Saturday, April 22, 2006

Perception and Speed

Most of learning to drive fast is getting accustomed to speed. A typical street driver might see a top speed, when passing, of 80 MPH. That will be in a straight line, and for a very short time. Even "street racers", due to the ilegal nature of that activity never spend any time at speed. Road racing is entirely different.

On a typical 2-3 mile course, speeds reach over 100 MPH in at least two places. The track session lasts a half hour. It takes time to get used to that cadence, and time to build up to doing that many times per day, and yet more time to learn to race (which is harder).

The good news is that once you figure this out, driving on the street is effortless.

The weird news is that in order to wrap your brain around going that fast, your mind sometimes plays tricks on you.

When I'm going really fast, it feels like I'm falling. This happens especially when I'm following another car. There is no sensation of being on flat ground anymore. It's like being in a dive in an aircraft. Somehow it makes perfect sense.

Sometimes, one's mind orders things in slow motion, so one can see all of them at once. I've heard of this happening to folks in accidents, or times of high stress, but it also happens on the track.

It's also true that you don't care how fast you're going. In fact, one friend of mine who has a HUD in his car turns it off on the track. The only reason to know your speed is to check whether you're slower or faster in a given segment of the course this time around. In fact, when you're going the fastest, on the straights, is when you relax, check gauges, flex your hands and so on.


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