By on June 28, 2012

I come to bury Motor Trend’s Scott Evans, not to praise him. Scratch that: Jalopnik’s Matt Hardigree already dug and filled Mr. Evans’ grave with a double sprinkling of schadenfreude. It’s old news. Not that I don’t personally chuckle every time GM deliberately stacks their event with yes-men and useful idiots, only to see one of those puppets smash the Chinese wheels right off one of their press-trip whips, but it’s happening often enough now that it’s no longer particularly interesting.

Rather, I have a more noble purpose in mind: I want to make sure that the average TTAC reader won’t ever trash a car on the street the way Evans did. We’ll examine Scott’s version of the events, consider the likely truth of that version, and explain how he could have prevented the accident.

Before we do any of that, however, I have an extremely unusual story to tell: it’s the one about the journalist who backed off from the edge and didn’t wreck the car.

Here’s the problem with “fast-road driving” or “spirited driving” in a nutshell: speed. Sounds obvious, right? Perhaps I should explain. The average racetrack is composed entirely of corners which would be marked somewhere between 15 and 35mph on a public road. Even the so-called “big bends” which appear on tracks like Shendandoah, VIR, and Road Atlanta would be marked 45mph maximum under most state and federal highway guidelines. Yet we regularly expect to carry triple-digit speeds through them on a racetrack. Take that same mindset — that same willingness to hold 1.2g or more through a turn — and apply it to the street, and you will be where I was a couple of years ago on the infamous Cherohala Skyway. I was running my Boxster S at what I thought was reasonable pace when I looked down and realized I was doing slightly more than an indicated one hundred and thirty miles per hour in the midcorner. On a public highway, in November, at altitude, with the sheen of ice visible up the road. Stupid. That served as a real wakeup call to me about applying a racetrack mentality on the street. The street is too big, and too fast.

Some time ago, I was on a “first drive” with a fellow journalist, an online guy who had heard the siren song of print and sold out, as our own Ronnie Schreiber is known to say, as soon as he could find a buyer. We were on a fantastically twisted California road in a crossover of some sort. I drove first, going as quickly as I thought prudent, or perhaps a little more. I broke a couple of my own rules in order to learn more about the car’s behavior, doing some trail-braking and throttle rotation in midcorner, and frequently holding the throttle to the stop between turns instead of driving “the Pace”. I was doing a lot of the turns at triple the marked speed or more, but I didn’t find myself in any particularly sticky situations, mostly because I was fanatical about looking ahead through the unknown corners. After about forty-five minutes of that, I handed the wheel over to my co-driver.

He started off going hard. Maybe too hard; I didn’t think he was looking ahead as far as he should have been, and he was getting surprised by corner radius pretty frequently. (Remember that topic: you’ll see it again later.) His final misjudgment came as he speared the car sideways into a wet intersection which was, thankfully, deserted. We came to a halt, and he said something which gained him my immediate and complete respect: “I’m squidding out here. I need to dial it back and take it easy.” I’ve seen a dozen journalists nearly wreck a car in similar situations, and not once have I heard such a self-aware summation. As far as I’m concerned, that guy can drive me to the gates of Hell if he wants. He made a mistake, he recognized the source of the mistake, and he fixed the issue.

Compare that to the excuse Scott Evans gave Jalopnik for flipping a Cadillac ATS:

The turn was a downhill S-turn, a sweeping left into a sweeping right. The speed limit on GA 136 is 55 mph, and despite Matt’s suggestion, I wasn’t speeding… My mistake was misjudging the corner. It was tighter than I thought and I didn’t brake quite as much as I should have. As a result, I tracked wide at the exit and was left with a choice: tighten the line right before making a sharp right turn and risk upsetting the car that way, or let it run a little wide into the shoulder and drive back onto the road. I chose the second option.

With the pavement ending at the white line, driving into the shoulder meant into the dirt, which was far softer than I thought. The car immediately turned sideways, and while I counter-steered, the car was sliding at a 90-degree angle across the road. Thankfully, there was no on-coming traffic…

I’ve done a few stupid things in my life, but I’ll sleep soundly tonight knowing that this wasn’t one of them… I’ll gladly bear the shame of it because I am responsible, but the Matt Hardigrees of the world aren’t going to get me down.

This wasn’t one of them? This wasn’t one of them? You violate the trust of your readers and the OEM by carelessly totaling a $40,000 car in a completely avoidable act of negligent ass-hattery, and this wasn’t stupid? It must be nice to have that kind of bulletproof self-esteem.

I’ve spent a little bit of time looking at Google Maps, trying to figure out where the accident occurred, trying to get a sense for how fast of a road it is. My initial thought: With the exception of two very tight turns near Interstate 59, most of that road could be run well above 100mph. There are a lot of long, lazy bends there which are almost tailor-made for imbuing poor drivers with a sense of high-g confidence. GM doesn’t pick venues by throwing darts; this is a good road to make people feel like supermen.

One good place this wreck could have occurred can be found at coordinates 34.812183,-85.424294, or thereabouts. It meets all the characteristics of the road as described, including the car-eating drop off to one side. The turns, although gentle, are marked clearly at “35mph”. If Mr. Evans was actually doing 35mph through the turns, as seems to be indicated by his comment that he was not speeding, then, well, a dead man leaning on the wheel of a Freightliner could handle the corners at that speed. If he was doing them at 55mph, which is still legal depending on the way the state views the status of advisory signs, then I would trust anybody in the world to steer the Nuuuuuurburgerkingring-rated Cadillac ATS through.

Let’s suppose, but not claim as fact, that Mr. Evans was, instead, indulging the wannabe racer who hides inside many autojournos and was doing closer to 80 or 90mph, which seems to be the default fast-road speed for many of them. What kind of mistakes did he make, and how can we prevent them?

The first mistake he made was low eyes. There is no, repeat, no excuse for misjudging an unknown corner. If you can’t see enough of the corner to guess the maximum safe speed, you choose a lower one. There was already a suggested speed posted for him to try: 35mph.

If you want to drive fast on back roads, you need to learn to look as far ahead as possible. This means moving your head and body where necessary to see as far around the curve as you can, and taking the appropriate speed for the knowledge you have. If you can see the whole thing, that’s great! If you can’t, assume it tightens to a forty-foot radius, which is about as tight as you’ll ever see a public road crank to, and decelerate to 25 miles per hour. The Cadillac ATS will make it through anything, up to and including a U-turn at its max steering engagement, at twenty-five miles per hour.

If you realize too late that you’ve misjudged, what do you do? Stand on the brake. The ATS can stop from 60mph, which is 5mph over Mr. Evans’ maximum claim, in about 130 feet. Stand on the brakes. Crank the wheel if you must. The stability control will sort it out. Within 60 feet you will be down to 40mph or so and you should be able to do the turn easily. This advice won’t work for a ’76 Fleetwood, but it will work for a ’13 ATS very, very well.

If you can’t even do that, go off straight. Don’t saw at the wheel like a drooling infant swinging a rattle around: that produces the “immediate sideways turn” described by Mr. Evans. If you go two-wheels-off into the dirt with your foot on the brake, guess what? The engineers who designed your stability control have tested this scenario again and again. You’ll do fine, as long as you don’t panic and saw the wheel. If you do that, the car will go sideways, you will “countersteer” in the most inept way humanly possible, and you will create an accident where none existed before.

It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback car crashes, particularly when the driver is as prideful and incompetent as the Motor Trend guys tend to be, so I am willing to put my personal money where my mouth is. If GM has the guts to release the ECU data showing the actual speed of the incident, and disclose where the incident occurred, I’m willing to take my 83,000-mile 2009 Lincoln Town Car through the same turn at the same entry speed, on camera, and I will easily sort the whole thing out without denting a fender. Since the Town Car has absolutely no super-awesome Autobahn development, Speed World Challenge race history, or free supercharged variants sitting in the Motor Trend garage grinding out goodwill with the gullible, it should be plain as day that anything the Town Car can do, an ATS could have done. As long, of course, as the ECU data even remotely supports Mr. Evans’ claim that he was doing a legal, or near-legal, or even kinda-legal speed.

An alternative hypothesis, with no disrespect intended to Mr. Evans, is that he was showing off and he entered the turn at 90mph or so, panicked when he saw the fact that it was a bit of a switchback, and he immediately Moron Limited the car by sawing the wheel to the stop, jamming the brake, and plowing nose-first/sideways off the road, resulting in the inevitable rollover. I think it would be in the interest of the public (who are GM shareholders), Motor Trend, and the cause of truth in general to release the data. We will look forward to the excuses made on all parties for not doing so. In the meantime, when you’re on the road, remember:

  • Eyes up! Don’t guess! Look through the corner!
  • If you enter too hard, go full ABS until you reach a safe cornering speed.
  • If you need to go off, keep the steering wheel straight and engage the ABS.
  • Remember, very few high-speed road accidents end without a victim of some sort, so think twice before you show off.

Jalopnik is right about one thing: the ATS survived the crash reasonably well. If you plan to crash, it’s a good car to pick. If you don’t plan to crash… well, I wouldn’t use the upcoming Motor Trend test as a basis for a purchase decision.

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80 Comments on “Trackday Diaries: How’d that Cadillac crash, anyway?...”


  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Understeer – when you crash into the wall with the front clip.

    Oversteer – when you crash into the wall with the rear clip.

    Horsepower – how fast you were going when you hit the wall.

    Torque – how far you moved the barrier on impact.

    Any questions?

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      Friction: skidmarks on the pavement

      Shame: skidmarks on your underwear

    • 0 avatar

      I still don’t understand horsepower.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Roughly: Torque is the basis for acceleration and HP is the basis for top speed.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        That trite saying is wrong. Horsepower is the measurment of the amount of work an engine can do; it’s the metric for acceleration and top speed. Torque gives you an idea of how the engine makes its power. A torquier engine is a less high-strung engine, and often has a more flexible powerband, but two separate engines rated at the same power will produce the same acceleration regardless of torque, assuming that each engine is ideally geared for its respective powerband. Plant your foot while loping at 2,000 RPM, however, and the torquier engine will be at a definite advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        mistrernee

        Horsepower is work done over time (corrected).

        Basically:

        Engine A has 150 foot pounds of torque up to 5000 rpm

        Engine B has 150 foot pounds of torque, but can rev to 7000.

        Engine B will have more horsepower because the car is traveling faster and going further while providing the same amount of power, engine B gets more work done.

        Thinking of it another way, if engine B and engine A were in the same type of car with the same gearing:

        When engine A has to shift at 5000 rpm in a race, engine B has can keep going for whole 2000 rpm before having to grab another gear giving it a massive advantage.

        Edit: this ignores the general driveability and pleasantness of engine B, which might be completely horrible. It does have more power though.

      • 0 avatar
        DaveDFW

        Torque is work. Power is work per unit of time.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torque#Relationship_between_torque.2C_power_and_energy

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Some of you are way over thinking this…

  • avatar
    ott

    “It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback car crashes, particularly when the driver is as prideful and incompetent as the Motor Trend guys tend to be…”

    That’s a pretty broad brush-stroke… I’m sure there are many competent MT staffers who know better than let something like this happen. A single person’s misjudgment shouldn’t be used to judge his peers.

  • avatar
    EBradley

    Thanks for the insight, as I learned something valuable for future reference.

    Had I known this at the time, I’m pretty sure I would not have crashed my Discovery 2 head first into a wall on the freeway at 50 mph and rolled it over 100 yards down the freeway. The cause of the accident was getting hit on the far back passenger corner, which started an almost pit like maneuver. Had I not started to “saw at the wheel like a drooling infant swinging a rattle around” (in your extremely appropriate vernacular), and kept the wheel straight and stood on the brakes, I think the accident would not have been as bad as it ended up.

    So, I learned something new today and I thank you for that.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Like a lot of SUVs, the Disco has a lot of suspension travel and mild damping, so if you “saw at the wheel” the car rocks from side to side in oscillations of increasing amplitude as the suspension loads and unloads until you lose control of the car, especially, if you try to counter-steer to counteract those oscillations.

      It happens all of the time, which, IMHO is a reason never to confuse an SUV with a sports car or a “sports sedan” etc. Admittedly, I’ve never driven the supposedly buttoned down products from the German premium marques; but, on the road, they’re the exception not the rule.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @EBradley- The reason LE ‘pit maneuvers’ work on the general pop is that people instinctively let up on the gas as the car starts to spin. LE officers are just initiating an oversteer-like situation and once the perp lets up on the gas, it’s Game Over. That’s because the weight of the car shifts forward and the rear end swings around as it pivots on the front wheels. If the pit maneuver isn’t working, the perp is staying on the gas while steering towards the escape.

      Simply keeping the steering wheel straight isn’t the answer unless they’re already pointed where you need to go. Standing on the brakes is your last resort once slip has started.

      Keep at least part throttle as you steer towards the exit in a turn or escape route. Even then, that’s where people get into trouble. They steer too much. If they see the turn’s escape at ‘2 o’clock’, they steer towards 3 or 4. They’re going ‘from Lock to Lock’, in other words, instead of aiming the wheels where they need to go. By oversteering it, yeah the car is rotating as perscriped, but will rotate too much and too fast.

      At first, they’re seeing the turn’s exit at 2 and 10 o’clock, then 3 and 9. At 4 or 8, it’s Game Over. Go ahead and stand on the brakes at that point.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    The answer is hidden in the Christie novel “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?”

    http://www.amazon.com/Didnt-Agatha-Christie-Mysteries-Collection/dp/0062074121/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340907960&sr=8-1&keywords=why+didn%27t+they+ask+evans

  • avatar
    bwright1991

    What else do you expect from Seth McFarlane’s fatter, dumber brother?

  • avatar
    Cassius5

    GA 136 (starts just outside of Road Atlanta) does offer some level of driving enjoyment. The comment “…driving into the shoulder meant into the dirt, which was far softer than I thought.” smells of BS to me.

    The ‘dirt’ is rock hard Georgia red clay and we have been in a near drought status for months.

    Nothing but over-confidence and under-competence from the sound of it.

    • 0 avatar
      Shankems

      I’m no driving expert, but having gone wide and 2 wheels off at the track and properly recovered; this sound suspiciously like he cranked it to get back on asphalt and sealed his fate. If there is any truth to those coordinates provided then this guy must have been asleep at the wheel to go off on those ridiculously lazy turns; that or he was staring at the floor mats.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Mr. Evans seems to be blaming the road conditions much more than himself – the turn was sharper than he thought, and the dirt was softer than he thought.

      It’s as though he thinks he was deceived by a conspiracy between the road and the dirt, and possibly the car. If that’s the case, I suppose you can never blame your own poor judgment.

      In the end, does he give the ATS good marks for crash safety, or bad marks for not preventing a crash?

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Blogger smack down on the track. Rides in Panther, BRZ, and P-car will be tabulated for each Blog to determine the winner. No subjective crap about DLO or how it “feels” in the corners.

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    Can’t Matt just tell you where it happened? From his article on Jalopnik I was under the impression that he was the first on the scene… Which would also make me think he’d have a general sense of the pace of the group as well.

  • avatar
    raph

    Neato. Got the same advice at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds about losing ccontrol. Stab the brakes, wait rill the tires get traction or come to a complete stop then proceed. The instructor waz adamant about no heroic attempts to save the car, just let the tires and computer do its thing

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Using the limits of your vision to maintain a safety margin is the very core of spirited driving. JB could have also mentioned the skill of positioning the car in the lane so as to maximize your vision as well as your own visibility to oncoming traffic. What was this guy doing?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I learned these lessons as an idiot college student in my ’84 Jetta GLI on the back roads of Eastern Maine. Luckily, that car had more than enough sticky Pirelli rubber and not enough hp to get me in real trouble. Had a few damned close calls though.

    But this is also why I have no interest in the typical 300hp+ “enthusiasts car”. Modern high performance cars are SO fast and SO capable that they are no fun at all at sane speeds on a public road. To have fun you have to be going speeds that WILL result in a big accident if you screw up. And the higher the performance, the sharper is that knife edge between feels great and upside down in the ditch. And unlike Jack, most of us mere mortals do screw up now and again. Just kidding Jack!

    So I stick with my ‘slow’ 328i and sundry old-crock European sports cars and have a ball at little more than the legal speed limit.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Best comment of the bunch. The public road is not your racetrack, no matter how skilled you are. And, for those tempted by the monster-engine version of any number cars, you have to ask yourself: it is really worth it for essentially bragging rights? I have long felt that a car capable of hitting 60 in 5 seconds or less is fully capable of getting 99 percent of its owners into more trouble than they can deal with, faster than they can deal with it. The buff books say my car hits 60 in 5.8 seconds, which seems plenty quick for me, and then some.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Agree with you Bruce.

        I remember when my friends and I considered 8 sec for 0-60 to be respectable.

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        Yup, no truer words then that. I had an ’06 Mustang GT and while I did enjoy it, I traded it on a new ’12 4Runner. Why? It’s awesome having a powerful V8 under the hood, but legally you can’t really use all 300 hp of it, unless your intent is to really piss off a Chippie. The Mustang was a great car, but totally miserable as a daily driver with it’s harsh ride, cramped interior, mediocre trunk and Walmart grade interior. On a dragstrip though, pure joy. Day to day though, not so fun. Would I own another? Yes, happily- but only if I had a suitable daily.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Welcome to why, having owned numerous 500-1000cc sport bikes from Kawasaki, Ducati, and Triumph; my treasured keeper is my 44hp 1969 Triumph Bonneville cafe’ racer. Enough torque and little enough horsepower so I can keep up on the boil without risking my neck. Knowing every inch and every twitch of that bike over the last twenty years helps to know end on the occasions when I push it just a teeny bit too much.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Not too far from my neck of the woods. Jack pretty much nails the driving experience for this area of asphalt.

    It would have been nice to attend the event. I was invited to the event… but there were too many things I had to take care of this week.

    As for this, “…driving into the shoulder meant into the dirt, which was far softer than I thought.” North Georgia has been as hot as blazes for quite a while now with little rain. I can’t imagine soft dirt anywhere near where the accident took place.

    We are all entitled to our screw-ups. Mr. Evans had his. Hopefully Jack’s article will encourage the folks at MT to give their writers a bit more training behind the wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      "scarey"

      Maybe they will include some ethics in journalism (telling the truth in writing) in their training course.
      Oh, wait ! That is why TTAC was created. I remember.

    • 0 avatar
      gmichaelj

      From my experience of living in N.GA: counties occasionally re-fill the shoulders with minimal pack-down. So I think it is possible there could have been soft shoulders.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    In what states are those yellow corner speed signs actual speed limits? It’s definitely not what I learned in driver’s ed in good ‘ol Pennsylvania.

    But then again I also learned that the shape of a stop sign is unique and never means anything but stop, even though the yokels in Evanston seem to use it at every intersection ‘when pedestrians are present.’

    • 0 avatar
      pdieten

      They aren’t in Wisconsin either. I asked a deputy about that one day. She said, “If you go too fast around the corner and wipe out, we won’t give you a ticket. But we will laugh at you.”

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        In Virginia they will also laugh at you. And then they will write you a Reckless Driving ticket, mandatory court date. Any time there’s a wreck in Virginia, at least one of the involved parties is getting a ticket. Guaranteed.

    • 0 avatar
      Boxer2500

      In most states you can still get a “driving too fast for conditions” ticket for exceeding an advisory speed, especially if you’re involved in a collision.

  • avatar
    nonce

    Every time I had a near-miss, I’ve always thought “holy crap, I should be more careful.” Whether it was my fault or not. I thought I was normal, at least in this regard. Do other people not share this basic survival instinct?

    You’ll do fine, as long as you don’t panic and saw the wheel. If you do that, the car will go sideways, you will “countersteer” in the most inept way humanly possible, and you will create an accident where none existed before.

    For noobs like me, can you explain what it means to “saw the wheel”?

  • avatar
    maxell0405

    No wonder pro racers hate driving on the street. 90? When you can’t see the corner exit? On a public road where you must stay in your lane or risk killing an oncoming driver? Pathetic. But here’s the thing: If you take Jack’s advice you will never drive really fast on a public street, because you can almost never see far enough ahead to safely stop the car, even with stability control, good tires and good technique. Mid corner at double the posted limit, if you crush the brake pedal you WILL go sideways across the oncoming lane and into the rail or off the asphalt, into a tree or a ditch or worse. Stability control does not change the laws of physics; it just means you’ll go off with the front of the car in front of the back and at a lower speed (probably) than without stability control. The computer will optimally allocate traction between steering and braking, but it can’t add traction. So slow the F down on turn in and wait until you can see. At 60 you are going 88 feet/sec, and with reaction time of 1.5 seconds and a stopping distance of 120 feet, you need 85 yards to stop, and that assuming you’re going in a straight line on level ground, which you’re not. All of this means that too fast into a turn is nothing you can reliably fix mid corner on a public road. Mashing the binders and pointing it straight is the best you can do, perhaps, but it’s not enough. Take it to the track.

  • avatar
    maxell0405

    Sawing the wheel means steering left-right-left-right in a desperate and futile attempt to gain control. It upsets the car by shifting the weight from side to side, increasing the pendulum effect, lengthening the distance traveled out of control and ending badly.

    • 0 avatar
      mitchw

      It may also mean that you’re whipping the wheel around at just the moment when the energy stored in the springs is being released. This spins the car even worse, but in the other direction.

      And away we go! (spend some of that ‘fancy wheels’ money on professional instruction; it’s worth every penny)

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    >> Nuuuuuurburgerkingring-rated Cadillac ATS

    Hilarious. Next week, MotorTrend drivers will flip the car while speeding through the Burger King drive-thru.

    Great analysis and absorbing reading.

  • avatar
    Prado

    I’m really not the least bit suprised that this kind of stuff happens. 1) Manufacturer builds car and wants to market it based on its ‘fun to drive’ factor, basically like a toy that can also get you from point A to B. 2) Manufacturer provides car to journalist with the expectation that he will tell everyone how much fun this car is. 3) Journalist treats car like a toy and has fun. 4) Toy get broken when played with … especially free toys.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Cause of the accident? Two words – shuffle steer :P

    Lord I used to blast through 35mph marked corners at about 55-65mph in my Dad’s 1992 Bonneville for crying out loud. He was no where near the limits of that car (if he was going 55) let alone an ATS.

  • avatar
    JMII

    There is an on ramp I take to work every day and I keep waiting for some fools in front of me to “go off”. Its a typical highway on-ramp but the radius tightens just about the time you get bored with the posted limit and the lazyness of the turn’s pace in general. This point on the curve is also just about the place where you normally start to accelerate to highway speeds (65+) to merge. This combination is just asking for trouble. Every day I watch people suddenly apply their brakes at the same point… all caught out by turn’s radius change. Plus the slight uphill nature of the ramp induces some understeer which aids in pushing the car wider then you originally planned. Not good for the unprepared.

    I’ve learned alot about cornering technique playing Gran Turismo where a reset button is available in case of user error. In the real world I don’t press my luck because I value my life (and like my 350Z as is… uncrunched). As others mentioned the problem in the real world is you can’t use the whole road like you can in racing – between on coming traffic and soft shoulders exploring the correct apex angle and various braking points is simply not possible without being extremely careless.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      JMII, until you said it was uphill I was 99% sure that you were describing a merge between two interstates that I occasionally take to work. I know the exact speed I can go without my tires squealing, and I usually have some joker riding my ass for going “too slow” on the curve, and then they have to slam on the brakes when they hit that last part of the curve.

      I pull away from them, and then they get defiant and accelerate like mad to pass me to show me who’s boss.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Yeah, I love that ol’ “decreasing radius curve” trick that freeway designers sometimes pull on us drivers. Always keeps things interesting!

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        You know, I asked myself for years why those dumbass highway designers put so many decreasing-radius onramps on my local freeways. And then one day, I had one of those “duh!” moments of clarity. They were constant-radius ramps when they were built. Then, years later, some OTHER dumbass freeway engineer came along with an assignemnt to widen the road. So he put in some more lanes, in the only space available for them – the right-hand side…

        Presto! Instant decreasing radius ramp.

        D’oh!

    • 0 avatar
      Joshua Johnson

      Part of what you described happened recently on one of the roads I regularly commute on. It isn’t even a decreasing radius ramp either, but some person left a nice long strip of rubber going off the side of the ramp as it goes from EB MN Hwy 610 merging onto NB MN Hwy 47/US Hwy 10 (coordinates 45.142033, -93.267811).

      I can usually take that ramp at 40 in my Buick and 70 in my Jaguar, so they had to been of going pretty fast or not paying attention to go over the edge like they did.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      I got caught in one of those types of decreasing radius ramps once in my ’83 Civic.

      I was going a lil’ faster than intended then the road suddenly tightens just enough that you have to turn the wheel a bit more and you guessed it, the front began to slide outward in an understeering fashing, I just stomped on the brakes and brought the car to a halt just inches from the edge.

      Got the car back in position and continued on my way. Mind you, that WAS in the mid 90’s and I was well familiar with that on ramp but had just forgotten of that little detail on that particular day.

  • avatar
    motomoron

    Anyone who’s got to drive cars hard enough to evaluate how they work at vehicle limit must be, at minimum a solid advanced group HPDE driver. Better an instructor, and better yet, in possession of a race license kept current, and earned – not bought.

    As an instructor I’m constantly hammering a few key points home:

    – Keep the eyes up. Up. KEEP THEM UP. It’s the cornerstone. Until you’re really genuinely fast, if it feels too fast you’re most likely not keeping the eyes as far down track (or road) as possible.

    – Only use brakes when needed to adjust the speed of the car, and when you do, apply quickly to full braking effort then release smoothly. If you’re a little hot approaching a corner, a little confidence lift will unsettle the car to a much lesser degree than a braking event. If there’s no downshift on the immediate agenda – left foot brake.

    – If it’s all gone to shit, use max brakes in a straight line to bleed off speed.

    – When it’s gone, it’s gone. When you spin – both feet in.

    – Once committed to a corner, lifting never fixes anything.

    – KEEP your EYES UP.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I’m learning the finer points of not lifting now.

      I previously was auto-Xing a FWD car with a really twitchy suspension and lifting was my friend. If I ever got in trouble I buried my foot on the loud pedal and that took care of the excessive yaw. I had a nice front diff in that car that let me treat the throttle as an on-off switch in most situations, and I think it spoiled my technique.

      Now i’m in an oversteer-prone AP1 S2000. It’s not as bad as people made it out to be with the tendency to switch ends, but it definitely has taught me corner throttle modulation much better. Doing the throttle thing with it can make it spin, and lifting does it too, and with the dynamic toe-out under heay load you’re always on the brink if you’re cornering hard, so throttle technique and not lifting make a big difference.

  • avatar
    Georgewilliamherbert

    You’ve got the wrong part of 136; the report said 136, but also 17 miles from Atlanta Motorsports Park, which seems to put it around where 136 crosses Georgia highways 5 / 515.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    After 7 years of SCCA racing, I found no need to exceed the speed limit on any public road turn. You just appreciate the difference between full safety equipment and emergency workers vs. none of that.
    And also the potential for taking out some innocent bystanders.

    As one of my old buddies used to say, once you’ve screwed Sophia Loren, there’s not much satisfaction doing Roseanne Barr.

    • 0 avatar
      RRocket

      Indeed. As a former motorcycle racer, I had come to appreciate driving at “the Pace” on the road. No need to drive ballistic to have a good time. Just a firm, fun, safe pace.

      A few weeks ago, I had a get together with my internet car club. I had desperately hoped we would drive at “the Pace”. One..for safety reasons. And two, because we are in Ontario…land of losing you license and car for 50km/h over the limit. Sadly, this was not to be. The speeds some of the people reached were INSANE for any public roadway. I said “f-it”, and was content to drive “the Pace” all by my lonely self in my 911…and carry up the rear. And you know what? I had a great time. A great time knowing A) I wasn’t going to lose my license B) I wasn’t going to kill anyone C) Enjoying that man/machine interface at a decent clip in the 911. I don’t think elevating the speeds would have made it any more enjoyable.

      This is a pretty decent article on “the Pace” for those that have never heard the term.

      http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/flashback/122_0911_the_pace_nick_ienatsch/

  • avatar
    ajla

    What if our vehicle doesn’t have ABS, stability, or traction control? (I’m guessing we should just be more mindful of the posted limit)

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      That, and go old school and pump the brakes.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Indeed, become reasonably competent at driving and know your vehicle and/or avoid old 80’s/ early 90’s vintage mustangs like the plague. Fun cars, but probably the worst rear suspension ever pegged to the back of a car (well maybe not with the old swing axle VW’s and Porsches, but it’s not far behind).

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        “That, and go old school and pump the brakes.”

        That’s what we used to call redneck ABS. Hey it saved me more than once. Even today, it’s better to know it than not. Wheels can still completely lock without a fair amount of friction on the roadway.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Then just make sure that those skinny tires have tread that spells out “Non Skid”…

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    BTW, people keep writing “flip” when they should be writing “roll” … flip is when the car rotates along the transverse axis (runs left-right across the vehicle), roll is along the longitudinal axis (runs front-back along the vehicle), and spin is along the vertical axis (ground to sky thru vehicle.) Spin is easiest, roll less easy, and flip is dammed hard to do!!

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Was your journalist friend a motorcyclist? The term “squid” is a motorcyclist term for a stupid rider who lets speed get the better of him.

    Also, as a motorcyclist, rule #1 on the street:

    NEVER EVER EVER outride your sight line. There can be a minivan parked on the other side of the blind curve. Assume there is one. Because the one time you forget that assumption, you will meet one… If you can’t see through in time to break, you’re going to fast.

    (This is why the track is glorious: The turns aren’t blind from a hazard viewpoint, because if there is a problem, there is a guy at the top with a BIG YELLOW FLAG! No flag? No problem!)

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Somewhere in here, there is an object lesson for people who believe that 200 horsepower is insufficient for a certain 2,700 pound coupe.

    • 0 avatar
      GT-86

      thank you thank you thank you for saying this… all I could think about while reading the comments was how many people complain that my car has too little horsepower… it’s not at all true!!

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I took my kids to a free safety driving class, and the first thing they taught them was exactly this, what to do when you lose control and go off. This is basic stuff that a supposed “pro” did wrong. I sincerely doubt his claims of “not speeding”.

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    “My mistake was misjudging the corner”

    “driving into the shoulder meant into the dirt, which was far softer than I thought”

    Idiotic. Like when that guy says “I didn’t see you” after rear ending you at a red light.
    He was trying to think. When you “try to think” you screw up. Every damn time.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    “I wasn’t speeding… My mistake was misjudging the corner. It was tighter than I thought and I didn’t brake quite as much as I should have. ”

    The first part, “I wasn’t speeding” is either a delusion or a straight up lie, because didn’t brake enough and misjudging the corner = going too fast.

    It’s assinine that as a grown ass man, he can’t just admit that this.

  • avatar
    dwight

    Obviously, Mr Evans was carelessly speeding on a public road and lost control of the car. The sad part is if it was his own car paid for with his own money — for a brand new $40-50K car (something I’m sure a lot of auto journalists wouldn’t do probably because they can’t afford it) then the Cadillac would have survived the 17 mile trip.

    Auto journalism has a fun factor built into the job and that is to be appreciated not abused. Mr. Evans should have been reprimanded for his actions (I’m not sure if he got a fine) but he did put three others in danger while speeding. If this was politics, Mr. Evans would have been asked to hand in his resignation. Hopefully, car companies shut him out of test drives.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Evans owes me a new BS meter. The needle snapped off mine when I read his excuse.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Jack…it was Lieberman, wasn’t it. In California. Who squidded through the intersection.

  • avatar

    Lotsa good stuff here.

    Jack helped me understand what track speeds are really like…expressing them in relation to typical road speed advisory curves was very helpful. I’ve never had a track day, so until now had no frame of reference.

    Yes, seeing. Here, our curved roads are usually also forested. Sight lines are very restricted, a lot of the time. Still, I’ve been on car and bike rides where fellow pilots acted completely unconcerned, trusing divine providence, karma, or something to ensure that a stopped farm vehicle / left-turning auto / road debris wasn’t just around the next bend. Um, no.

    And also: the pursuit of power. Invariably, in any enthusiast marque forum, there’s the endless discussion of more power. Intercoolers / tunes / exhaust / “cold air” intakes. For cars with more capability than nearly all owners will ever use. Sport bikes: same thing. Yoshi pipes / air box modifications / reverse pattern shifters, when perhaps a handful of a hundred riders can use what performance the bike came with. In both “worlds”, the best advice for better lap times has been: attend a driving / riding school to improve your skill. When you’re getting all your vehicle can provide, maybe then think about adding capability.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    A great article there Jack and some good pointers on driving curvy roads at speed (read, more than say, 25mph).

    I would also contend that you, the driver should become intimately familiar with your car’s limits so you don’t under estimate or over estimate them. The former will not get you in trouble, but will irritate those of us who KNOW how our cars can behave and that they CAN do a bit more, and do it safely as most of today’s cars CAN handle most turns/curves much better than in the past. The latter for those who constantly try to do more than their car and/or the surrounding conditions indicate and thus often get into trouble, sometimes it’s fatal.

    I often see people creep around a typical corner as if their car can’t corner (when it in fact can) and thus slow way down, causing people behind them to bunch up while they make the turn at a snails pace. Or, take that same corner at much to fast a speed and you risk invoking understeer and the car will slide out from you and risk plowing into another vehicle or pedestrian as your car decides to take it wide as you exceed it’s limits. I know that one as my POS ’78 Ford Fairmont that I once had years ago was easily prone to understeer at anything over a crawl when making a sharp turn from one street to another, thanks to being equipped with the heavier inline 6. I understand if equipped with the 4, not such a problem.

    I did, however discover that my old ’92 Ford Ranger truck would hang a similar turn soo much better, even at the risk of the back end slightly stepping out, just keep my foot in it and I’m fine.

    Knowing your vehicle’s limits, or at least get a good feel for where they may lie so you don’t get any surprises down the road I think also helps along with proper correcting techniques when you need to correct for a bit too much speed or what have you.

    This morning, I think I found the limits a little on my 03 Mazda P5 unintentionally as I was rounding a radius curve onto I-90 in Seattle on my way into work and I may have been pushing the speed a little (I almost never went beyond 40-45mph, even in the truck as I knew it could take it but also knew it was the safe limit for that on ramp as well) but may have been doing closer to 50mph by the end of the apex (outside lane) as I accelerated into the straight to make the merge onto I-90 and felt the car get near the limits of adhesion.

    I don’t think I noted the speed on the speedometer like I usually do as I was looking far ahead, and looking around me to ensure I didn’t have anyone on my right flank before beginning the merge onto I-90 so as to get back up to speed as closely as I can with traffic to my right.

    Conditions, dry pavement, summer rated Falken Super Steel series tires in good condition with stock wheels and suspension.

    In wet weather, I know not to push it as traction will undoubtedly be less, it’s called common sense.

    But I DO lightly brake to bring the car down some before I enter the turn and once in the turn, I accelerate back up to speed as I go through the turn, accelerating even more as the apex straightens out.

    I know for a fact I could slalom the Mazda, no problem, but the truck? noddachance but it WILL take corners better than you would think, as I discovered early on in my ownership of it. Just keep that in mind and you’ll not get into trouble, which is why I love driving cars with less power, but with GOOD driving dynamics as I’m able to use more of the car even in daily driving, which then makes most driving situations, even rush hour, less torturous because the car will still bring a bit of fun to your commuting grind.

  • avatar
    Spencer Williams

    ” I was doing a lot of the turns at triple the marked speed or more, but I didn’t find myself in any particularly sticky situations, mostly because I was fanatical about looking ahead through the unknown corners.”

    A 15 mph corner at 45 safely, okay. A 20 mph corner at 60 or more, safely? Maybe. A 25 mph corner at 75 or more, safely, no way.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    I really don’t understand how any auto-journalist can do anything like this and still keep their job.

    First off if you are pushing a car on legal roads that close to the limit, you’re an idiot. Plain and simple, I’ve done my share of idiotic things in a car on public roads and I learned NOT to do this. You keep your car at 9/10ths or less on public roads. My father taught me that growing up and having seen the number of accidents people are in doing stupid things, I didn’t need more lessons on that.

    This writer’s arrogance about saying he wasn’t at fault and has no shame and further is right and can hold his head up is unbelievable.

    If you can’t see far enough ahead to stop, then you slow the F___ down.

    And Jack while I won’t make the same wager as you regarding the value of the wage, I bet I could do the same thing with a 1972 Cadillac and still come out the other end fine.

    There was no way he was doing the speed limit or even close to it and managed to roll the vehicle on dry roads.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    I’ve subscribed to MT since I was 10, and I’ve never seen a lack of hubris like this!!

    Jack, does SCCA or other sanctioning bodies have car-control or other such classes available for those of us who can’t afford a Bondurant or some other experience, and can’t devote weekends for actual autocrossing? I know that entities like AAA have that stuff for newly-minted teenage drivers; I’m looking for something where I can learn to have fun, as well as learn advanced car control and emergency procedures, as an average 42-year dude in a Honda Accord V6. (It’s no Miata or Toyobaru FR-S/BRZ, but it CAN take a posted 30mph constant-radius cloverleaf at 50mph without tire squeal, and between 50 and 55 with the tires howling away. The new Accord coming out this fall supposedly has trimmed the weight and firmed the handling versus the porcine 8th-Gen Accord (2008-2012), although even that one is actually no slouch–the vague steering that I encountered in a 2008 model I drove, combined with the added weight of the V6, just doesn’t inspire as much confidence.)

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      NASA HPDE1 is exactly the kind of program for which you are looking.

    • 0 avatar
      maxell0405

      BMW Car Club of America has classes called Advanced Driver Skills School or “skid school.” You don’t need a BMW to attend. They are one day, cheap, and conducted on a wet skid pad, with instruction on understeer, oversteer, throttle steer, braking, and avoidance maneuvers. Much less expensive than an HPDE day, and does not require a helmet or risk to you and the car at high speeds.

  • avatar
    kayoteq

    I had the underlying suspicion that perhaps he had disabled the traction control. Anyone of the opinion that a modern vehicle with ATC disabled handles worse than a non ATC vehicle? That can exponentially increase error punishment factors that above rational advice will reduce.
    I managed to spin a Subaru wagon and get it stuck. The day I got my drivers license. Guess that was a good safe scare that kept me around the limits of physics..


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