중앙데일리

Former race car driver is steady at the wheel

June 18,2007
Chris Schell stresses basic safety rules when driving a car. By Seo Ji-eun
ANSAN, Gyeonggi ― Grip the steering wheel at the three o’clock and nine o’clock positions. Try to adjust your seat so your knees and arms are bent.
This may seem like basic knowledge, but safety rules can save your life in critical moments, according to Chris Schell, a sales manager at Porsche headquarters in Germany.
Since when has a sales manager given driving lessons?
The employee at the upscale carmaker confesses his love of cars led him to become a car engineer, motor racer and then a driving instructor at Porsche Sports Driving Schools around the world. Retaining his official responsibility to oversee sales in the Asia Pacific, Australia and Japan, he manages to spend up to 25 days a year on racing tracks.
“I have been immensely interested in everything about cars since very young. I studied auto engineering all the way through working as an engineer in prototype testing. In the meantime, I joined some racing competitions at home and abroad, which turned out to be quite successful,” he told the JoongAng Daily at Ansan Speedway on the outskirts of Seoul, where driving lessons were taking place.
Schell, who started racing at age 14, a relatively young age for driving, is one of 80 to 100 Porsche workers that teach driving skills amid their full-time jobs.
The instructors include marketers, tire experts and researchers. Michael Vetter, president of Stuttgart Sports Cars, the Korean importer of Porsche, used to teach as well.
In contrast with Korea, the world’s fifth-largest auto-making country by volume, motor sports are considered mainstream mass cultural events in Germany, according to Schell. Motor racing even has junior leagues, where under-aged drivers are allowed to take to the track. Of course, they are still banned from driving on public roads.
That has probably become possible due to the fact that the European nation, currently the world’s No. 4 vehicle producer, is the birthplace of modern vehicles, Schell said. Whereas motor racing started more than a century ago in Germany, the first Korean car race took place in 1983.
“The main goal of driving school is to bring people up to a skill level where they can experience the full potential of their cars. It is not meant to foster car racers,” he said.
Students at the paid driving school, now marking its third year, are supposed to bring their own vehicles. Cars can be of any brand, although Porsches are welcome.
Being an instructor in driving school over the past three years has given Schell valuable chances to be in contact with potential customers, which helps him better understand the market.
“If you just sit in your office, it becomes really hard to grab what customers really think,” he said.


By Seo Ji-eun Staff Writer [spring@joongang.co.kr]



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