Can you imagine anything more challenging than spending a day in the passenger seat of a car piloted on a race track by a neophyte high-school driver?
Kind of takes you back to those driver-ed experiences where an ashen-faced, jittery instructor-oftentimes a parent-repeatedly screams, ``Hit the brake. HIT THE BRAKE!''
But Geoff Lee, president and general manager of the Panoz Racing School in Braselton, Ga., at the Road Atlanta race circuit, actually likes the opportunities an event like Pirelli Tire North America's ``Controlled Driving Days'' provides. He and a crew recently taught responsible and safe driving to a group of students at the track.
Earlier this year, he told Tire Business that Panoz's ``Audi Driving Experience'' puts young drivers in extreme but safe situations, learning vehicle dynamics in a classroom, avoidance techniques and defensive driving. ``It's a great way to teach kids respect for a car-without hitting a mailbox.
``Our school is good at putting the kids in a physiological state of having to deal with high-adrenaline situations, then reacting in a split second, rather than taking time to think. Their eyes, hands and feet need to do something and the right thing the first time.''
He said Pirelli is ``doing something unique, putting students in $40,000 vehicles with tires that probably won't last a day because of what we put them through. For Pirelli to take this on is a great goodwill gesture.''
Chief driving instructor Joe Foster said the instructors ``put together an appetizer plate''-skid control exercises on a wet pad to illustrate over- and understeer; emergency lane changes; emergency wet and dry braking; off-road control recovery after a vehicle drifts onto a berm. ``We use one long-suffering car to do that,'' he joked.
Mr. Lee said the school tries ``to have kids leave with everything they need to protect themselves on the road.''
What Pirelli is doing, he added, ``is really unique. We're not inexpensive.'' The course's typical cost is $500 a day per teen. ``It's one of the few times I can recall when a company has reached out and provided this.''