Fighting, sex, and driving a car. Those are three things that, for whatever reason, most men think they're naturally good at. Now, we can't speak for the first two, but if everyday traffic is anything to go by, most motorists out there could use a refresher or two in the nuances of driving.
Recently, some of the younger members of the Top Gear PH staff underwent the first module of the Automobile Association Philippines' Motorsport Development Program, under local racing icon Vip Isada. Everyone can benefit from taking lessons from racing pros, even people like us who write about cars for a living. Here are some of the insights we learned under Coach Vip:
1) The steering wheel is for balancing the car. You might think that the wheel is simply for turning the car left and right, but you'd be wrong. It's actually a tool used to balance the weight of the car, which naturally shifts with every movement it makes. If you think about driving in those terms, the car becomes much easier to manage.
2) It's not always about speed. Speaking of speed, your speedometer's climb isn't always the best indicator that you'll nail the perfect lap. What actually determines how well you're doing is your lap time. Taking that sharp corner at 100kph and losing control is pointless when you can do it at 40kph without skidding out.
3) Every steer starts with a push. Whether you choose to steer by shuffling your hands or crossing them over, every motion of the wheel starts with a push. To turn left, you start by pushing the wheel with your right hand and vice versa.
4) Conserving energy is a must. In case you didn't know, races can run for a long time. Even short ones can feel like a lifetime when you're the one wearing the racing suit. So everything from the way you sit to the way you release the clutch has to be geared toward using the least amount of energy as possible. For example, Coach Vip recommends that instead of releasing the clutch by lifting your whole leg, you can simply flex your foot back to make the movement more efficient.
5) Modulate your foot. Motorsport isn't always about thrashing the throttle and stomping the brakes. Proper balance of your car is achieved when you apply the correct amount of force on the pedals. Obviously, this can change depending on where you are on the track, but the key is getting your footwork just right.
6) Drive according to your skill, not your car. There are two types of drivers to watch out for: Those with more skill and those with 'more car.' As a beginner, you'd do best not to immediately try to emulate the former and to avoid settling as one of the latter. Finding success in motorsport takes time and practice, and simply relying on horsepower or overestimating your skill behind the wheel is the easiest way to figure in an accident.
7) Your development isn't limited to the track. We're not telling you to practice turning at speed on busy public roads, that would be stupid. But practicing turning and brake modulation within reason during everyday driving can help beginners get a better feel for proper driving mechanics. Off track, it's the simple things that count.
8) Aftermarket isn't always what you think. Don't go overboard with your mods. Seriously. Many common mods, coilovers for example, are next to useless and may even hinder your performance on the track. Mods fit for racing are of better quality, offer better performance, and will cost you a hell of a lot more than your average Banawe find.