Q: “If you are about to lose control of the vehicle, i.e. at the end of a straightaway due to brake failure and frontal crash is imminent, would you rather try to rotate the vehicle so it might impact sideways or let it go straight to the barrier? What would be the wiser action to take right there?”
A: Did you see the crash that Simon Pageneau had in practice for the Mid-Ohio Indy car race? He lost brakes at the end of the straight, and went into the gravel runoff, but he’d turned the car sideways and it dug in and began rolling. That’s the main problem with trying to get the car turned to have a side impact. Most modern cars have more frontal impact protection than side, so I’d choose to go in with the front. The head and neck restraints (HANS, etc.) do a really good job in all directions, but I think a frontal impact would be better there, too. So, it does depend on how much room you have before whatever you’re going to hit, and what’s there. If you had lots of room and it was flat pavement, for sure turning the car to scrub speed would be better. But if there was something that could “trip” the car, it would probably be better to go straight on.
That’s a tough question because there are so many variables, and you’d have to make that decision in fractions of a second. It’s a really good thing that you’re thinking about this because you’re going to react instinctively, and that’s going to rely on your mental programming – some of that comes from you thinking about the options beforehand.
Keeping in mind recent examples, and in this case the crash that Daniel Ricciardo had in practice for the Dutch GP, take your hands off the steering just before any impact. Up until you’re going to hit, do everything you can to avoid it, and that means looking and steering to where you want to go. But just before you hit the wall, pull your hands off the wheel and tuck them against your chest. Since it’s hard to remember to do this in the heat of the moment, take some time to visualize doing this, mentally preparing yourself for the crash.
Hey, I have a better idea: Make sure your car never loses its brakes!!!
NOTE: If you don’t want to wait for me to answer your question(s) here, you can always use my new SpeedSecrets.ai by signing up at SpeedSecrets.ai. The real beauty of using this app is that you can get out of your car after a session on track, and immediately ask it questions and get your answers, as well as what you should work on for the next on-track session. Since it’s “trained” only with my content, it really is like having me with you at the track.