So, you can drive. While I’m sure its true you are perfectly capable of getting from A to B rubber side down with an unaltered monthly premium, unless you are one of the 22 or so drivers heading to Silverstone in a week’s time, there’s room for improvement. With all of the advancements in technology in modern cars, it has become more important (and difficult) than ever to make conscious, concerted efforts to maintain basic driving skills, much less performance skills.
There’s a famous saying; “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” As true as this is, it is not terribly relevant. Only slightly less well-known, and far more helpful to the task at hand is this: “if you can’t drive well with 90hp you won’t with 900.” Driver modifications are free and last a lifetime, and there are a few simple things you can do from the start that make a big difference. For instance…
5) Eyes On the Road!
I know what you’re thinking; “I should probably pick up some ice cream on the way home.” I’m really going to need you to focus, Steve, we are having a discussion. Now that I have your attention, you have probably noticed the title of this entry and are saying to your computer “They teach us that in driver’s Ed, internet stranger! I thought this was about racing!” You didn’t let me finish. I can only speak as fast as you read, so really its your fault you got the wrong idea.
Watching the road in racing is equally as (if not more) important as it is in daily driving. There are key specifics, however, that make it a completely different fruit of the same color..(what?) In A to B driving, its important to not hit things and not get lost. In racing the same rules apply, but in a smaller area at a greater speed. Look further ahead to more properly plan what you will do next; the further you look, the more you know is coming before it shows up. Also, focus primarily on where you want the car to go, not where you don’t. Keeping your eyes on the cones/curbs/trees is a great way to join them on their journey to just behind you, and the next thing you know there’s change missing from your dresser and your daughter’s knocked up–I’ve seen it a hundred times.
4) Both Hands On the Wheel!
We’ve all seen these people: the ones driving down the street with their clammy mitts wrapped around 10 and 2, eyes wide and darty like a squirrel at a distant rustle of leaves. “These old blue-hairs will kill us all with their fear and uncertainty!” You exclaim, waking suddenly at a dinner party you forgot you were supposed to go to with your parents after staying up till 3AM laughing at Youtube videos of people being bitten by snakes. You’re not like them. You drive down the road like a boss; one hand on the shifter and the other stapled solidly at 12 noon. Driving is easy.
Well stop it. I’m serious. First of all, you look like the worst person I’m never going to meet. Secondly, poor daily driving practices make for poor racing results–or PDDPMFPRR (that’s catchy, right?) While its true the 10 and 2 moniker is a bit outdated, its only by about an hour or so. Moving down to 9 and 3 will drastically improve your car control, as well as your own physical stability; allowing you an even distribution of strength and balance from both your arms and core to keep you in place and the car where it belongs.
3) Get Comfortable!
Quick, punch yourself in the face! wow, that was easy. Good thing I didn’t tell you to cut off a finger or give me all your money. Well…good for you at least. I’m out 17 dollars and an extra finger I can pretend belongs to some guy’s girlfriend for a fake hostage situation. But anyway, now that you are reeling from having what is, frankly, a worryingly heightened level of suggestibility, do a bunch of math in your head. Chances are good it would’ve been a lot easier were you not suffering from a freshly punched face. The same goes for driving.
A lot of focus is required for performance driving, and its difficult to focus on what you are doing if you are being constantly distracted by…say…the fact that you’re sitting in ice cream or…you have a scorpion on your neck; normal day to day stuff. Clean out the car, get your seat nice and upright, just far enough from the wheel to rest your wrist comfortably on the top without leaning forward, and strap in…but not too tight! Breathing is also very important, and your times may suffer if you black out and drive out into the spectating area, running down the locals.
Remember that time in high school when you wanted to show that really attractive girl how few differences there are between you and a real life super hero by driving sideways out of the burger king parking lot? No? You were so worried about doing it wrong that you overcompensated and ended up driving home on 2 flats while the city was minus one functional street sign. No no that was you I promise.
The lesson you hopefully learned from that ordeal was that It’s extremely possible and very common to try *too* hard. Especially when you feel you have something to prove. It’s very easy to get worked up in anticipation for the drive, especially on the start line. The last thing you want is the green flag to come down and you plow through the entire course, loud pedal buried, screaming like a cartoon character until you get to the end and have no idea what happened. Relaxing and visualizing the course ahead of time is a great way to be able to remember afterwards what happened…instead of just the empty white void of panic and tire smoke.
1) You Suck!
Ok, I know telling you that you suck isn’t really much of a tip. Its true though. You know how I know? You aren’t Fernando Alonso…unless you are…in which case, hello! I’m a huge fan of your work. You should help me convince this other guy that he’s not good at racing. Oh, you have to leave? Ok. well thanks for stopping by! Great guy, that Fernando. Ahem..where was I? Ah, yes! The most important thing to realize (its #1 for a reason!) is that the quickest way to not improve your own abilities is to assume/believe/insist that you are already the best. The percentage of people, especially novices, I overhear or talk to directly that jump straight to blaming the car for shortcomings is somewhere close to a very large number. I need new suspension, I need a camber adjust, my brake balance is wrong, my wheel came off, I can’t see, I’m hungry, etc. While its certainly true upgrades will help, they are probably not the bottleneck of your performance.
A good set of brakes and tires are the simplest, and most effective upgrades you can make per capita, but the rest is up to you. The more you learn the more you will realize how far you have to go before any part of the car is what’s keeping you from progressing. Focus on bettering yourself and eventual upgrades will have a much stronger and more lasting effect. Nothing beats out-pacing someone with more money in their car because they focused too much on parts and not enough on skills. You could show them this list! Or not, because you are selfish and don’t want them to get better. You can admit it, we all secretly hate each other.