Like most drivers of high-performance vehicles, I enjoy exploiting the full performance of my car. It took me a while, though, to recognise that in road driving mastery is demonstrated in the ability to discern the optimum speed for a stretch of road, in contrast to the maximum safe speed.
The optimum speed along a road is not simply a speed from which we can safely stop within the distance we can see to be clear. It’s a speed that although swift and safe, is also ‘flowing’. It’s a speed that results in swift progress across country, but which is also comfortable for passengers.
On a twisty stretch of road, the optimum speed is best achieved using ‘acceleration sense’. That’s the ability to vary your pride-and-joy’s speed to meet changing road and traffic conditions through accurate use of the accelerator. Rather than accelerate so hard between two corners that are close together such that you have to brake, try stringing the bends together by easing and squeezing the loud pedal. Measure the rate and duration of your accelerations to arrive at the next bend without braking. In other words, brake less! Not only is this approach more flowing, it’s likely to be more economical too.
The accelerator should be squeezed progressively, just like the brake pedal. Having changed up a gear on a light throttle, squeeze the pedal to the floor when rapid acceleration is preferred. Then, ease off the gas slightly before declutching and selecting the next gear. In so doing you’re likely to consistently achieve a smoother change.
A common mistake I observe from the passenger seat involves a driver accelerating so hard away from a junction or other hazard that he then needs to brake to the speed of the vehicle in front. In traffic queues, the same driver will accelerate briskly as traffic lights turn green, and then brake to a standstill at the next set of red lights a short distance later. “Why rush to join a queue?”, I ask. He’ll soon learn that his average speed has a greater bearing on his journey times than the peaks in his pace.
When closing on a slower moving vehicle, aim to move into an overtaking position without braking. When leap-frog overtaking within a queue, hold on to the overtaking gear so that you can slip into your pre-planned gap using engine compression on a trailing throttle, rather than brake into the gap and show brake lights to the driver you slot in front of. Appreciate that full throttle acceleration may not be necessary.
If you enjoy a challenge, see how far you can drive down a twisty road without resorting to the brakes. Whilst you’ll find it easier if you hold on to the lower gears in which there’s more engine compression (or “braking”), don’t get into the habit of slowing using the gears and clutch as a brake. When acceleration sense isn’t enough, the brakes are more effective, and probably cheaper to replace!
Enjoy your driving,