Sébastien Ogier on how to stay cool when things get nastyRally drivers are the best drivers in the world. Four-time champion Sébastien Ogier reveals what we can learn from him to apply to our everyday driving
THE RED BULLETIN: How do you recognise a good driver on the road?
SÉBASTIEN OGIER: They don’t stand out.
OK, let’s put it another way. How do you spot a bad driver?
They go too hard on the brakes. They don’t take bends in an arc, but in lots of little jerky movements. On ordinary roads they drive below the speed limit and on the motorway they’re always in the outside lane. They don’t indicate when they’re turning and that endangers the life of any motorcyclists behind them. There are so many things…
Are you a good co-driver?
My wife says I’m the worst one ever because I’m always sticking my oar in.
Teach us how to become better drivers then, just in case you ever get into a car with us.
The first thing is to sit in the right position. The rule of thumb is that if you have your left hand – not your right! – on the steering wheel at two o’clock, then your shoulder should still be touching the backrest.
Nobody drives with both hands on the steering wheel for long periods at a time. Not for everyday driving.
That’s true. But on a beautiful mountain road you just have more control that way and more fun, too. And you don’t need to keep your hand clamped to the gear knob when you’re driving. In most cars it’s screwed on.
So it’s about correct steering. Is that really so complicated?
Anyone can take a corner, but it’s good to know how to do it right in critical situations. Your thumbs have no business being on the inside of the steering wheel. They should be on the outside. It can also really hurt if you have an accident. You have noticeably more control if you push the steering wheel with the hand on the outside of the turn rather than pull it with the hand on the inside. If you can internalise that, your movements will automatically become rounder and more confident, and I’m not talking about rallying now. It applies to everyday driving, too.
How does one learn to multitask in the car? Rally drivers seem to be doing 10 things at once.
That’s basically true, but everything I do in a rally car is purely for the sake of driving fast. I’m not checking e-mails when I drive. I’m checking split times or the car’s temperature. I’m not listening to a business partner on the hands-free. I’m listening to my co-driver telling me what to do on the next turn. It takes time to manage that slew of information.
Do you never make phone calls when you’re driving?
Yes, but let me say here and now that I’m pretty good at processing a lot of information all at once when I drive. There are experienced and inexperienced drivers. Inexperienced drivers can get by at low speeds, too, but when they speed up, the quality of their driving gets worse. That’s why everyone should practise driving and voluntarily deal with stressful situations in a safe setting to learn how to stay cool if things ever get serious.
What does losing control feel like?
It happens all the time in rallying, but only for fractions of a second. As a rule, if you’re out of control for any longer than that it’s going to be loud and painful.
What do you recommend regular drivers do once they realise they’ve lost control?
Fight. Do something. Steer. Look away from the obstacle. Release the brakes. Avoid the moment of impact for as long as possible. You also have to overcome your innate reflex to play dead in dangerous situations. You can only rely on your reflexes if you’re relaxed.