by Pat Moss,
Champion Rally Driver
It seems a curious thing to say, but sometimes the very worst driving
conditions make for the best driving. In European rallying, where I have done
most of my driving, it is the dreadful roads and dirty weather that lend spice
to a sport which otherwise might become painfully insipid and tame. Looking
back on 50 major rallies, I can recall: tempestuous storms with blue lightning
in Germany; black ice on the slants and switchbacks of the French Alps;
unbelievably pocked and dust-laden roads in Yugoslavia; fords in England so
deep that water splashed into the side windows; impenetrable fog in several
countries, as well as an imposing variety of ice, snow, rain, sleet and
particularly in my earlier days, I thought seriously of getting off the road
and into the safe comfort of an inn, but it has become second nature for me to
drive on, whatever the weather. I find that I actually like handling
automobiles on ice and snow, and I have never enjoyed it more than in the 1960
Monte Carlo Rally, when in deepest winter my co-driver Ann Wisdom and I won the
women's section of this supreme test.
Later we won
outright the important Li�ge-Rome-Li�ge Rally, which had its fair share of foul
weather. This was the first absolute victory for women in any of the rallies
counting toward the European championship. It helped disprove, I hope, the old
slander that giving cars to women is like entrusting babies with bottles of
In point of fact,
there are many women who drive abominably, but so are there men, and they are
all at their worst when confronted with villainous weather and extraordinary
road conditions—in other words, typical rally conditions.
I think their
difficulties are largely caused by apprehension. Most drivers feel inadequate,
get flustered in emergencies and fall back on their instinctive reactions,
which are often all wrong for the trouble at hand.
Now obviously I
cannot hope to persuade the reader to share my enthusiasm for motoring on
slippery pavement, and I do not mean to imply that I dote perversely on all the
nastier aspects of driving; I abhor fog and mud. But I do know that there is a
reasonable solution to nearly every road problem. Given an understanding of
proper technique and a reason to believe in himself, almost any motorist can
take the fear and danger out of foul-weather driving.
self-confidence, of course, takes some doing, as I discovered the day my
brother Stirling took me out to show me how to drive my first sports car on
packed snow. Already well on his way to becoming a master racing driver,
Stirling was an expert instructor but not a very patient one. I was driving as
we returned to the family farm at Tring, northwest of London. As I turned into
the gate, the back of the car went around and hit the gatepost. I was terribly
upset over having dented my beautiful new car, but Stirling just laughed and
laughed and laughed.
circumstances one learned quickly. One learned, above all, never to freeze in
an emergency. A tendency to freeze is the most conspicuous failing of the inept
driver. If he begins to lose control of a situation, his involuntary reaction
is to slam on the brakes. That may be the right thing on a dry road, but when
the pavement is icy it can be disastrous.
wheel, throttle—all the controls—must be used more gently when it is slick
below. Merely getting underway can be a problem. If you try to start in bottom
gear with a heavy foot on the throttle, you simply spin the rear wheels and get
nowhere. The effective way is to use a higher gear and as little throttle as
possible, then accelerate very gradually once you have begun to roll.
As you proceed,
you automatically use that extra bit of caution required when the going is
slippery and the tires haven't their normal bite, but caution alone is not
enough. You cannot, for example, creep up an icy hill. If you try, you won't
have sufficient momentum to reach the top, and the wheels will begin to spin
uselessly as the pull of gravity brings you to a stop. Now you must either back
down or shove the nose of the car around (if you try this method, be sure to
have someone in the driver's seat) and then drive down. Once you are at the
bottom, get far enough away from the hill to work up sufficient speed to make
it on the second attempt.