PART 2: Perfecting Your Car Control - "Black Box" Car Control

Uncategorized Jun 11, 2023

Racing Car Drivers...

In this three part series, we show you some new insights you can implement in helping you perfect your car control skills:

Perfecting Your Car Control Skills PARTS 1,2 and 3
PART 1: How Do You Feel What the Race Car is Doing?
PART 2: This article "Black Box Car Control"
PART 3: Trail Braking and "Zero Steer" - Two Sides of the Same Chassis Rotation Feeling


Vehicle dynamics engineers use mathematics to control the speed and path of the race car, as indicated by the green “maths controller” circle in the above diagram.

Racing drivers obviously can't sense the measured values and do maths calculations on the fly. They are controlling the race car from an entirely different perspective, compared to the engineer.

Essentially, racing drivers are acting as if the race car itself is somewhat of a “black box”, as per the diagram.

You don't have to know or understand what’s inside. The workings of the race car are bypassed in the racing driver’s control process.

Instead, we have this hugely powerful method of learning skills that occurs almost completely within the subconscious brain. With a huge number of repetitions of the actions you carry out in controlling the race car, you create the necessary muscle memory and embed the actions into your subconscious memory.

In so doing, you build a substantial knowledge base within the subconscious that that can be expanded endlessly to take in a multitude of scenarios that may happen on the track. Super fast processing of the current situation and almost instant output of the appropriate actions of the driver on the controls is possible. 

In each iteration of the learning process, the driver's brain needs to immediately evaluate the “success” or otherwise of the input actions. The “failures” must be identified so they can be eliminated and the "successes" selected or adapted for carrying forward to the next iteration of the learning sequence.

("Success" for a racing driver would seem more difficult to determine in real time compared to just about any other sport. It's interesting to consider how the racing driver deals with this. Post session debrief, looking at the data, driver coaching etc should help the driver get a better idea of what works.)

This process of learning and continuous improvement becomes one of “cumulative selection” and "adaption"  of the control inputs that work, as per Mathew Syed’s book, “Black Box Thinking”. 

In practising the skills many times over, the racing driver’s brain builds on the “successful” inputs and seeks to reduce mistakes. Consequently, the brain not only refines the inputs but also enhances the brain’s perception of the output, resulting in finer and finer control of the race car.

You act on the controls based on your subconscious interpretation of the car's optimum performance without reference to the internal workings of the race car. With the huge amount of information you build up in subconscious memory, you are highly adaptable to changes in the grip level and handling capability of the race car. 

On the surface, racing drivers’ great car control ability may suggest they have special powers, whereas, in fact, the skills were created in large part by a blind process of repetition and cumulative selection.


Be amongst the very first racing drivers to learn these new insights. Click the link below...
       Join Our Workshop....Perfecting Your Car Control Skills    The Theory and Practise

"Open Loop" Control - General Control of the Race Car

Black box control of the race car is highly effective in the general process of navigating the race track and guiding the race car – what we can describe as "open loop" control

“Closed Loop” Control - Feeling the Balance of the Race Car

In closed loop control, a specific signal is compared with the driver’s current assessment of the situation, resulting in almost instant response by the driver. The driver can get fast feedback as to the success or otherwise of the initial response and respond again. And so it goes on in a continuous cycle.

Fast and accurate feedback is the distinctive feature of closed loop control. The subconscious brain is constantly weighing up the value of a huge amount of incoming information. However, when available, closed loop feedback goes straight to the top of the priority list. 

The mental processing and inclusion in long term memory of any available closed loop control is completely seamless with the bulk of the cumulative selection processing – the driver is unaware of the difference.

Our Key Insight in Race Car Handling -
The Chassis Rotation Feeling

The key motion we are talking about in closed loop control is the feeling of this tiny rotation motion of the chassis, where driving at or near the limit of grip, the driver can feel the rate at which grip is building at the rear tyres. The rotation happens as a direct result of tyre slip angles building at the rear axle. (Nothing to do with losing grip at the tyres.)

For more on this key insight, see the previous article, Part 1 Perfecting Your Car Control "How Do You Feel What the Race Car is Doing?"

Part 3: Trail Braking and Zero Steer - Two Sides of the Same Rotation Feeling

Check out this remarkable explanation of how the racing driver feels the rotation from the tyre slip angles as primary sensing both in the corner entry and the corner exit. Click Here.

To learn more about these breakthrough concepts at the heart of your ability as a racing driver....

Join Us At Our Car Control Workshop 2023 -Perfecting Your Car Control Skills  (click here)

In the workshop, we’ll discuss how we can use these ideas of open and closed loop control, especially the racing driver’s feeling for balance (closed loop control).

We discovered the importance of the chassis rotation in car feel by investigating the vehicle dynamics. We'll show you how and why it works.

Get a better handle on how you think about car control no matter where you are at with your race driving career- beginner racer or highly experienced.