Q: “I’m coaching a driver, and from his videos he is very slow to correct oversteer, and even slower to release the correction. This is leading to him spinning almost every time he gets oversteer. He has limited experience and is in a car with slicks, so maybe not surprising. He is a budget-limited guy (like all of us), and I don’t know if I could get him on a skid pad. Any ideas on how to address his slow hands during a practice session at the track? Traction sensing session focusing on oversteer/understeer to get him at least recognizing the onset of oversteer earlier? I just don’t know of a good way without going and sliding a car around somewhere. Have him buy a cheap Miata and go autocrossing? Suggestions?”

A: I see this waaaaaay too often. I think some of the problem is that drivers are told to be smooth with their steering, so they’re reluctant to turn the wheel quick enough to correct. Or, they just have a habit/program to turn the wheel slowly. Or, they don’t sense the need for a correction soon enough. Or, they’re afraid that turning the wheel quickly will make the car do something really bad. Or, they’re not looking in the right direction. Or, they think they can control it with a bit of steering, only to find out that they didn’t?

How to fix it (I spent the past year working with a driver on this exact thing):

  • Skid pad. Yup, there’s no doubt it will help. But it needs good coaching on the skid pad, too, otherwise the driver will just practice more of the same. The key is to have him practice moving the wheel quickly to correct.
  • Sensory Input Sessions will help the driver sense the need for a correction sooner.
  • Change the setup so the car oversteers dramatically, and then practice “quick hands” to correct any slides.
  • Mental imagery. Important to physically move the arms/hands while imagining catching a slide. A key is to build the trigger, “Quick hands.” Make that phrase part of his programming, so that whenever the car steps out, he uses “quick hands.”
  • The further ahead a driver looks, the earlier they will recognize a slide (yaw angle), so coach them on this.

All of these seem cheaper than buying a Miata (for once, the answer is not “Miata”!). However, the Miata solution is a great one, and would help (but I’d still want to see the car setup to oversteer to get the driver practicing quick hands).

Autocross? Yes, that would help, but the one downside of this is that most corners are relatively short duration. Compare a typical autocross corner to turn 1 at Mid-Ohio, for example. The advantage of a skid pad is that a driver can spend a long time in a slide, and therefore learn how to manage the slide (with quick hands). This is one reason I’ve had road racers I’m coaching go to DirtFish Rally School – so they can slide a car in gravel for a long duration. Rather than a “what just happened?” moment, it becomes a “okay, that’s oversteer, and I need to catch it” longer moment.

The message that he needs to program in his mind is this: “Initiate slowly, react quickly.” Sure, the idea is to turn into the corner with slow hands, but catch any slide with quick hands.