Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Driving with your ears
Carroll Smith mentions that great race car drivers have an excellent sense of balance briefly in Drive to Win, but he doesn't really elaborate much on why this is important. This may just be that he figures anyone with experience at driving a race car will know why. I'm just a wannabe when it comes to driving race cars, but it didn't take me long to learn.
I would say that one of the key reasons a sense of balance helps is that it allows you to gauge whether your car is starting to misbehave. In normal street driving, your car goes more or less where you point it. When pushing a car to its limits on a race track or autocross circuit, though, you're likely to feel the car starting to slide around. Usually street tires will also make a lot of squealing, but this isn't necessarily true with race tires. And often, the biggest clue that your car is beginning to slide doesn't quite seem to be what you see, as much as what you feel. You just feel that the car is starting to rotate in an odd way, that the back end is coming around or the car is going sideways.
This skill can also be useful for street driving on icy pavement or other times you run out of traction.
I've sometimes thought that one reason I often have trouble with racing video games is that they can't replicate this. Even with the force-feedback controls that you'll see at an arcade, there is no way to give the driver the sensation that the car on the screen is starting to slip. Video games take away one of the most important senses in racing. It's not quite like driving blindfolded, but sometimes it almost feels that way.
Now I'm passing the AW Chain torch to Kelly Curtis, whose blog happens to be called "Pass the Torch."
My husband would love your blog - I'll bring him by sometime.
You know if someone invented a video game that DID make that slipping feeling, can you imagine how much money they'd make!! Hell, real race car drivers could use it to train with!!
It gets even more funner (yep, that's grammatically correct, that is) when you're driving in the mountains, can't see over the top of the hill, and you hit a patch of black ice and hope you don't wander over to the edge of the road to plumment 250 feet or more...
Ah, yes, living in Sri Lanka is quite nice. :D
Links to this post: