#230 Racing is life – driving techniques – S3 E9 – Understanding the car behavior

As this season goes on and on, we actually build up a lot of knowledge about different car components and how they work together as a team. Todays topic will not add something new to the portfolio, but instead tries to combine all the different things we have learned so far.

Understanding the car behavior might actually be the key to success. If you have no clue about what you car is going through, how can you drive safe and fast at the same time? This is the most essential part to know about racing, at least on the theoretical part of the equation. You need to be able to understand what is going on with your car in basically every situation. In the rain, in the slipstream, in what ever conditions imaginable. What is your car doing and more importantly, why is it doing that? What do you need to change, where do you need to be careful with, and so on and so forth.

Generally speaking, I can of course tell you not everything there is to know. Firstly, because my knowledge about that is very basic and limited and secondly, because there are so many different factors that need to be considered, that it would take a lot of time to talk about everything.

Therefore, I highly recommend you to watch some YouTube videos, getting the information you need. That will be way better, then what ever I can come up with in this blog. But lets take the moment and talk about the basics of the basics.

Generally speaking, there are a lot of different things going on when actually driving a car. Your suspension is working, the airflow changes with the speed, components and parts can elastically deform themself under forces and so on and so on. Therefore, the most important thing you need to understand is the following.

Keep the car in a steady and balanced position. Your input needs to be distinct, but carefully performed. The less movement there is in the car, the better. Don’t be too aggressive, or forcing the car into unharmonized movements. That may look spectacular on the inboard camera, but is just a waste of time and energy. Your driving style needs to be calm and in harmony. There needs to be a connection between you and the car. You need to feel what the car can handle and guide it exactly to that point, but never over it.

A very good example about that is Sean Edwards. Sadly he isn’t alive anymore, but his driving is so fascinating to watch. For me, he is a hero, a role model when it comes to driving cars and especially Porsches. Here is a video of one of his onboards on the Nordschleife. Do you see what I am talking about? He is in control. He knows what the car is capable of. His steering input is direct, distinct, but not hectic. Sure, you overdrive your car sometimes, but the way he is doing that, this situation hardly occurs. He is so in control, the car is so balanced, it makes just so much fun to actually watch that.

He knows exactly what he is doing. Look how he moves through the traffic, just extraordinarily precise and on point.

But what does that mean, to actually overdrive a car?

Sure, everyone knows that a car can handle normally, like it would do when driving to the supermarket or to work. You turn the steering wheel and the car turns. You brake, the car brakes. Everything seems under control, nothing is sliding around, flashing in the dashboard or something like that. Well, that can be called the neutral position. You do not over do it, you are miles away from your cars limit, therefore, there is nothing to worry about. But the thing is of course, that this is neither fast, nor making a lot of fun.

The moment you want to change that, going onto a racetrack and try to use the full potential of your car, you can experience three different kind of states. The first one is of course the neutral position. You car is doing exactly what you are demanding, turning in, braking, accelerating. But then, there are two other conditions that might come up. The first one is understeering and the second one oversteering.

Again, a YouTube video might actually explain that way better, but generally speaking, understeering means you want to drive around a corner, steering into the corner, but your car pushes over the front tires and doesn’t start to turn but instead still moves in a straight line. Oversteering is of course the exact opposite from that, meaning, that your rear tires are losing the grip, letting the car spin around into the direction of the corner.

While the understeering is more easy to get back under control again, because you basically just need to reduce the speed until your tires will have grip again, the oversteering actually demands to catch the car while giving an opposite steering input. That is not the easiest thing in the world to do and for sure, you can not just assume that every driver license owner can do that, that’s actually the reason, why street cars are getting a more understeering oriented setup, that allows the average user to get the car back under control.

Generally speaking, every time your car is understeering or oversteering, you have done a mistake, loosing valuable time on the clock. Therefore you should aim for the maximum potential of your car, but not to step over it. Well, in theory, you can talk about that for ages, but that is helping no-one. Make sure that you have understood the theoretical part, but after that, it is just a matter of a lot of practicing, trying it out and experiencing it yourself. Get into a car a test that. Sure, the public road is not the place for things like that, therefore you can either use a simulator software, going on a cart track, or visit a driver practice session, for example an ADAC safety training in Germany, or a simple track day at any racetrack somewhere around the world.

In the end, you will figure out your unique driving style and will work on that until you are satisfied with what you can do. If you can keep it calm and make it look easy to do, you are on the right path, my friend.

See you next time!

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