[200q20v] report on NEQ WDS (long)

Phil Rose pjrose at frontiernet.net
Mon Jan 29 13:27:15 EST 2001

Even though I'd had years (more than I'd like to admit) of cold-weather
winter driving experience--including some winter rallying--I'd been
promising myself to attend a winter-driving school ever since an
unfortunate off-road excursion in my previous '91 200q a few years ago. The
NEQ Winter Driving School event that I registered for _last_ year had been
rained out, so weather conditions were uppermost in my mind this time.
Thankfully, the weather this past weekend was superb (no precipitation,
overcast and seasonably cold on Saturday, while Sunday was a bit milder and
brilliantly sunny). Conditions on the course were near-perfect.

I had no vehicle problems during or after my 5 1/2 hour drive to Franconia,
New Hampshire. That is--if you don't count a stupid decision to put my
salt-besmirched car through the carwash in Littleton on Friday afternoon.
The front passenger door mechanism froze, and--once it opened--it couldn't
be latched for nearly an hour after dinner Friday night. I had visions of
needing to tell my instructors the next day to "please loop your seat belt
through the door handle." Fortunately the door began to work OK after about
20 attempts to slam it closed, and I was able to have some fairly peaceful
sleep Friday night.

Although the Giants were crushed this weekend, no one had a crushing
experience at a very enjoyable and well-organized event held at Tim
O'Neil's Driving School. Kudos to NEQ WDS eventmaster Paul Royal and his
team of instructors. There were a few  excursions into snowbanks (not by
me, surprisingly), and one of them required a bit of a tow back onto the
course. But not much more than some bruised egos was suffered. Compared to
a typical track event, these sessions are very unstressful on both driver
and vehicle. No helmets needed--just warm clothing and a good attitude.

There were 23 students and 8 or 9 instructors. Everyone was encouraged to
ride along as a passenger whenever not driving their own car. The vehicles
(aside from one WMB and a VW) included 4K quattros, an '89 80q, a '90 200q,
'92 S4, 2000 S4 biturbo, a few A4s, a TT, my '91 200q sedan, a '91 200q
avant, an A6 avant and...even a 2000 A8. Most cars had dedicated snow tires
and some, like me, had studs. This was one time I had no regrets about
having studs on my Hakka-1 tires. However unstudded snows were certainly
quite acceptable. Some may even have been driving on "all-weather" tires.

The Saturday schedule started at 8 AM with a brief talk by Tim O'Neil at
the motel. He  emphasized the importance a proper (euro-type) attitude
toward one's car and driving, and then he covered the basics of anti-lock
brake useage, skid definitions, and recovery. Our car caravan then left for
a 15-minute drive to his 600-acre site. O'Neil had recently completed a
small log cabin, which provided convenient shelter for our lunch break
and--an indoor bathroom facility!  Upon arrival,  students/cars divided
into several pre-arranged groups for a variety of excercises. These
consisted of braking, lane-change, slalom, and the ever-popular skid-pad.
Those students who didn't already have a keen sense of feel for oversteer
or understeer ("undertow" in the words of one neophyte) certainly did after
several runs around the _extremely_ slick skid pad.  The Saturday session
ended at about 5 PM, as daylight faded into a faintly pinkish murk. I think
everyone--after 7 or 8 hrs of school--was happy to have a couple of hours
to relax before the group dinner in the Franconia Village Inn at 7 pm.

Sunday was the "fun" day (IMHO). Most of us (at least the seniors) had a
chance for some good rest on Saturday night. In addition, the weather was
ideal, and we had gained some (slight?) confidence from the turning and
skid-recovery lessons of the previous day. Sunday's activity was in three
tightly organized parts. Good organization was the key here since the day's
events were scheduled to end by about 1:30 or 2 PM.

First off (for my group) was a slalom course that was longer than the one
we did on Saturday. I took the award for dragging a slalom cone the longest
distance. Then, after several slalom runs, our group drove over to one of
O'Neil's small road courses--this particular one was a tight loop of no
more than a couple tenths of a mile but it had distinct terrain-changes
(hills) and sharp curves. At one spot--just around a blind curve--a series
of slalom cones was set. The cone orientations were changed after every lap
to make things more interesting and to test "avoidance" skills. Each
student's run was three laps around, and every student had two runs (plus
one run as passenger in an instructor's car). This was sort of a micro
winter-rally scenario, and I would have enjoyed continuing that for much
longer than the schedule permitted.

Finally, the entire class was  brought together for the last two hours of
the day, which was devoted to a timed, gymkhana-style event (a combination
of: slalom, figure-eight, tight return-run and full stop within a
designated "box" marked by cones.) This gave lots of opportunity to put all
the learning to the test.  Run times for everyone (instructors included)
ranged from a FTD of 48 seconds to well over one minute--especially if
cone-deductions were applied. I was happy to have two clean runs and a best
time that was very respectable--"especially for a big vehicle" (Paul's

After saying farewells, we headed home. I concluded that my weekend at the
NEQ Winter Driving School was time and money well-spent, and I appreciate
all the volunteer effort that went into making the event a success. I got
back home just in time to see a few Super Bowl touchdowns and the
unexpected crushing of the Giants. I had no horses in that race--my Buffalo
Bills never even made it to the starting gate. :-(

Phil Rose				Rochester, NY
'91 200q				mailto:pjrose at frontiernet.net

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