By on May 23, 2015

Chances are if you have an Internet connection and even a passing interest in automobiles, you’ve heard about the “Jalopnik Camaro crash.” If not, here’s a quick catch-up: Patrick George, who covers a variety of topics for Gawker’s cars-and-planes-and-wow-just-wow blog, managed to understeer his way out of a lead-follow pace lap at Detroit’s Belle Isle Grand Prix course and into a wall. Damage to the car was relatively minor. He was then removed from the event by GM security, in marked contrast to the kid-glove treatment given writer and part-time The Onion-wannabe Aaron Gold after Mr. Gold managed to put a Camaro ZL1 in the tire wall at VIR for no reason whatsoever.

The veritable blizzard of publicity for both Jalopnik and GM in the week that followed has caused some of the more jaded observers of the autojourno game to wonder if perhaps the whole thing isn’t a masterstroke of guerilla marketing. I have to admit I had my own doubts as to the authenticity of the incident, doubts that have not been completely erased by discussions with Patrick and other members of the Jalop staff.

After watching the video a few times, however, I’ve come to believe that it’s probably genuine. I’ve also come to believe that many of Patrick’s harshest critics on YouTube and elsewhere might have found themselves “in the wall” given the same set of circumstances. So if you want to know what Patrick did wrong, why the incident unfolded as it did, and how it relates to an off-track incident I witnessed myself the day before Patrick’s crash, then click the jump and I’ll explain it all!

If you haven’t already watched the Jalopnik video, please do so now – and also, please watch the video above featuring a BMW driver who just can’t seem to remember to use his brakes. The second video was taken by the Performance Data Recorder (PDR) in a 2015 Corvette Z51 I was driving around Summit Point’s Shenandoah circuit last Saturday. In many ways, it’s the same incident seen two different ways. In both cases, the driver fails to slow down enough and then exits the track surface at an angle. The primary differences between Patrick’s video and mine are the Belle Isle circuit is surrounded by walls, and the M3 is going much faster.

What I’d like to suggest is that the cause for both incidents was the same. That cause was what I like to call the “out of bandwidth problem”. This is not to be confused with Iain Banks’ Outside Context Problem. Rather, it’s a product of the way the human mind works.

I frequently tell my driving students they can really only learn one thing per instructional session. They can also really only focus on one problem in any given session. To show you why, I’ll give you an exercise you can do at home, slightly modified from an exercise given to me by Ross Bentley in a driver-coaching class and also demonstrated in his book, Inner Speed Secrets.

Sitting at your desk, take your right hand and place it on your left knee briefly before removing it. At the same time, raise your left leg off the chair a few inches to meet your hand. Then do the same thing with your left hand and your right knee. Then return to the right hand and left knee. Try to do that in rhythm for a moment. Got it? Now, while continuing your alternating hand-and-knee motion, start counting backwards from 100 while you do it. Still good?

Now try counting backwards from 100 in increments of seven.


I’ve never had a student who could do it on the first try without some problem. Usually, they say, “100… uh… 93… uh… um…” After they struggle for a few minutes, I show them I can do it effortlessly. I’m not the most graceful or elegant individual, so this is confusing. I then explain I’ve memorized the numbers. 100 – 93 – 86 – 79 – 72 – 65. I’m not doing the math in real time, I’m reciting a memorized series of numbers I already know.

The brain is very good at doing several things at once, as long as all those things are familiar to it. That’s why older drivers aren’t as likely to crash while texting or eating or operating the infotainment system. They have more experience with the primary task (driving) and therefore they have plenty of processing power for secondary tasks.

By contrast, how often have you been on the phone with someone who is driving somewhere and is lost? What does that conversation sound like? There are usually a lot of pauses as the person tries to compute new directions or evaluate their surroundings. “So, I was… uh… talking to Bob, and… uh… he said that the numbers look good but… uh, hold on, I just want to see if this is my turn.” Talking to someone during their daily commute is very different. We all know our daily commute very well, often to the point that we don’t quite remember how we got to the end of it. It’s all handled by subconscious routines.

Those of you who have been on a racetrack before probably remember just how confusing your first time was. There was so much to look at, so many new rules, and so many cars that seemed to appear out of nowhere behind you. To make things worse, your car didn’t behave the way you expected it to, because it was being operated at a much higher speed. This is why I make my novices stay in fourth gear for their first few sessions, and why I “take the mirror away” by adjusting all mirrors so that I, not the student, watch for traffic. Doing so reduces the number of things on which the student has to focus, and allows him to have more success doing the limited number of tasks remaining. When he can remember the layout of the track, and when he has learned the basics of looking around him in this new environment, I’ll let him start shifting before corners, and I’ll let him use his own mirrors – but not until he’s mastered those other tasks.

Sensory Overload

Human beings have a limited ability to process new information and perform new tasks in real time. It’s a bandwidth problem. You can only focus on a certain amount of sensory data. If a small part of that data is unfamiliar – say, a new car on a well-known track – you can deal with that new data. If you have more than that – a new car, on a new track, with traffic around you – then you have a problem. No matter how experienced you are. You still have a problem. Even Formula One drivers often experience difficulty performing at their best at a new track and developing new features of a car at the same time.

In the case of the BMW who went off-track ahead of me, it turns out that he was “driving his mirrors”. He’d been holding me up for nearly an entire lap and I’d been flashing my headlights at him. Instead of letting me by, his ego got involved – That’s some bearded hick in a Corvette! – and he decided to try to stay ahead of me and win the trackday. Therefore, his entire attention going into that hairpin turn was focused behind him, on me. How close was I? Was I going to try a pass? Was I going to tailgate him? He was so busy watching me that his mind had no bandwidth left. Therefore, faced with the necessity of slowing down for the corner, his mind chose the more familiar program – let’s call it Street Braking – instead of the unfamiliar program of Track Braking. In his effort to watch me, he underbraked and drove off the track into the dirt.

Had he been a more experienced driver, with some racing time under his belt, he would have been better able to multi-task between the challenges of operating the car at its limit and watching my position. But although he was a “black group” advanced driver, he still did not have a lot of experience running nose-to-tail at over 100 mph, so he ran out of processing power and had an incident. This sort of thing is monotonously common at open-lapping days, by the way.

What about Patrick? He’s an experienced track rat by media standards, with dozens of lapping days and events to his credit. But listen to his voice as he talks to the camera. Do you hear the bandwidth shortage? In the “uh” and the pauses? What’s going on? It’s as simple as this: he was trying to do all of the following:

  • Operate an unfamiliar car
  • On an unfamiliar course
  • While evaluating that car in the context of its predecessor
  • And describing it to the camera

That’s too much to ask out of nearly anyone. I’ve done it myself, and it’s mentally exhausting. To make things worse, our expectations for in-car videos are set by the scripted, high-budget Top Gear episodes where the actors recite a couple of well-rehearsed lines to their cameramen, interspersed with footage of professional drivers. So Patrick is under pressure to make a one-take video sound as polished and insightful as a million-dollar television episode.

No wonder he can’t focus on the proper line, or he fails to listen to what the car is trying to tell him about available grip. Those two tasks require bandwidth he doesn’t have. By the time the incident starts, he’s already mentally maxed-out.

The YouTube commenters on this particular video like to focus on the fact that Patrick has his arms crossed. That’s the one thing that he does right on his way to the wall. His consistent hand positioning is the sign of a driver who has received some training at least. But let’s analyze the final moments of the crash for a second. He could have avoided the incident by doing one of two things:

  • Reducing steering input and braking input, allowing the car to steer out of the situation
  • Unwinding the wheel to straight and engaging ABS at full strength.

Either would have been okay. The proximate cause of the accident is that Patrick reacted to a loss of steering traction by winding on more steering – first to the limits of his crossed arms, then further by shuffling – while also braking. This overloaded the front wheels. A more experienced driver would have reduced steering and brake pressure and searched for grip. That’s the process that a race driver goes through in every turn: trail-braking until the maximum cornering grip is achieved. When my students make Patrick’s mistake, I reach over and unwind their steering until the car grips and we make it through the turn correctly.

But Patrick had no instructor – he had a cameraman and an assignment to discuss the vehicle with that cameraman. That was the ultimate cause of the incident: bandwidth overload. Too many tasks. In a conversation with me, Patrick readily identified that as the problem, with no prompting from me. I doubt he’ll do it again.

And in the long run, it was harmless. Nobody was hurt. The car that received damage would have been crushed eventually anyway. There was plenty of publicity to go around and everybody will make money as a result. So if a car crash hurts nobody and benefits everyone involved, is it really a car crash? Process that for a moment, why don’t you?

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

77 Comments on “Greetings From Belle Isle: Crashed Camaros and Brakeless Bimmers...”

  • avatar

    Study after study says we aren’t very good at multitasking. Still we all say we are.

  • avatar

    Insightful analization.

  • avatar

    A Culture reference in a TTAC article?! Jack you never disappoint.

    “The brain is very good at doing several things at once, as long as all those things are familiar to it.”

    This is why I put a personal moratorium on drifting after I crashed my Chaser. There are just FAR too many new skills that you have to get right, simultaneously, to not end up in a wall/tree/etc. Combine it with somewhat unfamiliar roads and it’s a recipe for sinking time/money into frequent repairs.

    “This is a good corner to practice. You need to do X, Y, and Z.”
    “But I can barely do X.”
    “Don’t worry, you’ll get it.”
    “….everybody wrecks while learning. You just gotta keep practicing.”

    If you took the same approach to rifle marksmanship you’d become a competent sniper….after you’d blown 3 of your toes off.

  • avatar

    How much training did Patrick have? He crossed his hands while turning! I was taught to slide my hands so that they never crossed.

    • 0 avatar

      This is one of those times when reading the article would have helped.

      • 0 avatar

        “This is one of those times when reading the article would have helped.”

        I’m from Slashdot, I never read the article. Sometimes I read the summary, but most of the time, I just skim the headline and post the first comment that comes into my pretty little head.

    • 0 avatar

      I was told to NEVER shuffle steer.

      I haven’t done a track day in years (life got in the way, hopefully soon to let up). One of the last times was in my 2005 STI, lightly street modified and way too much car for me. As an aside, I let an instructor who has experience in high powered subarus take me out in my own car and it was… humbling.

      Anyways, at this point I had done probably 10 HPDEs/track days and was in the black group, doing ok for myself. I was dicking around on a warm up lap when the instructor noticed I was shuffle steering.

      “Feeling pretty good, huh?”
      “Oh yeah, this should be a good day.”
      “Do you always shuffle steer like that?”
      “Now that I think about it, I don’t. In fact, I’ve been told to never do that.”
      “That’s right. Don’t let me see you do that again or I’ll kick you off the track.”

      Here’s why — When you shuffle steer, your brain can’t keep track of where the wheels are pointed in relation to your hand position. If you need a sudden steering input (say to turn into understeer and regain grip) your hands won’t know where to go and you will crash.

      • 0 avatar
        an innocent man

        Interesting, thanks.

        • 0 avatar

          That theory behind not shuffle-steering applies well to cars with quick ratio steering. And 9 o’clock/3 o’clock hand positions works great not only to quickly and accurately making the front wheels point straight but also for max leverage (good when your car has no power steering or lightly boosted steering).

          Think about it.

          Obvious exceptions, where shuffle steering is advantageous, include situations like tight switchbacks and parallel parking a bus.

      • 0 avatar

        Lol, kick you off the track! I don’t agree with the whole “not shuffle steering” stuff and I’ve been doing HPDEs and amateur racing for 15 years. If you’ve got your hands at a cross over lock, you’ve essentially given yourself no other options but to take your hands off the wheel and reposition. Granted you should never get yourself into this situation to begin with.

        What I tell students when I instruct: anticipate the turn and position your hands on the wheel accordingly as you enter the turn. In the summit point example above, that turn would be hard braking mid gators right, then hands at about 11 and 5 going into the turn. Mid turn hand position would keep your hands level then as you hard accelerate out to the right you’d unwind back to 11 and 5 to setup for the next right handed. (Hard to explain I guess). In this scenario if you need to input less steering to get more grip you have a lot more room to play with.

        Tldr , if you are full crossed and you run out of grip or need to make an evasive maneuver you are screwed. If you anticipate where your hands need to be you’ll be much better setup for the unpredictable.

        • 0 avatar

          I went looking for a Ross Bentley quote on hand positioning, and found one better:

        • 0 avatar

          Your thinking makes perfect sense. Obviously the guy was trying to make a point to someone he thought was a big ole rookie. The ratio in my STI was high enough and the track fast enough that I never had my arms crossed up.

        • 0 avatar

          Nothing wrong with being fully crossed if you’re still getting enough steering angle to negotiate the turn properly. If it’s enough for that, then you’ll never need to add more. Even F1 drivers do it. If you are fully crossed and run out of grip you need to unwind the steering and/or back off the power to get it back, regardless of whether it’s the front or rears that begin sliding. You can’t make any evasive maneuvers in the direction you’re steering if you’re already cornering at the limit anyway.

          But yeah, you simply can’t always get enough steering angle at 9-3, especially since most street vehicles have very slow steering racks. I agree that it is occasionally necessary to reposition your hands before corner entry.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          You’re wrong and you’re going to get one of your students hurt.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    It was interesting to read Jack’s take on the crossed arms. While watching the video, but before reading the article, my first thought was that this guy’s an idiot. I was always taught hands slide and always stay at 10-2, that way you have full range of motion even deep in a turn. I guess you learn something new every month.

    Also, I would have said the ignition turned off and the steering locked.

    • 0 avatar

      Street driving technique is very different from track/performance driving.

      In performance driving, not only are you taught not to shuffle steer, you’re taught that hands should be at 9-3, not 10-2.

      Personally, I do shuffle once, then maintain constant hand position through a turn but that’s because my introduction to high performance, competitive driving was through rally, where you more or less have to shuffle due.

      +1 insightful, great article Jack.

      • 0 avatar

        They teach 9-3 for street driving now too, by the way. I believe they changed from 10-2 because 9-3 is less likely to result in broken wrists during airbag deployment.

        • 0 avatar

          Well, 9-3 has been the standard taught in basic driver’s ed in a lot of countries. Glad that stateside standards are catching up.

          What always leaves me scratching my head are the people who were taught one method of driving who assume that is the only way to drive (not here, most are usually respectful). Different types of specialized driving requires different methods from regular street driving, of which itself has several methods taught in different parts of the world.

          If you’re driving trucks and utility vehicles off road, on broken terrain or what passes for roads in undeveloped countries, you need to keep shouldn’t keep your thumbs hooked into the steering wheels. Especially so on older utilities (a lot of Land Cruiser 70 series prior to the 78/79 and Defender 110s). OTOH, if you’re doing that in high speed, high performance or competitive rally, you are going to lose control of your vehicle.

          • 0 avatar

            Signal11 writes:
            “What always leaves me scratching my head are the people who were taught one method of driving who assume that is the only way to drive”

            The same can be said of a lot of technical skills and dogmatic thinking. In a strange way, I like folks who are not only dogmatic but vocally opinionated about it. They help me quickly figure out who are the smart people in the room ;)

            “(not here, most are usually respectful)”


  • avatar

    DJTragic and Jack Baruth — I was taught to shuffle at Sonoma Raceway (Bondurant) and at Lime Rock (Skip Barber). And I was once taken around a track by Jackie Stewart, who shuffled. But that was more than a decade ago. Have instructors changed their opinion?

    • 0 avatar

      Huh. Well then I dunno. I’ve never taken those courses. My instructors were mostly amateur racers who did laps with students to get track time in the red group.

      For me, it is a helpful method. My brain always knew where to put my hands to get the wheels straight/counter steer if things went wrong.

    • 0 avatar

      @Ron – “And I was once taken around a track by Jackie Stewart, who shuffled. But that was more than a decade ago. ”

      He might have just been going for a casual drive with you. In his 1986 book, “Principles Of Performance Driving,” he writes “…I am turning the steering wheel progressively as the car approaches the apex of the corner, but the position of my hand on the steering wheel remains the same. Although there are some experts, including the police, who prefer passing the wheels through the hands when negotiating a corner, I believe that my method is the right one.”

      For street driving, I think shuffle steering is preferred because if the airbag deploys, it could break your wrists if your hands are crossed. At best, you would backhand slap yourself silly, but I’ve read accounts that a deploying airbag feels like a punch in the face, so there is a lot of force to reckon with.

      For track driving, keeping both hands on the wheel lets you know how much you need to unwind to go straight. When a crash is imminent, I’ve seen videos of experienced drivers immediately let go of the steering wheel. I suppose this clears the way for a deploying airbag, but they also know holding a thrashing steering wheel in an attempt to maintain control can break your fingers.

      Jackie Stewart did write his book before airbags became wide-spread, so perhaps he really did change is style of driving to shuffling.

      Jackie Baruth’s approach makes more sense to me.

      • 0 avatar

        “For track driving, keeping both hands on the wheel lets you know how much you need to unwind to go straight.”

        At the track this is what I was taught as well. If you shuffle you lose your reference point for what “straight” is. If you hands are at 10/2 or 9/3 you always know which direction the wheels are pointed. If you watch F1 or IRL you’ll notice they only cross over on the tightest of turns. On my home track (Homestead) even the “hairpin” only results in maybe 120 degrees of input required, your never fully swapped (180 degrees) in hand position. However I do notice after a track day my thumbs are always sore from my death grip so I need to work on not doing that so much.

        I too have had the displeasure of nearly going off track due to watching my mirrors, but I’ve gotten better at ignoring people behind me in turns. Once I’m past the apex I then glace back ready to wave someone past on the straight.

        As for the accident in the video – this is what happens when your run off area is a WALL. On any other course this would have been just some grass/dirt getting kicked up as only the outside two tires went off.

    • 0 avatar

      My Bondurant instructor didn’t teach me any shuffle steering. It was 9 and 3 at all times. Then, when I was on a converted kart track a few years later I learned a good way to shuffle steer from another instructor because I was limiting out on crossing my arms for a tight 20 mph hairpin. As you enter a tight, slow corner, just rotate both arms 45 degrees around the wheel and start from that position (10.5 and 4.5 or 7.5 and 1.5). Then let it slide back to 9-3 during the last little bit of unwinding of the wheel. I use that method for aggressive right handers in city driving now too. I can’t see myself doing it above first gear speeds though.

      If I need to countersteer dramatically I tend to release my lower hand to quicken my hand speed and avoid crossing up but maintain contact with the bottom of the wheel so I can immediately catch it again when I go back to center. My top hand never changes position from 9 or 3 aside from those tight low speed turns.

      The guy in the video looked very uncomfortable driving that thing right from the start, because of the death grip he had on the steering wheel. I was doing the same thing during my introductory Bondurant course!

  • avatar

    i cant stand jalopnik and any gawker site

    going by that ONE video of that guy he seems to be pretty genuine and distraught by what should be a minor event

    even if he crashed a limited edition 1 of 10 Camaro ZL1/Z28 whatever, so what? GM are a huge company that should be covered in any eventuality and GM’s own actions are deplorable but what is one to expect of a company that kills 100+ people and gets away scot free…

    I feel sorry for that guy. We’ve all been there, we all know its worse when its in someone elses car… damn you GM for making me sorry for a gawker ‘journalist’.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      I heard there was some back story on him leaking photos so they didn’t want to invite him in the first place. Similar to being the one to drop a bottle or spill a drink in front of the security at some nightclub. Some times people get kicked out and this guy seems annoying.

      • 0 avatar

        Almost seems like they were hoping to get him in over his head in order to have an excuse to get rid of him, especially if there is any truth to the back story.

        As to shuffle steering vs. fixed hands, I think the bottom line is, as it often is, a matter of context. A hairpin turn in a vehicle that is about four plus complete turns lock to lock would leave you severely at a disadvantage if you didn’t shuffle steer, whereas in a track situation on a racetrack vehicle with tight steering, nine and three steering would seem to be the ideal solution. And even more so, if you keep in mind Jack B.’s admonition to avoid overuse of the steering wheel on the track.

        Remember one of his past articles on track instruction, where he advocated pulling the seat all the way forward, to restrict steering to what you could do with your wrists and hands, thus overcoming the novice tendency to overwork the steering wheel. That would be a situation where shuffle steering would work against the principle Jack was emphasizing.

        But if I have my Grand Marquis at the end of a row of parked cars, in a grocery store lot, and want to hairpin it into the next row to hurry to a vacant space before someone else gets to it, I’d better shuffle steer (or do my best movie “wheelman” one handed three sixty plus degree steering wheel turn, if I am feeling salty), or I will end up having to settle for going down the row that is two over from where I began.

        You just can’t whip that steering wheel far enough to pull off a tight turn while keeping your hands at nine and three. Doing so would leave me totally not able to get into the next row without executing a K-turn, which would be a worse driving “sin” in a busy parking lot than shuffle steering.

        Besides the nine and three style and the shuffle steer style, the one hand wheel spin is also an efficient technique in tight low speed situations. I personally don’t like steering knobs, as they look to me too much like they belong on a ’52 Hudson or ’52 shoebox Ford, but if you have good power steering and use the heel of your palm pressed against the wheel, you can maintain total control while executing a tight turn. (“Wax on, wax off.”)

        I’m sure some former driving instructor will come forth to blast me for that style of turning the wheel, but frankly I don’t care. It has been working for me for decades, and is very useful, when confined to the appropriate low speed, tight steering situations. Never lost control of the wheel, ever, doing it that way. The fact that it looks and feels “cool” is a secondary, but real, consideration.

  • avatar

    Fascinating analysis. Thanks.

    Patrick seems genuine. I hope he’s over it.

  • avatar

    He drove too fast for conditions, which in this case consisted of him.

    The problem wasn’t with multitasking per se, but that he exceeded his abilities at that particular moment. The fact that he didn’t know better is what is wrong here — if he was going to drive while distracted, then he should have slowed down.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I actually agree with your observation, the guy was driving at 11/10ths.

      We’ve all explored our limits and how to manage them……..we finally work all of this out when we are in our mid-twenties, well most of us.

    • 0 avatar

      “He drove too fast for conditions, which in this case consisted of him.”

      Strongly agree; it doesn’t really need Jack’s belabored euphemizing. But since he went to the effort I’ll use it on a t-shirt:

      “I’m With Lacks Bandwidth”


    • 0 avatar

      Kind of hard for him to slow down in a Lead and Follow lap, unless he bails completely.

      And Capt. Obvious once reported that by definition, if you wreck you are going too fast for conditions. But since people do wreck, it implies that people are not always aware that they are going too fast until they find themselves up against something.

      It was not so much that he was driving while distracted, in the texting while driving sense, as it was that he was trying to have a relaxed conversation with the cameraman, while trying to keep up, as opposed to trying to drive at a speed he himself had selected.

      And he implicitly trusted that the leader would not put the pack too close to the edge. Unfortunately for him when he assumed that, well, we all know what happens when you assume.

      But the question another reader raised, why no escape routes, especially in test cars with relatively unknown limits, is really at the crux of the matter.

      If GM really didn’t want to put ten percent of all of their test mule pack at risk in a single incident, why did they structure the event the way the did?

      Patrick George was just a part of the proximate cause of the incident. There was a long chain of people and events that contributed to that incident, but like the childhood game of crack the whip, Patrick had the misfortune of being at the end of the line.

      And it was easier to point the finger at him, than for GM staff to have to quibble over whether it was the fault of the engineers for the way they set up the suspension, or the PR/marketing people for who they selected as drivers, or the course selection and management people, who put them adjacent to a tire wall while some less than black group drivers tried to play keep up with a driver having fun himself with a new vehicle.

      It could have been a hell of a behind the scenes p*ssing contest to fix the blame, had they not had George to take the fall for the outcome of that event.

      No wonder the entire GM staff that was involved was content to let an outsider be the sole reason that something bad was the outcome of the setup that they had structured.

  • avatar

    Synaptic Plasticity is the name for the neurological challenges described in this article. When you do something routinely it alters the physical and biochemical efficiency of your brain. The neurotransmitters become stronger and more efficient, which makes the task seem second nature. When a new challenge is introduced, your brain starts firing somewhat wildly to find the neurotransmitters that can handle the demands of the new activity.

  • avatar

    This reminds me of Michael Schumacher. When other formula 1 drivers talk on the radio with their crews, they are often stressed out and sometimes even bristle about being told things they don’t want to focus on. Schumacher could have been on his sofa for all the stress in his voice. He’d be driving a car faster than anyone else ever had or would with all the effort other drivers put into breathing.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      Yes, I was always struck by how utterly relaxed he was on the radio. He’d chat in a very relaxed way about strategy, the position and strategy of the other cars he was racing, any mechanical issues he was managing, etc. Quite the contrast with the tense, terse messages of most of the others.

  • avatar

    It’s just counter intuitive. The brain is telling them if a little steering isn’t working, steer more. And if the back end is trying to take the lead, let up on the throttle.

    I know exactly what to do, but it can still be a bit of a struggle with that side of the brain.

  • avatar

    I agree with Jack’s analysis. We can perform more than one task at a time ONLY if it is well practiced/well rehearsed. I had taken a course on teaching adult learners and it was said that on average it takes 211 repetitions of a skill before it becomes unconscious i.e. you can perform the task without thinking about it. That applies to bad habits as well.
    In my line of work I can perform a task and easily carry on with an unrelated conversation but if that task becomes technically more difficult I don’t talk and focus on what I’m doing.
    This guy missed out on the fact that he was performing a task he was familiar with but it was technically tougher than he was aware of due to talking about an unfamiliar car.

    Jack’s point about steering is also sound. When you loose the front you don’t dial in more steering you straighten the wheels to try to regain traction. It can be scary and impossible to do if you make the mistake of focusing on what you may hit as opposed to focusing on where you want to go.

    Jack’s comment about mirrors is also bang on. My kids kept making that mistake when they first started racing BMX. No mirrors but a lot of focusing on what was behind.
    I watched a buddy wad up a CBR900 because he made the rookie mistake of checking his mirror as he entered a hairpin because he knew I was catching him and was going to pass. Fortunately he faired much better than his bike.

    • 0 avatar

      I am, of course, very well practiced in street driving. Nonetheless, if I’m listening to NPR while driving, and the driving gets at all complex, my brain simply drops NPR; that is, once the driving gets simple again, I realize I have no idea what was just reported.

      • 0 avatar

        What happens when the driving remains unchanged, and NPR starts to get complex? Is the converse true, that the brain drops driving until NPR gets simple again?

        Perhaps all those fundraisers they have might be in our best interest after all.

      • 0 avatar

        Same thing with music. Whole songs will be missed if the driving requires complete focus. Those of us driving for more than 30 years may have a higher threshold, but there is a limit.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I blame the lousy OEM tires….

    Seriously, that was a very educational article – gives me something to consider.

  • avatar

    Watching the start of the video, the quality of the narration was the first thing that hit me.

    I was thinking: “Dude, you’re having a hard time driving fast and talking at the same time… pick one and stick with it.”

    While the punishment may have been a bit harsh, he was in way over his head, and after a few of those “oops” moments, he should have either backed off and slowed down or stopped the commentary to get his bearings.

    I’m amenable to the idea that I might have ended up in the wall if I’d been doing what he’d been doing. The difference is, I wouldn’t have tried it.

  • avatar

    Wait, gm had a member of the automotive press escorted from the premise by security? And this was actually gm, not just one of those ride and drive vendors? That shows appallingly bad judgement in my opinion. Even if he was a total track novice and had received multiple warnings the most they should have done is stop him from driving. The only situation where that would make sense would be drunk driving or abusive behavior to the other attendees.

    Seriously, this strikes me as kind of a big deal. I wonder how gms pr and marketing departments feel about it, and if whoever managed this thing kept their job. They wouldn’t if I was involved, even if it worked out this time.

  • avatar

    I like to do track days with my motorcycle. Even after hundreds of laps of the same track, every once in a while someone will just ride straight into the grass instead of making the turn. I’ve done it myself a couple of times. Sometimes your brain just seizes up. It usually happens by the end of the day. It’s physically and mentally grueling.

  • avatar

    Spot on about the brain overload. From behind the keyboard one can laugh and say that this will not happen to them but it does. Unfamiliarity breeds trouble. When I bought my C7 I was overloaded with everything that was different from my commuter Altima. Touch screens, configurable dash, sensory inputs from the car itself, and all that grip and power. Mix in the “I don’t want to wreck this” jitters, the top down (never owned a convertible before), seven speed manual and the fact that I never even drove the car for a test drive. It took awhile to get it all down and since it is only a fair weather friend I still don’t have it all down to a fluid man-machine interface. And forget heavy throttle inputs when traction is compromised. This thing gets away from you fast. Now I know why there are all those videos of Vettes flying off the roads. I wish I could get to a course with somebody like Jack to learn how to really drive it but no droptops allowed.

  • avatar

    HBO Silicon Valley – Jared (not the “Original” Jared) Zach Woods
    Driver / Patrick reminds me of Jared/Zach.

  • avatar

    Jack, I hear you, but what’s your point?
    He clearly was not comfortable and not in control of the car, shuffle steering or not.
    The bottom line is that he doesn’t give a shit enough about being a “journalist” (or his readers) to put in the time to get comfortable making drive videos.

    Here’s a good link about being a tool:

    I do give him credit for admitting it at least…


  • avatar

    Great article, Jack! You nailed it – I couldn’t agree more.

  • avatar

    Insightful analysis for sure. I’ve run out of brain before at the track, having come off the line then overdriving to try to make it work. It takes some serious concentration to break out of that mindset and put the testosterone back in the holster.

    One question I’ve got from watching the video, though. What thought process was used to determine that this particular press event should include:
    – Development mules that GM is using for testing purposes
    – Any group of journalists which rank from skilled semi-professional drivers to “I’ve got all golds on my B License Test in GT4”
    – A damned walled course with zero runoff

    I’m just baffled by the whole thing. These are unfamiliar cars to literally everyone at the event – why is it being held at a course that’s got zero room for error? Doesn’t make sense to me, but then again, I guess I don’t work in GM’s PR department.

  • avatar

    Or, in a few words, he ran out of talent in a slow lead-follow session. Jalopnik still somehow wins.

  • avatar

    Nice article, Jack.

    I’ve observed the same thing in flight training (teaching student pilots). As an instructor, it is important to recognize when a student is being challenged optimally. There is a fine line between challenging a student to the point they learn most and challenging them too much to the point they are task saturated and learn less. That fine line varies not only between different people (simply put, talent) but varies within individuals (everybody has good days and bad days and learning is not always consistent).

    But of course you already knew this, or at least understood it intuitively.

  • avatar

    A speed knob on the steering wheel would obviate this shuffle/no shuffle controversy.

  • avatar

    When I was learning how to drive as a kid, I didn’t even want the radio on. It was too much at once. After I took some performance driving instruction as an adult, I started noticing how much easier it became to read traffic ahead and pay attention to my mirrors. Weird.

    But still, how fast were they going in that ‘Lead Follow?’

  • avatar

    I don’t think you can eliminate all distractions while driving. I think it is a more realistic approach to the problem to allow for the existence of secondary distractions, such as the radio, and then to train yourself to ignore them as inconsequential, while simultaneously training yourself to keep your mental processing focused on the changing road conditions.

    Even if you keep the radio off, either you have to roll all the windows up and block out all the external sounds (and lots of luck regarding sirens, etc.) OR you have to allow yourself to be bombarded by sounds outside of your vehicle (glasspack mufflers, motorcycles, other car radios, a multitude of signs, only some of which are relevant, etc. etc.).

    You’d better learn to deal with distractions in a focused way while driving, or you are going to get confused fairly easily the first time an ambulance or cop car appears out of nowhere, or a reckless driver comes roaring up to your rear bumper.

    If you can’t handle that, you probably shouldn’t drive any more than perhaps going to the grocery store, church and your childrens’ schools.

    Because you will not be able to get a distraction free environment while still getting all the external sensory input you need in order to drive properly.

  • avatar

    “Gawker’s cars-and-planes-and-wow-just-wow blog” Priceless.

  • avatar

    Nice piece, Jack. The first motorcycle track school I attended required that we either remove our mirrors or tape them over. My (street) reflexes said, “I’m missing information” Very quickly, however, some track memory began to imprint the great line from Gumball Rally, “What’s behind me is not important.”

    I do feel a little sorry for Patrick, however, it’s a truly embarassing incident. I don’t believe the GM guys would do a lead-follow at anything more than 8/10, so there’s nothing to blame but the old, “I ran out of talent”. I hope this encourages him to get some instruction on the track. This is the best “performance” addition to any car.

  • avatar

    Mark’s hands only leave the 9 & 3 position to adjust something other than steering input.

  • avatar

    You have students?!?

  • avatar

    Nice piece, Jack. The first motorcycle track school I attended required that we either remove our mirrors or tape them over. My (street) reflexes said, “I’m missing information” Very quickly, however, some track memory began to imprint the great line from Gumball Rally, “What’s behind me is not important.”

    I do feel a little sorry for Patrick, however, it’s a truly embarassing incident. I don’t believe the GM guys would do a lead-follow at anything more than 8/10, so there’s nothing to blame but the old, “I ran out of talent”. I hope this encourages him to get some good instruction on the track. This is the best “performance” addition to any car.

    • 0 avatar

      I love the justification usually given for taking the mirrors away so the squids will adhere to the rules. “If you go down, we don’t want glass on the track.” It’s certainly plausible, but it’s mostly so said squids won’t squid too hard.

      • 0 avatar

        My experience is that the mirror trick doesn’t work on true squids. Endo-ing and destroying a GSXR-1000 on the approach to turn 2 at Laguna takes enormous squidly talent, with or without mirrors…

  • avatar

    I have nothing to add, other than the fact that I went off Shenandoah at the same turn. In a Mazda Protege, not an M3. At least it was wet when I went off.

  • avatar

    I work in the bike industry and we have tons of trouble at events like this.

    Entry level staffers sweating in logo t-shirts trying to rotate a seemingly endless list of media people and dealer staff through not enough demo bikes. Throw in some jet lagged riders and an awkward venue with at least one strange feature like a hospitality tent that is really only 4′ off of where you might end up exiting a downhill corner because the corporate photo team liked the light better there. And you never know if all of the demo bikes that were pulled off of a container from Asia two days ago have the good brake pads and sticky tires or just the last one you rode.

    Following a “local pro” adds to the chaos. Maybe here he was keeping the speed down but normally we use them to show the media what can be done with the new wonder bike and/or parts. Which means he’s normally been riding 5 days a week for most of his life, bored senseless at the event and has done 50 laps of the course you just set out on, and knows that the little rock gap on the left is deceivingly hard to do correctly. So he makes it look effortless with 5 of you following him.

    I don’t know what the percentage of mayhem is for the car events, but they keep ambulances at the bigger bike ones.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Oberkanone: I’d pay $10,000 for the little trucklet.
  • Oberkanone: Fiber Reinforced Panels?
  • Mike A: Do you know anything about demand and supply and the supply chain issues. The price increases are in part due...
  • Imagefont: I rented a Wrangler Unlimited for a week, my wife and I (plus the dog) went to Santa Fe and put just shy...
  • ajla: They delivered it? Congratulations.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber