Look Ahead! Be Smooth!: The Instructor's Anthem

Every driving instructor, whether on the street or in competition, has shouted it from the right seat as they hold on for dear life. They sound simple and fairly obvious, but are you actually doing it right? Terry Thomas at Grassroots Motorsports takes us to school.

“For us drivers, the most important component of fight-or-flight is its effect on our vision. At high speed, an adrenalin-charged student driver will experience tunnel vision: a drastic narrowing of their field of vision. Why? Because that stress response commands our brains to concentrate every bit of our attention on the threat, to the exclusion of practically all else.”

Where should you be looking? Where you want the car to go. That means looking past the apex, to the exit of the turn where you want to end up.

That’s the simplified part of “look ahead” but when it comes to being smooth, there are other challenges thrown at drivers. Ideally, a car’s weight is evenly balanced between all four tires. Unfortunately, in competition the surface usually isn’t perfectly flat and the car is not at rest. That’s the purpose of suspension, but balance of weight cannot be changed instantly. That’s why the driver must be smooth.

“If your driving lacks smoothness, take stock of which muscles you are using to drive your car. Make a deliberate effort to use the [muscles] employed by fine motor skills instead of the big, bulky ones. Are you clutching the wheel in a death grip? Try driving a few laps with just your palms placed on the wheel, and your fingers out straight. (Obviously, use care and do this in a safe, controlled environment.) You will be surprised at how much your steering inputs smooth out.”

Practice makes perfect. Overcoming the instincts that prevent us from looking ahead and being smooth takes time. Commit to these lessons and your times will reflect your improvement.

To read the complete article from Terry Thomas, visit GrassrootsMotorsports.com.

Photo by Rupert Berrington