From the Driver’s Seat by Chuck Tucker ©2005 – Connecting

Chuck Tucker
Chuck Tucker

Last month I talked about looking ahead. Keeping your eyes well out in front of the car will allow you to anticipate events, and help you drive a smooth, controlled line. This month we’ll start on basics of car control. The first step is really basic: sitting in the seat.

Try this exercise. Take your car to a large, empty parking lot, and do some slaloms and U turns. You don’t have to go fast – 20 mph will be plenty – but turn hard enough that your tires start to make a little noise. Now notice how you are sitting as the car turns. Many drivers lean forward just a little bit to get good leverage on the steering wheel, bringing their shoulders away from the seat. This is bad. It requires that you use your hands, arms and the steering wheel to hold your upper body in place. You will drive better if the seat holds you in place, so that your arms only have to steer.

To find a good seat position, start by connecting your body to the seat. Burrow your bottom down into the seat bottom, and snuggle your back into the seat back. Keep this connection, and start adjusting the seat. Slide the base far enough back that your feet can easily move among the pedals, but far enough forward that you can press the pedals all the way to the floor. Then, with your shoulder blades touching the seat back, straighten one arm and lay it across the top of the steering wheel. Adjust the seat back so that wheel touches somewhere on your palm, between your wrist and your fingers. For street driving I like to be on the far end of this range, but I sit an inch or two closer to the wheel for track driving. You want to have good leverage on the wheel, with your arms slightly bent, but not be so close that you can’t steer quickly. If your car has an air bag, your chest must be at least ten to twelve inches behind the steering wheel. It may take a bit of fiddling to get all of this just right, so take your time. When you’ve got the seat adjusted, don’t forget to re-set your mirrors, and of course fasten your seat belt.

Now go drive the slalom again. Keep your body down in the seat and your back against the seat back, letting the seat support you. Imagine that you have five-point harnesses installed, so that the shoulder straps are holding you tightly against the seat back; that’s exactly why many autocross and driver’s ed drivers install harnesses. As you get used to sitting in the seat, rather than on it, you’ll find yourself more relaxed in the car, even under heavy cornering. You will focus more on driving the car, and less on keeping yourself in the seat. Best of all, you will feel more of what your Porsche is communicating through the seat and the wheel – which, of course, is half the fun.

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