Today I went to the Dialed In Raceway track in Victorville, which is north of LA on the way to Vegas. The track is medium size with really good dirt, good for testing and practicing driving. And driving is exactly what I will write about today. There is a lot to be said about having the right set up, but at the end of the day, the driver is key. Every single person out there can improve their lap times without touching their car. That’s a promise. All you need to do is take a minute and THINK about what you are doing, or trying to do. I’m being serious. How many of you actually think about driving, and line choice, and how you are using your throttle? Next time you go to the track, think about these things, don’t just drive, and I guarantee you, you will be faster.
Look and the lap in the video above, and then check out some of the sections that I break down for you. The only two things you really need to know about cars and how they work for this article, is that the car will be easiest to drive, and have the most grip, when the tyres are equally loaded. So if you can see your car leaning this way, up on two wheels that way, up on the front wheels under braking, popping wheelies out of corners, you can be sure that you aren’t getting around the track as fast as possible. Another thing to consider is the way tyres work, really simply put, forward bite, accelerating and braking is one way the tyre can provide traction. Side bite, so left or right, basically cornering, is the other way. Both of these can be maxed out, but not at the same time, if you want to accelerate and corner at the same time, it’s a compromise. While cornering, you can’t accelerate as hard as you can going straight, because some of the available traction is used up for cornering. (Google traction circle). Think of it this way. If you brake really hard and turn your wheel, what happens? The car just goes straight. If you accelerate really hard on a loose track, what happens? The car starts wandering sideways. So basically, you need to know that if you want to accelerate or brake as efficiently as possible, you need to do it in a straight line, and if you want to maintain your corner speed, you need to make a smooth round arc. And that leads me to the first section.
At the end of the straight you have a simple left 90 that tightens up at the end. Simple right? Yes, if you don’t care about going as fast as possible it is. So let’s break it down. Based on the above theory, it would make sense that you try and get the car to go in without upsetting it, just keep it level, and make a smooth arc. Braking brings the nose down, and the rear up, weight shifts to the front, the car is not settled and the tyres aren’t loaded as equally as possible. You don’t want to enter the corner like that. So brake early, brake very little, or don’t brake at all. For this corner, I don’t brake, I let off the gas and turn in, but I don’t let off all the way, and this is important. I may let off or brake a little when going straight, but when setting up for the corner I get on the gas slightly and keep an even throttle, because when the drive train is loaded in our cars, they are more stuck to the ground and hold their line. You often see people spin out mid corner, simply because they got off the gas, if they had kept the throttle steady they would have been fine. So let off at the end of the straight, and maintain a low amount of steady throttle around the corner, or if you are going too fast, simply roll through it. Then at the end where it tightens, quick tap of the brakes, turn the car around and get hard on the gas so you don’t do a 180. Getting on the gas hard usually stops your car from over rotating, so say you are rolling through a corner and you start to loose the rear, stab the throttle and you can save it.
Try and keep the car neutral on corner entry, maintain a smooth arc with none, or even throttle applied.
At 8 seconds, landing the 2nd double, and the two tabletops/rollers, and the left hander before the two big doubles, this whole section, ALL ABOUT corner speed. Everyone can go fast down the straight, not everyone can go fast around corners. The reason I am typically 1 second off the pace at any given race, isn’t because I’m slow on the straight, and often, specially in Europe not even because I can’t time the jumps, or because my car sucks, or this or that, it’s because me as a driver, I am not good enough to maximise my corner speed. It is very hard to do. You need to be on the edge of the traction circle I was talking about before. You need to get the most side bite vs forward bite you can at any given moment. You need to accelerate as hard as you can without loosing traction, you need to turn as hard as you can without spinning out. It’s not easy. Let’s break this section down.
If you look at the moment I land, to the moment I jump the 2nd of the two tabletops/rollers, it’s basically one long right hand corner. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Smooth arc, maintaining speed. I land in the middle of the track, and accelerate down the jump towards the apex, after hard acceleration I let off and use the throttle to control the car. I adjust the amount of throttle based on what the car is doing, remember I said without any throttle car’s can get unbalanced and even spin out? Sometimes rolling a corner is good, sometimes you need to gas it, it all depends on the situation, but the goal is to be able to use as much throttle as possible. This section is trickier because you have to time the jump going away from the driver stand right so you can downside it, all while cornering and maintaining your speed. At 11 seconds, notice how I intentionally made my previous long corner so I jump on the inside of the jump. This is so my line is better for the left hand corner before the big double. This way I can accelerate sooner, and harder, and have a very low risk of flipping over when landing the roller.
I think that’s more than enough information to digest today. More later.
If you are not good enough, you have two choices.
- Remain that way.
- Try to work harder and smarter than everyone else.
It really is that simple. After that what happens happens. But you at least know you gave it all you have.