SEAN RENTON - GENERAL MANAGER
Anyone who has had even a fleeting connection with Jaguar Land Rover across South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa will have heard of Sean Renton. He’s the Land Rover Defender – or should that be the Jaguar XK120? – of the company’s driver training team having started out as far back as 2002 following a year with a well-known German make.
Today, Sean oversees a substantial team of instructors in his management role, but it’s pertinent to note, given the stunning new Experience premises at Lonehill, that it was Sean who first recce’d this off-road site way back in the sands of time.
When asked whether he preferred instructing males or females, Sean didn’t follow the line of his colleagues and suggested that when it comes to imparting knowledge, neutrality is a must. “It’s up to each instructor to adapt to his audience” opined Sean. His colleagues, however, are insistent that Sean always showed a preference for the fairer sex!
As for the people he once instructed on a regular basis, Sean says that a widespread lack of knowledge of the workings and purpose of electronic aids in more modern vehicles leads to apprehension in exploring the unknown, which makes instruction all the more relevant in generating confidence and with it, better, safer driving in an off-road environment.
In terms of on-road driving, Sean cites speed and inability to judge distances as primary problems. Modern vehicles are endowed with incredible performance and in the main, drivers are lacking in application and powers of observation, attributes that are instilled by Experience instructors.
As for steering wheel position, Sean favours the “quarter-to-three” position as this maximises feel and control. When it comes to colour, Sean favours red, strangely the colour of his preferred F1 team, and when asked if he would rather spend a weekend with a hot blonde or a hot car, he immediately responded that a session in an LMP (Le Mans Prototype)at Belgium’s Spa circuit would do just fine … but few believe him!
And his favourite model in the Jaguar Land Rover range is the Range Rover 5.0 Autobiography Dynamic as this has all the traditional RR virtues massaged by considerable performance.
CHRISTO VAN LOGGERENBERG - LAND ROVER LEAD INSTRUCTOR & JAGUAR SENIOR INSTRUCTOR
Meet the “old man” of the team who’s been passing on his driving knowledge since the turn of the century, firstly as a freelancer and then as an on and off-road lead instructor at Jaguar Land Rover over the last 10 years.
As for how receptive his audiences are, he says it doesn’t matter that there are differences between females and males. Just like GM, Sean Renton, he says it’s up to the instructor to adapt to his audience, but he did admit that the girls are “easier to instruct.”
Christo must have seen more oddities than most when it comes to tackling off-road courses, but for him it’s poor throttle control that needs the most attention. He cites a lack of smooth transition between power on and power off, summed up as “no balance.”
He also expressed concern about inconsistent steering movements but did admit that the wide use today of power steering masks indifferent helmsmanship.
On-road, Donovan immediately identified impatience as a major problem, but he was equally quick to state that speed per se does not kill – it’s misapplied speed that is the problem.
Talking of steering, Christo was less definitive than most of his colleagues, saying that drivers should adopt the position they are most comfortable with as long as this spans the “quarter-to-three” to “ten-to-two” range.
Along with millions of South Africans, Christo favours white paintwork but also mentioned green, a colour which has traditionally been used on Land Rovers for many-a-year.
On the question of a hot blonde or a hot car, the experienced Mr Van Loggerenberg picked out his desire to conduct a Jaguar XK-RS on Estoril circuit in Portugal. But it seems his choice of an XK had ulterior motives as such a car has a second seat which he would allocate to the aforementioned hot blonde! For the record, Christo picked Estoril as this is the circuit he used for pre-launch training ahead of the introduction of the Jaguar F-TYPE.
And which model would our man choose from the extensive range at hand? The answer is the new 110 Land Rover Defender which was launched at Frankfurt in September, 2019.
BARRY DE OLIVEIRA-LAND ROVER LEAD INSTRUCTOR & JAGUAR SENIOR INSTRUCTOR
Despite his name, Barry has never been a professional footballer but he has been a freelance driving instructor since 2009 and he’s been with Jaguar Land Rover since 2011.
That’s a long time in a profession which often sees lots of staff movement, but for Barry, it’s his love for cars and for Land Rover in particular that keeps him interested. He too is assessed by UK-based instructors to keep him up-to-date and on form, but when he passes on his knowledge to the public, his views reflect those of his colleagues – well, mostly!
He says that ladies tend to be more nervous and therefore listen more carefully than men who rather too often are over-confident. He too is most concerned about safe operation of cars and believes new drivers should be identified for at least a year.
And from the very beginning, he believes drivers should be exposed to defensive driving techniques and to accident avoidance and wet weather handling techniques. His view is that drivers tend to drive too fast and are distracted by too many tech-based items in modern cars, but having said that, he regards ABS braking as a brilliant safety addition but for the benefit to be maximised, more training is needed.
As with his colleagues Barry believes one of his objectives is to mould drivers that don’t get into situations which cause ABS activation, As for driving off-road, Barry also lists momentum as the most important aspect of sand driving and the same goes for traversing mud tracks, albeit that selection of the correct gear for the conditions is truly important which is precisely why customers are often shown how to lock an auto transmission in a selected gear.
Terrain Response, says Barry, is a great aid for the average driver as it reduces multi-tasking and permits greater concentration on the task at hand, but the most important thing for any driver is to identify where their limits lie.
On a personal front, Barry is taken with white paintwork and a black interior which classifies him along with 95% of South Africans but he could well be in a minority when he too says he’d rather spend a weekend at a track than with a hot blonde!
KILLIAN DELL - JAGUAR LEAD INSTRUCTOR & LAND ROVER SENIOR INSTRUCTOR
Killian has been around cars and instructing in their use since 2006, both on-track and off-road. When asked about the relevance of track sessions in relation to road driving, Killian‘s immediate response was “car control.”
Given his track experience, it was perhaps a tad surprising that he cited speed as a major factor behind the appalling fatality levels on SA roads. He’s adamant that the average driver has too little idea of the increased impact occasioned by a small increase in speed which could be why he reckons that ABS brakes are the best things since Father Christmas. But he said his job is to teach drivers to avoid having to use this life-saving system in the first place.
As for bad driving habits, Killian listed tailgating and not looking far enough ahead along with aggression and failure to judge braking distances as the biggest problems. He also declared “driver education” in SA as terrible.
He’s a fan of the latest Terrain Response 2 system because its automated mode selection takes away the need for drivers to make a selection. Apart from helping make participants better drivers, Killian thought the Experience did much to generate brand loyalty and that he personally derives great pleasure from seeing an improvement in customers’ driving skills.
His favourite colour is red, his preferred Jaguar is the F-TYPE SVR and when it comes to Land Rover, he’s an unadulterated Defender fan. In terms of instructing customers, Killian shared the views of his colleagues that men tend to be over sure of their abilities while women are more receptive to instruction, albeit that they can be too passive! As a senior member of the team, Killian says he’s assessed at least every three years by senior global instructors from overseas.
DEVON SCOTT - JAGUAR LEAD INSTRUCTOR & LAND ROVER SENIOR INSTRUCTOR
Just like his colleagues, Devon, who does not come from the southern English county of that name, spent much of his formative years from 2004 as an instructor for numerous car brands before settling on Jaguar Land Rover where he acquired the status of Lead Instructor three years back.
Unsurprisingly, Devon also identifies a car in the wrong hands as a lethal weapon and sees his prime function as instilling a defensive mindset in all drivers in order to make roads safer.
For the most part, he identifies an inability to anticipate as a serious but common flaw along with a mindset that’s often driven by aggression. Changing driver attitudes is a primary function of Experience staff which suggests that recurrent training should be undertaken to maximise the benefits that Devon feels should include basics such as proper seating position and how to hold a steering wheel properly.
Interestingly, Devon has identified a belief among owners of really good cars that the quality of the car they drive mirrors the quality of their driving, but experience suggests there is no such correlation. Indeed, the fairer sex again come out on top in terms of willingness to listen and learn while males have a tendency to try too hard to impress! For him too, speed is a significant negative safety issue.
Overall, Devon is firmly of the view that driver training is lacking in South Africa which makes his role all the more important. He thoroughly enjoys seeing the improvement in attitude and car control, whether on or off-road, among course participants.
On a personal note, Devon is very much at home traversing large sand dunes which he says “require reading” if they are to be tackled with success. For him, driving and passing on his knowledge is something he really enjoys.
And his favourite car in the Jaguar Land Rover range is the Jaguar F-PACE SVR in black, but he wouldn’t be drawn on whether he’d rather spend a weekend at Kyalami with the F-PACE or a weekend with a hot blonde other than to say that “driving is my passion!”
(Footnote: Every year, Jaguar Land Rover Experience instructors from around the world are invited to participate in the TREK event at Eastnor Castle in the UK – the spiritual home of Jaguar Land Rover. Teams from around the world participate in a series of challenges, which promote the sharing of knowledge and experiences. The overall TREK 2019 champions were Devon Scott and Ricky Hill from South Africa.)
MARCEL VEERAN - LAND ROVER SENIOR INSTRUCTOR
Like many of his colleagues, Marcel started out as a freelance driving instructor – in his case over 10 years – and for the last six years, he’s been with Jaguar Land Rover and undertakes extensive travelling throughout the SSA network, working with importers and their customers.
In terms of off-road instruction, Marcel is adamant that females are more receptive as they listen better than their male counterparts, many of whom want to “show their prowess” to the instructors!
As for bad habits on the road, it’s again males to the fore for the wrong reason as they mostly tend to drive far too fast for the prevailing conditions and don’t leave enough following distance. In a more general comment, Marcel also bemoaned a tendency of participants to be short-sighted in not selecting in advance, the correct on-board mode settings for known road conditions.
He too favours a “quarter-to-three” hand position on the steering wheel as this position allows greater movement without taking hands off the wheel.
Macel was a loner in selecting Oyster, or more generically, a champagne shade, as his favourite colour, opining that Range Rovers in particular look smashing in this hue.
In response to whether he would rather spend a weekend with a hot blonde or a hot car, he too didn’t want to split his options and elected to accept both, even down to two hot blondes!
Doubtless his dreams influenced his preference for the Jaguar F-PACE SVR as it has all the sound and power AND room for two blondes but in a moment of intraspection, he admitted to being a bike man and identified the Isle of Man as his favourite circuit.