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Bob Bondurant @ The Wheel: Driving Position

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author photo by Autotrader October 2007

One of the most important and yet overlooked basics in driving your vintage or street car is seating position. The essence of high performance driving is to control weight transfer in order to maximize traction during the basic functions of braking, cornering and acceleration. To have that control you must be seated properly. When you're sitting upright, your mind is sharper and you think and react quicker.

All of your sources of input give you the ability to control your car but the two major things that affect your performance are what you see and what your body feels. Everything that the car does is transmitted right back to you through the seat, steering wheel, and foot pedals.

The ideal driving position is one that allows your body to maximize the input that is available to it. This input comes from your whole body, your legs and buttocks, from the base of your spine, up your back, hands, arms, neck, eyes, all feeding information to your brain. The optimum seating position is one that has as much of your body as possible in contact with your seat.

You should have your buttocks tucked well into the crotch of the seat so you can feel what the car is doing with your fanny, the back of your legs, and your lower and upper back. You should be sitting as upright as possible because it helps to make you more alert.

When driving a racecar, it can be more difficult to sit upright, because the seating is dictated by the design. When fitting those kind of seats, if you pad the middle to upper part of the seats to sit as upright as possible, your mind will be sharper and you can react quicker.

Sitting upright is just as important when driving your street car. Proper seating position is where it all begins. Your seat should be adjusted so that you have a bent-arm driving position and the controls fall into easy reach. Distance from the seat to the steering wheel is really important and the extremes should be avoided.

While driving, you want your hands at the three-o'clock and nine-o'clock positions on the wheel, with your elbows bent at an angle of about 120 to 140 degrees. If your seating position is poor in a race car, you simply won't be as fast, consistent, or smooth. And if you have poor seating position while driving in traffic, you won't be able to react as quickly in the event you need to change lanes to avoid hitting a stray animal, or brake as efficiently to keep from hitting the car ahead and avoiding an accident. Combine that with possible fatigue, either coming home from a hard day at work, or while still a bit sleepy when heading to work in the morning, and you just might not be prepared for what happens next.

So whether you spend your weekends SCCA or SVRA racing, or just racing to your favorite mall or fishing spot, be sure to keep your body properly planted in your seat. And good luck...whatever your activity.


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Bob Bondurant @ The Wheel: Driving Position - Autotrader