Although there is no better way to improve your driving than practicing and staying sensible, we have a few handy hints that can help you enjoy your driving and also prevent you ending up in a ditch.
1. LIFT-OFF OVERSTEER
Unless you are trying to induce oversteer and are well capable of controlling it, do not panic and sharply jump off the gas when cornering, even if you are already oversteering. The reason is, the weight transfer that doing this induces can either provoke oversteer to begin, or in the case of a car already power oversteering, it can make it snap back the other way violently, and both can end in either a spin or a crash. The most sensible thing to do is to progressively let off the gas, lessening how severe the weight transfer is, and enabling you to counter any unwanted oversteer a little more easily.
2. PLAN AHEAD
Look as far ahead in the road as possible and try to spot and anticipate any problems, as blindly ploughing on and reacting at the last minute will slow you down as you may not be in the right gear and road position to take on the next corner in the best possible way. In addition, it also greatly increases the chance of an accident. Windy single lane B-roads may be fun, and may have a speed limit far in excess of what speed you are doing, but if the corners are blind its impossible to plan ahead and know what’s next. Many B-roads are not wide enough to take avoiding action if you come across another car, so your fun is likely to turn sour fairly quickly. Even straight roads with good visibility can pose problems, as although you might be aware of your surroundings, you can’t rely on other drivers to be competent. The likelihood of drivers pulling out on you when you are driving quickly is high, but looking further ahead for cars and junctions will minimise these risks.
3. UNDERSTEERING HELL
Although understeer is usually far less worrying to most than oversteer, the amount of fast road driving that ends with a car understeering into a kerb and being damaged is still high, so you should avoid it at all costs. When a car understeers, most people’s automatic reaction, understandably, is to turn the steering wheel even more, but winding on more lock in an understeer situation actually makes the problem worse, so winding off a little steering lock until the car re-grips should actually be the thing to do. Understeer is most common as power understeer, i.e. when the driver is trying to accelerate round a corner, and for that reason the simple solution is usually to let off the gas, though if you let off too sharply it might create a lift off oversteer situation, so be careful. Conversley, understeer when off the throttle can often be reduced or eliminated, especially on RWD cars or FWD cars with limited slip diffs, by applying some throttle, helping the car finally pull itself in the direction the wheels are pointing.
4. DON’T LOCK UP
Locking up your wheels under braking creates tyre smoke, noise, and can even flat spot your tyres, but it also seriously increases your braking distance. Although the majority of cars these days have ABS, you can’t always totally rely on that to prevent the wheels locking, so be prepared to decrease pedal pressure a little if required to unlock the wheels. Finally, as mentioned previously, the grippier your tyres are, the less likely they are to lock up under braking; another big advantage of good performance tyres.
5. KNOW YOUR LIMITS
As much as we would all like to think we are world class drivers, the likelihood is that we are far from it. Pushing the car like you are on the WRC is the main cause of a spirited road drive ending in tears, as even top WRC drivers regularly crash, and their cars will out-handle anything any of us are likely to own! Driving fast is fun, just keep it safe and sensible and within the limits of the law. If you want to really push yourself and your car to the limit, take it to the track.