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19 Jan 2010 | Text and photos by Simon Wijoyo | Category: Car Ownership Advice
Many of us have dreamt of driving a sports car, imagining the excitement of taking a bend at dangerous speeds, and having the blissful sense of control, yet only a fortunate few can afford to own one.
In the end, most people opt for an average car that’s able to carry 5 or more passenger and still have space left for groceries. This logical decision - as wise as it is, sometimes leaves the car enthusiast who fell into the 'most people' category, with a feeling of remorse that they have compromised driving pleasure for practicality.
If you are one of many that share the above sentiments and could not justify purchasing or trading in your current vehicle for a sports car, then these tips could help you along in getting a sportier driving experience from your current ride.
Standard cars are commonly designed to accommodate passengers or baggage as comfortable as possible. The most common method used by manufacturers to achieve this is to lighten up the steering and the response from the engine, thus making the car more forgiving to driver's input mistakes. In situations like this, the solution is to heighten your input and response speed.
Quick response comes from your awareness and freedom of movement. That being said, the best way to do it is by having the right posture for driving. No, not the low seated street racer style, but rather like this:
Sit up straight
You should sit up straight like you would in an office chair no matter how uncool it may appear. By sitting straight, you will increase your concentration, alertness, visibility, and readiness to move your limbs without unnecessary gesture. Your shoulders should be well planted in the backrest, and allow you to make 90 degree turns on the wheel as well as shifting without them ever leaving the backrest. Try getting your back as close to your seat as possible to form a 90 degree vertical angle from the road.
Sit close to the steering wheel
As mentioned above, to be able to rotate the wheel without lifting your shoulders means that your steering wheel will have to be quite close to you. Your palms should rest as close as possible to a 9 and 3 o'clock direction. Considering that most steering wheels have a middle bar, stay as close to the centre as possible. Your arms should make a 90 degree ‘V’ shape to ensure freedom of movement and the least travel distance. You should be able to easily engage the pedals and shift gear without any leaning motion.
Align the centre point of your steering wheel with the centre of your chest. This is to provide freedom to your arms and legs to move about. If your hands are pinned between your steering wheel and thighs when the pedal is in the highest position there is a possibility may lock your arms during a turn and endanger yourself.
Be close to everything
This is straight forward; every instrument you may need to use in your car should accessible within arm’s reach. Note that different cars have different sitting position setups; here is one good trick to get the best reference that would match both your body and your car. Ever notice how people (and sometimes yourself) lean forward in difficult situations like in a very narrow road or when trying to park in a very tight spot? In these situations the driver is subconsciously positioning themselves into the most efficient posture that provides them with the best concentration, awareness, and responsiveness. So, the next time you do this, try to remember your posture and adjust your seat accordingly.
Regular city drivers usually waste 3 seconds in shifting, you don't want this. Good shifting should be done in less than 2 seconds. Here are a few tricks.
Don't grip your shift stick like you would a baseball bat. Create a V-shaped form with your palm and fingers, then rest the shift-knob on the cup of your palm. Relax your fingers, your palm should provide the support and not the fingers when either pushing or pulling.
Throw the shifter with your elbow, not the wrist. Firm up your wrist so it won’t lose form and let your whole arm do all the movement. Your wrists only have a limited range of movement and are also weak in comparison to your arms, which have more room to move and are much stronger. As standard city cars are usually not equipped with a short throw shifter, this method will help you gain more control and speed during shifting.
Shift ALWAYS in sequential order. Never jump a gear, do it in the correct sequence. This applies for up and down-shifting. When you approach a turn in 4th gear while you need to be in 2nd exiting, do it 4-3-2 and not 4th to 2nd. This may seem like a waste of effort, but by doing this you save the sudden loss of power caused by the car jolting and keep the car always in the designated revolution.