Last week we talked about weight transfer and the somewhat paradoxical notion that braking causes oversteer (by transferring weight and grip to the front of the car). So once the car is an oversteer stance (i.e. pointed into the corner more than necessary), what next? Well, if you do nothing, you will spin. The something you absolutely have to do is to open the wheel, which is often called counter-steering. Simply holding the steering wheel in the same place for too long will lead to a spin. In the following clip, the driver waits too long to open the wheel and spins.
How far do you turn the wheel in the other direction and for how long? It depends on how much you are oversteering and how much you are accelerating (or braking). Controlling oversteer requires a delicate balance between hands and feet. I’m sure I could come up with an equation for that, but it wouldn’t help anyone. Once you are in an oversteer stance, you have to control it with muscle memory. Thinking takes way too long. It’s got to be a habit born from hours and hours of repetitive training. In the next clip, the driver steps on the gas too hard and starts to oversteer. His lack of training is evident.
In both videos, the car ends up fish-tailing. In motorcycling, that’s called a tankslapper (because the handlebars slap both sides of the fuel tank). It’s such a great term that even car people also use it. What causes tankslappers? It’s a combination of extreme oversteer and late reactions. Even experienced drivers sometimes get into tankslappers when caught unawares, but the oscillations get smaller each side. Inexperienced drivers sometimes end up making matters worse as they try to recover.
So what can you do to prevent oversteer spins, tankslappers, and mass carnage? You could drive purposefully well under the limit of the car. That way it won’t oversteer. But what happens if there’s dirt, water, or oil on the track? What happens if you drop a wheel or 4 off track? It would be far better to learn how to control oversteer, right? Unfortunately, the only way to get that wired into your nervous system is by experiencing a lot of oversteer. There’s no amount of listening, reading, or watching that will make your reactions automatic. Talk about fun homework! I suggest simulation. I’d say it’s 90% as good as the real thing and virtual cars are a lot cheaper when you wreck.