Behind The Wheel

Screaming down Conrod Straight at 300 kph in a 650 horsepower V8 Supercar is not the time you want to be reaching for the windscreen wipers, or anything for that matter. At those speeds, you want both hands firmly on the wheel, and this is the philosophy behind the modern day V8 Supercar steering wheel. Many of us would be familiar with the personal controls incorporated into our steering wheels, although it wasn’t that long ago when the horn was its only additional feature. Nowadays, you can find cruise control, controls for music and maybe hands free phone functions. Step into the world of V8 Supercars, and it’s an entirely different ball game. Allowing the driver to have both hands on the wheel while attending to vital tasks throughout a race is a huge leap forward in driver safety. Well over a dozen controls that would normally require a “hands off” approach can now be safely performed by the driver with just the flick of a finger. Controls for the headlight, windscreen wipers and radio buttons are all fairly simple and within easy reach, but it’s the amazing array of race only controls that separates these V8 brutes from even the most modern day road cars. The pit switch for instance, which limits a drivers’ speed in pit lane. Or the cool suit, helmet fan and drink switches. Temperatures inside a V8 Supercar are stifling, often reaching over 50 degrees. Cool suits, helmet fans and driver hydration are essential and can all be controlled by the driver’s thumb to keep him as comfortable as possible. Then there’s the controls for the mini dash display perched towards the top of this amazing piece of technology. Drivers need to be able to process and monitor huge amounts of information. From speed, gear selection, RPM, oil pressure and brake rotor temperature to lap times and G-forces, all this information and more is available to the driver via the steering wheel. And finally, if that wasn’t enough, at the very top of this marvel of motorsport is a row of coloured lights, all displaying to the driver even more information on the performance of the car. Revs too high, the lights will tell him. Pit lane speed too low, the lights will tell him. Front left wheel starting to lock under brakes, the lights will tell him. A lot to take on board when you’re covering over 80 metres per second, but not for the men that wrestle with these monsters at every race. Indeed, Will Davison says it “makes life a lot easier”.