Global Skywatch

Ted’s essays

driving … or not

While wearing my baby teeth I was racing toy cars over road-race courses of my own making on the carpet. Smallest of the bunch, I was beating all other home-made coasters on our downhill courses, making maneuvers others did not dare. In bicycle boonie-crashing I had no peers, not from muscle mass, of which I had none, but, well, I am and have always been a driver.

Graduating to internal combustion engines, and automobiles didn’t change much in relative skill levels, just put me into a new league. Autocrossing had my Porsche 912, then Porsche 356B, the Porsche 356A Speedster winning consistently. At the time I thought my cars were magical. My 650 single-carb BSA was the lowest horsepower in our British bike dozen, but led the pack on every windy-road, cafe-racing tour.

In analytical retrospect, I had many, many examples of where it was the man, not the machine. Every time others let me exercise their cars, my inexperienced lap times beat their’s. Not once in a while, but always.

The big truth here is that developing driving skill is low priority to 99.99% of us. Thus those skills are not developed. This is neither good nor bad. It just IS. 99% of the time, it doesn’t matter. Mundane drivers rarely get into trouble … even with only 10% of their attention on the task, joy, serous business of driving.

Meanwhile, I have dodged numerous collisions, several serious accidents, and a couple of sure fatalities because I WAS DRIVING where others would have been riding in a car with the steering wheel in one or two of their hands or, ohmygawd, hugged in their arms (I cannot imagine a worse driving position).

Many hundreds of times I have overtaken lackadaisical drivers piloting high-performance cars inattentively. I blow by them in vehicles with half or less of the performance potential.

I am not bragging. This is just MY THING. I am used to the vast majority not LOVING driving. I just happen to … that is in particular, high-performance-driving.

All of this comes up because a good friend sent me this video from the Nurburgring race circuit on the day it was open to anyone who wanted to run their car at speed.

It got me thinking about the development of my driving skill set. It is my Dad’s fault. Not that he was a skilled driver, but that he made his own rules based on reality, common sense and the situation at hand. I learned the latter parts from him, and built the driver set on my own.

While I spent pretty much my entire life with speed limits defined by my ride, my skills and my experience, I often forget that the vast majority did not evolve their driving skills in such an environment.

This video quite clearly demonstrates the downside to an abrupt absence of regulated speed limits.

For people who did not practice at low speed in low-performance vehicles, the sudden elimination of outside limits can be problematic.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of times I have seen people attempting to BUY high performance vehicles. Sorry Chief. High performance vehicles are a combination of man and machine. You cannot buy that on your credit card.