Does racing improve the breed?

Blog post posted on 28/02/18 |

When it comes to the development of cars and motorcycles, manufacturers have proven time and again that the lessons they learn from putting their cars through their paces in racing environments, can eventually be used to improve their products for the general public on the road.

Consider this: Jaguar introduced Dunlop Disc Brakes to the Jaguar C Type to conquer the Le Mans 24 hours back in 1953. Whilst discs had been around a while, this win proved decisive and led to manufactures fitting them to production cars. This was however admittedly much later, as I remember well the puny single leading shoe drum brakes on my first car, a 1967 Mini!

The 24 Hours of Le Mans and The Monte Carlo Rally also led to the development of the quartz-iodine headlamp bulb by Marchal and Cibie. “Twice as bright as a standard bulb” said the advertisements in 1964 and priced one bulb at £1 6s 8d which was quite expensive back then.

So if cars and motorcycles can be improved by using them on the track, what about the driver or rider? Some of our greatest racing drivers and motorcycle riders have a level of skill that can only be described as sublime when it comes to what they can do with their machines. You only have to watch the car control of Lewis Hamilton, or the way Marc Marquez can recover a motorcycle from seemingly impossible angles to know how highly tuned in they are with their machines. They have developed those skills on the track over many years. Sometimes by trial and error. 

How does track work link in with our advanced driver or rider course? I have heard British Superbike rider Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne talk about how to take a corner on a track. He spoke of getting in the right place on the track on corner entry, sorting out the speed of approach with braking, grab a gear, lean in and roll the throttle open. Sounds to me a bit like being in the right position, travelling at the right speed and with the right gear engaged. If you add maintaining a positive throttle through the curved path and of course, being able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear and remain on your own side of the road, then there you have it. The five key principles of cornering according to Roadcraft. 

I competed on the National Gravel Rally Championship in 2005-2006 and this personally taught me a great deal about car control at speed and on changing surfaces. I was lucky enough to work with multiple British Rally Champion Marcus Dodd and the HPM Motorsport Team using a Group N Prodrive Subaru Impreza. The ‘bug-eye’ Impreza, a legend in motorsport, was a very capable car and I can understand the ‘if in doubt, flat out’ approach of Colin McRae. To me it meant if you thought it was going wrong, keep your right foot hard in and the car will pull you out. Clearly this was the Roadcraft bit about not lifting and maintaining a positive throttle in the curved path! It works.

If you want to take the opportunity of improving your own personal skills in your car or on your motorcycle then IAM RoadSmart can help you. We have just released the dates for our 2018 Skills Days. Definitely not a full on track day, these very popular events are skills development days but using the racing circuit as the safe learning environment.  Take a look at the Skills Day page for full details.

Enjoy the drive and ride.

By Shaun Cronin, IAM RoadSmart Regional Service Delivery Team Manager (Southern)

NOTES: Picture above shows Shaun Cronin & Mark Williams - Swansea Bay Rally 2006.