SI Vault
 
RACING FOR SAFETY
Kenneth Rudeen
October 19, 1959
At Lime Rock, Connecticut the sports car road track has an ulterior purpose—to serve as a laboratory and testing ground for better highways
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October 19, 1959

Racing For Safety

At Lime Rock, Connecticut the sports car road track has an ulterior purpose—to serve as a laboratory and testing ground for better highways

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Next we went backward through a slalom course marked out by traffic pylons on a trackside stretch of devious gravel, reaffirming that a car's handling is vastly different in reverse than in forward motion. Then we threaded the pylons going forward, rounded the last one and retraced the path, striving for a light and accurate steering touch at the highest speed possible to attain without brushing the pylons. New York taxi drivers do this kind of thing on Park Avenue in the rush hour with great zest, and they would undoubtedly receive high marks at Lime Rock for verve, if not for common sense. In a slalom course on the homestretch, with the pylons staggered, the pace was faster and the going a bit trickier. Oft repeated, these slalom rounds stimulated concentration and sharpened the driver's awareness of the precise location of the car at speed in relation to adjacent objects.

HEEL AND TOE

Instruction in the heel-and-toe method of downshifting provoked some fumbling. It is a technique used by all good road-racing drivers, saving gear wear and keeping engine revolutions up in cornering, and it is well worth mastering by anyone whose car has a manual shift, but it must become an automatic combination of foot-and-hand motions for effectiveness. Inexperience and too much thinking about it tied the writer in knots.

We went on and on and on, the situations becoming more challenging: bringing the car to a stop from 50 mph while veering to avoid a simulated wall or highway obstruction; putting previous instructions to test in combination with others at various parts of the race course; finally driving the complete 1�-mile circuit at speed after observing some flawless and wonderfully coordinated driving by Instructor Fitch. If this student was perhaps not yet ready to show Stirling Moss a thing or two, he was at least for the first time really conscious of his capacities, as well as his limitations, as a driver—something which far too few official driving tests that put new motorists on the road reveal today.

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