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"You Are Faster Without Traction Control" is a lie.

Discussion in 'Car Talk' started by Rob, Apr 10, 2015.

  1. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    Are you faster with traction control on or off?
    Open Road
    WATV Editorial Staff
    August 26, 2013

    You, I’m sure, are a good driver. You know to apply the throttle, brakes, and steering progressively; you know not to try to brake and steer at the same time; you know to steer into a skid. But do you know how to brake one wheel at a time to change the yaw of a car? Do you know how to cut ignition to the engine to prevent wheelspin? Do you know how to modulate your brakes right at the threshold of traction a thousand times a second?

    Of course you don’t. You can’t. But if you have a modern car, it does. The things I just described are, respectively, electronic stability control (ESC), traction control (TC), and anti-lock braking (ABS). They are miracles of modern engineering.

    These systems are so effective and the impact so significant that they have become the law. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has done a study that shows that ten thousand fatal crashes would be avoided annually if all cars on the road had ESC, and has mandated that all new cars sold in the US from 2012 on must have ESC.

    If you do what I do – drive race cars and stunt cars in film and television – you become very concerned with how to disable the anti-lock braking systems, traction control, and electronic stability control. When we want to make a bad guy’s Dodge Charger do a smoky burnout and a long drift for the cameras then slide sideways to a stop in front of a roadblock, well, we have to turn those systems off, don’t we? I mean, it’d look stupid if the TC modulated the burnout, the ESC controlled the drift, and the ABS made for a smooth, controlled stop…

    So we pull fuses, extract relays, unplug sensors, put vice-grips on brake lines, and a bunch of other things you should not try at home. Unless home is Hollywood.

    But what about on the racetrack? Can you go faster around a track with all these electronic devices disabled? This is what we wanted to find out.

    In a way, I knew the answer. Traction control and electronic stability control definitely make you faster. I know this because they are (mostly) banned in every major racing league: NASCAR, Formula 1, ALMS, Le Mans, and my preferred racing arena: Pro Rally. I’ve driven race cars with forms of active controls and they are sensational, as long as the programming is right. It really is like cheating, and the systems are banned because these series are supposed to reward great driving, or at least reward great driving more than great programming by rooms of engineers back in North Carolina, or Ingolstadt Germany, or Banbury England.

    And therein lies the rub. Computers have to be programmed for a purpose. And to have a single program in the computer to infer what you want the car to do, it has to presume you more or less drive like everyone else. And if you drive a street car, the guys with big brains back at your chosen automaker have programmed it to behave like a street car.

    More or less. Bugattis have different programs than Buicks. And some cars, like the new SRT Viper, remain “fully disable-able” – you can turn off all the controls, and you’re on your own. And trust me, in a Viper, you really are on your own, with big gnarly fangs poised over you.

    But there’s another car that can shut off all its electric nannies – the awesomely fun Scion FR-S. In fact, it has two modes of ESC – or Vehicle Stability Control in Scion-speak: Normal and Sport, and a full off.

    So the test was simple: run three laps at the Willow Springs track in California, and see how the car behaved in each of those three modes, and in which I could be fastest.

    I’ll leave you to watch the video to see the outcome. I will tell you that full “off” is the most fun. The car will drift like a Dakota snowfall, and all day long, too. But I did spin it out once. And I used to compete in the professional drifting series, Formula D…

    But despite all the hooliganism of driving around the track all day, when the sun went down and we had to drive a slew of test cars back to Los Angeles on a darkening interstate, I left all the electronic stability controls on. Because even as a pro driver, if a wooden pallet comes loose from the pickup in front of me while I’m listening to a good stereo and thinking of what’s on for dinner at home, I want to be working with a car capable of braking one wheel at a time.

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  2. Slalom823

    RDTCC S10 Champion Premium

    It is too bad the video that the article refers to is not available to watch. I am interested to see which level or mode had the fastest laps times. I think it is safe to say it depends on the car and the level of sophistication the traction control and stability control have as well as the drivers skill and the grip condition. An extreme example would be rally. Except for an advanced system designed for rally driving and allowing for slip angle and varying tire speeds a normal sports car stability control and traction control would keep you not sliding but that would definitely be slower. Some cars with multiple levels or modes tend to be very restrictive on the full mode. Cars like the awd Lamborghini Gallardo on full traction and stability are very intrusive and in lower grip racing scenarios I believe would be faster being less intrusive or faster off with a very skilled driver. For most of us in most non racing situations traction and stability are fantastic and probably save many lives each year.
  3. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    Yea, but I think the point of the article is well taken. If race teams at all levels could implement it, they would because it has gotten so sophisticated. The important point here is that race TC and Production TC are very different, but both help. In fact, many get caught (Red Bull, NASCAR) allegedly trying to do the very same thing.
  4. Slalom823

    RDTCC S10 Champion Premium

    I agree. I do wonder what was faster on the frs. With a pro driver I have to imagine off is faster than sport on that car. Although I assume it only turns off traction and stability not abs.
  5. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    I think even a pro in f1 would benefit from tc. But the rally car you mention is interesting. Agree there.
  6. Slalom823

    RDTCC S10 Champion Premium

    I do agree that at the level of an F1 car that tc and stability and abs probably all are faster. I imagine that each could be tuned to preferred settings and be optimal. However I do think a pro driver is probably faster in a street car with the tc and stability and possibly even abs off. Now one I do question is the top modes in cars exotic cars. Like in a Lamborghini Gallardo it has at least three modes if not more, and in the top one (corsa I believe) I wonder if that would be faster with a pro driver or if they would be faster with the tc and stability off. I can say with confidence that in the full on or "auto" mode in those cars that a skilled driver can be faster if it were less intrusive or off. However, I can tell you I am definitely faster in the GSCE v12's with traction and abs on, that's for sure!

    I am pretty sure traction control off can bring some fun though, even if it isn't faster!
  7. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    Hey, I hear ya brother. I used to race at the SCCA level at Road Atlanta, so I'm really coming at this from a real world perspective, as is the article. *Race* traction control (very finely tuned electronics) will provide an advantage to anyone, even the best drivers, in any car (save for a Rally Car maybe). Here is the operative sentence, with which I agree:

    And therein lies the rub. Computers have to be programmed for a purpose. And to have a single program in the computer to infer what you want the car to do, it has to presume you more or less drive like everyone else. And if you drive a street car, the guys with big brains back at your chosen automaker have programmed it to behave like a street car.

    In a Ford Focus, yes, you may be right because they are "dumb" so to speak, since they have to be programmed for your average driver. But as the video demonstrated, even Sebastian Vettel can't pump the brakes 1000 times per second or brake one tire at a time. Whether your average sedan sports car, like a Mustang, would dumb down the TC/SC so much as to actually slow the lap, I'm not sure, but my hunch would be to say no especially if there is not significant braking involved. In that case, and possibly every case, TC/ABS would always be faster in any car. Throw in ice or dirt and it's no contest.

    My real intent in writing this was to point out to the many gamers who chant "you are always faster if you turn off the assists" that this is a misnomer in the real world.

    I don't play on the PC, but in a true SIM, you would be faster with TC/SC/ABS, but these would be "race" options. and many series' allow them too. Personally, I'd rather see racers who raced with them forced off, since it highlights the drivers' skill to a greater degree.
  8. Stability control in my system doesn't work. I can spin around endlessly with it on a 100%.
  9. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    I'd say Traction Control would do what you want there (control spinning tires). Stability Control "also reduces engine power until control is regained." That would mean you could not do "100" percent, if you mean throttle. More here.
  10. In a real car you are correct but not so "for me" in Assetto Corsa.
    I do truly believe you guys and appreciate your feed back.
    I think, however, I'm getting it better with drift setting in my club sport wheel.

    You say are a stunt car driver! That's really cool!
    Jamie Brown lives here in Olds Alberta. He had won an Oscar for make up in the early 80's and hung out with people like Bob Hope. A neat guy to talk to.
    You will have to share a story sometime.
  11. you might not be faster at first or maybe you will never be faster then u are with assist on. But you will always become a better driver, eventually making you faster.

    I cant even drive with TC on it just puts me off. Whenever u exit the corner u can notice the TC stepping in holding u back on power and losing u time.

    Im talking about virtual racing here im not comparing to the real thing. I gues irl proper programmed assist can benefit u but they have to be programmed to perfection and might need recalibrating depending on track layout and conditions.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2016
  12. ESC & EBD play quite a good role in modern car handling.

    Actually ESC is not the same a TC. It doesn't really have the same function as ESC prevent you to skid in a certain way while you can still make the car wheel spin a lot until it understeer or oversteer heavily.

    When you drive a car with those feature, it is quite obvious it really help you to turn, especially EBD as it control each brake channel even while you turn normally.

    I don't think traction control help you to go faster
  13. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    TC will not make you fast in a game, but any real world driver knows it's an advantage, no matter what the series. The only caveat I'd add is that some forms of racing spend much more (or could) on computer technology and physical parts. That, in turn, makes for better assists IRL, as with anything that money can buy. I'd say F1 would increase about 2-3 seconds instantly with TC, and that's just above what happened when it was not banned. 2007-2008.

    In the real world, drivers and their teams actually use the L/S Diff to control wheel spin for the most part. TC is much more complicated, and nuanced. If it's done right, a driver will not even notice it's there.

    This gets back to my original point that TC in the game (along with suffering from not being used right, suffers from programmers, not engine designers, making it up) is a whole different animal than real TC. Why? It's not the computers, but the hardware that they manipulate -- we don't have any of it. The intersection between mechanics and computer science is mind-boggling to most, including me.

    Stability control? I agree completely that it's very hard to distinguish, alone. The variables that go into a programmers elimination of yaw, pitch, etc. is virtually a black art. Even the manufacturers didn't call it "stability control" many times. They just said "engine enhancements" or "load variables" or some crap. Essentially, they wanted the FIA not to notice it since they wanted to keep it as a test market for their new designs. While I despise assists as a driver, from a marketing perspective, letting the auto makers keep it will strengthen their commitment.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2016
  14. quicksilver384

    Roaring Pipes Maniacs | #85 Staff Premium

    I got a uk spec 2002 focus tdci and cant turn tcs off. It is very frustrating in the snow as it almost makes the car undriva le and ruines the brakes as it uses the brakes to control spin in that car. Only way is to pull the fuse which wouldnt be a problem but then abs would also be off and i would get done by the feds if cought.
  15. I own an Subaru Impreza 2.0i 2012 with a CVT transmission. It is incredible assist heavy. You can turn off traction control, but cannot turn off ESC(VDC for subaru) on it. There's some sort of yaw control taking full advantage of the awd traction.

    Video example

    If I try to turn & floor the accelerator when it's too slippery, the engine cut off the acceleration to prevent heavy understeer.
  16. The discussion about whether traction control system make you faster or not is pointless if left unspecified. And it really should be started by mentioning the point where the car's tires get the most traction - which is at ALWAYS at a slight wheelspin and at slip angles different than 0. The rallying example is one of the most obvious. Ice racing would be another good one. F1 before aero (1967) is another one, where the fastest way around a corner was a 4 wheel drift. The only difference between gravel, ice and asphalt is surface traction. The less surface traction you have the more of a slip angle you need to be faster. Period.

    So: whatever traction control system allows you to have your car/tires in that specific zone for a given surface allows you to be faster. As far as I know modern traction control systems block a road car's tendency to drift before it even happens. So no, that most certainly does not make you faster, whether you are a professional driver or not. Safer, yes. They are designed for that, not speed.
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