How To Drive Wicked FastbyBOSTONFICTIONWRITER©
This story is about how to drive wicked fast as opposed to how to drive stupid fast. Driving stupid fast is when you are driving 20 mph over the speed limit in your mini-van or SUV while talking on the cell phone. Then, there is driving scary fast. Driving scary fast is when you are driving so fast that you scare even yourself. If you are scaring yourself by driving beyond your abilities to drive fast, then you are not in control of the car and need to slow down.
First things first, to drive wicked fast, you must learn how to drive slowly. Slow? Why slow? Because driving slowly will teach you how to drive smooth. Driving smooth is the key to driving fast and the smoother you drive the faster you will go. Driving smooth is driving without making mistakes while always maintaining complete control the car while keeping it in neutral balance.
Did you ever wonder why it is so much easier to catch up to someone who is driving fast than it is to stay ahead of someone who is intent on catching you? Well, here's the answer. The guy following you is watching and learning from all the mistakes that you make trying to get away from him. You are driving stupid and/or scary fast and he is driving not only much smoother than you but also faster than you. He is driving wicked fast. Now, if you, as an average driver tried to follow a professional driver, you couldn't come close to catching up to him because he wouldn't make the common mistakes that scrubs off speed and prolongs lap times.
There are those who believe it is the car that makes the driver and not the driver that drives the car. Well, if you ever went for a ride with a professional driver, you'd not only change your mind but also may have to change you underwear, too. A good driver driving a bad car will always win against a bad driver driving a good car.
In a previous paragraph I referred to two key words, balance and neutral, which are important elements in driving wicked fast. The good sports cars have a weight distribution of 50/50 or as close to 50/50 as they can, which means fifty percent of the weight is from the middle to front of the car and fifty percent of the weight is from the middle to the rear of the car. Most of your high end sports are 50/50, Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini come to mind, and even the Corvette is 50/50.
Manufacturers go to great lengths to maintain a 50/50 weight distribution with some installing the engine in the middle of the car, behind the driver, with one, McLaren, putting the driver's seat in the middle of the car with a passenger seat on either side of him, and others reducing weight by using more composite and carbon fiber materials instead of steel and/or aluminum.
For that matter and for the purpose of driving wicked fast, most great sports cars are rear wheel drive. Maybe because I never owned a front wheel drive car, but have driven several front wheel drive cars including my girlfriend's Mini Cooper S, I can never imagine driving any front wheel drive car wicked fast. First of all, I hate the torque steer that happens when launching the car off the line. My girlfriend's turbo charged Mini Cooper S has so much torque steer that if you are not hanging on to the steer wheel with both hands, the car will veer away from you, crash, explode, and you will die in a fiery crash. Sorry, as a writer of fiction, I sometimes exaggerate. Suffice to say that her car has lots of torque steer.
Balancing the car neutrally can make you not only a safer driver but also a better and faster driver. Mistakes are what slow you down. Missing a shift, missing an apex, and braking too soon or too late or not getting back on the accelerator quick enough are all mistakes that scrubs off speed and you must change with the car's dynamics to balance it.
What do I mean about balancing the car and keeping it neutral? This is something that you can practice at home with your car. When you stomp on the gas, you can feel the weight of the car transferring to the rear and making the front not only lighter but reducing the traction and contact patch on your front tires. If you let up off the gas, you can feel the weight of the car shift its weight to neutral. Conversely, when you stomp on the brakes, you can feel the weight of the car transferring to the front making the rear not only lighter but also reducing the traction and contact patch on your rear tires. Again, if you let up off the brake, you can feel the weight of the car shift its weight to neutral.
In both instances, whether you step too hard on the gas or on the brake, you have upset the balance of the car and no longer are you driving a neutral car. Moreover, no longer are you going as fast as you could be going when driving a balanced car. Neutral is when the car is balanced and the weight is in the middle. Driving a car in the neutral zone is how you drive wicked fast. Maintaining a neutral balance with smooth transitions from gas to brake to shift will make you drive faster, much faster than you ever thought you could but it takes practice.
Now, when you take a hard right turn, the weight transfers or loads up the left rear and conversely when you take a hard left turn the weight transfers of loads up the right rear. In both instances turning in too fast will upset the car with the centrifugal G forces working against you to spin the car out of control. There are many ways to correct the situation, take your foot off the gas, give it some brake, or downshift before exiting out of the curve and rebalancing the car by giving it some gas.
By the way, and I'm sure that I'll catch lots of flack for this, especially from those driving those Subaru WRX's or a Mitsubishi Evo's but if you are driving a car with an automatic, there is no way you can drive that car wicked fast, that is unless you are wicked stupid.
Yeah, sure, you can plant your foot on the accelerator and go, but you have so much more control of your car when driving one that has a standard transmission. It is only with a standard transmission that you can explore what your car can really do. Sometimes, especially if you are running your car on a track, your automatic transmission just can't keep up with the starts, stops, and turns as will a standard transmission does. An automatic transmission will actually lower your lap times.
Most times, I never brake with my standard transmission car. Sometimes, I need only take my foot off the gas. Now, a car with an automatic will continue to travel at speed for a bit even with your foot off the gas, whereas my standard transmission car will slow immediately, giving me enough time to do some fancy heel and toe footwork to reduce my revs and downshift or hit the gas and shift upward.
I can downshift, double clutch, accelerate, trail brake, and steer out of situations that a car with an automatic just doesn't give a driver those capabilities. Moreover, anyone who drives an automatic is on the brakes more than they are on the gas, definitely more than someone who drives a car with a standard transmission. Automatics are for mini-vans and pick-up trucks and certainly not for sports cars.
My girlfriend has an automatic in her Mini Cooper because she injured her back horse riding competitively. She has those column mounted shifters that the Formula 1 cars have and they aren't bad. Certainly, it gives her more control over the transmission than a typical car with an automatic and it's fun to drive with the paddles. She even has a sport mode button that will change her shock settings mechanically. Still, it's not as much fun as it is driving a car with a standard and manually shifting just while revving to and bumping redline.
Yet, before we talk about driving, there are things we must do before even getting in the car. Do a visual inspection of your car. Does everything work? You must check your brake lights, directional lights, headlights, fog lights, and windshield wipers. Now check the tires.
First of all, if you have the original tires that came with the car, unless you opted for the high performance rubber donuts, then you need to buy a better set of tires before even thinking about driving wicked fast. If you want to drive wicked fast then you must have high performance tires on your car, tires that have a sidewall reading of AA, AA and V, W or Y.
The first double A reading is for temperature and the second double A reading is the traction and tread wear rating. V rating states that their tires can travel up to a speed of 149mph for one hour, W up to 168mph, and Y up to 186mph. There are other codes on the tires, but to drive wicked fast we are mainly concerned with the temperature, traction, and speed ratings. Okay, now that you have checked that you have good rubber on the car, check your tread to make sure your tires have plenty of it. Did you check the air in the tires? Duh!
What about your wheels? I assume you have aluminum wheels. Steel wheels add additional unsprung weight to your car, not a good thing to have. Aluminum wheels are usually, at least, half the weight and dissipate more heat than do steel. Did you check your brakes? We could mention installing a roll bar, but there are some things that spouses just wouldn't understand why there is a roll bar in your car. Your tight back seat is now even tighter, too tight for the babies' car seat.
Do you know what a Bugatti Veyron is? Well, it's a million seven hundred thousand dollar sports car. Simon Cowell of American Idol fame owns one. It is a 16 cylinder, 1001 horsepower wonder car that will go 253 miles be hour, which is significantly faster than a Ferrari Forumla 1 car. Yeah, so, what's my point? Well, going wicked fast in that car is going, well, 253 miles an hour. At that speed, a set of Michelin tires that cost $17,000 will only last 45 minutes. The custom wheels on this car cost what a new BMW 3 series cost, $43,000. The car has 10 radiators!
Next open your hood. Check your oil, battery, water level, hoses, belts, and wires. If everything looks good, then you are ready to get started...almost. Now, open your trunk. What is all this shit?
Get rid of the steel wheeled snow tire. We won't have snow again until December. Unless you're planning on driving to the golf course wicked fast, leave the clubs at home along with all this other heavy stuff in your trunk that you have adding weight to your rear and disturbing your car's weight distribution. It is so much more difficult to balance a car to neutral that has a poor weight distribution to begin with, such as does your car with all this unnecessary dead weight.
Speaking of weight, you could stand to lose a few pounds yourself. Hey, I'm just saying, the lighter the load the faster the car will go.
Next, open the driver's side door and remove your driver's seat. Yeah, you heard me right. Get rid of that piece of crap that came with the car. Yep, if you're a serious speed freak, the seat that comes with the car, unless the car is a Porsche, Ferrari, BMW (with the sports package), Corvette, and a few others, the driver's seat that comes from the manufacturer sucks.
I recommend you buy a Recaro seat. They are a bit pricy at $1,200, but they are well worth the money. I've had one in my cars for the past 20 years and I've never had a backache and the seat firmly holds me in place. Yet, that is not the important part, not having a backache and being firmly held in place. The important part is the Recaro seat allows you to feel what is happening on the road by transmitting it to your body through the seat. Moreover, in my youth of stupid, scary speed, I've crash tested a couple cars with Recaro seats and the seats hold up much better than any standard passenger seat.
Next remove your rear view mirror and replace it with a 4 or 5 panel Wink mirror. This is the mirror that NASCAR drivers use and they use it because there are no blind spots. It takes a couple weeks to get use to seeing every car come flying up behind you, but once you are used to driving with this mirror, you will never drive without one.
Wait; don't get behind the wheel just yet. There are a couple more things we need to drive wicked fast. The first is another set of eyes, a Radar detector. Forget the rest and buy either an Escort or a Valentine. I've had both and presently have a Valentine One. What I love about the Valentine is that it not only tells you how many radar signals there are but how strong or close they are.
Instead of beeping its head off as soon as it detects radar, it tells you the number of them from 1 to 9. Trust me; it's not unusual for police to piggyback their speed trap spots within a quarter mile of one another. Just as soon as you think you made it through harm's way, there is a second trap looming on the horizon.
Also, the Valentine actually tells you with arrows pointing up and down and side to side, where the radar is coming from. If the up arrow is illuminated than the speed trap is in front of you. If the down arrow is illuminated then the speed trap is behind you. Then, there are self-explanatory the left and right arrows.
Further, all radar detectors make different beeps for different radar. You want to learn all the different sounds. You'll know the real radar trap by the annoying sound that it makes, a kind of brapping sound instead of a beeping sound. Then, there is the instant on radar. There is no defense against instant on radar, even when using a radar detector because there is no early warning detection. Instant on radar comes on well...instantly. Some police departments have guns that go on only for an instant enough time to record your speed. If your radar lights up like a jukebox, you've been zapped.
The only defense to instant on radar is a CB radio. I never drive without wearing my ears. All I have to do is to call to the truckers ahead of me and they will tell me if there are any bears (cops).
Okay, now that you did a safety check on your car, replaced the tires with high performance tires, replaced your driver's seat and rear view mirror, installed a quality radar detector and CB radio, and removed the junk from the trunk, you are ready to get in and sit in the driver's seat.
Hold on, where's the fire? Before you insert the key and start up the car, adjust your seat. Get comfortable. You want the steering wheel as far but as close away so that your arms are comfortably bent, not straight out, and not bent too much either.
Now hold the steering wheel with two hands at the 3 and 9 positions or the 10 and 2 positions. How does that feel? You forgot one very important thing. Buckle your seatbelt and lock your doors.
Okay, start up the car and take it slow out of the driveway and down the street, all the while holding the steering wheel with two hands unless you are using your right hand to shift.
Many years ago, I took a high speed driving course from the famous racecar driver for Ferrari and Carroll Shelby, Bob Bondurant. After his personal instruction of how to attack the Grand Prix style race course that he had arranged with orange cones, he allowed all the students to drive Ford Mustangs around the course while sitting next to a driving instructor helping us with braking, steering, and shifting. Definitely, this was the best time I had while wearing my clothes.
At the end of the session, Mr. Bondurant took 14 students in a 15 passenger 1 ton capacity van and blew away everyone's times. He did it by driving the vehicle smooth and always maintaining balance. Even with that load of people, more than 2,000 pounds, he was able to maintain the balance and neutral feel of that giant van. It was the greatest display of wicked fast driving that I've seen short of Danny Sullivan spinning and winning the Indy 500 in 1985.
I've driven wicked fast a few times, but less since I took the high speed performance driving instruction. Now, that I know how to drive a car wicked fast, I don't. It's the same principle when you go to college and earn your bachelor's degree. Instead of feeling smarter, you discover how much knowledge that you don't know and need to learn. There are too many things that can happen and go disastrously wrong when driving an ordinary automobile wicked fast on ordinary roads that are crowded with other ordinary people driving ordinary cars.
I recommend that everyone take high performance driving instruction, especially those of you how have teenage children just learning to drive. I recommend that if you have the need for speed and want to drive wicked fast that you drive on a closed race course. This subject is too vast to explore in this story and I suggest those who want to learn more but can't afford the cost of high performance driving instruction to at least read a book on the subject.
The high speed driving instruction has made me a safer, more knowledgeable, and a better driver. Yet, once in a while, early on a Sunday morning, I'll take a run down a deserted highway and exit the ramp at double the recommended speed knowing that I'm a safer driver than the person speeding up behind me while talking on his cell phone.