Now I know that what I’m about to say is contentious, but let me tell you all about a trick I learnt barreling around Zwartkop Raceway recently.
You know how every instructor, and every advanced driving school, and every person you know who enjoys a bit of speed has always warned you to never, ever brake mid-corner as it unsettles the car? Well yes, they’re right, but have they ever asked you to try carrying a bit of light braking through the corner?
I know, it sounded a bit suicidal to me too, but it’s actually not brain surgery and works a charm. Sure, you need to get rid of enough speed with hard braking before the corner, but holding on to a bit of light braking into the corner forces weight to the front, meaning more traction through the front wheels and believe it or not, more stability.
It’s strange and involves a bit of re-training of both your mind and your right foot, but it’s worth a shot.
Even more interesting was that all of this was happening, literally, in the dark.
BMW have become quite proud of their adaptive headlight technology and bravely run full-on track courses at night to prove it.
Race tracks are far from famous for streetlights above apexes - unless you’re an F1 driver negotiating corners through night races such as Singapore or Abu Dhabi that is - meaning that BMW’s adaptive lights needed to be on the money or things could get hairy.
Having said that, the reflective cones on the apexes helped, as did the reference points you tend to create – such as the illuminated Ford sign, the end of a white wall, a screaming passenger, the sudden sight of kitty litter - they all help.
But in fairness, those swivelling lights highlighting the apex cone that bit earlier as you enter the corner helps a whole lot. It’s technology you don’t always notice working unless you’re in a really dark and high-speed environment such as this - but even at slow speeds we had the headlight globes dancing like ballerinas on ice.
DRIVING HABITS CHANGE
Interestingly, here’s two pieces of advice very few Beemer salesmen tell you about this tech when driving your new car off the showroom floor. One: it’s only adaptive if the light switch is in the auto setting - those of you who habitually switch lights on and off manually have pensioned the technology off. Two: the brights in a right-hand drive car will only swivel left, to aid oncoming traffic (and vice-versa in a left-hand drive car) – pity racetracks don’t conform to one-sided corners (the “normal” lights swivel both ways).
Also interesting is how your driving habits change at night, which becomes more noticeable when you have free reign on a track. Your reaction time decreases and general hesitation increases because you can’t see far ahead, you battle to memorise the corners (luckily we’ve spent a fair amount of time at Zwartkops), and you can get easily disoriented – like the time I forgot about the last corner before the main straight. Poor instructor.
Call BMW Driver Training on 011-564-5088 and ask for the Night Track Experience course. It costs R2350 per driver and needs 18 bookings to make it happen - but it’s definitely one for any petrolhead’s bucket list. -Star Motoring