Ask the Driver ~ 2 vs. 4 wheels

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Avid listener to the podcast and active viewer of the Website, you guys and Grace do a great job. My question is this;

Growing up racing motorcycles, both dirt and road and even making to level of having an AMA National number and some factory support, I was wondering if the same skill sets that are critical on 2 wheels applies in the 4 wheel world. Beyond all the technique and execution of your known abilities, I believe the single largest asset that any rider can have is “feel”, and the ability of taking the feel you have and quickly analyzing it and adjusting to the situations almost instantaneously. I also know, by my father being a pilot that pro racers normally make above average pilots and the theory is because of “feel”.

So, with that said, do the F1 or top level Sports Car, Touring Cars, etc…. have the uncanny ability of “feel”. ‘Shuy can lap a MotoGP bike at speeds that are very respectable to top level riders, and vi-versa, Rossi can lap a F1 car at respectable times. I realize they both are a couple seconds off, however neither spent the time honing these other disciplines.

Bottom line is “feel” or technique the biggest asset in the 4-wheel world.

Thank you in advance for your comments and time.

Pete Lewis
North Carolina

Hi Peter,
To have a feel for a car is an essential tool to make the complete racing driver in cars we call it seat of the pants. This is for sure a natural ability that can instantly take you out of the racing game. If you don’t have it, you will never become comfortable with the car at the limit, as you won’t know where it is. That explains why some drivers can pound away year after year lap after lap and never get any faster.
If you have that instinctive feel, you must then hone it and build on it. Some drivers can ring the death out of every car they drive, as their feel for what the car is doing is so acute. I would say Alonso, Villeneuve (Giles of course) Mansell Rosberg and Senna were those type of drivers who could just stick the car in there and recognize instantly, what the car needs to get through the corner. These are the types of drivers, as I have mentioned before that will go quicker earlier than most in a new car.
Other drivers have another asset, and can feel more with an engineering mind, and feel what the car is doing well and not so well come in and tell the engineers what would improve it. They are the Prost’s, Stewarts (no not Tony) and Lauda’s of the world.
Some possess both and Schumacher would be the first that would come to mind there.
I did have the pleasure to racecars against Kevin Schwanz one year and he for sure could take that feel from bikes and use it in Auto Racing.
So yes you are correct, feel is just as important on bikes as well as in cars, although you have to have a little crazy in you to race bikes. But it is just the starting point to build all the other skills a top driver must posses, focus, judgement, forethought etc.
Thanks for the question!

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