All creations take a finite amount of time, copious amounts patience, deft skill, the right ingredients and a degree of passion to produce. So when someone takes your perfectly seasoned, sous-vide cooked steak and completely drowns it in HP sauce before cutting into it, you can’t help but feel a little sad.
Angry even, justifiably so.
So with that said, I’m sure car designers are probably holding back a few emotions whenever their latest creations are released and there’s already a whole host of aftermarket “upgrades” for the car. It takes a lot of resources to design a car, especially one entirely from scratch. Even ‘parts bin’ vehicles (ie: assembled from various parts from other cars), have a modicum of engineering design and checks to make sure the car isn’t just a resurrected corpse that wants to off itself shortly after birth.
If you want your car to look great, there’s tons of dress up available these days. There’s entire subcultures of making cars look stunning and there’s absolutely no shame in that given that looks are a subjective thing.
Let’s not confuse that with becoming a faster driver however. That’s now in the realm of the objective – things you can measure, quantify and observe. People are often enamored with spending large amounts of money on car parts because it’s something immediately tangible. You can grab a sway bar, you can feel how light forged wheels are and you can hear the pops and burbles of an exhaust. But if you throw the finest ingredients into a blender without any thought or understanding of what makes for a good dish and the technique behind it, the ensuing mash will still taste quite foul.
Start with stock.
Some of the best dishes in this world are ones that embrace simplicity and merely accentuate what is already there. Most notable of these are stocks. Chicken, beef or even the lowly vegetable; restaurants will have vats of this stuff and it’s the primary reason why your gravy is limp and weak compared to the deep richness that is theirs. Stocks are typically made from overlooked carcasses or meats, root vegetables and plain old water. It’s then allowed to cook and steep, releasing crevices of godly aromatics, marriages of flavours and entire family trees of tastes that weren’t present before. The same applies in driving.
Someone’s already taken the time to engineer you a vehicle and before you go about and slather on that sauce, take a bite and see what you can discern what they’ve provided. In that specific order. Can you actually perceive what the car is telling you or are you merely beating it into submission? Is the car truly understeering or are you going in way too hot?
Fun fact: A 1998 study by The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand concluded that 67.4% of surveyed drivers believed that they were better than the average driver. The Dunning-Kruger effect: a cognitive bias which renders people unable to properly assess their levels of competence – or more importantly, their incompetence – at a task which results in overconfidence in their abilities to accomplish said task.
So when it comes to determining your recipe for success as a driver, you need to find your limits in order to learn what your car’s limits are. Take an advanced driving course, attend a few lapping days, find your place in the time records, refine and simmer.
What might have been previously perceived as a low limit might now be seen as an opportunity to ride said limit more often to hone confidence at and beyond the knife edge. What was once the hard carcass of understeer could be an opportunity to trail brake and scrape up every ounce of weight transfer for front end grip much like bone marrow butter.
And as you spend the effort to marinate with seat time and spice things up with various techniques to eke out every ounce of performance in the car’s raw form, you will begin to truly understand the flavour profile on hand and where to go next.
Now, season to taste.