A Difference in Technique

Whether we’re talking about music, entertainment or just about any field imaginable, everyone has his or her own way of doing things and, yes, that includes driving techniques too.

I have raced with and trained under some of the finest racecar drivers to be found, and I always have been amazed by different driving styles and the pluses and minuses of each.

Having had my own endurance race team for many years, I was always proud to say it was one of the winningest teams of its day. I always found myself trying to analyze each member of my team’s personal driving style. In every car I ever owned, I had in-car cameras not only for reference if there was an incident, but also to help me observe their driving styles. Take my advice, if you don’t already have an in-car camera, get one. Not only can you observe your drivers, but you also can watch the car’s handling and even see various driving lines.

Just the other day I was speaking to retired NASCAR racing driver and NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Rusty Wallace Jr. about in-car cameras. He commented how some of the most valuable lessons he ever learned came from watching in-car footage. He asked, “Ever notice when watching cars on TV how they seem to be going slow and it all looks so easy? And the same can be said watching your own in-car footage. But I guarantee once you start watching the back of a car that’s right in front of you begin to break loose, then you know if you are truly pushing your limits. And if he’s in front of you, obviously he’s doing something a tad better than you are.” I guarantee you that every driver who ever has watched his own in-car footage finds himself asking, “What in the hell is wrong with me? Step on the gas, dummy!”

Two of my top drivers, both of whom are two of the finest and fastest drivers in NASA’s history are perfect examples of how two different techniques yield interesting results. I have watched hours and hours of in-car footage of both of them. One of them was the type of driver who would be downshifting while in a full slide into the corners while his hands on the steering wheel would be going left and right, back-and-forth violently downshifting, upshifting and obviously having one hell of time. Needless to say, it was great fun to watch. This particular driver would pass other cars while having the car so out of shape that the devil himself would have backed off. It’s important to understand that everyone who ever raced with him also knew without a doubt he was one of the cleanest gentleman drivers on the track.

Now, the other driver I am referring to had an entirely different driving style. His hands would hardly move on the wheel and his occasional shifts were nice and smooth. In fact, he made it look like he was on a Sunday drive with Miss Daisy in the back seat. But guess what? When all was said and done, their lap times were identical lap after lap!

One of them had a background in motorcycle flat track racing — where you have no brakes —while the other learned on asphalt. Which one was better? I never did figure that out, but I will say that during long endurance races the smooth driver clearly had an advantage over the aggressive driver simply because he was much easier on equipment and tires, a big plus in endurance racing. On the other hand, there were those strategic stints while coming from behind, when other drivers seeing a crazy man in the rearview mirror thought twice before trying to hold him off.

So ask yourself, are there advantages to learning from more than one coach? You bet there are.

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