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Audi head instructor calls licensing standards 'rubbish'

Too easy: Steve Pizzati believes young drivers are assessed at thresholds that do not take into account real-world situations.

Former Top Gear host says license testing does not prepare drivers for real world

14 May 2015

ONE of Australia’s leading driver coaches has labelled licensing standards for new drivers as “rubbish”, and called for a major overhaul of licensing requirements.

Steve Pizzati, the lead instructor for the Audi Driving Experience, a former host of television program Top Gear Australia and a driver trainer with more than 15 year’s experience, told journalists that the present system for assessing the potential of new drivers is inadequate.

“If you want to describe why the licensing system in this country is rubbish, it’s this,” said Mr Pizatti, who has also appeared on the English version of Top Gear.

“Think back to when you got your licence. What was the highest speed you got to? 60km/h? I only managed 50 km/h. The first thing I did was go out to a highway and got my car up to 100km/h.

“I was trained and assessed at 50km/h, and I was instantly allowed to do double that or more. Let alone at night. Let alone in the rain. Let alone in a beat-up Cortina with cross-ply tyres. Right there, that is why this system is so nuts.”

Mr Pizzati, who was guiding a group of Australian journalists through a course at Audi Australia’s Driving Experience program at Phillip Island, said drivers are not taught how to respond to potentially life-threatening incidents.

“It’s like saying to a trainee pilot ‘yeah, sure this plane might stall on occasion… but you’ll be right’”, he said.

Mr Pizzati also pointed to the fact that new drivers are not trained to understand what now-mandatory traction and stability systems can – and can’t – do.

“No one knows how this thing (stability control) works,” he said. “How dumb is that? We’re forcing people to have a system that’s going to cut in at the most critical time of their driving life – just before a crash – yet they don’t know how it works, what it can do and more importantly, what it can’t do, what its limitation are.

“The (ESP) system is unbelievably good – but it’s not perfect.”

Audi Australia’s Driving Experience school is open to the public, not just to Audi owners. The requirements of the course dictate that each level of the four-tier course must be completed before moving up to the next one.

“Just because you own a certain type of car doesn’t mean you’re necessarily capable of driving to its level,” said Mr Pizzati. “There’s an old say that just because you’re a Ferrari owner doesn’t mean you’re a Ferrari driver, and that applies here, too.”

From Audi’s entry A and Q ranges, participants can move into S, then RS vehicles, while the last course allows participants to drive a GT3-spec R8 LMS race car.

Mr Pizzati said that the R8 LMS is four seconds a lap quicker around the Phillip Island circuit than a V8 Supercar, and is currently the most expensive race car for hire in Australia.

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