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Posted: June 7, 2016

For the past few months I’ve been shifting gears without using the clutch – just for the challenge. I never grind the ’box or force it into gear, and it’s a smooth change 99 per cent of the time. However, everyone I speak to about it tells me not to do it. What do you think? – Paul O’Hare Evo Magazine

A clutchless shift will take longer to perform, as you need to ensure gears are at a matched speed before they will engage. If the change is as smooth as you suggest, I would imagine you are timing your shift to coincide with a low to moderate engine speed as you increase and reduce road speed. Clutchless shifts are very difficult to achieve at high engine rpm, where the differential in gear speeds prohibits the change and puts unnecessarily high loadings on synchros, gear teeth and the selector mechanism.

Any decision to change gear should ideally be based on road conditions. As always, active forward planning and observational skills as you approach potential hazards are essential for safe progress. Assessing the risk of a hazard on approach, retarding the vehicle to an appropriate speed and selecting the correct gear are all part of the systematic approach you should apply to negotiating hazards safely.

Therefore, if your decision to change gear is based on the timing of mechanical harmony and not the assessment of the approaching hazard, you’re probably increasing your driving risk, as well as potentially increasing the wear and tear on your gearbox and drivetrain. A lengthy gearchange increases the time your hand is off the steering wheel and promotes coasting if the gear fails to engage, adding further to the demands on your concentration and cognitive skills.

My advice would be to keep it simple: let the car do the work, not the driver, and focus all of your attention on the road ahead - CH

clutchless shift / track / vehicle dynamics / dynamic driving

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