Drive like a champion. On tarmac, gravel or snow
WRC2 World Champion Emil Lindholm and experienced competitor Kris Meeke are both true masters of the driving art. They can keep their souped-up cars under control in extreme conditions, at breathtaking speeds and on literally any surface. But you can benefit from their experience too.
“You might be surprised how many of the techniques we use in rallying have applications in everyday driving,” says Kris Meeke. These tips will help you drive more smoothly and safely, wherever you are.
Every surface is a test of different driving skill sets. Snow, for example, needs a lot of skill on the brakes.
When driving a car, sitting in the correct position is always extremely important. Sit upright and hold the steering wheel with both hands in the “quarter to three” position. “You’ll have better control of the car that way,” explains Kris Meeke. He also recommends driving smoothly, anticipating and looking as far ahead as possible.
“Go into corners slowly, and be more careful in the wet. Brake until the start of the corner,” advises Meeke. This is because braking will transfer more of the car’s weight to the front axle and make the steering more responsive. Steering wheel and pedal movements should be smooth. “Start accelerating gently in the corner, and as the road straightens out you can gradually open the throttle," advises Meeke. Keeping a safe distance is also important, he says. This will also come in handy when overtaking. Why? Watch the video.
Driving on gravel is probably not an everyday occurrence for most drivers, but that’s all the more reason to be prepared for it. Champion driver Emil Lindholm advises you to get a feel for the surface. A harder surface gives a better grip, while softer surfaces offer less grip. “You will recognise soft gravel not only when braking, but also when cornering, as the steering wheel will feel lighter and less responsive,” says Lindholm. He advises slowing down in such cases. Many gravel roads have ruts that are often full of mud and puddles. In that case, Emil Lindholm advises to avoid any existing wheel tracks and stay out of the ruts. If you have to drive into the mud, drive smoothly and don’t stop. On gravel, four-wheel drive often helps, ideally in Off-road mode. How? Find out in the video.
Finnish rally driver Emil Lindholm is one of the great hopes of the sport. Born in 1996, he is following in the footsteps of his father Sebastian Lindholm, the eight-times Finnish rally champion. Young Emil is already a champion in his own right, having won the title in 2021 behind the wheel of a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo. Then in 2022, Emil Lindholm moved up the ranks in the World Rally Championship series and became World Champion in the WRC2 category, driving a Škoda Team Toksport WRT special.
On snow, too, it’s important to find out how slippery it actually is. You can test this by braking in a straight line, but only if there is no car behind you that might be startled by this manoeuvre. Smooth driving is important on any surface, but on snow and ice doubly so. “Jerking the steering wheel in panic usually makes the situation worse and sends the car in the last direction you want to go,” Kris Meeke explains. So keep a light, gentle touch on the pedals and steering wheel. “If the car starts to skid when you’re getting moving, ease off the throttle and try again for a smoother start. Every millimetre of pedal movement makes a difference,” Kris advises. His advice is also to reduce your speed and increase the distance between you and the vehicles in front of you. And if you get the chance, try out your car’s handling in the snow on a closed track. This video shows you what to practise.
Northern Irish rally driver Kris Meeke is an experienced competitor. Born in 1979, Kris is the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion, for example. He also notched up five wins in the top class of the WRC championship between 2015 and 2017. He has won in Argentina, Portugal, Finland, Mexico and Catalonia, which shows that he is most comfortable on gravel. But he’s also no slouch on other surfaces, of course.