MIRA Provides Expert Driver Training for Tour de France Winning Team Sky

Marcus Ljunqvist and Dan Hunt of pro-cycling outfit Team Sky visited MIRA recently to receive some expert driver training ahead of their upcoming 2013 Tour de France campaign.

MIRA Provides Expert Driver Training for Tour de France Winning Team Sky

Backed by official supplier Jaguar, the UK based cycling team is most famous for helping Olympic gold medal winning road cyclist Bradley Wiggins to his stunning Tour de France title in 2012.

Team sky2

With the world’s media surrounding them at all times, Marcus and Dan – two of the sport’s leading Directeur Sportifs – have the ominous task of supporting the team on the road whilst driving their specially equipped Jaguar XF Sportbrake support vehicles perilously close to some of the world’s best road cyclists at speeds of up to 100kph.

Responsible for driving their support cars laden with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of bikes and other specialist equipment, for periods of up to 8 hours per day, these two essential team members also have to be able to relay and listen to race information from the riders, make tactical racing decisions and avoid other team cars jostling for position behind the peleton. To make matters more difficult, the Directeur Sportifs will often have to drive one handed whilst using their other hand to talk via race radios, hand out fresh bidons (water bottles), food and clothing to riders.

Team sky3

In order to improve team performance and highlight the importance of driver safety, Jaguar brought Marcus and Dan to MIRA – the world leading engineering consultancy – for some in-depth driver training with instructors Nigel Smith and James Scott. Accompanying both Directeur Sportifs on the day were fellow Team Sky member CJ Sutton and former Formula-1 and Le Mans racing driver Martin Brundle.

Now a commentator for Sky F1, Martin has experience of driving at the highest level, and has previously raced for a number of teams including McLaren and Jordan. This enabled Martin to provide the two Team Sky drivers with his methods for successfully combining race decisions with driving technique.

MIRA’s Chief Driver Trainer Nigel Smith noted: 

“It was an action packed day; similar in certain respects to the pressurised environment the Directeur Sportifs face in the race. By asking the drivers to perform simple arithmetic whilst practicing driving techniques, we were able to embed core vehicle control skills into their sub-conscious. This ensures their driving performance does not degrade when multi-tasking in the race.

“We were also able to practice driving techniques that complement the car’s predictable behaviour at the limit of adhesion, and impart some important lessons that I’m sure will stand the team in good stead for the future.”

Driving the same Jaguar XF Sportbrake that will be used on the tour, Team Sky’s drivers were able to utilise MIRA’s wide range of specialist driver training and vehicle development facilities, including the UK’s only wet handling and cornering facility. Throughout the day both Marcus and Dan gradually progressed through the increasingly difficult series of training scenarios set by MIRA’s driving instructors, before refining their techniques on MIRA’s dry handling circuit.

Team’s Sky’s driver training day at MIRA was aired on Friday 3rd May as part of the F1 Show, available on the Sky Sports F1 Channel.