Bridgestone Potenza Driving Lesson-09 wm

Since 2008, Bridgestone has taken the initiative to teach drivers in Malaysia a little more about driving. The Potenza Driving Lesson, as it’s called, is fundamentally a basic defensive driving course aimed at equipping everyday drivers with on-demand driving skills when they are faced with unwanted situations on the road.

In conjunction with the launch of its latest Potenza Adrenalin RE003 road tyres, the company recently organised the Potenza Driving Lesson for both its customers and the media at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) with the presence of Jo Takegawa, MD of Bridgestone Tyre Sales (Malaysia) and Tengku Djan who was the lead driving instructor. Of course all four cars, a Proton Preve, Persona and two Honda Civics were all equipped with Potenza Adrenalin RE003 tyres.

After dividing us up into teams of four, we set off to an empty parking space scattered with cones and were given cars which played a specific role in the four-part course. We began with a briefing, where our instructor, Admi, who was also our team leader, took us through the basics of driving which included the proper upright sitting position, the proper way of wearing seat belts and gripping the steering.

Bridgestone Potenza Driving Lesson-13 wm

Setting off, we ventured onto the Slalom Course in a Proton Persona. This involved steering the car in and out of a zig-zag motion, the goal of course was to avoid dropping the set of cones in the middle. Sounds easy? Well, yes, but that’s only if you have the correct driving style. The steering technique that was recommended to us – the hand-over-hand method, one commonly used in performance driving.

This writer uses the ol’ push-and-pull technique, which although isn’t wrong, curbs the ability to turn fast smoothly. This was evident in the first run, when I clipped a number of cones – Admi eventually advised me to try out the hand-over-hand technique instead, and it worked. Even at higher speeds, I found out how much easier it was with this method, moving fluidly around the cones.

Next up was Threshold Braking, which was a little bit tricky. How do you perform an emergency brake without engaging the ABS? By finding and applying the right amount of pressure to the brakes. But why wouldn’t you want to engage the ABS? Well, to cut it straight, in the event of a full sudden halt, ABS works to lock and unlock the wheels, which isn’t really bringing the car to a stop, even though it will – eventually.

Bridgestone Potenza Driving Lesson-10 wm

Threshold braking does, when the right amount of pressure is applied without engaging the ABS, the stopping distance is significantly shorter than when the ABS takes over. It took some time to get used to as an ambulance was conveniently parked about five metres in front of the braking zone. But after awhile, we did it and found this to be true, braking distance was indeed shorter by many more centimetres.

Avoidance Braking was next and it was carried out in a Proton Preve. Unlike threshold braking, we engaged the ABS this time. With an obstacle (cone) placed in front of us, we had just a fraction of a second to swerve left or right to avoid hitting it. A very important piece of advice given by instructor Faidzil was not to look at the obstacle in front when swerving, but the direction in which one needs to swerve the car towards.

“If you look at the obstacle, you will hit the obstacle when you are turning,” Faidzil explained. Unknowingly, I tried doing both. We had to approach the obstacle fast – within a two-metre range before braking, followed by a quick swerve. In my first run, keeping in mind Faidzil’s instructions, I hit speeds of 60 km/h, looked towards the direction I needed to swerve to, slammed on the brakes and I successfully veered away from the cones.

Bridgestone Potenza Driving Lesson-08 wm

On my second attempt, I was a little bit more “energised,” in that I had forgotten about his number one tip. As I slammed the brakes, looked at the obstacle face-on and swerved, this sent a few cones flying as my side kicked it (somehow, another was underneath the car). “See, you looked at the obstacle,” Faidzil quipped. My next try (his instructions in mind), was again a success, I took my eyes off the cones and towards the corner.

The final part of the course was Cornering Lines. “Slow in, fast out” was the main rule for taking each bend. The makeshift track, in an ‘S’ form, was probably the most fun of them all – driving through curves at speed but in a controlled manner. Instructed by Suhaimi, this writer went through each corner perfectly on two tries while on the third, it didn’t go too well – I went too fast into the corner, losing some steer.

The trick was to brake upon reaching a bend, turn and accelerate through. Another key takeaway is to always plan ahead before taking corners at higher speeds; to estimate how much braking is needed depending on the sharpness of each oncoming curve. While defensive driving skills will not turn you into a race car driver, they are proper skills that drivers should have when on public roads.