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How to Steer Out of a Skid

Skidding -- and Not Skidding -- Rally Car Style

No one skids like a rally car driver. Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, all those crazy Finnish guys who seem to have been born on frozen lakes -- they send the back end of those rally cars sliding around corners on purpose. Bonus points if they can get a rooster tail of mud, water, or snow to fly up behind them.

But even in a rally car, if that skid keeps going forever, the car is just going to go around in a circle and probably slam into a tree. That's a terrible strategy for winning races. Rally drivers have to be able to get their cars out of the skids they create.

Forest Duplessis is the head instructor at DirtFish Rally School in Snoqualmie, Wash. We've all heard that you should "steer into the skid," which Duplessis says sounds simple, but the problem is that people turn the wrong way.

Say you're going around a turn to the right, and your back end starts to come around too far. This is called oversteer,by the way. The nose of your car is now pointed too far to the right, right? What you need to do is countersteer to bring the car back to the direction you were trying to go in the first place. In this case, you need to point the car a bit to the left to keep it in the street and not on the sidewalk.

Duplessis says the first step is to look where you want to go, and then make sure your hands agree with your eyes. If you need to make a little adjustment to the left, as in our example, then look a little to the left, where you would like your car to be. "The movement is quick and smooth," Duplessis notes. "It's smaller than most people would think."

Of course, being a rally instructor, Duplessis also says "the more you get comfortable with it, the more you learn to appreciate oversteer." Rally drivers work to apply the right amount of turn with the right amount of correction to keep the car in a state of controlled chaos while they basically steer with the rear of the car. As Duplessis says, "Embrace the slide."