The Racing Line - Your Steering Wheel Hand Position Can Prevent A Crash
Yes, having your hands at 9 & 3 o’clock is important on the track. Okay, okay before you start rolling your eyes at me, let me explain why this basic car control skill can actually one day prevent you from a crash.
From every high performance driver education track day classroom to every racing coach; steering wheel hand position is always focused on. So, why do so many quickly lose their discipline on this habit?
I was always surprised how often amateur racing drivers asked me, “how do race car drivers hold the steering wheel?” Once I started coaching with Racers360 we have seen an interesting data point for those we have worked with. Over 40% of the road racing drivers shuffle (also called hand over hand steering) their hands while turning on the steering wheel. In other forms of motorsport like Autocross, I believe that number will be much, much higher.
We commonly hear drivers say that it is necessary for them to shuffle their hands on the steering wheel to turn enough. Well, we are here to bust that myth and explain why keeping your hands at 9 & 3 o'clock on your steering wheel may prevent you from a crash one day!
The first thing to understand is that the closer race car drivers drive towards the limit of the car, the smaller the inputs on the steering wheel we need to be able to make. At the limit, drivers are making lots of micro corrections mid-corner. In a correct seating position, we always have the backside of our shoulders connected with the back of the seat. To know if you are in a proper seating position let's first do the following drill:
- Sit normally in your car with your hands at 9 & 3 o'clock.
- Without turning the steering wheel, reach one hand to the top of the steering wheel.
- The steering wheel should be under your wrist when both of your shoulders still comfortably touching the back of the seat.
With your hands at 9 & 3 o'clock, you should look similar to the driver in this diagram
Once you are sitting in this position there will almost never be a need to shuffle your hands on the steering wheel. So, why is this so important? When your hands are at 9 & 3 o'clock, and your shoulders are still on the back of the seat your body is in a position to make small inputs.
When you shift your hands, you typically move your arm to the top of the steering wheel. When one hand is on the side of the steering wheel, and one is on top, it is easier for a driver to make more significant inputs than we want to on the steering wheel. This can lead a driver to turn too much, which can be especially risky on high speed corners.
The most significant negative factor that it can lead to is a driver overcorrecting when those small corrections are needed. Most overcorrections directly lead to a spin or worse, a crash. We know a spin is just a crash without a bang, so we still need to take them just as seriously.
The second part we want to speak about is the, “I can’t turn enough if I don’t shuffle my hands” statement. The big thing to understand for drivers that believe this is what at a certain point additional steering can actually become counterproductive. It is what we call “turning past the grip threshold.” We have a great brief video on that subject that you can find here: Can You Turn Too Much?
The big thing to understand as simply as possible is, once you start to feel that understeer you can stop turning. This is the rule and there are a few very rare exceptions to it. That additional steering input puts more wear and heat into your tires and can also lead to an ugly snap oversteer on corner exit.
I hope that by understanding the big reasons why it is so important to keep our hands at 9 & 3 o'clock drivers will become more disciplined in doing it. Pros at every level in every type of car do this, and yes when I see pro drivers autocross they manage to keep their hand at 9 & 3 o'clock. The great thing about this is this isn’t only true for those with a racing steering wheel or only on race tracks, this is important for any situation we are driving. So, no more excuses let's make hand-shuffling while turning on a race track a thing of the past!
Are you looking for more race car coaching tips? We are focused on not only making personalized pro race coaching affordable and convenient but also trying to release as many free tips as we can! Below are a few more articles on different race car driver techniques we have released: