Johnny O' Connell

Driving Tips - Tip 1 | Tip 2 | Tip 3 | Tip 4 | Tip 5

Driving Position
As some of you may know, early in my career, I spent a lot of time teaching high performance driving. I started at Jim Russell, then a little time at Skip Barbers, a lot of time at Bob Bondurants, and then a little time with the Panoz school. Anyway, it has always shocked me at how little most people know about driving. With this in mind, I figured it might be a good idea to pass along some tips to help people get to be better street drivers. Some of the I go along....will be some of the things we do in racing....but most are applicable to everyday street driving. The purpose is, of course , not to encourage you to speed on the streets...(most racers I know run pretty close to the speed limits)....but rather to give you some skills that will hopefully keep you and your loved ones out of trouble. Believe me when I say that it is a lot more dangerous driving on the streets then the race track...and something I have in the back of my mind every time I buckle up. With all that said....we'll start out with the basics...and as the season goes along..keep adding stuff.

First thing, and very important, is how to sit in a car. Sounds dumb, but most people don't sit in a car properly. Your average street driver tends to sit to far away from the steering wheel, and thus when they get into a situation where they have to perform, they are unable to do so. Sitting close to the wheel allows you to move it quickly should you get in a skid. At first, it always feels awkward, but with time you get used to it.

Anyway, the rule of thumb more or less is this. You should be close enough to the steering wheel so that you can drape your wrist (either one ) over the steering wheel at 12 o'clock...not pulling your shoulder blades off the back of the seat, and have a slight bend to your elbow. For most people, this tends to make them feel a little bit too close, and uncomfortable with their legs. Where it becomes a benefit performance wise, however, is when you get into an oversteer skid (the back end coming around). Being close to the wheel makes it much easier to move the steering wheel that you can catch the skid. So give it a try...and hey, next time you are watching an in car camera shot of a driver working, take a look at where the driver sits...I think you'll be surprised at how close we really are to the wheel. Be safe, and I'll give you another tip after pre- qualifying for Le Mans.

safer street driver, and not a racer. Driving on the streets is way more dangerous that being on a race track, and always a good way to get into trouble is by speeding. If you have the need to hang it out, find a race track to practice at. I know that Road Atlanta has days when you can take your street car out and work on your skills in a safe environment, and guess that others do as well. If you don't have luck there, call the SCCA and get into some of their stuff such as auto-crossing. I know a lot of pro drivers that began that way. Later !