Q: “Your Ultimate Speed Secrets book covered just about everything I could ever think of, but I do have one question about your foot being on the dead pedal during hard cornering. I’m struggling with how to approach muscle tension in that left leg. The natural reaction is to ram my whole leg into the dead pedal to support my body and minimize my body moving around to focus on turning the car. At the same time, I’m 100% behind the concept in driving, or any sport for that matter, in the fact that you lose feel with increased muscle tension. These two things are competing really. In an ideal world you would not have all this tension in your leg to better feel the car, but you also don’t want to be a wet noodle in there flopping all around either. Anyways, any thoughts?”
A: You’re right that you don’t want tension in your body. What I’m recommending is that using your left foot on the dead pedal will provide support – without pushing hard on it – so the rest of your body doesn’t have tension in it from trying to support itself (especially your arms and hands while working the steering wheel). Yes, it’s a balance.
A proper seat and harness will make a big improvement. This is precisely why race drivers and teams spend so much time and effort building a seat that fits perfectly, providing all the support without the driver having to “hang on for dear life!”
This reminds me of a simple demonstration of how relaxed muscles are more sensitive. As you drive down a street or highway in your road car, grip the steering wheel as tightly as you can, and notice how much feedback you get back through the wheel – the vibrations and torque/rotation. Then hold the steering wheel with a relaxed, light grip, and notice the difference. Like you said, with relaxed muscles, you’ll be more sensitive to what your car is telling you.