How to drive fast and safe
Driving tips from Lamborghini
Max Venturi has a name designed for speed. It’s no wonder he’s ended up as Lamborghini’s chief test driver and driving instructor. He’s the kind of guy who spends his days behind the wheel of a 350 km/h car and has been featured on television shows like Top Gear.
Now, today, the poor man has the task of trying to teach me how to drive a half a million dollar Lamborghini. And not just any old Lamborghini – the brand new Aventador, which currently has a two year waiting list, with the factory unable to keep up with the demand for this beast.
I’m at the Lamborghini Academy at the famous Imola racetrack in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. There are seven of us at the school today and I fear I am the least experienced. One of the others I speak to has six cars at home in the United States, including a Lamborghini. Max tells me not to worry, though.
“Normally who is coming to drive this car has experience with sports cars,” he says with his Italian accent.
“But this doesn’t mean anything because there are some people who are coming here and are maybe thinking to be the best driver but there’s always to learn something.”
Working in his assumption that there’s always something to learn, I would like to pass on his most useful advice to you. It’s a bit complicated but it is the fundamental of all good driving – turning corners with the brake.
OK, you don’t normally come in at 200 km/h, but the basics will apply regardless of what you normally drive. As Max puts it at one point: “This is the most important thing that you can learn, the braking, because when you go on the track you are thinking you can go as fast as you can but without braking you can not go fast.”
Firstly, and quickly, the best hand position. I remember being taught as a teenager that your hands should be at the 10 and 2 position on the wheel. Max thinks you actually get a lot more control, particularly at high speed, with your hands at the 9 and 3 position. In case you don’t know what I mean, the image below shows you what you should be doing.
This might be quite obvious, but it’s something Max still makes sure he points out. The Lamborghinis have no clutch because the gear shifts are on the steering wheel so we only use one foot to drive. The same would go for any automatic cars. The right foot controls the brake and the accelerator, and the left foot must sit on the foot support to get the right balance. Only very professional drivers (and go-kart enthusiasts) use both feet to control the brake and accelerator. These small things can be important in the bigger picture.
“You must know you have a lot of power to manage,” Max warns.
“With the electronics, today’s cars are very safe. But you are hearing many times people who are saying ‘the car do this, the car do that’. It’s not the car, you are driving the car.”
Braking for a corner
Now we move on to the most important thing – braking for a corner. Max’s tip is to brake hard initially and then to pull off the brake gradually, rather then depressing the pedal slowly. If the strength of the brake was on a scale from 10 to 1, start at 10 (the strongest brake) and reach 3 before you even start to turn the steering wheel.
“There are people who are thinking they can accelerate before the corner,” Max points out, “and you have learnt if you accelerate before turning, the car doesn’t turn.”
Turning a corner
This is probably the trickiest part, and the thing that I had the most trouble getting the hang of when I was doing my laps around Imola in the Aventador. When you hit the point where you begin to turn the steering wheel, the braking should almost be complete and you’ll be pulling your foot off the pedal as you turn. You want to turn the wheel and point towards the ‘apex’ of the corner (that’s the narrowest part of the curve). There’ll be a short bit of time between turning and hitting the apex – during this time Max recommends applying no accelerator and no brake. You just glide through the tightest bit of the corner and then, as you come out of it, start to hit the gas and open up the steering wheel to get straight again.
If you can decipher the scribbles Max has made on the diagram here, you’ll see what I mean:
And here, in his own words, is how Max puts it: “You cannot accelerate before you turn. You need to start opening up the steering wheel and accelerate at the same time. You need to be able to open up the steering wheel and then accelerate. This is the most important thing to remember not only with sports cars but with every type of car.”
Taking the technique to the streets
And that, my friends, is the most valuable information you can get on driving skills – direct from one of the world’s best drivers. It’s obviously more relevant to high-speed environments where you’ve got a whole track to move across, but the elements will help you with any kind of driving with any type of car. That’s one of the points of the Lamborghini Academy.
“You learn not only how to drive well on the track,” Max says, “but you can bring all that even on the normal roads. I mean not the speed but maybe the technique to approach the corner.”
So watch out! Next time you see an old white hatchback veering around a corner with perfect precision, it could be someone who learnt everything they know on the turns of Imola!
Other Lamborghini Academy posts:
* The need for speed: on the track with Lamborghini
* Lamborghini’s students: You’ll be surprised at who actually attends the academy…
Time Travel Turtle was a guest of Lamborghini and the Emilia Romagna tourism board but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.