To achieve perfect car car control, the right position behind the wheel is everything. Let our rally pros show you how to sit in a car properly.
Drive Like a Pro is a series that will show you how to use the skills and knowledge acquired by our rally drivers to drive more safely and effectively on the road.
Remember those guys in the movies, driving flat out with one hand on top of the wheel and a tough face? In real life, they would be asking for trouble. We will show you how to be better than them.
Any rally driver will tell you that great driving starts even before you turn the key. If you are not sitting right, you can never have full control of the car. So before we go into more advanced skills and tips, we will show you how to find the right position behind the wheel.
A Real Driver Sits Upright
Many people imagine that racers drive almost lying down. In an F1 car or a LeMans prototype, that may be true – but only because those cars are too low for anyone to be sitting upright. In any rally or racing car that’s similar in shape to your ordinary vehicle, racers sit as upright as possible. And you should too. Here’s why:
First, the upright position gives you a better view out of the car. Reclined like a movie tough guy, you can’t really see out.
Second (and even more important), sitting with your backrest as vertical as possible gives you more feel for the car’s movement. It is especially important when driving on slippery surface – the sooner you feel your car beginning to slide, the faster you can react.
There is, however, a bit of truth on the “sitting low” mantra. If you have height-adjustable seat, you should move it as low as possible for you to comfortably to see out. This will further improve your feel for the car.
Get Intimate With the Wheel
Driving with your arms stretched forward is another thing people wrongly associate with race car drivers – and once again, it’s because there’s no place in a formula car to do it any other way.
In a normal car, you should sit quite close to the wheel. It will make it easier to turn with your hands on the wheel, which will come especially handy when recovering from a skid or during evasive manoeuvre.
How do you find the right distance? There are two easy ways.
One, if you stretch your arm forward, your forearm should be able to rest on top of the steering wheel.
Two, your elbows should form an angle of approximately 45 degrees when you hold the wheel in the proper position of “quarter to three”.
Car Is No Place For Stretching Your Legs
If you followed all of the instructions above, you have probably already found the right position. There is one last thing to check, though. For several reasons, your legs should never be fully stretched, even when you fully press the brake or clutch pedal. This is important not only because it will give you better control, but also because a fully stretched leg can easily break during a crash.
Now you have found your proper seating position. In the next instalment of this series, we will show you the right way to hold the steering wheel in various situations. Watch this space!