I’m known as a connoisseur of cars. Of course, most of the cars that I happen to like are pretty fast. Vehicles like the Maserati MC 12, the Nissan 350Z and the Corvette Z06 are all pretty exquisite vehicles. However, speed is only really attractive when it’s controlled, isn’t it?
I’m keen to relate a little anecdote at this point of something that happened quite recently. I was driving down a dual carriageway away from work when all of a sudden, the traffic at the front started to slow. This came through the queue, all the way back to me. I’d been ill that day and my reactions were not what they should have been.
All of a sudden, the car ahead loomed up rather quicker than I was intending, resulting in prodigious use of the brake pedal, which saw smoke from my rear tyres. It was quite a stressful moment; not least because I was concerned I might pitch into the vehicle in front. A perfect example that speed is not only dangerous but is something that is only attractive and desirable when controlled.
Part of what occurred was down to my realisation that I might not have ABS after all. For those of you aware of the acronym (it means anti-lock braking system) but not sure how it works, let me explain. Under extreme braking pressure, wheels will ‘lock up’ or cease to spin. This results in wheels having movement friction on the road but losing grip.
ABS of course is not desirable in all situations. Heavy braking on loose road surfaces for instance is much better when performed with locked wheels – the reason being that these will force some of the loose surface into a mound in front of the wheel, applying further friction and assisting in slowing down.
So, given that I had a bit of a close call, when is a bit of speed useful? Well, I’ve been thinking about when you really need it, and there are a few reasons. One of these is when you need to overtake. The pulling power of a car is measured in ‘torque’. The higher this is, the more it will pull from whatever speed it is in. This is more akin to power than speed but it is useful nonetheless.
When coming up to a motorway, if you’re approaching from a sliproad you’ll need to be able to build up quite some momentum. The reason for this is that there’s a good chance traffic will be running at in excess of 70mph if there are no works being performed. You’ll want to therefore match the speed of moving traffic when it is safe and legal to do so.
So there are some (there are others of course) reasons to go fast. The problem is of course though when people (especially younger people) go fast to show off, or drive recklessly on the approach to junctions and roundabouts. A large part of driving safely and with due care and attention is ensuring you’re aware of what’s going on around you and being aware of the limitations of your vehicle on the road.
One of the things I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing with my car is a track day. This allowed me to explore the limits of my vehicle in a safe and controlled manner. I understand my braking distances and my turning circles. Unfortunately, many others do not.
So, the next time you’re about to pull away in a hurry and don’t check your mirrors or go to round that bend a little too sharply, let me ask you, why go fast? Who knows, you might well miss an excellent view or indeed the car turning in front of you.