Are Race Drivers “Good Drivers”?

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Because motorsport is one of my passions, albeit as a viewer, not a participant, I follow several of the Supercar drivers on social media. One of those I follow is Russell Ingall, on Instagram. I saw this yesterday. A short video of Russell acting as a supervising driver for his 16 year old daughter.

To save you from scrolling through the plethora of adoring comments to find where I commented, and Russell replied, I’ll post the sequence here.

endeesea: Tell her to move her hands. Can’t stay fixed on the wheel

russellingall: @endeesea your giving me driving tips? I must have missed seeing you on the Bathurst Podium

endeesea: @russellingall I’m a driving instructor of young people just like your daughter. Being a manipulator of a purpose built race car doesn’t mean you’re a good driver Russell. I saw something and thought to offer a suggestion. Take it as you choose.

Grammar and arrogance aside, the reasons I commented at all are quite simple. Have a look at the expression on the young lady’s face. She thinks she’s ‘got it’, she’s not all that certain and clearly neither does Russell. Take a look at the grip she’s using on the wheel. She is driving on a race track, the Norwell complex just south of Brisbane, and she is driving way too quickly for what a new driver ought to be doing in the initial learning process. Her hands never change position on the wheel during the turn and her arms come very close to being locked together should the tail of the car break away. Not that I suspect it would, she’s driving her mother’s Porsche Cayenne with all the bells and whistles, like traction control, turned on no doubt.

Elsewhere in the comments from adoring fans, Russell makes this response to someone:

It’s so bad on the roads and getting worse. All I can do is give her the experience to get out of situations as best as possible.

Wrong! In so many ways. He shouldn’t be teaching her to get out of situations. He should be teaching her how to avoid getting getting into situations in the first instance. Learning to manipulate a motor vehicle in a space where no other traffic exists, and where nothing untoward will happen if the driver does lose control is laudable. I wish I had access to Norwell or Mt Cotton for noobies but it seems only the elites can take their children to such places to play around. That’s all Russell and his daughter are doing. Playing around.

There is only one place to teach children the art of driving, as opposed to finding the limits of adhesion of a car on a race track, and that’s out on the roads, in traffic, with other drivers. Teaching young people the art of defensive driving – the ability to read the road and understand traffic behaviours – is the ONLY way the road toll will ever be reduced. By the time our kids reach their 100 hours and think they’re ready for their practical driving assessment, they’ve already developed ingrained habits which are very difficult to break. Understanding how to move a car is important. Knowing that if it’s mishandled, it can kill you is equally as important. Knowing how to find the apex of a corner at speed, on a race track……that can come a looong way down the track.

By the by, I still have a huge regard for Russell Ingall and his ilk, for the skills they’ve developed over their lives. Being able to punt a race car around a race track at high speed really is a skill worthy of note. But that skill doesn’t make you a good driver.

As a complete aside, here’s Russell in 2014 at The Mountain.

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