In the previous post I started my Roman adventure with Bridgestone tyres.
So what happens next when you put someone (ie me) with a history of fear of driving on some of the fastest, wettest roads in Italy? Will I become a tyre bore, or refuse to ever get in a car again?
After meeting the machines, we went on a series of driving exercises, alternating between using premium and budget tyres in wet and dry conditions. There was a lot of sharp braking and Mario Kart-style slaloming around cones.
The idea was to show the difference between how a car handles using the two types of tyres and – crucially – how long it takes to stop.
The difference in tyre price was not that much (around 30 Euros each), but the difference in stopping time was MASSIVE – up to 5 metres in the wet.
The actual tyres we tested were the premium Bridgestone Turanza T001 RRP €80 (£60) and budget Hifly HF201 RRP €50 (£37) – in an emergency situation, that difference could save a life. For day to day driving, I think better tyres will help you feel more confident, which is definitely worth it for people like me.
I have to admit that I chickened out of the first lot of driving because I’ve never driven a left hand drive car before, plus I was scared of getting it wrong in front of all the professional drivers.
As the Italian rain lashed down, we were also driven by professional drivers including former Formula One star Stefano Modena, to really put the cars through their paces in the wet.
Whizzing around the course, I was reminded of the roots of my driving phobia – the time when I was four and I fell out of a car on to the motorway; and also the time when the brakes failed as I was driving through central London.
But for once these were more like distant memories rather than lurking traumas, because for once I didn’t feel nervous or scared at all. It’s amazing the difference it makes to be with a driver you trust, in a car you trust.
Now the funny thing was, nobody wanted to drive the Porsche. It simply wasn’t as desirable as the sexy Ferrari or James Bond Aston Martin.
So it dawned on me – we are both the underdogs of the group. Me and the Porsche, we’re like peas in a pod. So I jumped in for a ride. At 180km per hour – and that’s slower than normal, because the weather was bad.
It was AMAZINGLY smooth, like gliding through butter.
So what did I learn from the event? Mainly that there is much, much more to tyres than meets the eye. One thing I talk about in the fear of driving book is the importance of getting to know your car. The more you know it, the less it becomes something unknown for you to fear. The more confident you feel just sitting in it, the more confident you will feel driving it.
So for people who aren’t quite ready to get back driving again, I advise them to spend some time sitting in the car, twiddling all the knobs and just getting to know what does what. Only I think I had it in mind that you might get to know how the stereo works, rather than what spec your tyres are.
But one thing I can see now is how important it is to have decent tyres.
So if you feel anxious about driving and cars in general, the challenge I want to leave you with is to go now and look at the tyres on your car. Do they all match? Do they look worn? When were they last changed? Would you know how to change one if you had to?
It’s fine if you don’t know these things, but take a little time to find out. Knowledge is power and every bit of of knowledge you pick up about the car will help you feel more confident in it.
And the other little bit of learning I picked up from the day is that driving a left hand, European car is far easier than I ever would’ve thought it to be. Though I can happily drive in the UK, I’ve always refused to drive hire cars on holiday because I thought it would be too hard. Turns out it’s not so bad at all.
How well do you know your car’s tyres?