though I did get a letter back from an intern saying he would bring the matter to the writer’s attention. Don’t hold your breath. Playing with a model car in order to gain a bit of technical understanding is probably beneath that august chronicle’s dignity.

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