Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) together with the Automobile Association of the Philippines held a Motorsports Development Program at the SRP last Oct. 11. This program was free of charge for aspiring race car drivers ages 16 to 19. Those who were out of the age group were also welcomed. This program was funded by an FIA grant.
The trainor and mentor for this program was no less than 10-time Philippine Rally Champion Vip Isada, who was assisted by other champion drivers Art Guevarra, Bebot Reyes and Ivan Isada.
Vip Isada was a hero of mine when I was growing up. I remember him winning rallies in his Isuzu Gemini in the late 80s. He was also winning rallies in a locally made car called the Conge and then in the dominant Galant VR4s in the early to mid 90s. Having Vip as the lead instructor meant that all the students were in very good and capable hands.
What was taught was the first of nine modules outlined by the FIA. This means that Vip and his team will be back.
The first module was about race skills. The students were taught the very basic but most important aspects of driving a car. First was the seating position and the proper way of holding the steering wheel. It is very common nowadays to see drivers where their default seat position is very far back with the hands completely stretched. Not only is that completely wrong, it also is dangerous. When arms are completely stretched the driver does not have full control of the steering wheel and therefore has little maneuvering. The proper way is to have the elbows bent to about 90 degrees – this way the driver’s hand can reach any part of the steering wheel.
After the proper driving position, the next topic was the importance of keeping the car balanced at all times. Having the car as balanced as possible at all times is important because when the car is kept balanced, it is the time when there is more grip as the load is distributed to all four tires. When approaching a corner, one must brake on a straight line and downshift to the proper gear before turning into the corner. As the brakes are applied, the balance of the car is transferred to the front, and when the brake is released the car goes back to balance – it is at this point when you turn into the corner. The initial turn input immediately transfers the weight of the car to the outside, so a technique must be developed that after the initial turn in, the driver can immediately unwind the steering wheel while making the apex of the corner. Unwinding the steering wheel will bring the car back to balance again. It sounds complicated and difficult to get right, but once he gets it right, the driver will feel like he is taking the corner slower when actually it is faster. It feels slow because it is a lot smoother.
Having the correct driving position and keeping the car balanced can be applied in daily driving conditions. The result will be a smoother driver where the passengers will be a lot more comfortable.
The team of Vip will be back early next year for module 2, which is about the Racing Mind. I hope to see more participants.