At Racers360 one of our key coaching topics is helping drivers become smoother on track. Understanding how much to turn the steering wheel in a corner is one of the foundations that lead to becoming a smoother driver on the track. Can Racecar Drivers Turn The Steering Wheel Too Much?
On the track, drivers are always looking to find the edge of the tires grip and not go beyond that. We always think of this in terms of speed, but there are more factors to this as well, such as steering wheel angle. The problem we are focusing on here is specifically when we see a driver steering into the corner and the car starts to understeer, rather than the driver keeping the same amount of angle in the steering wheel at that point he ends up turning even more. Before we get into the problems this actually creates for the drivers, let's talk about what is actually happening. Understeer is just like oversteer, what we are feeling is the front tires threshold of grip breaking and the front tires are starting to slide. Once they have started to slide you are asking the tire to do more than it has the grip to do, by adding more steering wheel input in after they have started to slide you are asking the tires to do even more. Since the front tires are already sliding that additional steering will never help the car turn more, it is completely useless and only has negative consequences.
So, now that we know understeer is simple the front tires sliding on track we now ask ourselves what are those negative effects of adding more steering input after we feel the understeer.
1) The more you turn the more you load that outside side of your car and the more the spring will coil. The more those springs coil the more violent they will unload as the driver starts to straighten the car out. This is what leads to violent snap oversteers on exit after a lot of understeer mid-corner.
2) As the tires slide over the surface of the track the heat of the tire will rise. The more you force the tires to slide the faster they will overheat causing them to lose even more grip, which will, therefore, make that understeer even worse!
3) When the driver turns way past the point of the understeer starting it becomes difficult to keep their hands at 9 and 3 o'clock on the steering wheel. This will cause the driver to start shifting their hands on the steering wheel, which causes the driver to not be smooth and make it more difficult to make the necessary corrections to save the car on any oversteer moment.
This coaching tip will help drivers of any discipline, but where we see the most drivers breaking this foundational rule is in autocross. It is difficult in the short and sharp turns where you are performing for a very quick amount of time to remain calm and smooth. If you suffer from this mentality, just remind yourself that turning more does not mean the car will turn more and you are actually hurting your potential level of grip! Smooth is always fast, no matter where you compete!