Bad driving tip #10: one hand on the wheel

It’s time to go back to the YSAR roots and watch some video of people driving poorly. In the next couple months I’ll be counting down my 10 favorite tips on how to drive badly. Here’s a clip of a driver who has clearly brought his street driving practices to the race track. Does he drive a manual transmission in real life or just pretend to? Is he resting his hand on the gear selector because he doesn’t have a coffee cup handy? It looks silly and more importantly, it’s unsafe. If someone bumps him, he’ll lose control of the wheel and then the car. Keep two hands on the wheel whenever possible. That’s something you can practice in your street car.

What about drifting you say? This blog is about road racing, not drifting.

Barbizon school of racing

When I was growing up, I remember there were a lot of TV advertisements for the Barbizon School of Modeling. Their tag line was “train to be a model… or just look like one”. I think it’s a brilliant slogan. A quick search of the curriculum shows what you might expect: how to groom and present yourself. But they also have stuff like “eat wheat bread, not white” and “poo every day” and even “always have impeccable undergarments”. Great advice for models and racers alike. I imagine if they had a school of racing, it would include how to hold the steering wheel: place your hands at 9 and 3, and leave them there except to shift. Want to squash your on-camera audition? Pick your nose. Want to do the racing equivalent? Here are some ideas (watch the hands).



Last week we introduced the Taxonomy of Suckage with LTO (lift throttle oversteer). Suddenly decelerating mid-corner is not a good idea. In that same vein, here’s an even worse idea: releasing the clutch mid-corner. Around here we call that down-shitting (DST). The brakes are for slowing, the engine is for going. Intentionally using the clutch & engine to decelerate is a bad habit. You can get away with it on the street, but on the track it ruins your brake bias. So you actually end up increasing your braking distance when you mix the brake and clutch pedals. In addition, in a rear wheel drive vehicle, down-shitting may lock your rear wheels and cause you to spin even when you’re driving in a straight line. While heel-toe shifting helps minimize down-shitting, you don’t need to match revs to prevent DST. Just do your gear changes at the very end of the brake zone.

Oh for crying out loud, auto racing is ridiculously dangerous. The least you could do is drive with both hands on the wheel! One-handed driving (OHD) has no place on track. If you’re going to play at racing cars, learn to drive (LTD).

The sound of one hand clapping

“Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?” If you ask me, far too much time has been spent pondering this question. One reason for that is that I can literally clap one-handed, so I know exactly what it sounds like. Another reason is that if you define clapping as a two-handed activity, it makes no sense to imagine it as a one-handed activity. It’s just philosophical fluff meant to give students something to waste their time on while the professor daydreams of being at the race track (another thing I happen to understand at a personal level). What does this have to do with racing? The sound of one hand driving of course.

I confess, I still have no idea exactly what the sound of one hand driving is, but it sure as hell looks like shit.

Rubbing isn’t racing

Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall): No, no, he didn’t slam you, he didn’t bump you, he didn’t nudge you… he rubbed you. And rubbin, son, is racin’.

Iconic movie quotes aside, rubbing is not racing. You’re not supposed to make contact with other cars and many racing series have explicit rules against car contact. The common 13/13 rule states that any at-fault contact with another car puts you on probation for 13 months. If you get into another such incident during probation, it gets you suspended for 13 months. This incident happened in 24 Hours of LeMons and the penalty in situations like these is generally harsh language.

Who is at fault here? There’s no question that the Miata instigated the incident by cutting off the 240Z (camera car). That was bad driving. But if you’re going to race in a crapcan series, you have to expect bad driving. The accident could have been avoided had the 240Z driver slowed or given more room. Sometimes it’s not possible to do that and you just have to take a little contact and keep driving. That’s easier to do when you keep two hands on the wheel. When the Miata touched the 240Z, the steering wheel spun out of the driver’s hand, which resulted an extreme steering angle and all the nonsense that followed.

I can drive a manual, really I can

One hand on the wheel? Check. One hand on the automatic shifter? Check. Shifting an automatic transmission? Check. Downshifting in the highest speed corner of the track, locking the rear wheels, and spinning? Check. At least you’re wearing your HANS device. Oh wait, you’re not even wearing a donut. How the hell did they let you on track?

You have to admire the controlled skid that was executed without the use of the brake pedal. It must have been the martial arts cross-block on the steering wheel. Thankfully, no crapcans were injured in the making of this clip.