Optimal Driving Position: 5 Tips for Track Day Setup

Seating position ricardo
Source: GoPro – Daniel Ricardo

On track, if you want to drive well and in a controlled manner it begins with you and how you sit in the driver’s seat. To be honest, achieving the best possible seating position isn’t necessarily that intuitive. The truth is most of us opt for comfort when driving day to day but that often doesn’t translate into a safe and in control position. Drivers have a tendency to sit too far back and too low in the car which means that both control (arms are stretched almost straight) and vision (looking just over the steering wheel) are severely impacted. If you haven’t guessed yet, for a good track day experience, your seating position is crucial.

Vertical Seat Height Driving Position #

Firstly, if your seat is height-adjustable, position it as low as possible while ensuring you can still comfortably see out and consider both your forward as well as peripheral vision.

Adopting an upright seating posture provides an enhanced view from the car. If you lean back excessively, your visibility diminishes.

Moreover, positioning your backrest to be in as upright position as possible (you don’t want to be hunched forward) gives you a much better feeling of what the car’s doing. You’ll notice this particularly when driving in the rain as you’ll be able to detect earlier, and therefore react quicker, if your car’s starting to lose grip.

Horizontal Seat Position #

Then move your seat one or two positions (or an inch or two) closer to the pedals than you might be used to. Ensure you can fully depress the clutch while keeping a slight bend in your leg. If your leg is fully (or close to fully) extended then you’ll need to move even closer. The position should be similar even if you’re driving an automatic, though you’ll have a little more distance to play with.

Correct seating position for high performance driving. Side profile showing correct distances from steering wheel and pedal
Source: Skoda Motorsport

Steering Wheel Driving Position #

Next, you’ll need to consider your distance from the steering wheel. This is often-overlooked and some folks don’t even realize that most steering wheels on modern cars can be moved in and out and up and down. We position the steering wheel so the center is close to the bottom of the neck, with the top of the wheel inline with the mouth. While this might seem higher compared to a daily driver, it’s important to use the more dominant muscles in the upper arms, shoulders, and back for improved car control. To a certain extent, it does depend on what car you’re driving and therefore what range of movement you have.

Your seat should be positioned so that your wrists can rest comfortably on top of the steering wheel when your arms are extended. They should literally droop down on the dashboard side of the steering wheel. You may find you’ll need to adjust the seat back to be more upright, or if possible, bringing the steering wheel closer to you. The goal here is to maintain a bend in your arms even when the steering wheel is turned at a 90-degree angle. If your arms are straight or reaching out, you’re definitely too far back.

How to Hold the Steering Wheel #

Correct 9-to-3 placement of hands for optimal driving position
9-to-3 steering wheel hand position

While it might seem elementary, many seasoned drivers still get it wrong. The ideal grip is the “nine-to-three” position or hands positioned halfway up the steering wheel on either side.

This position is not only more comfortable but it gives you a lot more control of the car. Your hands should remain fixed in this position throughout your drive. Avoid the temptation to shuffle the steering wheel like you might when maneuvering at low speeds in parking scenarios. Keeping your thumbs wrapped around the wheel, rather than resting on top, ensures a firmer grip. This is particularly important on a track, where a secure grip translates into quicker response times and more precise control during high-speed maneuvers and potential slides.

Don’t Wait, Get Acclimated #

If this is your first time on track, we suggest that you play with your seating position in advance of your track day. Don’t wait till you get there, it’s the last thing you want to be worrying about. Experiment with your seating position at home and then go for a drive. It will likely feel unnatural to begin with, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly you both get used to it and realize the benefits, even on public roads. Drive your car like that in the run up to your track day so that it doesn’t feel alien to you when you get out on track. Add this to your event preparation checklist.

We keep the Porsche set for the track all the time so the driving position and subsequent movements come naturally. For example the distance to the gear shift is committed to memory as it never changes.

While this video has been around for a while, Patrick Long (Porsche Factory Driver) briefly explains it from inside a 911 R.

Patrick Long – Seat Position

Remember, a proper driving position is not just about comfort; it directly influences your control, reaction time, and overall performance on the track. Good positioning facilitates easier turning and is particularly beneficial during a quick correction, skid recovery or when performing evasive maneuvers.

Updated on November 2, 2023
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