Orange cones and other peoples' Audis

By David Linklater

Getting around the track without killing a few cones is not as easy as you might think. Photo / Lee Howell/Kaptured.com
Getting around the track without killing a few cones is not as easy as you might think. Photo / Lee Howell/Kaptured.com

Advanced driver training in any form is worthwhile. But there's driver training, and then there's driver training with fast, expensive cars. And better yet, somebody else's fast, expensive cars.

You're usually on to a winner when you participate in a training course run by a car company, because not only do you get the worthy upskilling box ticked, you're also embedded in a situation where education is matched in equal measure by entertainment.

You might be a student for the day, but you're also a paying customer and it's in your hosts' best interests to make sure you have a good time - and be lured by the latest products.

These types of events are becoming an integral part of business for prestige brands in particular, as they offer something special to customers. Audi, BMW, Porsche - they all do it.

This year, Audi New Zealand is upping the ante and boosting the local market for large orange cones. Launched at Hampton Downs last month was Audi Drive Experience, an amalgam of the previous Track Experience and Ice Experience programmes.

Same basic events, but with two major changes. First, the Experience has adopted a roadshow-type ethos, with instructors and cars moving around the country from Hampton Downs near Auckland, to Taupo, Manfeild, Ruapuna and the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds (for ice driving) from now until late in October.

The second big change is especially significant. While most similar programmes are available only to a brand's new-car customers - as has been the case for Audi to date - the latest Drive Experience is now open to anybody willing to book a place and pay the fees. A fleet of the latest Audi models is provided.

What it costs depends on what you choose to do. The entry-level Track Experience starts at $550 for a half-day, while Track Experience Pro is $800 for a full day (see audi.co.nz/drive).

The R Experience, with the marque's high-performance machines, is $1999, while Ice Experience at the SHPG costs $2500 to $3500, depending on the course you choose.

It's all good fun and quite useful in sharpening skills. The launch event held at Hampton Downs was typical of a Track Experience programme: a small amount of talking by instructors to start (basics such as seating position and track safety), then lots of hands-on help on the track.

It's never dull.

Many of the simple entry-level driving exercises are still enough to get the adrenalin pumping.

An emergency lane-change on a partially wet surface at 100km/h is enough to throw a car sideways, for example.

Cones die, of course. As does a little bit of self esteem for certain members of the motoring media who have done these courses many times and still find they're not much good at basic car control and listening to instructions.

- NZ Herald

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