Performance & Race Driving Tip
Speed Secret: Driving Fast Comes From a Light Touch on the Steering Wheel.
I was talking with a friend and he asked how tightly I recommend a driver hold the steering wheel. See, he plays golf, the guitar, and is in the process of learning to play the fiddle.
His fiddle teacher told him to hold the bow with “3 pressure” – meaning that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being grasping the bow as tightly as possible. My friend said that he’s had golf instructors suggest about the same grip pressure, so he wondered whether this applied to driving as well.
I hadn’t ever thought of it that way before, but I am now! And I think that holding the wheel with about “3 pressure” is a good target. Sure, there are times where you might have to tighten your grip just a little more, depending on the type of car you’re driving (a high-downforce car through a fast, grippy corner, for example). But if you aim to hold the wheel with a light grip, you’ll have better sensitivity to the feedback you get through the wheel.
The next time you’re driving down the highway in your street car, grip the steering wheel as tightly as possible. Notice how much vibration you feel through the wheel. Next, lighten your grip to around “3 pressure,” and notice how much more feel you have. With a lighter grip, your arms are more relaxed, and because of that, more feedback from the wheel is transferred to your brain where it can be translated into information about what the car is doing.
And the next time you’re on the track, try “3 pressure” to control the steering wheel. If it works with musical instruments and golf clubs, it must work for driving!
Check back here often for more tips and advice for performance drivers, race drivers, high performance driving instructors, and anyone else interested in learning to get around race tracks quickly.
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Very true .. 3 pressure is I great starting point. For all the reasons you mention PLUS it lessens the reaction time to other inputs it allows for ONEsignal from the brain to react instead of including one to UNLOCK your clenched muscles and preform a fine motor task.
I agree with the “3” level of grip. Driving fast on a road course is all about feeling what the car is doing, as it approaches its physical limits of grip on corners, acceleration and braking.
This also includes feeling feedback as one inputs changes to the steering, gas & brakes.
Our best sensors are our fingertips, toes and our ass.
This is not easy to learn as you can’t “think” your way through it. We use a different part of the brain, similar to an athlete hitting or catching a ball.
Lighten up on the grip, relax and let your instincts take over.
I belonged to the North Shore Corvette Club and we were fortunate to have an SCCA club racer (Rick Mancuso) who was the son of the Chevy dealership who sponsored our club back in the late 70’s, early 80’s. He gave us a driving tip talk one night at a club meeting that I haven’t forgotten about a race experience he had. After some laps, he couldn’t understand why his arms were so tired or why the car was so hard to turn. He realized that he had a death grip on the steering wheel that was causing it. His message back then was the same as this post, grip the wheel lightly but enough to control the car. I practice this all the time on the street and find that bent elbows means a lighter grip on the wheel, while straight(er) arms usually means a too tight grip.