Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Tag / driving

Earlier this month I got a call from Sashi of BMW asking if I was free the next Tuesday. I knew immediately that it was going to be something special, I agreed without thinking twice. As it turned out, together with Gareth, Kim, and a bunch of other more serious media representatives, Haze and I were invited to the first ever MINI Driver Training at Sepang International Circuit.

The reason it took me a while to blog this entry was that Haze went absolutely perfectionist and took quite a bit of time to edit the 4-minute video above. Please view the clip in its entirety, I guarantee that it is almost as awesome as the trailer of Inception.

The videos were mainly shot with 2 GoPro cameras mounted on various spots both in and outside the MINI we drove. Haze bought the cameras as a gift to us not long ago, and it couldn’t have been better timed. The (very few) lower quality segments were shot with the Canon S90.

Mini Driver Training
classroom training, and check out the row of MINI Cooper S

The day started super early, earlier than my usual work day. BMW had it all over planned yet again (just like my BMW Drive experience), as we were getting close to Sepang International Circuit, there were already signs ala Malay wedding style guiding us to the paddock area of the track.

We were then given our individual name tags, breakfast, and then followed by a brief but very informative session of theory in the classroom. We learnt about how to seat adjustments, proper way of using the steering wheels, reaction time, braking distance, and other things that we often thought we know but actually we might have been doing it in the wrong way all these while.

Mini Cooper S - oversteering training
Mini Cooper S – oversteering lesson

After a little refreshment (catered by Shangri-la no less), it was time for hands on lesson. We first started with the slalom course to get familiarized  with the car and the proper way of handling the steering wheel. Every car were equipped with a walkie talkie with the instructors constantly giving us feedbacks and words of encouragements (as well as warnings, of course.)

Mini Cooper S - driver training at Sepang
Mini Cooper S – with 184 hp under the hood

We then split into two groups of 6 cars and headed to different lessons.

Our first was emergency lane change. It is a technique of switching lane in a very fast manner by turning the wheel 180 degree to each side in one very rapid maneuver. We did it progressively faster and had to avoid killing Luigi and Mario (the cones).

Then it was straight line braking. Slamming the brake hard as we could and getting to know how that feel and how much distance the car would travel before it stops. For example, from 30 km/h it takes only 3 meter, but at 60 km/h it’s a whopping 12 meter. Doubling the speed takes 4 times as far to stop the car!

Haze, KY, Gareth, Kimberly
Haze & KY, Gareth & Kim

Next was understeering and how to counter it. This was done by spraying some water on the road to reduce traction.

After that we combined the earlier two techniques and did the brake and swerve maneuver. A technique that could very well save our lives in emergency situations. Knowing what to do during emergency is one thing, but without practiced it is that much harder to execute in real life situations.

The most fun lesson (and probably the most useless) was the Agent Turn. We were taught how to start the car in reverse and flip it around to continue in straight line in one super cool and stomach churning move. It was awesome, I seriously want to try it with my car one of these days.

Mini Cooper S at Sepang International Circuit
MINI at Sepang Track

After a whole day’s lesson, it was time to put everything to test. This came in the form of the MINI Challenge contest. We were given two practice and two timed run on the slalom course. I came up on top with the time of 20.38 (as recorded by the trainers) in our group. Gareth and Haze finished 2nd and 3rd in our group too.

We did pretty well, though the other group consists of mostly motoring journalists had better time, oh well…

KY and Haze winning Mini Challenge
Haze, Gareth, and I finished top 3 in our group!

After the certificate and prize giving ceremony, we were treated with a few rounds of driving on the Sepang International Circuit – the full track! This was the second time I had the chance to drive on the track, but the first time was only half the track and at night.

It was sheer joy driving the MINI on the track that’s as smooth as baby’s ass. I only wish we could have gone faster and push the car a little harder (but safety first I guess), it was awesome nonetheless.

GoPro wide shot
we were obviously happy max, thanks Sashi!

After the track, it was already time to go. I touched the MINI one last time before reluctantly got into my car and head back. The training costs something like RM 1.7k but I seriously think it was value for money.

The trainers are highly qualified and respected professionals like Ivan Khong (my fav sifu), Hammond Lai, Irwan, and Wong Kah Keen who weren’t only very good but injected joy and humor despite having to work under the hot sun while we hid in the comfort of air conditioned cars. The food was great, and you actually get to go all out in brand new MINIs too.

I highly recommend anyone who owns a MINI or who are going to have one to attend this course to know your car better. Others without a MINI could of course still benefit tremendously with this course.

When do we do this again, Sashi? 😀

Tire DOT codeDrivers will keep their tire pressure in optimum parameters, and make sure that the threads are still good, but most often than not, we overlook the other factor that tells us how good the tire is at holding the car on the road, its freshness.

As tires are made of rubber compound, and rubber tends to get stiffen over time, fresher tire will always yield better grips. As a rule of thumb, never buy tires that are manufactured more than 6 years ago, sitting on the shelves all these while.

Fortunately, the tire manufacture date is stamped on every tire as part of the DOT code. Look out for the 4 digit code (if it is 3 digit, your tire is already way too old, manufactured before the year 2000) stamped on the sidewall of the tire. The first two digits denote the week of birth, and the last two digits describing the year of birth.

In the accompanying picture, then, 3902 means this particular tire was manufactured on the 39th week of 2002. Dividing 39 by 4 (4 weeks a month) gets us 9.x, so it was produced sometimes in September, 2002. Simple as that.

So, next time when you put in new tires, make sure they are still new. If your current set of tires still has good threads left but are already over 6 years since it was produced, consider replacing them.

More info can be found on wikipedia Tire Code

It used to be that washing and waxing the car are seperate activities that can take up to a couple hours time. However, currently there are many 2-in-1 wash and wax car shampoo products on the market that claims to save you much trouble by having the ability to not only wash, but leave a wax-like coating over the vehicle after you’re done with it. Popular brands such as Kit and turtlewax carries them, too.

Sounds nice, right? Though it won’t leave your car as shiny as a real wax job, it does pretty good. Afterall, it’s not even half the effort anyway. This is all nice and dandy until I found out the small problem associated with using these type of product.

You see, whenever we wash the car, we tend to also use the same car shampoo for washing the windshield, and here lies the trouble. The 2-in-1 shampoo will leave the same wax-like coating all over your windshield, and when the it is raining and cold, you get very screwed up visibility problem. The windshiled will fog up from the outside, and the coating will serve as a very good surface for the fog to cloak up your window to the road. This is particulary evident while driving in low speed, using the wipers didn’t help much.

So, if you use these 2-in-1 wash and wax products, make sure you do not wash your windshield with the same product. Check out the photos below.

wash and wax, windshield fogged
normal windshield visibility

wash and wax, windshield fogged
windshield fogged up after using 2-in-1 wash and wax product