Analogy Of The Divided Line

I came across Plato's Analogy of the Divided Line and it struck me that track driving can be broken down into four segments mirroring those of Plato:

  • Equivalent of AB, or "illusion" in Plato's parlance, is observation. Examples would be driver seeing or feeling understeer or oversteer, brake lockup or wheelspin.
  • Equivalent of BC, or "belief", is the actual behavior of the car that is being observed.
  • Equivalent of CD, or "mathematical reasoning", is mechanical properties like tire hardness, spring rates and shock stiffness, along with driver inputs like how fast and how much the pedals and steering wheel is moved.
  • Equivalent of DE, or "understanding", is broad concepts like weight transfer and tire adhesion.

Progression of understanding from A to E generally mirrors driver development. Although concepts like weight transfer and grip are often covered in novice classrooms, they are typically not really understood - by which I mean that the driver recognizes and applies them in real time - until the driver reaches advanced level. As well, drivers ordinarily progress through segments by analyzing several example of the preceding segment - be that experiencing understeer repeatedly before being able to identify a situation as "understeer" or experiencing various effects of weight transfer before recognizing weight transfer as being responsible for specific instance of lack or sufficiency of grip.

Because track driving consists largely of execution and to a much lesser extent of theory (a typical driver spends much more time on track than they do in a classroom, and especially in different classrooms), many drivers operate broad concepts subconsciously. For example, a driver might time brake release with turn in but when asked about it they would not be able to articulate the weight transfer that is responsible for the effect. A driver who does consciously understand weight transfer would be able to apply it immediately in situations where it is called for, whereas a driver who only subconsciously uses weight transfer might need a long period of trial and error to arrive at optimal inputs in new settings.