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  • Civilian EVOC

    Posted on March 28th, 2009 tcorzett No comments

    I’ve been wanting to see how a RWD car (like the G8) handles when the rear end gets loose for quite a while. I have never owned a RWD car before the G8 (especially one with 361HP), so didn’t really know what to expect once the rear-end traction was reduced (by acceleration or driving conditions). I’ve done a few ‘spirited’ accelerations and had a taste for what it feels like, but was far from comfortable knowing with the whole thing.

    So, in a hope to get a better understanding of the mechanics behind the G8 GT I decided to take the Civilian EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operator Course) that is offered by the Alameda County Sheriff. I figured I would learn a bunch and get a chance to drive on the skid pad… besides, the $200 course fee is less than a ticket for doing donuts in a parking lot!



    The course started at 08:00 and we went over some basic ideas. Stuff like defensive driving, things to watch out for on the roads, etc. Nothing too ground breaking, but good stuff to know. There was a significant discussion about ABS vs. Threshold breaking and how your driving needs to change with one system compared to the other. We also spent some time talking about Rear End Cheat and Front End Swing (much more on this later). After the classroom portion we (there were only 6 of us in the class) headed out to the driving course.



    Accident Avoidance:

    You start driving down a lane of cones towards a pair of over-head lights. When you get close, one of the lights turns red and the other green. You are then to swerve into the green lane then back into the center lane… without applying the brakes. Once you avoid the accident you stop hard (force ABS).


    The first time through we went 25mph, then upped it to 27mph, and finally 30mph. All three times I had the right lane turn green, so I wish I’d have had at least one in the left lane, but it’s quite interesting how much of a difference 5mph makes. The 25mph run was cake… but at 30mph the tires were squealing and steering input was much more dramatic. It was really fun to thrown around a 4000lbs police cruiser, at speed, in a controlled environment!



    It’s simple… just drive down the first lane, come back to the top, and back-up through the second lane. What makes it difficult is that the cones are spaced just wide enough for the cruisers. This drill deals with the Rear End Cheat and Front End Swing.


    The first trip through going forward I went too fast and also turned in too soon… so much so that I even hit a cone! The key is to stay wide and turn in when the delineation cone (the tall ones marking the corners) is at your shoulder (I was turning when it was at the mirror). This allows for enough room to account for Rear End Cheat:


    So, as you can see… just because your front wheel makes it around the cone (blue trace), doesn’t mean your rear wheel (and the side of your car) will (green/black trace). This explains why every morning I (barely) drop the right rear tire off the curb when I exit my place… I’m just not taking into consideration the Rear End Cheat.

    Backing-up required me to take into consideration Front End Swing. Just visualize driving reversing in the previous diagram. So, when you are turning around an obstical on the passenger’s side of the car… when you clear the rear wheel (blue/black trace) the driver’s side front wheel (red trace) swings out wider than the rear wheel did (as does the front bumper). The key here is to stay close to the inside of the turn (giving the front end more move to swing), and once the delineation cone is at the rear axle (the pivot point when turning while reversing) you crank the wheel and point the rear towards the next apex (so to stay as close as you can for the next set of turns).

    The backing-up turned out to be the weak point for most of the people in the course… there was always along line of people waiting to go. I had no problems in this part. I guess I have to thank my Father for throwing me the keys to the Suburban when I got my permit… and then forcing me to drive around backwards in a parking lot for an hour.


    J-Turn (w/ABS):

    One of the things that was heavily discussed in the classroom was ABS. This exercise was designed to turn us into ‘poor breaker’ (not breaking before entering a turn) and to show us how you can still turn under heavy breaking with ABS. We were instructed to drive towards a wide 90deg turn at various speeds (25mph, 30mph, and 35mph) and to turn-in towards the apex. Once at the apex, we were to slam on the brakes (they described it at 10 out of 10, with 0 being no brakes and 10 being trying to put your foot through the floorboard). The key to this one is keeping the car to the outside before turning-in towards the apex… and keeping your eyes focused on the apex and beyond.


    Now this was fun! I just wish they didn’t have us ‘panic breaking’ to a stop… even at 35mph I didn’t really need them all that much to make the corner. The instructor reprimanded me for not ‘stomping’ on the brakes (10 of 10: what this drill was to allow us to experience), but then complimented me on the threshold breaking technique (7, 8, 9).

    One thing that I did learn during this exercise is that I cross-over my hands/arms when making turns… rather than shuffle steering. The first run at 25mph it wasn’t an issue, but at 35mph I was at the maximum of what I could turn (with no room to add more steering input). The second run at 30mph I really concentrated on the shuffle steering and it when much better. I will need to practice this one over time.


    T-Box & Parallel Parking:


    The T-Box fairly straightforward drill, you drive into the box towards the left side… then back-up… and drive out of the box. This drill again worked with Rear End Cheat and Front End Swing. Same concepts as the other drills, just keep to the outside when going forward and the inside when backing-up.

    Parallel Parking is just what it sounds like. I was really surprised how well I did with this given my complete lack of experience with parallel parking. The first run I did back into the cone (car) at the rear of the space, but once I learned where the trunk of the car was I did fine. By the second run I was feeling quite confident. Now, don’t ask me to parallel park in San Francisco, on a hill, on the wrong side of the street!



    This drill had us driving into one ‘driveway’ then backing into another. The driveways were very narrow, so you had to be very good with the car control. The neat part was the idea of ‘getting ahead’ when backing in by turning away from the driveway, ‘pointing’ the rear of the car where you wanted to go. Yes, it sounds simple… but I know it will help me backing into parking spaces (like at G8 Meets).


    Slalom Course (Forward & Reverse):

    Head down going from one side to the next… then come back and do it again backwards.


    Going forwards was a no-brainer (for me), even did it without needing to touch the brakes (I kept going back for more throttle). Backing-up was quite a bit harder (and like before there was a huge line). I found that while I was able to make the turns towards the passenger’s side, it was seeing the driver’s side cones that rough. A real pain in the neck, literally. The idea for backing-up is to start your turn when the cone was blocked by the C-Pillar (winshield = A, door = B, rear window = C), which puts it right by the rear axle. You also want to turn the wheel quickly and make zig-zags, rather than wider archs. The first run I did OK, but had a tough time picking-up the last few cones… but I didn’t hit anything. The second and third runs went much smoother (didn’t even need to touch the brakes).


    Skid Pad:

    They saved the best for last! There were two police cruisers with slick (bald) tires on the rear. This allowed for very little traction on the rear end… and the chance to do some slide recovery drills. The instructor described what he wanted us to do (which was totally unclear) and then demonstrated it (made it clear). We were to drive a ‘belt tightened’ oval, oversteering when making the Turns.


    I was one of the first two people to take the course (two at a time). We also had a passenger (for the first time of the day), making things quite a bit more ‘stressful’. So, first trip around the turn and what do I do? Totally loop it… almost a 360… with no control what-so-ever. I felt really bad for my passenger, but she did well. After a few laps I started to get a much better feel for the car and what is needed to get around the corners smoothly. Like the instructor said, “Dance with the car”. I did make the mistake to not look where I wanted to go, and not just out the windshield (with no regard to where the car was going). I had several runs where I did the entire turn in a smooth ‘drift’.

    Half way though our 10 minutes on the skid pad we reversed direction on the course (from clockwise to counter-clockwise). This worked much better for me, as I could pass the inside cones very close to the driver’s side door without the risk of hitting them. Sadly, my time behind the wheel was up quickly (despite being given an extra 5 minutes).

    Now, I’m a terrible passenger when driving on the roads… and now I had to be a passenger inside a car on a skid pad! Turns out it wasn’t too bad. Maybe it was because I was helping guide/instruct… rather than stomp on an imaginary brake peddle! The person I was with had a hard time keeping up speed going into the corners, so wasn’t getting totally though them… but it got much better towards the end of her time.

    So I was done driving, but one of the other students (who was having some difficulties throughout the day) needed a passenger. I guess I made a good impression on the instructor because he asked me to ride with her and give her some instructions/tips as we went around. Unfortunately the driver wasn’t being aggressive enough with the throttle, so was entering the corners too slow and not giving enough throttle to induce oversteer (despite me shouting “GAS, GAS, GAS!”). The one time she looped the rear I congratulated her and encouraged her to do it again. The instructor took over in-car, but it didn’t seem to make much difference.



    The course was over and we had a quick de-brief. I know that I did most of the exercises without any problems, but it’s always good to get this sort of experience in a controlled environment. I know I hit a few cones, which if it was “the real world” would have been curbs or cars, so I’m glad it was just a course and not the G8 GT.
    The biggest thing I need to work on is shuffle steering. The instructors tried to get it across that activities like steering are habit, and it will take time to break bad ones. When I drove home I made sure that I practiced shuffle steering. I will try to do the same in the future, but it will be interesting to see how it works on some of my more ‘spirited’ drives.
    Overall I think the course was very worth while. I only wish there was an ‘advanced’ civilian EVOC course… or at least something that would get me back on the skid pad for some more oversteer driving.