Patience is very important when looking for a good lap time. Mid corner it can be very beneficial to wait, just for a beat, to let the car rotate that last little bit before getting on the power. It can be the difference between having to gently squeeze the throttle and fight the ever-decreasing track width to the exit or being able to achieve full throttle much earlier and fire the car out of the corner with more moment.
Mid corner speed is critical to the overall lap time but not at the expense of exit speed.
Mastering the rotation of the car into the corner will give you access to some of those last few tenths of laptime you are chasing.
The goal of rotating the car is to change the direction of the vehicle as you approach the apex of the bend to make the car point more towards the next straight rather than towards the outside of the corner. This allows you to get on the gas harder and earlier. The key is in the brake release and how you manage the weight transfer in the last phase of the deceleration into the bend. Each car will react differently in this crucial phase of the corner and mastering the technique is definitely easier for some cars than it is for others but keep practising it as it is a skill worth having.
As you brake toward the corner you will start to turn into the bend, rolling out of the brake as you wind on the steering as we discussed in the Tip ‘Grip Usage’ in May last year. The last phase of this brake release is where you set up the car for the corner exit. As you release the last little bit of brake, keep the brake pressure a moment longer and using the weight over the nose of the car let the rear of the car drift out slightly. We are not looking for armfuls of opposite lock and big, smokey skids, just a little change in attitude of the car. Once it has given you those few extra degrees of rotation you will have a clearer line of sight to the exit of the corner allowing a harder acceleration.
A good video to demonstrate this is below, from one of the friends of Learn To Race: Javier Morcillo back in 2009 at the old Snetterton circuit. In particular the entry to turn 2, what used to be called Sear, you can see how Javier uses the end of the braking phase to rotate the car into the corner allowing him to get on the power early for the long back straight.
The winter is a quiet time in the racing world, generally there are less events and less track driving opportunities to keep yourself sharp so what should you do?
Seat time is all important, it keeps our reflexes sharp and it keeps our brains and bodies used to the sensations and tasks of driving quickly. Seat time costs money, especially at this time of year when it often involves taking you and your car to a warmer country so what other options are there that won’t break the bank?
Simulators are a great way of keeping your eye in. Commercial simulators are excellent at reproducing alot of the realism of real-life track driving and even home computing is powerful enough to provide excellent simulations in the comfort of your own home. The level of detail you can go to in a home setup is entirely down to your own taste/budget with everything from a playsatation and a £100 wheel to a full 3d motion simulation rig costing tens of thousands.
If you want to experience tried and tested setups then there are a number of commercial venues that can cater to your tastes from the small but bespoke Motorsport Tuition through to the larger venues such as the excellent Race Hut or the long established setups like Base Performance there is something to suit your budget and requirements.
If looking at pixels isn’t your thing then get to your local kart track, indoor or outdoor. They will all have free practice sessions where you can arrive and drive and this helps with your driving technique but also helps the fitness levels as karts can be notoriously tough to drive.
Lastly, keep reviewing your previous year’s sessions. Go over the data to look for improvements, re-watch incar videos with a critical eye and watch other drivers videos on youtube to see if you can pick up any hints or tips.
Have a good winter and I look forward to seeing you on track in 2017
We’ll be back with hints and tips for your track driving in the New Year. Don’t forget to check out some holiday reading with the book Race and Trackday Driving Techniques available from the Shop.
In the meantime, you’d better have been good because the big man is coming:
We’ve talked in the past about the correct process of applying the brake: a firm and quick initial application followed by a bleed off of pressure as the car slows increasing the rate of releasing the brake as you turn into the bend.
The speed of the initial application can loosely be linked to the spring and damper rate of the vehicle. In a softly sprung and damped car your initial application needs to be slower to match the rate of compression possible with the front suspension. If you brake too suddenly the front of the car will not have had time for the weight to shift onto it giving the front tyres less downward push into the road and hence less grip. In this instance increase the brake pressure slightly smoother and more progressively to allow the weight to shift forwards remembering a soft car will transfer weight slower. Conversely a stiff car will transfer the weight more quickly so in a stiffer car you can have a much faster initial application of the brake as the weight will shift over the front more quickly.
Obviously, this is a very sweeping generalisation and there is alot more physics and engineering involved but it gives you an outline idea of how to approach braking in different vehicles.
For a master class in how to use the brake pedal take a look at the video below, courtesy of the WEC official channel, where Marco Sorensen takes us around the Bahrain circuit in his fabulous Aston Martin Vantage GTE:
There is alot going on in a lap, in fact there is alot going on in every corner! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the information you are having to process so try to recognise if its all getting too much. There are a number of ways you might recognise this: your laptimes may have stagnated; you can’t remember what your previous experience of the oncoming corner was but as soon as you brake and turn in you know you are repeating the same mistake or; if your engineer asks you to describe the handling of the car you can only use vague impressions rather than a detailed analysis of each corner.
If you find yourself in this position, try to take a step back and go back to basics. Imagine you are driving the circuit for the first time and look at it with new eyes. Don’t try to break the lap record for a couple of laps and let your brain re-set to the core of what you are doing: pick the important corners, look at where you need to get on the power on the exit of each bend, think about how to get there with one fluid deceleration and make sure your lines are spot on. Once you’ve had that little ‘think’ start to wind up the pace again and I suspect you will be alot clearer headed and probably faster as well.
At some point in time you will be driving on track in wet weather, either a trackday, test day or a race weekend. This throws up a whole host of new challenges but it is an important weapon in your arsenal to be a good wet weather driver.
One of the first things to overcome is the mind. The wet gives you less grip and predictability and can give total loss of control through aquaplaning (where the tyre can’t shift all the water from underneath it so it rises up on to the top of the water like a boat giving you no contact between tyre and tarmac and hence no grip or control) so it is a big step into the unknown to get out onto the track. Its an easy thing to say and a not so easy thing to do but-don’t let it get to you. Don’t dwell on the negatives, think of it as an opportunity. If you are intelligent about the way you drive and where you drive you have more chance of finding the grip than your competitors, this gives you an advantage and we all like an advantage.
When you get on the track be open minded. Use bits of track you wouldn’t normally go on, explore the grip limits all over the track surface and you may find a wide line or a tight line which gives more grip than the ‘racing’ line. You may not be driving a geometrically correct line but if you have more grip to exploit you will be faster.
Let the car move around. Don’t be wary of any slide turning into a massive spin, let the car move and slide underneath you, this keeps the tyre surface hotter giving you a little more grip.
Lastly, move your vision closer to the car more often. Our general rule of thumb when driving is to look at your next point of reference: your next braking point or turn in point for example, but with driving in the wet you need to keep a closer eye on the surface conditions as you approach them. Look for the puddles and the glassy sheen that shows standing water, pick a line through the darker more grainy looking road patches, there is less standing water here so less chance of aquaplaning. If you do have to cross a puddle do it in a straight line with no input required from you then, if the car does aquaplane, you will be going in the same direction when you ‘land’ on the other side.
Wet weather is a great opportunity to maximise the thinking drivers performance so explore, relax and enjoy.