Advanced driving courses

A quick search on Google will reveal countless organisations which claim to provide ‘advanced driving’ courses. But what constitutes an advanced driving course, and what can you expect to learn from them?

We’ve split the available courses into four broad categories, as shown below:

  • Road / defensive driving focused
  • Car control focus
  • Track techniques
  • Race craft

…or a combination of the above

Road biased / defensive driving courses

Example topics covered

  • Attitude to driving
  • Observation and reading the road
  • Reacting to other road users
  • Safe, smooth driving techniques

Road biased courses tend to concentrate on making progress on the public roads while reducing the chances of an accident. In the UK, the basis of most courses is a system of defensive driving originally developed for police drivers called ‘roadcraft’. As a result, many of the instructors who run these courses are retired police drivers. This system of driving has a proven track record for safety and is especially useful for drivers who haven’t learned any track-based techniques such as heel and toe shifting.

Good defensive driving courses:

Institute of advanced motorists (IAM)
RoSPA

Car control focus

Example topics covered

  • Understeer
  • Oversteer
  • Braking technique
  • Smooth driving

For the purposes of this article, ‘car control’ means controlling the car at or near the limits of grip. Before embarking on any advanced course, drivers should at least be confident in the use of the basic controls of the car!

Courses with a car control focus are often the most fun, and incredibly valuable before learning to drive fast on the track. They are usually based on a large area of open tarmac or on specialist facilities such as skid pans, or low friction surfaces. When the limit of grip is exceeded on the road, understeer or oversteer usually results, and plenty of the course content will be dedicated to controlling these situation.

The skills you’ll learn also transfer to certain situations on the road, for example when encountering an icy patch or having to brake hard to avoid an unexpected hazard.

Track techniques

Example topics covered

  • Racing line
  • High speed cornering
  • Heel and toe
  • Front versus rear wheel drive techniques

Track based techniques can be taught equally well in a sports, racing or road car but here the emphasis is on speed. Learning the racing line is a crucial element to successful track driving and you’re likely to experience some demonstration laps to give you an idea of what’s required. Braking, apex and exit points are often marked out with cones and an instructor will usually sit with the driver throughout the course. Racing is usually not encouraged, but overtaking is common for the faster drivers.

Race craft

  • Attacking / defensive lines
  • Overtaking
  • Mechanical sympathy
  • The winning mentality

These courses build on your track driving skills and teach the techniques to successfully race other cars. These courses often use high performance karts rather than cars (for obvious reasons) but the techniques you’ll learn are transferable to any car. There is often a certain amount of theory to learn, so expect to sit in front of a whiteboard for at least some of the day. You should come away from these courses with a number of specialist track skills which will be useful if you indent to compete in motorsports.

When choosing an advanced driving course, make sure you understand the course content and learning outcomes to avoid disappointment on the day. Look for customer reviews online to ensure you get a reputable company, and have some objectives in mind to help the instructor shape the course to your requirements.

Have fun!