Simanaitis Says

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LEAFING THROUGH R&T APRIL 1959 (some time-gobbling in addition to this website and GMax), I came upon “The Racing Driver,” excerpts from Denis Jenkinson’s book subtitled “The Theory and Practice of Fast Driving.” It’s a particularly cogent analysis, and just as relevant today as it was back then.

The Racing Driver: The Theory and Practice of Fast Driving, by Denis Jenkinson, Robert Bentley Inc., 1959.

Along with Pom (Laurence Pomeroy), Jenks was an automotive racing authority par excellence. He was a participant as well, as detailed in “Jenks’ Box of Magic,” his adventure with Stirling Moss on the record-setting 1955 Mille Miglia.

Denis Sargent Jenkinson, 1920–1996, British automotive journalist extraordinaire.

Here are tidbits from Jenks’ book, The Racing Driver, gleaned from R&T, April 1959. 

On Cutting Corners. Jenks explained the logic behind drivers cutting “a wheel into the grass of the inside of the corner.” On today’s circuits, as often as not, it’s onto bumpy corrugation rather than grass. 

Jenks noted, “he is not only making his ‘line’ through the corner a straighter one than before, and therefore a shorter one, he is also using the change of surface to give him a different ‘feel’ of what the front tires are doing. By doing this he can sense more accurately how close to the limit of adhesion his front tires are, or how far beyond the limit they are.”

Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari at Spa’s Eau Rouge, 2015. Photo by Sutton Motorsport Images. This and the following image from

What about those bumps? “A change of surface, even to an inferior one,” Jenks said, “will give a sensitive driver a good indication of the surface he has just left, namely the tarmac road, and allow him to anticipate the actions of the tires when they regain the tarmac.”

On Driver “Moments.” Jenks observed, “The ability to remain in control of all your faculties when the unexpected happens can not only minimize the injury but can be used to avoid accidents at times…. This quality is a driver’s sense of position in space.”

Tony Brooks’s Vanwall leads the pack through Eau Rouge, 1958. Image by LAT Photographic. 

Jenk’s example of such a driver “moment” involved Maurice Trintignant at the Belgian Spa circuit: Trintignant “was going up the climbing sweep of L’Eau Rouge bend when the two rear wheels lost adhesion and he spun through two complete revolutions at some 70 miles per hour, and through the final 90º the car had almost lost all forward momentum.”

Jenks recounted, “Trintignant had stalled the engine on the first spin, but as the car reached the end of its movement he realized that it was going to finish up pointing in the original direction of travel and also slap in the middle of the road. As the nose of the car slid around to complete the second 360º turn he banged the gear lever into bottom, took his foot off the clutch, started the engine and drove on.”

“This,” Jenks observed, “is the sort of incident that is often described as ‘presence of mind’ but in fact it depends on the accurate receiving and understanding of positional information; and well coordinated muscular responses resulting from these.”

On Going “Tiger.” Jenks defined, “It is when the racing man is provoked or up against seemingly overwhelming odds that you see ‘tiger’…. I think it is true to say that a well balanced, placid man will never make a World Champion; he could be a brilliant driver and strategist but would lack that little bit of dash and daring that would take him to the top.”

Jenks continued, “Don’t think for a moment that drivers, the good ones especially, are a mean-minded bad-tempered lot, for that would be quite wrong. They do not lose their temper with an individual or with the car, but rather with the situation, and when all reasonable logic should say, ‘That’s it; there is nothing you can do about it,’ something inside of them says, ‘That is where you are wrong. I’ll show you what can be done about it.’—and then you see ‘tiger.’ ” 

Right you are, Jenks. ds

© Dennis  Simanaitis,, 2023 


  1. oregoncoaster5
    March 7, 2023

    Re – “going tiger” – so Jenks never met Black Jack Brabham?

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