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Tom's Hardware Talks To Champion Rally Drivers About Technology

Subaru Rally Team Driver: David Higgins

David Higgins joined Subaru Rally Team USA in 2011, replacing Travis Pastrana (a name you might know from playing DiRT 2). David won last year's Rally America National Championship and, with his second-place finish at the Olympus Rally, secured the championship in 2012 as well.

Tom's Hardware: New driver assist technologies, such as lane departure, braking, and active park assist are becoming more mainstream and accessible. As a "driver's" driver, how do you feel about these high-tech nannies?

David Higgins: Anything you can do to make roads safer has to be a good thing. Although, the risk is always if you make driving too easy, you will concentrate less on the driving and more on other things. It's all about getting the right balance.

Tom's Hardware: Would you trust those technologies to keep your vehicle in control over your own driving capabilities?

David Higgins

David Higgins: No! But, at the same time, I do think the advance in cruise control with the option of lane assist and braking is very good.

Tom's Hardware: Do you think technological advancements place less emphasis on the driver's role in driving?

David Higgins: Yes, 100%. They certainly place less emphasis on the actual role of driving. But if they make roads safer, you have to support the technology. If you are not a fan of those technologies, many of which are optional upgrades anyway, I believe that there will always be more enthusiast-oriented cars to choose from that don't emphasize them. You can always pick something like my Impreza WRX.

Tom's Hardware: Technology takes so many different forms, and GPS, communications, data acquisition, and even mechanical design can also be tech-oriented. Can you walk us through some of the tools you use to help you do what you love even better?

Subaru Rally Team tossing up some gravel

David Higgins: Data loggers, for example, have changed our sport so much over the last 10 years and are a big part of the cleaner style we drive now. This came about because we can overlay all of the stages, and the faster ones turn out to be the ones where we spend less time sideways. It used to be that big slides were just a part of rallying. But now the data shows that sliding around a corner sideways is not faster than a cleaner line or smoother driving style.

Computers do play a big role in car design, sure. But they cannot drive for us, so that human input is still very important. I have tested for teams in the past that seemed to forget this, and you end up with a car that can be very difficult to drive, since it lacks feel.

Tom's Hardware: We do a lot of performance testing with some of the racing games out there like DiRT and F1. Do the physics and handling characteristics of the most popular game titles come anywhere close to what you experience behind the wheel?

David Higgins: There are some top-end simulators that are very good, but the biggest problem with games is they lack the distance for vision that you need for real driving. They are not that much like the real thing, but get better all the time and can still be good for training and learning tracks.

Tom's Hardware: Are you a gamer yourself? If so, what are you playing?

David Higgins: When I have time, I like to play race games with my seven-year-old son Matthew. The problem is that he beats me and tells our team boss that he should be driving my car! I love the F1 games and DiRT games.

Tom's Hardware: What pieces of technology do you have on you at all times?

David Higgins: My mobile phone or iPad; I need the Internet so much. Oh, and music! I also need SAT NAV when I don't have co-driver to tell me where to go.

Tom's Hardware: Do you consider yourself a tech geek? What are you into?

David Higgins: I always have to have latest phones, laptops, tablets, and so on. The problem is I refuse to read any instructions, so I can only use half of the gadgets I've owned. Luckily, the iPhone and iPad are so simple. They're made for people like me who won't read how to use them.

Tom's Hardware: Lastly, what's your daily driver?

David Higgins: I have a Subaru Impreza WRX STI and my wife has Range Rover Evoque, which is full of gadgets.

  • C12Friedman
    Not an article I expected to read at Tom's but an excellent article none the less!
    Nice photography
    Reply
  • amuffin
    Ken Block WR8 FLUX!
    Reply
  • tuanies
    9540426 said:
    Not an article I expected to read at Tom's but an excellent article none the less!
    Nice photography

    We try to spice things up and it was a good and fun opportunity.

    I felt a little inadequate running around with a micro 4/3s camera (Panasonic GH2) and a couple primes (Olympus 45mm & Panasonic 25mm) while everyone had D800s, but quite happy with the photo results.

    9540427 said:
    What?! No Bill Caswell?

    He wasn't at the Olympus Rally.
    Reply
  • tiret
    Quote: "Rally Enthusiasts Are A Lot Like PC Enthusiasts..."

    as these rally enthusiasts are all apple fan boys and Toms regulars are mostly not, I'm not so sure about that sentiment.

    good article though.
    Reply
  • Yuka
    Nice, nice, nice, nice.

    Kudos, Toms!

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • Ken Block a rally driver? LOL. Take a look at his WRC competition record and have a laugh. He should stick to making videos that wow the masses sheeple who don't know that real drivers have no need for such spectacles.
    Reply
  • Wisecracker
    The quality of **stuff** available these days to racers at all types of levels and skills is amazing.

    Even better: You can race anything anyhow around where I live. Most places have renegade classes, too, with claim rules to keep folks honest :)

    I do miss the old-style hill climbs (hint-hint game devs ...). Too much tech, maybe?


    Reply
  • RodolfoKSP
    What about the game Richard Burns, how could you not mention?! Are you being payed to mention Dirt and F1. F1 and why not iRacing?
    Reply
  • tuanies
    9540435 said:
    What about the game Richard Burns, how could you not mention?! Are you being payed to mention Dirt and F1. F1 and why not iRacing?

    Because Richard Burns Rally was last released in 2004, and Dirt and F1 are have more recent releases. And no we're not getting payed to mention Dirt or F1, they're just two recent racing games we at Tom's Hardware quite enjoy. Nothing against iRacing, its really cool and all but not as recognizable to the average PC gamer.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    9540434 said:
    The quality of **stuff** available these days to racers at all types of levels and skills is amazing.

    Even better: You can race anything anyhow around where I live. Most places have renegade classes, too, with claim rules to keep folks honest :)

    I do miss the old-style hill climbs (hint-hint game devs ...). Too much tech, maybe?

    Call me crazy, but I would love to rally a manual Subaru Justy 4WD for shits and giggles.
    Reply