Road versus track testing of normal cars

Posted on January 18th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

For years I’ve thought that magazines that test road cars on the track are deluding themselves. The conditions on a typical race track are simply so far away from real roads as to make the judgements gained on a track worse than useless. And I deliberately say ‘worse’ because in many cases I believe that the outcome of a process that involves track testing road cars – and then writing a road test on that car – can be very misleading.

A road car is a car designed for roads. You don’t test a Formula racing car by driving it to the local shops and seeing how many groceries can be fitted in, so why test the handling of a road car on a race track? Race tracks are invariably smooth, they have one-way traffic, they have run-off areas (which immediately makes a nervous car feel less twitchy!) but most importantly of all, the driver always knows exactly the radius of the next corner, the length of the straight, what the blacktop does following a crest.

Simply, on a track you’ll enjoy a car more inclined to oversteer, with much faster responses, and with quicker steering than would ever be pleasant – and safe – on a road.