Revisited: The five stages of grief

Back when I first posted this, I was more concerned about oversteer as a problem. Well, that’s because YSAR started out as a crash analysis blog and oversteer, or rather the inability to handle oversteer, is the main cause of spins and a common culprit in car-to-car contact. I see oversteer a little differently now. Oversteer is necessary. The fastest way through a corner requires oversteer. You can’t open the throttle until the car is pointed down the track, and that requires rotating the car by swinging the back end around a little (not a lot, as drifting isn’t the fastest way around a track).

Oversteer scares passengers, understeer scares drivers

The problem with an oversteering car is that it’s more dangerous to drive. An advanced driver can handle a twitchy car and use the instability to rotate the car early in a corner. But novice and intermediate drivers will feel scared and intimidated. Countersteering isn’t second nature yet, so they will drive slower with less confidence and be more prone to accidents. In a team setting, tune the car for the slowest driver. Fast drivers can work around the handling problems of a car. It’s better for the fast drivers to be a few tenths off pace than the slow driver coming in on a wrecker.


If you hadn’t noticed, there’s some kind of numbers theme going on in this blog (two kinds of oversteer, three terrors, four temperaments). When will this end? Not this week. This time let’s riff on Dr. Kubler-Ross’ 5 stages of grief and call it the 5 stages of oversteer.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in a FWD, RWD, or 4WD vehicle, sometimes the rear of the car loses grip and the back end starts to swing out. Maybe you lifted the throttle, popped the clutch, put a tire off track, stomped on the throttle, ran over oil, or got nudged by another car. The reasons may or may not be within your control, but oversteer happens and you have to deal with it or you’ll spin.

  1. The first stage is denial. Typical thoughts as you spin off track might be “that did not just happen” or “that wasn’t my fault”. This stage generally doesn’t last long.
  2. Next is anger. You might yell “fucking track” or “stupid car” as you try to quickly assign blame. A repeat performance will leave you asking the racing gods “why does this keep happening to me?”
  3. As you continue to experience oversteer, you enter a bargaining phase where you start to put some blame on yourself and ask a lot of “if only…” questions such as “if only I had stickier tires” or “if only I had a thicker front ARB” or “if only I had a wing”.
  4. Depression is the fourth stage. It comes when you realize that all the tuning in the world won’t stop oversteer. You become dejected as you realize there’s nothing you can do about it. Your despair may make you consider quitting racing.
  5. The final stage is acceptance. You eventually realize that oversteer is a natural occurrence. A great drive is not measured by the absence of adversity, but by grace in its midst.

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