car cornering on ice lake in Sweden with ‘light touch ‘opposite lock steering

Balance. As vehicle dynamicists, we talk about it all the time. Handling, ride, control weights should all be ‘balanced’. But what about the driver?

Whilst working at the SAIC Motor Technical Centre, I established the ‘Out of Hours’ car club. Under the guise of team building, some limited funds were secured to run events and allow MG products to be used (and promoted) by the employees. (The idea was similar to my team building activities at the Rover Group – see my blog of September 2020). We prepared an MG6 for track days and it also saw competitive action in sprints and hillclimbs.

One event was all about balance. Making use of the fabulous facilities at the MIRA Proving Ground, about 20 of us enjoyed a grand afternoon at the ‘Wet Grip’ test track. Our trusty MG6 was used for skid practice on the circles. These concentric circles of different friction levels (to simulate wet tarmac, snow and ice) are perfect for the assessment of vehicle dynamic properties, once the driver is ready for the challenge. As one of the co-pilots for the afternoon, I enjoyed applying the handbrake (from the passenger seat) at unexpected moments, to upset the balance and challenge the driver. A fun way to overcome the fear of an unexpected skid and to learn how to balance the car safely.

Safety first. Only one car on the circles at a time – for obvious reasons. So, what to do with the other drivers? I had remembered a challenge set by Sir Jackie Stuart in his (Ford sponsored) driver tuition days. Put a tennis ball in a fruit bowl which has been taped to the bonnet of an MG3. Then set up a short course including slalom, forward and reverse parking points and a finish line to stop at. The challenge is to set the fastest time, albeit with a draconian time penalty for losing the ball….

The group soon discovered that the best times came from a balance of the various accelerations exerted on the car by the driver. Smoothness of control application (and removal), forward planning and a calm yet alert approach. Doesn’t this sound like the best way to negotiate your way down a favourite road? We all appreciated Sir Jackie’s intentions.

Obviously, a decent car helps the driver to carry out the task. A good balance of roll stiffness AND roll control, precise yet fluid steering….. as provided by the MG3. Yet ‘our’ MG3 was better than yours. It was fitted with prototype springs and dampers to add further roll stiffness, greater agility from a revised handling balance and (monotube) damping forces in balance with the spring rates. These parts have been further refined and are now available from Vehicle Handling Solutions Ltd.

Looking for a balanced approach? Contact us.