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The Mental Game
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SKIING... Whistler Blackcomb Snow School
June 2006 Newsletter
*Most Wrecks Are Avoidable
One of my colleagues at the Skip Barber Racing School was
prone to flatly stating that 100% of motor vehicle crashes
are avoidable. In a sense he was correct. A skillful
driver, paying attention, in a well maintained car, should
be able to stay out of trouble. This same instructor did
manage to prang an M3 BMW while doing a smoky powerslide
for the cameras. He probably should have resisted waving at
the crowd and kept both hands on the wheel.
The moral of the story is that cheap shallow showing-off is
great fun if all goes well.
Realistically, given the advanced safety features and
handling of today's cars, there should be no more than a
handful of collisions in this country per year. That people
are killed and maimed on our streets and highways in large
numbers is anything but an accident. As simplistic as it
sounds, we need to pay much more attention to driving than
is currently the case.
Occasionally, when a student is doing well on the skid pad,
I will turn on the car radio. As a training tactic, this
tends to work best with the young and cool, who seem to
assume that a vehicle cannot be moved without the stereo
blasting. Inevitably the result is a series of spins. Loud
music in a vehicle is bound to hurt your driving skills. If
it helped, we would be playing tunes in racing cars. Imagine
that as an excuse. "Dude, I don't know what happened. I must
have missed turn two, but the Grateful Dead were awesome."
Beyond music, we have to deal with distractions like
cellular phones, faxes, notepaper, and passengers. As a
first step towards driving better, try to avoid turning for
that meaningful eye contact with the front seat passenger.
It feels weird, but will help you understand where a
driver's focus should be.
*The Koreans Are Here
Japanese vehicles won all ten categories in the year's best
car ratings, as picked by Consumer Reports magazine. No big
surprise there. In the mid-nineties I did a few Auto Show
reports for a local television station. At one of these
events, the Toyota stand was beside those of Lincoln and
Cadillac. Even from a distance, it was easy to see that the
base Corolla was built to a higher quality standard than the
two luxury models. That doesn't make the domestic brands bad
cars, but JD Power surveys notwithstanding, they still have
ground to make up.
Now we have the Koreans emerging as truly world class
competitors. I was involved with Samsung when they looked
at building cars. The company's capabilities were obvious,
even though they chose not to go ahead with the project. An
added factor is that many Koreans don't much care for the
Japanese, and would love to outdo them in the marketplace.
Anyone who remembers the early Hyundais and Daewoos, (the
latter rebadged by GM as the Pontiac LeMans) will be
astonished at how they have grown up. When people ask me
for a car recommendation these days, I suggest they at
least take a look at Kia and Hyundai, which are sister
companies. Something like a Kia Spectra 5 offers value for
money, decent dynamics, and a conspicuous absence of that
penalty box feeling, allied with a great warranty.
A couple of classes upwards, the Hyundai Sonata is worth a
look. No, I don't own one, and there are many other great
cars on the market. Vehicles are a matter of personal
preference, but when dealing with the pocketbook, it is not
a bad idea to look past old stereotypes and prejudices.
*The Beckham Code
The story goes that clever thieves have relieved
international football star David Beckham of a couple of
fancy cars. Many of today's high-end vehicles have done
away with the ignition key in favour of a remote, which
communicates with the car when the owner approaches.
Presumably this causes the vehicle's computer to unlock the
doors, start the air conditioning, and produce caviar on
toast for all passengers.
The fly in the fish eggs, apparently, is that skilled
electronics geeks can build machines to read the code as
well. All that is required is that they are standing in the
vicinity when the owner is near the vehicle. That would make
it easy to steal the car at a later date.
I don't know if this is true. It could be an
alligators-in-the-sewer story, one more urban legend in the
making. Kind of fun, though. The brave new world of
technology is far from flawless, as any home computer user
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