Tighten the Nut Behind the Wheel

There’s an old saying in Motorsports that if you want to go faster, you should start by tightening the nut behind the wheel. It’s easy to blow a big chunk of cash on go-fast goodies for your car, but if you can’t find the line through a curve or you just aren’t smooth, you’ll never be fast.

I’ve recently taken up Autocross. Although I’m waaaaaay at the back of the pack (and unfortunately classified in the mod-till-you-drop Street Mod class) I’m having a blast. It started with a desire to improve my general driving skills. The more time I spend on the freeways around Washington DC, the more I’m convinced most of my fellow drivers are morons. One in four seems to have a cellphone surgically attached to their head. Of the remaining three, two are tail-gaiting each other at 85 MPH in SUVs with under-inflated tires.

Figuring a good offense is the best defense, I started to think about my own driving skills and my ability to avoid bad situations. In the asphalt jungle of “fight or flight” the MINI driver’s only defense is flight. It started with a highway safety course at the Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point put on by the local BMW club. That was followed by a high performance driver’s course on the same circuit.

This past weekend, I attended another driver’s school on the Shenandoah circuit. Now I’m hooked. These are not racing schools. There’s no wheel-to-wheel competition. It’s all about control and knowing your (and your car’s) limits. I hope the skills I’m improving on the track will improve my autocross skills as well.