After a damp and chilly day coaching a client at Goodwood today I was emphasising the importance of adjusting your line to maximise your performance in different conditions.
Ignoring the intricacies of wet lines and going off line to find grip, a general rule of thumb is: the lower the grip level (e.g. wet) the more it gives you a surplus of power over grip. Therefore you need to turn in later and slower (carry less mid-corner speed) and make the exit straighter to allow you to get on the gas harder. With a straighter exit there is less lateral load on the tyre so you can use more gas to accelerate harder which will make you faster down the next straight.
In the dry you have more grip relative to your power so you turn in earlier to carry more mid-corner speed as you will have less acceleration potential on the exit.
Many modern race series, from grassroots to the very pinnacle of the sport involve pitstops so make sure you are as quick at stopping as you are at driving.
Don’t cruise on the in-lap, attack all the way to the pit speed limit line. Make sure you execute your part of the ‘stop perfectly. If you have a driver change practice it over and over, in full kit, until you can do it quickly and without mistakes. In the heat of battle keep calm and repeat your practice, don’t get flustered or rush. When you leave the pits don’t overspeed (or underspeed) in the pitlane and as soon as you cross the pitlane exit line get ‘on it’ straight away.
There is no point investing money in your car to go faster or driving the wheels off it in your stint if you throw away seconds with a slow stop or by cruising into the pits.
Overtaking an opponent is a real skill. Some drivers have a natural feel for race craft, others have to learn it.
Usually a pass will start a few corners earlier, start getting yourself into position to pounce a few corners prior to the corner where you know you are strong. If you have the advantage on the corner exit: position yourself to pull alongside on the exit of the bend. If you have the advantage on the corner entry: get the momentum out of the previous corner so you can pull enough alongside to stop them turning in and ‘shutting the door’.
Be creative, don’t just pass in the obvious places, look for somewhere unexpected, and commit to the move. If you try it a bit half-arsed thats when you end up with contact. Make the move and be positive about it.
If you pass them on corner entry be prepared for the other driver to make the crossover and try to repass you by getting a better exit on the inside line. You can see on the video below, Scott McLaughlin makes a better exit from the chicane and launches the car down the inside of Mark Winterbottom, catching Mark a bit unawares as this isn’t a normal passing spot. Mark tries the undercut but Scott parks his car on the apex giving Mark nowhere to go. Mark can only accelerate when Scott goes so the leading car will always have the advantage.
Being happy and comfortable with the rear of the car moving around is a great benefit to your driving. Practicing the car control required to slide a car effortlessly gives you confidence to know if your race car steps out of line you’ve got the skills and experience to sort it out, not only to keep on the track but also to minimise time loss.
If you have the confidence and control to slide a car around like in the video below you know you have another weapon in your arsenal.
What type of car are you driving? Does it have an excess of grip over power or an excess of power over grip? The answer to that question will give you slight changes to your approach to each corner.
In general terms, if you have more grip than power you want to be trying to take a more constant radius and constant speed through the turns. Carry speed and maximise the lateral grip mid bend. If you have more power than grip you will aim to turn in later, make a slower mid-corner and a later apex to give you a straighter exit to allow you to put the power down better.
Each car will have fine nuances based around these general principles. Drop me a line to book a coaching day on track where I can help you read your car and blend your technique to the car’s requirements.
Fitness is hugely important in motorsport. Even in a 15min clubbie saloon race you can experience extreme conditions, especially mid summer when its 30 degrees and you’ve sealed up all the windows for better aero. Keeping yourself fit can be the key to winning or loosing.
As you tire your concentration slips and that’s when your pace drops or mistakes happen.
I’m not advocating you train like an Olympic athlete, tailor your training to your racing: if you are driving an LMP at Le Mans then you will need to train harder than for a 15 minute clubbie saloon race.
A bit of a jog a couple of times a week and you will not only feel fresher in the car but you’ll save a couple of kilos too. How much does that carbon bonnet cost that’ll save you a couple of kilos?
This time of year there is often less than favourable weather. Seize the opportunity to learn. I see so many drivers who, when out testing or even qualifying, dive for the pits as soon as rain starts to fall.
Stay out. Experiment with lines. Find where the grip is and where it isn’t.
Any knowledge is good knowledge, use the situation to your advantage, you never know when it will come in useful.