Colin Hoad, Chief Instructor of CAT Driver Training, continues his series on Car Control. Here he interrogates his own inner thoughts and secrets for every driving enthusiasts’ quest: total mastery of high-performance car control.
Decide what it means to You?
My first blog in the series highlighted the need to define how we interrogate the phrase, car control. It means something different to all of us. So logically, in order to successfully fulfil a client’s learning outcomes and objectives, an understanding of your interpretation of the phrase is needed. That simple question can open a Pandora’s box of discussion points, but for track drivers, it often leads to a similar response:“I would like to be comfortable driving at grip limit around a fast corner on a circuit.”
The emotional content of our driving performance, our ability to interpret and view the road efficiently with truth and self-reflection is, I believe, one of the foundations stones to achieve this on-circuit goal.
The emphasis on a coaching session with CAT, is to awaken your inner self to the emotional conundrums and puzzles you may have to confront and overcome if we are to succeed in our quest.
If I grade the importance of the content of the last few paragraphs it would be 11 out of 10 or 110% – I hope you’re getting the message!
What’s he talking about I hear you say?
Isn’t car control all about turning the steering wheel, pulling levers, pushing pedals and attempting not to crash into the scenery? Well yes, but that is only part of the story.
A deeper look into high-performance driving
What goes on deep in the inner workings of your grey matter is key to the whole car control process. It just so happens it took me around 10 years of teaching and coaching in driver development to realise its importance.
My favourite and often used phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” could not be more truthful when applied to grip limit driving. Even though I do know what to do and drive at grip limit frequently, often daily, I still fall into the same psychological traps that you will. I am simply human and we all kind of do the same thing when cognitively challenged – we focus on the wrong things!
Education, enlightenment and the ability to interrogate your own driving performance is the golden ticket to success. And of course, the discipline and determination to use and apply what you have learned through your chosen CAT driver training course.
Achieve your driving goals here! Can’t ask for more than that!
I wanted to understand my car, be able to find and drive at the grip limit, and also understand how to be a faster and better driver. A lot to fit into a day, but Colin managed it in the most efficient way possible, and we achieved them all! Colin has great insights into vehicle dynamics, as well as the human-machine behind the wheel.
He understands why we sometimes don’t function as optimally as we would like! His ability to listen to you, translate your input and isolate what is not working with your current technique helps focus the day on exactly what needs attention.
This focus, along with Colin’s ‘feeling’ of how the package of car and driver is behaving, makes him uniquely qualified to provide great direction and input to help you become the best driver possible. A lot of people talk about it, but very few can translate the inputs to a specific process for you to follow as a driver.
Fernando Alonso – a great example
I recently read a 5-part article on Fernando Alonso’s F1 career written by BBC’s sports writer Andrew Benson. The article quotes Italian Andrea Stella, Alonso’s race engineer at Ferrari from 2010-14 and moved with him to McLaren in 2015:
You can create your own understeer, for example like, if the car is a bit nervous, you don’t commit to turn early enough, or turn enough. So, you delay the turn-in, and then you are always going to get an understeery car mid-corner.
But not all drivers realise that this mid corner balance is very much a result of what happens in the earlier 50 metres. And that’s very tricky for an engineer, because if you only go with the driver, you get lost, because you keep going after the understeer.
The article highlights Alonso’s ability to interpret these scenarios correctly.
My car is understeering – it’s the tyres? I think it is? Or is it?
So how does comparing the ultimate and arguably total F1 driver with you and I help us? I’ll give you a comparable customer example to put things into context.
At a recent wet track day on the Silverstone GP Circuit working with a client in his Ferrari 488, I was asked to sit in with his son who hadn’t trained with us before. He drove a 911 991 GT3 RS and asked for help in determining the cause of his vehicles obvious and speed-sapping understeer.
It took but a few laps to realise that the factory geometry settings were giving the car an understeer bias, as it was front-end limiting. Accelerate in a corner and the front would break grip before the rear. Adjust the geo and the understeer will reduce. But was that all the solution needed? Could the partially worn front tyres be having an effect? Or even the driver’s technique?
There was more to it…
Being nervous of the wet conditions and not wanting to damage his car, was a human and emotional element creeping into the understeer equation. It became more obvious the more laps we did. He had begun to focus on the barriers and gravel traps on the outside of every corner. The consequence – a gentle steer towards the looming hazards before finally turning for the corner.
A great day expertly delivered by true professionals.
The amount learnt in the time available was amazing and provided a much greater insight into not only my own capabilities, but also the car. Thoroughly recommend to anyone – I will be back for sure.
Ask the right question you’ll get the right answer
The driver now steering late for every turn, the effect was an initial spike in the steering rotation on turn in, and an over-rotation of the steering wheel and yes … excessive understeer. The next question I put, I must say 10 times a week.
Colin: “Where are you looking”?
Driver: “I’m looking at the gravel trap”
Colin: “Where else could you look?”
Driver: “At the tarmac?”
Colin: “Great answer, ignore the gravel and the barriers and see what happens”
Yes, you are right. 80% of the understeer disappeared, the steering technique became timely and the car became more neutral. The remaining understeer was due to the partially worn tyres and geometry set up. It always comes back to the driver’s inputs and emotional content. Feel nervous and there is a very strong chance you will look where you might crash, not where you want to go.
Remember – interrogate your own performance before you blame the car. Tweet This
You’re right again – it’s not easy, but we make the learning process easier and totally enjoyable with our unique content, coaching and teaching style.
I love reading the inner thoughts of professional engineers such as Andrea Stella. It confirms to me no matter what level we drive at, we are all susceptible to the effects of human emotion.
F1 drivers, arguably the best in the world, are not immune from the emotional traps and the resulting dynamic imbalance induced seemingly in ignorance and without conscious thought.
My strongest advice if you are new to circuit driving – don’t expect to “ACE IT” on your first track day. It’s like any sport. Dedication and hard work is required to achieve a competent standard, along with coaching and training.
What else affects finite car control?
In short lots! That’s why we have our 5 day Academy programme for drivers looking to develop their track craft to a total and ultimate control level.
How we think, feel and react when driving is just part of the equation. Vehicle configuration, engine position, steering and braking techniques and dynamic characteristics to name just a few, all influence the subtle manipulation of the vehicle and its controls, in the quest for total control.
The smallest details can have big gains in terms of speed and reduction of lap time and of course, safety.
Click here to read Part 1 of The Secrets of Car Control.
Learn more about getting the maximum enjoyment and safety from every driving experience and journey, read through our website or call Jo or Lynne to find out more about our courses: 01234 757 633 | firstname.lastname@example.org