Ask the Driver ~ Crash-gate Questions



I have been thinking over this crashgate ordeal and I have a question
to ask. Nelson was forced to crash in an area where no crane was
available to winch his car away, thus ensuring a safety car period.
In the radio transmission he asks what lap he is on and then crashes
at turn 17. First question: Is a driver capable of knowing exactly
which turn he is in? If I watch a lap of a street course from the on
board camera I get “lost” I can not tell one turn from another as they
all look the same. Now if I watch an on board lap of say Spa, Monza
or Suzuka, I know about where I am and I can tell you that the next
turn is a right or a left. So is it easy for a drive to know that the
next turn is turn 17 and this is where I need to crash?

Second question. When Nelson spun he kept his foot in it and clouted
the wall. In contrast when Big John spun in turn 17 he applied the
brakes and tried to keep the car of the wall. I remember a when years
ago in CART when you spun you kept your foot planted so you could loop
the car and thereby keep the time loss to a minimum. I remember Gregg
Moore doing this at Fontana the day he was killed. Many people
believe that his keeping his foot planted was what made the accident
so massive. So which technique is correct and why is one way better
than the other. Does it have to do with turbo vs. non turbo engines
or does the paddle shifters have an effect.

I look forward to you answer.

Jim “RGVDude” McDowell

Hi Jim,
Ok question 1. Yes absolutely every driver would have to know exactly where he/she is at all times. When approaching a corner, you must know what that corner has to offer in order for you to know the optimum line and braking point .Our job as drivers is to enter and exit at the highest rate of speed possible, otherwise you would either, not get the maximum speed through it, and be lapped very quickly or end upside down with minimal parts attached on your car if you went in too fast. Lots of time is spent on simulators before a GP so the drivers have a fair idea of the layout and flow of the track, then in the initial practice they fine tune this to the real track. One technique some drivers use for preparation before each session is sitting down with their eyes closed and using a stop watch go through a whole lap in their mind, and starting and stopping the watch appropriately. Usually they get it down to within 1 sec!

In order to get around a track as quickly as possible we use markers or visual references to help us be consistent on braking points, turn in, apex and exit points. I was lucky enough to drive on a few street circuits back in my IMSA days .The Miami GP circuit being my favourite,( even though I hit a wall at a fair clout once.) Street circuits are much tougher for these reference points for sure, with the concrete or Armco walls looking very similar all the way round, but you have to drive these tracks with the same commitment as a regular road course, or you will get left behind. So when you first go out you try to pick out any little thing you can, be it a slight pavement change, oil stain on the track, different type of fencing, advertising sign etc and you build up these in your head , as you build up a rhythm for the course. Rhythm and flow is very important and mostly what you rely on in the end and the reference points become just affirmation. But mistakes can be made, and that is not too pretty. Hope this clears it up.

Question 2
Two things come into play when it all goes wrong. First, try to save it, and for that you need your steering, if you are heavy on the brakes you lose a lot of your steering ability (which is why you should always try and brake in a straight line if possible) and if you lock the brakes you have none. One phrase we use in coaching is “if in doubt, both feet out” so if you think you can catch it, feet off the pedals and steer like a son of a bitch, this will work to a point unless your at a very high rate of speed. When lifting off the pedals, you cause major weight transfer and guarantee a crash. You’ve probably seen it in Indy or Nascar ovals where something happens up the track and you see a guy pivot into the wall 1000 ft behind, purely from jumping off the gas too quickly or stabbing at the brakes, when you do this your front tyres get more grip, and rears get a lot less, therefore unbalancing the car. Another phrase “when you’re going in, both feet in” this is when all is lost I’m afraid, and you just want to minimize the speed you’re going to hit, but of course you don’t have any steering when doing this, so which ever direction you were going in when you locked them up, that;s the direction you’re staying. If your’e really clever you can do a combo of these too and some times that can save a crash altogether, which is what Big John was trying
On the ovals,the full throttle method is purely to try and avoid sliding into the wall. As stated before, if you start spinning and lock up the brakes you stay on that trajectory and the wall is a beckoning, option two is turn hard left, and max the throttle, so you spin down the track to the inside and minimize the likelihood of hitting something solid. One downside is you are a bit unpredicatable and this can lead to involving your fellow competitors in your accident. With the Greg Moore crash it would seem the grip was too high and track too flat to get the car rotating , but that’s just a thought.

Thanks for the questions!!

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