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Last weekend I attended the 2013 Shell Helix D-Academy defensive driving course, a program that involves a lot of practicals and not just the typical “drive around the city and explain what you see” kinda deal.

The 1-day program is separated into classroom and several practical sessions. I just want to share a little on what I learned and urge that if you are a daily driver, try to get yourself into one of these, or any defensive driving classes for that matter in the interest of self improvement. No matter how well we think we are as a driver (and that everyone else is an idiot on the road), there’re always things we can learn when it comes to  safer driving.

Shell Helix D-Academy defensive driving course at MAEPS
Shell Helix D-Academy defensive driving course at MAEPS

In the classroom session conducted by Harvinder Singh of, we were taught the proper seating positions, ways to avoid obstacles, and technologies such as ABS, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), and even safety tips for female drivers.

During the practical, we covered several topics:

Seating Position: the correct seating position is one that allows you to rest the wrist on the top of the steering wheel while seated relatively upright, and be able to depress the brake fully while not having your leg fully straighten. Adjust the steering wheel and/or the seat to achieve this.

Steering Wheel Position: always keep the hands on 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock position, and use the hand-over-hand method while turning the wheels. This will ensure the fastest response in obstacle avoidance while maintaining proper control at all time.

Hyundai Veloster and i10 are among the cars we used
Hyundai Veloster and i10 are among the cars we used

Understeering and Oversteering: In this two part practical, we learned how to handle the front-wheel drive car (in this case, the Hyundai i10) while understeering or oversteering incidences occur. For the most part, taking the foot off the gas and blipping the brakes a little while steering to the right direction will fix the problem. We also tried the same exercised with the Elantra and experienced how the ESC system helps in these situations.

Obstacle Avoidance: Drive the car at a certain speed, and make a quick left and right turn to avoid obstacle on the road (a cone in this case), this exercise demonstrated the advantage of proper steering method to the fullest extend.

Steering During Emergency Brake: In this exercise, we had to apply the brake fully while avoiding the obstacle. This showcases that modern cars equipped with ABS and its ability to steer under hard braking. The video above is a failed attempt (slow steering response)

Slalom Course: Finally, a slalom course that allowed us to put everything that we learned into use. We did a practice run and a couple timed run on the Hyundai Veloster. Most everyone managed to improve their time on the second run, it was like a mini Gymkhana competition, it was fun!

At the end of the day, we each received a completion certificate and a bottle of 4 liter Shell Helix Ultra 5W-40 fully synthetic engine oil. I’d say that was a very fruitful Saturday!


with Charly Boorman, Freedom Riders Asia. I won a LEGO set too

In a separate event by Shell Lubricants division a couple months ago, I got to meet the host of Freedom Riders Asia, Charley Brooman, live in person. The six episod program takes the audience across 6 different countries in Asia while on two wheels. The countries are Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Vietnam and Thailand.

The program airs on STAR Sports channel.

I am a bit of a petrol head, in my drive way is an MR2 turbo, an old two seater that looks pretty decent, drives pretty fast, and basically as practical as a speedy bicycle with a basket. While I love my MR2, I had always wanted a Lotus, the little car maker that is incredibly, owned by Proton, and produces cars that can only be described as sex on wheels.

So when I was invited to join the Shell Helix Invasion Tour to Johor Bahru driving a Lotus, I jumped on the opportunity straight away.

Before you continue reading, for those who are the fan of TL;DR, may I suggest viewing this video that I spent half an hour creating?

some of the supercars that participated in the tour
some of the supercars that participated in the tour

Our journey started at Proton Centre of Excellence in Shah Alam on Saturday morning, and in the compound were over 35 speed demons – Ferrari, Lamboghini, Aston Martin, Audi R8, Porsche 911 GT3, Nissan GTR, BMW M3, Lotus Evora and Exige.

I felt like kids in a candy store, and Haze found a lot of sketching subjects.

Lotus, the "almost" affordable dream car of mine
Lotus, the “almost” affordable dream car of mine. Evora, Exige

Our ride was the Lotus Evora – a mid engine sports car with 3.5 Liter V6 motor churning a respectable 280 PS. It had a 6 speed IPS automatic and is capable of launching from 0-100 in 4.9 seconds with a top speed of 260 km/h.This car gets it done with a perfect balance of grace and power, it was at the same time very comfortable and luxurious.

The stereo system is respectable, interior trimming simplistic yet elegant, and getting in and out doesn’t require you to be a gymnast (like an Elise or Exige would).

It is also the only Lotus with 2+2 configuration (though the rear seats are only good enough if you’re around Audrey’s size, but it sure was handy as luggage space).

In short, I want it! (only if it isn’t also over RM 400k+ a pop *gulp*)

Thank you Lotus Malaysia for loaning this car. 😀

the first stop was Melacca
the first stop was Melacca

So off we went on the North South highway with the help of police escort service (I last had this at BMW drive, it was a godsend).

A moment later (yes, a moment later), we reached our first stop at Ayer Keroh Shell station for a fuel refill. It was a chance to allow my heart to slow down a little bit from pumping too fast driving the Evora. That was because the convoy wasn’t exactly slow moving, I had to be on my toes to keep up.

We then stopped by Movida at Hatten Square in Melaka from lunch. With all these cars parked right outside the mall, we managed to draw quite a crowd of passerby eager to snap photos.

p/s: I’ve heard the Lotus could do up to 240 km/h with ease.

at Kelab Alami at Tanjung Kupang, South Johor
at Kelab Alami at Tanjung Kupang, South Johor

After lunch and a bit of chillax at Movida, the convoy went South Bound again.

Zoom zoom zoom….

Our next meeting point was Gelang Patah R&R, but due to a bit of confusion, the group somehow got split into 3, and we were among one of the groups that went into Gelang Patah town and got lost. An hour or so later, however, we managed to regroup, refuel, and head to the most important destination of the trip – Kelab Alami at Tanjung Kupang with the help of police escort.

the kids giving us a proper class on nature itself
13 different kids giving us a proper class on nature itself

Formed in 2009 by Cikgu Bakhtiar Jaffar, Kelab Alami is a centre for youth development first created with the help of Shell Malaysia Sustainable Development Grants Programme 2009. The club is an outlet for (mostly poor) kids around the area to learn about environment awareness and to study the ecosystem around the Singapore Strait and Sungai Pulai.

Over a dozen kids at the club took turn to educate us about the geography as well as the flora and fauna of the area – from the various sea grass species to dugong (manatee) to shell fish. It was amazing to see rural kids being empowered and given chance to participate in something like this, not to mention that we got quite a bit of a lesson ourselves.

We were going to take the kids for a ride in the cars, but unfortunately it started pouring, gahhh. We had to jet off after the presentation by the kids.

the BBQ buffet dinner at Thistle JB was delicious
the BBQ buffet dinner at Thistle JB was delicious

Part of the convoy stayed at Thistle Hotel with some of us placed at Mutiara Hotel, but we had dinner as a group at Thistle.

Their BBQ buffet dinner was fantastic, the grilled lobsters and other seafood were much appreciated after a long day’s hard work (yeah right).

Many participants headed to The Zon for after dinner party, but Haze and I decided to head back to the hotel for an earlier snooze instead. We were pretty tired thanks to a few days of sleep deprivation (she was rushing for a Paint Lust project).

a mini autocross session with the Evora & other participants
a mini autocross session with the Evora & other cars participanting

The next morning, we head to Danga Bay for a mini autocross competition. A manual Evora was fitted with less grippy tires for the purpose.

We were given a couple demo runs by Lotus Malaysia’s Ong Kah Beng, and then off we went taking turns on the course. While not the first time witnessing these type of events, I popped my virginity in Autocross this time, and I did it with style by going on the completely wrong route on my first trial.

who would have thought I'd get a trophy too? 3rd place (out of 6.. hehe)
who would have thought I’d get a trophy too? 3rd place (out of 6.. hehe)

Thankfully, I somehow managed to improved my time on the subsequent runs and came in 3rd place among the media members (only 6 of us particpated, hehe). In the photo above, I was trying to not looked completely embarrassed.

After that, we made our way home and surrendered the car to Lotus Malaysia at Proton Centre of Excellent with a heavy heart. I will miss the Evora, and damn it I really want an Elise now.

Thank you Kong, Shell Helix, Zero To Hundred, and Lotus Malaysia for this opportunity.