Want to keep your Mustang on the road when you leave Cars And Coffee this Sunday? 

Simple: Look Where You Want to Go. 

All of driving, like most sports, is based on keeping your eye on the ball. Or in your car, the road ahead. Even when the car gets sideways because your honkin’ Summit Racing-modded V8 overpowers your ice-cold performance tires as you leave the lot under admiring eyes.

This is another in a series of performance driving articles from pro racer Randy Pobst. You can read more here:
* Looking to Put Your Speed Parts to the Test? Why Track Days, AutoX and Entry-Level Road Racing are the Ticket!
* So, You Think You Know How To Use The Gas Pedal? 

It’s Car Control, My Friends.

And if you are a car person, you need to know this, for safety and for ego preservation. Make your driving as high-performance as your hot rod. It is based on where you are looking, weight management, and speedy steering correction and recovery. We should be teaching these concepts to every person with a driver’s license, but now, as I hear it, we don’t even require driver’s education for our new teens?

In my 1970s driver’s ed. class, taught by the football coach, they said “Steer into the skid.” Turn your head to keep looking at the road and countersteer to catch the slide. That’s so true.

But it’s only half the story.

If you correct fast enough and catch the slide, where is your steering? Right, it’s cranked over! Now you have to quickly snap that steering back to where you want to go, or the car will now shoot violently off in the direction the wheels are pointed.

Makes sense, right?

(Image/Summit Racing)

Here’s a real-world hot rodding scenario:

So you’re burning rubber, spinning the rear tires. Does the car go straight? Most times, no. And why? Because whatever end of the car is sliding the most will try to go first. So now you know why donuts happen. Rear wheelspin makes the tail come around, unless the driver countersteers (steers into the slide) and catches it. Secret to a cool perfect donut circle? Don’t countersteer.

If the driver does catch the slide during wheelspin, now what do you have? You have achieved The Drift. But before you can be a drift star, you must learn to catch and control a slide. You must learn to stop oversteer.

Car Control.

Good car control can save your sweet machine and maybe even your life. Learn to stop a slide before your try to drift. It’s like walk before you run. So you’ve entered a corner too fast or spun the rear tires or perhaps even someone bumped you and knocked you sideways.

Here Are 4 Basic Rules for Catching a Slide:

  1. Turn your head and keep looking ahead at the road, where you want to be.
    Look where you want to go. Sounds easy but it’s not. Fear makes us look at that tree we are worried we might hit, or makes us freeze up, staring straight ahead. But you are sideways right now, and you go where you look. Keep looking over at the road, where you want to be.
  2. Very quickly steer into the slide.
    Countersteer. Because of our natural hand-eye coordination, looking that direction will make you steer that direction. Works like a charm.
  3. Ease off the throttle.
    When in doubt, stay off the pedals. No gas, no brake, catch the slide with your hands, your steering. When in trouble, sliding too much, power only makes you crash faster. There is no such thing as powering out of trouble. If you are not sure where you are going, why would you wanna go there faster?
  4. If you catch the slide, the car will stop getting more sideways.
    There will be a pause in its rotation. The tires are now hooking up, and will send the car where the steering tires are pointed, so you just now quickly recover the steering back to where you want to go, which hopefully will be where you are looking.

Boom. Slide – correct – off the pedals – stop slide – recover steering – it’s over.

If you countersteer but don’t recover the steering, you will get what’s called a hook-slide. Your tires hook up, and shoot you off to the side where the front tires are pointed. It’s sudden and even violent on dry pavement. You may have done some powersliding around here on Georgia clay or up North in winter snows, and that’s good counter steering practice, but it does not prepare you for stopping a slide on dry pavement, with high traction. It can hit with great force. Keep looking where you want to go, and super-quickly recover that steering when you catch the slide, and you’ll look and feel like a hero.

To cure the “leaving Cars and Coffee blues,” number one, keep your head straight and don’t burn rubber out of the parking lot. But if someone does over do it, keep looking well ahead, down the road. This gives the best information about the car’s attitude if it starts to slide, then ease out of the throttle to keep the slide from getting too big. To catch a slide, very quickly countersteer, stop the slide, and then very quickly snap the steering back to straight.

Now, say you’ve entered your first drift track event, to give it a try. Number one rule of driving holds more true than ever: Keep looking where you want to go. And use fast hands to make quick corrections and recoveries.

Holding a drift means starting a slide with a stab of the power for wheelspin, a steering toss, or a grab of the handbrake, then ALWAYS LOOKING WHERE YOU WANT TO GO, countersteering quickly until you catch the slide, then using just enough power to spin the rear tires and keep that tail out, while always looking where you want to go.

Did I mention always looking where you want to go? This is number one. If you get it good and sideways, you will be looking out the side window.

Not all cars are easy to drift, either. When you watch in-car YouTubes of good drifters, their cars are set up for it. Huge power makes it easier (Summit Racing has turbo kits, check ‘em out). Adjust suspension for oversteer. Raising rear tire pressures ten or twenty pounds is the easiest way. Disconnect one side of the front anti-sway bar. Stiffen the rear bar if you can. Run lots of front camber and toe-out, run high settings on rear rebound if you have that.

Make the car want to get sideways.

Keep it legal and don’t appear sideways and crash innocent regular good folks on their way home. Learn to stop a slide first, then move on to what you might want to do. Car control makes you a better, smarter, safer driver on the street, and a faster, more entertaining driver on the track.

Pop quiz: What’s the first rule of better driving?

Look where you want to go.

Keep your eyes on the road, where you want to be, no matter how slideways you might get.

Get a good look at the car control techniques described here in my video:

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Author: Randy Pobst

Randy Pobst is a career road racing driver with almost 100 pro victories, including two at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and earned factory driving contracts with Porsche, Audi, Mazda, and Volvo. He was also a track tester, video host, and writer for Motor Trend and Hagerty magazines. Randy is a highly respected evaluator of automotive handling. Check out his own Instagram and YouTube, @RandyPobst