Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Focus on the Horizon

Very recently I drove a rally car and I have the video to prove it!

For my birthday last year, the family gave me a voucher for a rally car driving experience - drive 2 different cars, each for 8 laps, then do a "hot lap" with an experienced (and in my case, luckily, a very successful) rally car driver. It was great fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I learned quite a bit about handling a car under vastly different conditions from what are experienced in day-to-day road driving.

Lesson 1: focus on the horizon
Many years ago my first driving experiences were on rough roads in country areas and farms. I thought I understood how to control a vehicle on greasy road surfaces. I learned that there is a big difference between driving a car very slowly on mud and gravel when compared with driving it fast. When driving fast I have learned to focus on the horizon, keep the wheels pointed in the direction I want to go, and to be careful not to try and correct too much for all the slipping and sliding that occurs. It is counter-intuitive.

Lesson 2: transfer the weight
The cars I drove were either front wheel or all-wheel drives (one of each). I learned that braking hard transferred the weight of the car from the front wheels to the rear wheels and that, if I needed to make a sudden or sharp turn, the best way of doing this was to brake hard, turn the wheels in the direction I wanted to go, then let the car do the work. By braking hard when I came to a turn, letting the car do the work, then accelerating out of the corner I could achieve my objectives while maintaining control.

Lesson 3: listen to the experts
Over the years I've driven a wide range of vehicles (including tractors and ambulances) at just as wide a variety of speeds under almost every possible road condition. I approached this adventure secure in the knowledge that I was a highly experienced driver with a very good record regarding accidents. At the safety briefing all of those doing the course were advised to listen to the instructor who would be sitting beside us on the track. I'm glad I heeded this. My instructor had won a number of international car rallies and could see things I couldn't in regard to my driving. Listening to him enabled me to start slowly then develop to quite fast circuits - and I only spun out twice! Listening to the expert saved me embarrassment and possible injury while simultaneously enabling me to have fun and achieve my objectives.

Seems to me that there's some pointers there for business as well as for life in general.

I'd love to know what you think. Let me know in the comments below.

More about Doug Long at

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