Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve lost control of a car at some point. You’re probably a car enthusiast, which means you’ve got an idea of what it’s like when things can go wrong because you, like me, like or at least once liked driving quickly. And once or maybe twice (or more), you overcooked it a bit.
While it stung on that day, now, that experience translates into an ever-lasting memory that could one day help you to make an informed decision as to what to do, should things go wrong behind the wheel again.
The same can’t be said for a very large portion of the British public. Your average motorist isn’t likely to be tempted into increasing apex speeds or ‘getting the arse out’, so they likely won’t understand what understeer or oversteer is. This means they’ll have little idea of what to do should they encounter either of them.
That’s why I’m proposing that we should follow suit of the Finnish and introduce skid pans to the UK driving test. For those not (un)lucky enough to have stuffed it into a hedge as a teenager, taking them to a safe, controlled and extremely lubricated environment provides them with the perfect place to experience how it happens.
Why am I harking on about this? I returned from such an experience yesterday, where I spent my first day on a proper skid pan at Thruxton’s state-of-the-art facility beside the famous racing track. I took my long-termer Subaru BRZ – because rear-wheel drive sports car – to see what all the fuss was about and - what an eye-opener.
I have always considered myself to be at least fairly handy behind the wheel, but on the skid pan, I had no answers for the ice-like surface. I’ve seen footage of people driving on ice, with standard tyres, elegantly. But I spent much of the afternoon rotating on a pivot that seemed to be bolted to the car’s bonnet badge.
More than making me dizzy, the skid pan allowed me to experience what it feels like to have a car so sideways that you have to look through the door window to control its path. It provided me with a scenario where I could learn what will happen if I charge up to a bend, hammer on the brakes and turn the wheel on black ice. You carry on going straight ahead, by the way.
This simple but highly educating experience was useful to me, but for someone who’s never experienced a spin in a car, it could one day prove to be life saving. The winter months are fast approaching. Has there ever been a better excuse to go and do some skids in preparation?