Mazda is urging all company car drivers who choose its range-topping Mazda RX-8 to enrol on its unique free performance driver training course.
Amid increasing legislation targeting rogue drivers coupled with ever-toughening court sentences and the police and Health and Safety Executive cracking down on companies whose at-work drivers are involved in road accidents, Mazda says the programme is a must for all Mazda RX-8 company car drivers.
Mazda fleet and remarketing director Adam Pumfrey said: "The multi-award winning Mazda RX-8 is a performance car. But, as with all cars that have high power it is vital that drivers know how to handle it to get the best out of the vehicle. The Mazda RX-8 Driving Experience will teach company car drivers to get the most fun and enjoyment out of their car while driving safely and legally."
The Mazda RX-8 Driving Experience was launched at the end of 2003 in conjunction with rally and vehicle preparation specialists Prodrive.
The course has proved hugely popular with over 6,500 private Mazda RX-8 drivers who have so far attended. Currently more than 400 new Mazda RX-8 owners are booked to attend a course in the near future and around 150 bookings a week are being taken.
However, said Mr Pumfrey: "We would urge all fleet operators to encourage employees who choose the Mazda RX-8 as their company car to book a place on the Mazda RX-8 Driving Experience. In addition, as many RX-8s are leased to businesses we would like contract hire and leasing companies to remind end-users about the course and how to book."
"Worth £500, but free to all UK Mazda RX-8 company car drivers, as well as private buyers, the programme presents a unique opportunity to exploit a car to its full potential while driving safely. The focus on managing occupational road risk is continually increasing and the tips learned may also save your life."
Based at their vehicle testing ground in Warwickshire, Prodrive will take Mazda RX-8 company car drivers through an intensive one-day performance driving course including track driving, taking the driver through where the car’s limits are and how to fully exploit the power and handling.
There is also a road driving element about positioning the car on the road for safety, safe use of power available and safe overtaking techniques and a high-speed braking instruction.
The day also covers the care and maintenance of the Mazda RX-8’s 1.3-litre RENESIS rotary engine so the driver can ensure the car remains in tip-top mechanical condition.
If a company car driver cannot travel to Prodrive’s facility then the Prodrive instructor will travel to the driver’s home and carry out more extensive road driving training.
Sally Huband, the owner of Banbury-based Pub Stuff Ltd who drives the 192ps Mazda RX-8, said: "The course was fantastic. To discover in a safe environment what a performance car is capable of and how it handles under severe braking filled me with confidence.
"I have never driven a performance car before, but to have the knowledge that the Mazda RX-8 sticks to the road like glue and to have the confidence to use the power available to overtake safely is very reassuring. Every driver should complete such a course."
Anthony Bulmer, a director of Newcastle-based shop fitters Bulmer Interiors, who has now clocked up about 17,000 miles in his 231ps RX-8, agreed saying: "It is very important to learn and understand the capabilities of the car you are driving. Having been on the excellent course I am very much more confident behind the wheel."
Following a morning of track driving, course participants take to the open road and Mr Bulmer said: "To have a professional driver sitting alongside me pointing out the safest driving line in a real world situation and how hard I can legally drive the car not only enables me to use vehicle performance but means I am safer on the road as I now know the car’s capabilities if I am confronted with a potential nasty situation."
Two Mazda RX-8 models are available - the £20,100 on the road model pumping out 192ps and £22,100 for the 231ps derivative. Standard equipment on both models includes 18-inch alloy wheels, ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Traction Control System (TCS), driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags, climate control air conditioning and a BOSE Premium Audio system with nine speakers and a six CD auto-changer.
Although the programme is currently only for Mazda RX-8 drivers it is hoped to make the scheme available to other Mazda vehicle owners and company car drivers in the future.
Mazda RX-8 company car drivers can book a place on the Mazda RX-8 Driving Experience by contacting Prodrive on 020 7512 2726.Published 11 June 2005