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.
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 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 – 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 & 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 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…
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.
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?