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Featured Stories

From The Pit Crew

What's your favorite stunt driving story?

ACP

Q: What’s your favorite stunt driving story?

A: I went to Eastern Europe this year to do stunts on a spy film. When I got there, I learned that, instead of doubling an actor, I would be driving a specially-built car from the back seat while the star sat in the front seat and pretended to drive.

The stunt was a high-speed, reverse-180 down a narrow European street. So there I am, crunched down in the rear seat with a second steering wheel, pedals, and gearshift, wearing a ninja outfit so the cameras don't see me. Meanwhile, one of the sexiest female stars in the world was leaning back against my knees as I'm whipping the car backwards at 50mph. It's at times like that you absolutely have to be confident that you're going to nail the stunt!

What does it mean to be "smooth"?

Terry Earwood

Q: What does it mean to be "smooth"?

A: A huge part of "being smooth" is literally how your hands and feet adjust the controls. The first time I rode with my current ex-wife, after a few miles in her Durango, I asked how many throttle pedals or cables she had replaced in the last 6 months, for she was on and off the gas 17 times every 30 seconds! (I actually timed it!)

It was as if she was thinking, "Here’s some gas, let’s see how far this shot goes.” She'd coast a minute, pop the gas again, etc.

Good news/bad news. She thanked me profusely for pointing that out (I’m joking), but she did clean that up!

Instead, she swapped it for "steering response!" I would literally reach over and grab the wheel to show her we did not have to saw at the wheel every 3 feet.

It was a lot like popping the gas pedal: "Let’s steer right, oops too much, let’s go left!” So I advised we go back to popping the gas, since power steering pumps are more expensive than throttle cables. She actually was a pretty good driver, awesome with a manual tranny, but has now moved on to another driver coach. Or whatever. We’re still friends.

I'll also never forget a lesson my Dad taught me: "Pretend you have a nearly full glass of water on the dashboard. Be smooth enough to never slosh out any water.” My Dad had great cars, from Lincolns to Porsches to Jaguars, and he never ever put a scratch on one the 71 years he drove. And he drove quickly. We always compared “elapsed time, from say, Atlanta to Sebring. He was smooth, because he loved to drive, so he paid attention to details.

What are easy ways to become a better driver?

Terry Earwood

Q: What are easy ways to become a better driver?

A: Besides bolting on a set of BFGoodrich tires? 

Everyone you know wants to be the best driver you have ridden with, or at least that should be his goal. I know it’s been mine for over 50 years.

And we’ve all ridden with someone who makes us very nervous for many reasons.

You’ve heard the term "plan ahead" all your life, and that sums up this advice.

First, let’s look at what physically drives the car.

The hands do the steering (and maybe shifting!) and the feet accelerate or slow down your BFGoodrich tires. Where does their initial input come from? Yep, your vision. The hands and feet can (or should) only react to what the eyes are looking at. If the eyes aren’t looking far enough ahead, the hands and feet are reactive, not proactive, which results in jerky inputs to the wheel and sudden acceleration, or worser, sudden braking!

On the racetrack, we sorta "rifle-vision" our next reference, as car placement (the line) is critical for fast (safe) laps. We don’t have to worry about traffic lights, pedestrians, soccer balls, and cross traffic (for the most part). But we look far enough ahead (through the corner, not at the corner), to be sure we’re gonna stay on line, and to see when and how much power to add!

The street, however, presents thousands of issues we must deal with on a daily basis, so in order to be safe, we need to use our eyes much harder!

Number 1: In traffic, try to drive 3 seconds behind the car in front of you. This gives you plenty of reaction time should the car abruptly brake, or swerve, or spit out his rear differential suddenly. As the rear bumper of the car you’re following clears a stationery object—like a mailbox or maybe Jeff Cummings' Bronco—simply count "a thousand one-a thousand two-a thousand three" and you should arrive at the object. At 30 mph, it’s not very far, but the faster you go, the gap automatically becomes bigger!

Number 2: Back to the eyes. You should be able to see 12 seconds ahead of your car at all times. This is a key part of being smooth. A 12-second lead gives you plenty of time to change lanes, slow down smoothly, alert the folks behind you with turn signals, pull the chute, etc. This trick, too, is speed conducive.

Try to pick out the next large object in your natural vision, like a bridge. It should take you 12 seconds to arrive at the bridge.

At night, it's pretty easy. Look for the next object your headlights pick out, and slowly count to 12. If you get to the object under 12 seconds, you’re going faster than your ability to be smooth should something pop out.

Number 3: Scan your mirrors every 3 to 7 seconds. This is a key step in your new situational awareness. (I know—the dictionary defines "situational awareness" as “Looking for toilet paper before you sit down”.)  But if you’ve been in the mirrors within the last 7 seconds, and need to make a quick lane change, you have a pretty good idea if there is someone in that spot, or not. Is that Crown Vic getting closer? Is he changing lanes when I do?

Adjust your side view mirrors away from the car. In other words, move them just off of your rear fenders, which will give you the view of another half-a-lane of interstate you don’t have now.

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