“Cocky, confident, lazy – dead.” As a means of getting a student’s attention, these words work every time, says Stuart Cadman, a professional driver who trains development engineers to drive test cars in such a way that they reveal their innermost secrets.

“People can easily become blasé behind the wheel of a car, which is when accidents happen,” he adds. “An engineer must be alert and focused and driving at a level where they don’t need to devote 100% of their concentration to driving a vehicle at or close to its limits. They need to have some reserve capacity to appraise the vehicle and provide a running commentary if necessary.”

As a former panel-beater, Cadman knows what happens when someone loses control of a car at speed. However, what gives his words added weight is that he, like his pupils, is an engineer; he has an MSc in vehicle dynamics and has worked for Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin and Prodrive. In short, he understands the value of learning how a part or system behaves on track as well as in a lab.

Cadman says: “As a qualified engineer but an inexperienced test driver, you may know all the theory, but then when you drive the car, you might feel something happen that surprises you. Back in the office, your fellow engineers say ‘show us the data’, but there is none, because whatever occurred – perhaps a suspension component behaved unexpectedly – can’t be measured in the lab. Worse still, you can’t accurately describe or repeat it. You need the skills to be able to go back to the track and repeat the event for the benefit of yourself as well as your colleagues and to describe it clearly enough so that the cause can be determined.”

A few years ago, Pro2 – for which Cadman provides consultancy services and which offers a range of driving training services and customer experience events to the motor industry – was asked to send its drivers to China, India and South Korea to help equip these countries’ emerging automotive engineers with the skills to test their simulation- and lab-derived theories on the track.

“Most of the engineers had an excellent theoretical understanding but hadn’t the driving experience to test their work,” says Pro2 founder Simon Poole. “Not only that, but they also lacked a world view and so developed solutions only to the standards of their home markets. They were quite insular. Of course, as we’re increasingly beginning to realise, this is no longer the case.”

Cadman was among those who went to India to help the engineers at car makers including Mahindra and Maruti. One of the aspects of a car’s performance the engineers found hardest to gauge, he says, was steering feel. It’s a common problem: “You have this system whose only contact with the road is a steel-and-rubber composite balloon that flexes and changes its shape as you drive. Not only that: as it wears, the tyre’s performance changes. Consequently, you may be fed an ever-changing stream of feedback. It’s why an abundant supply of tyres should be available during vehicle development, to be changed the moment they show signs of wear.”