Q: What does steering with the throttle really mean, and how do you do it?
A: Most inexperienced drivers think of steering with the throttle as “throttle on oversteer,” used to spin the car or turn the car much like we did with our father’s old muscle car in a parking lot. A good racer or serious, educated track enthusiast will use it as a simple weight-management tool.
The throttle pedal, gas pedal or “loud pedal,” whatever you prefer to call it, is used to accelerate the car in a straight or fairly straight line. When it comes to cornering and steering, it becomes just as important as the steering wheel itself. I call it a weight management tool. Yes, we all know and have heard the words “the throttle is not an on/off switch,” but with experience, things can change, for the better sometimes.
Many low- to medium-horsepower ill-handling cars cannot always afford to have a heavy left-foot braker, who continually uses the brake pedal to help plant the nose to rotate the rear midcorner. This is where the throttle pedal can at times become a very good resource. A moment of one-half to full-throttle application and a “quick lift” can and usually will help point the car very nicely by simply throwing the weight back, then forward, unweighting the rear and causing it to rotate. The on/off throttle helps build weight momentum, the more throttle used and speed of the throttle release will determine the amount of rotation, in other words, steering the car.
In a similar manner, the throttle can be used to help stop a car from turning in the case where a driver may have turned in a little early or with too much steering-wheel angle. By increasing throttle input, this unweights the nose, in a sense inducing a slight understeer and correcting the driver’s previous steering-wheel input.
In either of these cases, an optimal car setup and balance can avoid either of the above. But as racers, we also know how things can change within a few laps, so having a good understanding of how to use our weight-management tools may just come in handy one day.
Ronnie Swyers is a driving instructor with the Ford Performance Racing School located at Utah Motorsports Campus.