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No, sir, this is how you drive your $100,000 XKR

Posted by Keith Griffin  June 29, 2010 12:18 PM

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(Keith Griffin for Boston.com)

Indianapolis 500 veteran Davy Jones, an instructor at the Jaguar R Performance Academy, explains driving techniques to students at a recent event in Monticello, N.Y.

MONTICELLO, N.Y. — There's an added benefit to owning a Jaguar XFR or XKR. With purchase, Jaguar includes attendance at the Jaguar R Performance Academy, held six times a year across the country. It's a one-day course worth taking to fully appreciate and respect these powerful machines — as well as make you a better driver.

Recently, the academy came to the Monticello Motor Club in Monticello, N.Y. A country club for motoring enthusiasts, its parking lot on a quiet Thursday is dotted with a Lotus, Ferrari, and tricked out Miata all ready for racing on the 4.1-mile course that is rumored as the possible site of a 2012 Formula One race.

The performance academy, which can be attended by non-R owners, demonstrates the full capabilities of the two R models. The XFR sedan and aluminum-bodied XKR coupe each deliver 510 horsepower, 465 lb.-ft. of torque, and zip from zero to 60 in less than 5 seconds.

The academy's instructors are talented drivers. Roberto Guerrero, an Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, once set the qualifying lap record at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway only to see it broken a year later by fellow instructor Davy Jones. Other teachers include Adam Andretti of the famous Andretti racing family, and Morgan Kavanaugh, a former motorcycle racer best known for the ice-driving course he runs in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

The lead instructor is Chris Munro, 46, of Shrewsbury. He's competed at tracks all over the world. Munro now teaches performance driving, does validation testing (where manufacturers compare their products to competitors), trains government agencies in anti-terrorist driving, and plans to return to racing for the 2011 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Am Cup.

Jaguar-R-Academy-2.jpg

(Keith Griffin for Boston.com)

Jaguar R Performance Academy chief instructor Chris Munro, of Shrewsbury, stands in the pits at the Monticello Motor Club.


As Munro tells the gathered students, a mixture of media and owners, "Driving is one of those things you can do every day and never get better." Even though he and the other instructors are here to teach the students how to maximize the performance of high-powered luxury cars, their lessons can be applied to any vehicle.

Importance of Stability Control


The most important lesson comes in the most mundane of locations: the handling oval course that is normally the track's heliport. Students go through the exercise with the dynamic stability control shut off.

Every driver who gets behind the wheel of the XFR, including Munro, accelerates too hard coming out of a curve and unintentionally puts the car into a tire-squealing 360. ("We admit our mistakes," Munro later said.) With stability control engaged, the electronic nannies onboard won't allow it.

Sitting Behind the Wheel

Most people sit incorrectly in the car. You want to be able to push the brake all the way to the floor and still have some flex in your knee. "By having a slight bend in the knee, you have the leverage to pump the brakes," Munro said.

You also want your wrists resting on the steering wheel with a slight bend at the elbow. When driving, your hands should be placed at the 9 o'clock/3 o'clock position on the steering wheel, as if it was a clock face. "The faster you travel, the more sense 9/3 will make," Munro said.

Visionary Drivers

"Vision is a big part of driving successfully," Munro said. It's all about anticipation, not reaction. Most drivers only look about 40 feet in front of them (100 feet is ideal). At 60 mph, a driver travels 90 feet a second, which leaves less than half a second of reaction time. "You need to keep your eyes up," Munro told the class. "By looking right over the hood, you're always reacting." [A drunk driver only looks 10 feet over a hood, Munro added.]

"Look where you want to go and not where the car is pointing. As you're cornering, your windshield gives you no good information. You need to turn your head before you turn the steering wheel. You need to aim the car. Where you're looking-that's where the car will put you."

That helps explain why a driver can hit a solitary tree with 300 feet of open space on either side of it. In a panic situation, all the driver sees is the tree and drives right into it. "Don't look at things you don't want to hit," Munro said. "No matter what's happening, look where you want to go."

Tires Shouldn't Multitask

You can't ask your tires to do more than one thing-don't turn the wheel while braking. Brake in a straight line. "You don't have the right to turn and ask the car to brake," Munro said. "If you're asking the car to turn, you don't have the right to ask it to hard brake and hard accelerate. Most people get into an accident because they go into a curve way too fast."

Keith Griffin is an automotive editor for About.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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