10 Secrets of Race Car Drivers
Posted by: Dan on 29/02/2016
Save for four tyres and a steering wheel, it's hard to imagine there’s much in common between a race car and a regular car. The driving habits of a professional racer and the average commuter seem light years apart. Yet the pursuit of high speed as a sport has actually led to a number of innovations and shared knowledge in the area of driving.
Here are 10 secrets of race car drivers that you can leverage and make use of in your daily driving.
I. They go easy on their tyres
This is the golden rule of all good driving. Although it may look cool in the movies to see cars skidding around corners and burning rubber, when it comes to racing, a good driver knows the opposite approach is best.
The principles of good braking are important, too. This means always making a concerted effort to get in the habit of braking gently, as opposed to just slamming down hard on your brakes when you get to the lights. You’ll find that your tyres will enjoy a far longer lifespan, too.
2. They don't brake and turn at the same time
Good racers know braking is best done in a straight line. This applies even when turning a corner. Rather than driving through a corner and leaning on the brakes as you reduce your speed, try to complete your braking before you arrive at the actual turn.
A recent study found that 22% of crashes occur as a result of weather-related factors, so this tip is particularly important in the rain. Since the road is not only slippery when it’s raining – but also when drying post-rainfall – trying to turn while you brake can easily put you into a skid.
Even if the corner is one you’ve taken many times on dry pavement, in wet conditions, always be sure your braking is done in a straight line before the turn so as to avoid wheel lock.
3. They put safety first
It might sound cliché, but even though race car drivers regularly race at speeds over 300 kms, they do put safety first. They are able to handle the speed due to the array of safety features and equipment checks that are conducted on their vehicles.
The same principles should apply to your car, although on a smaller scale. Not only does ensuring that your tyres have ample tread and your engine has new oil maximise your safety behind the wheel, those factors can also optimise your car's performance.
This ensures that you have fun while you’re in motion, and can focus on maintaining good driving habits instead of worrying about your car.
4. They take their hands off the wheel
Avoiding a crash should always be your first priority, but sometimes the reality is you can’t avoid it. If you can see that a crash is about to happen, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, try to remember to remove your hands from the wheel before impact. Racers who regularly deal with crashes know this move can keep you from breaking your wrists from the impact or wheel spin.
5. They like it old-school
For all the latest gadgetry, race car drivers still love the old cars. Even if you can’t get your hands on an old Ferrari or Bugatti, why not just practise learning manual driving, if you don’t know how already?
Learning to drive a manual ensures that you will be able to get behind the wheel of any car that you need to, and it can also give you a greater sense of and connection to your vehicle's performance. It’s also useful in case you find yourself working a driving job that requires in a manual licence.
6. They recommend slipstreaming
Slipstreaming is a great way to save money on fuel, especially over long trips. If you’re driving on the open road and don’t mind your view being a little obscured, driving behind a large vehicle like a caravan or truck causes a decrease in air resistance, thereby reducing the amount of energy your car’s engine needs to expend.
It’s important to avoid tailgating, but even driving behind the vehicle at a safe following distance can yield results.
7. They know the importance of having a good team
It may just be the race car driver out on the track with the car, but you can bet he’s got a whole team in his garage working away, and a chief mechanic available via radio earpiece.
When it comes to the time you spend on the road, having your own team (a mechanic, a tyre dealer, and a detailer) will ensure that your car is always in peak condition. While you may not have a direct radio link to your chief mechanic, making sure that you have adequate insurance coverage and roadside assistance means that in case something does go wrong, you’ll have help on the way.
8. They’re in tune with their vehicles
Over the course of their careers, race car drivers practically acquire a default degree in engineering. They know it’s important to not only focus on their driving, but to stay in tune with their vehicle and its performance.
Just as a professionals recognise that “even a small hairline crack [on the engine] can have large consequences,” a concerted effort to learn as much as you can about your vehicle gives you the knowledge to detect and spot something going wrong before it becomes a real problem.
9. They practise consistency
If you're driving to work already pressed for time, and you encounter roadwork, it’s tempting to just get frustrated and try to make up the time by speeding. Forget it. You will be late that day, just like a racer is going to come second in their race after a bad pitstop.
Recognise that, just like good racing, good driving is about your overall performance and consistency. So, whether you’re racing at Monaco or just driving in slow traffic along the Nepean Highway in Melbourne, realise that when things go wrong, keeping calm and carrying on as normal is the best course of action. A crash is sure to ruin your day, whether you're racing or otherwise, so just focus on making your drive go more smoothly next time.
10. They keep learning
No driver is perfect, but all drivers can continually improve their skills. If you want to do so, get out and practise on a track.
It might seem counterintuitive if most of the time you spend driving is going through school zones at 40 kms, or commuting to the office at 60 kms. Yet knowing how your car behaves at high speeds can have useful applications in the event of an emergency, and learning the greater nuances of braking, cornering, and acceleration can improve your fuel economy and car performance in your day-to-day driving.
What driving tips have you picked up from expert drivers? What’s your top piece of advice to others on the road? Share in the comments: