Getting Behind the Wheel
From the winding country hills in southern Italy, to the high-speed autobahn in Germany, Europe is blessed with many diverse driving landscapes. However, mastering the technique for smooth steering, braking, and manoeuvring can be a challenge even for the best of drivers...
For auto enthusiasts, testing the dynamic driving of the latest models across the playground that Europe has to offer would be a dream job. For Paul Eames, Nissan's European Driver Training Expert, Customer Oriented Engineering at Nissan Technical Centre Europe, this dream is a reality. Paul plays a key role as he's charged with making sure every new vehicle Nissan develops is dynamically the best it can be for European roads, ensuring the customer experience behind the wheel is both safe and exciting.
Paul is one of only six expert drivers in Europe who has earned Nissan's ultimate driving qualification, which allows him to drive all Nissan vehicles at any speed on the racetrack. Before being selected to become one of Nissan's A1 drivers, Paul trained in Europe in areas such as drift control before moving to Japan for over a year to complete additional training and Nissan's rigorous assessment programme. "The qualification involved driving a selection of vehicles ranging from the iconic GT-R to the Nissan Micra, on all types of tracks, from the famous Nürburgring in Germany to snow driving testing around the Nissan Hokkaido Proving Ground in Japan," Paul explains.
The results of each assessment determined whether Paul passed or failed. "Each assessment was marked on a number of points, all of which were against the clock. So, if the time wasn't good enough you failed," he adds. For a further challenge, Paul notes there were no do-overs in these tests – "we had one go and one go only on a new surface, which we had never driven before."
With more than 25 years of experience at Nissan, Paul has completed countless laps on various test tracks around the world, which allows him to properly assess cars that will go on sale in markets across Europe. From cold weather testing near the Arctic Circle, to hot weather testing in Spain, Paul has the complex job of ensuring consistent stability and comfort across various road surfaces.
After starting his career at Nissan as a technician in the chassis testing department, Paul combines his engineering know-how with his skills on the racetrack to understand customer behaviours when it comes to the wear and tear of everyday driving. To replicate real world driving scenarios, "I drive at different speeds, in different positions on the road, up and down kerbs, across rutted tracks, on motorways and in heavy stop/start congestion, to give me a full evaluation of the dynamic performance of a car and ensure it's right for the customer," he explains.
Another facet of Paul's role includes working with Nissan's engineering team to refine new safety technologies, with a particular focus on autonomous driving systems. Practicing safe driving makes the ride more enjoyable for everyone and Paul is full of helpful tips and tricks – check out these videos for a mini masterclass from Paul on driving in a variety of environments from the city to the country.