All of us are great drivers. We must be, because we all believe we are better than the next bloke.
Then why is it that there are so many bad drivers on our roads today? You will not believe the buffoonery I have to witness on a daily basis, whether I am driving to the shops or just out looking for a nice road, there will be some idiot doing something daft. I’m sure you have seen it too, and grabbed the moral high ground with a resounding toot on the horn, a yell out of the window or even a dramatic (but intended, for more visual impact) swerve or screech of brakes.
But I wonder what separates driving skill? I am not immune from yelling and screaming when behind the wheel, I have been known to let an almost dangerous situation develop, just because I am in the right and the other bloke was being an idiot. I have realised the error of my ways, don’t worry there is no preaching in this column, just observations, but I think I am a ‘better’ driver than I was because now I see these things and try and avoid them and get the car out of harms way. I say better, but better than what? I think better than I was, not better than anyone else. This, and the trip to the track last week has got me thinking.
As you all know, I have a very good friend, who expertly drives various cars very quickly. In getting a car round a track, or indeed round a twisty bit of road he stands head and shoulders above me in ability. To my knowledge he has had no training in driving fast, he hasn’t been driving that long but can handle a car with such mastery it makes me feel like a total novice. Is it innate ability? Is he naturally talented? I don’t think that’s possible as there is no way he can have a natural talent for driving, killing a mammoth or making fire is instinctive, 100mph exiting Eau Rouge is skilful or just plain brave.
I think bravery and faith play a big part in it, the car is technically capable of cornering, braking and holding together at such speed but will only actually go around corners as fast as the driver feels comfortable. I thought it could be that this friend of mine has only been brought up on a diet of newish, well maintained sporty cars, mostly ones with Gti or ‘R’ as initials after the badge, but handing my old everyday hatchback with its weak engine and knackered suspension, he was still able to corner at speeds that made me feint, then turn to me and grin “The double wishbone suspension on this car is awesome, look how the car turns in to the corner…” Same car, same engine same road but it just wont do it for me.
But there is hope. At the track another friend, with a very fast car that has has an absolute fortune spent upgrading it to a serous contender, offered some advice to this bloke and pointed out some errors and correct lines to take. I found he was then able to take corners faster, not kill the brakes and put in better lap times. All of this advice was based on technique, applied correctly, made for a quicker and safer drive (the brakes worked!) To us less brave souls that have a dollop of life preserving fear in our make up this is all very good news, because driving well can be taught. I am not referring to the bloke in a Micra with a plastic ‘L’ on the roof that enabled you to prove to another bloke in a polyester suit you could parallel park without killing someone, I’m talking about driving a car safely and quickly, whether on track or on the road. Knowing the limits and recognizing the hazards.
Like minded people can help so can well organized track days where there is expert advice on hand, but beware of the know it all loud mouth that can out do just about everyone and shows no consideration as he sticks his poor car into another bend and just about makes it out alive… This time.
Drive fast, drive safe, drive well.