I participate in as many track days and driving schools as I possibly can. Due to a few accidents (Equipment not driver failures,) I am off the actual racing circuit for a while. But I can still do a track day or two. I’ve been to 40 or more track days and attended 13 racing or performance academies.
There are a few things I’ve learned that might help you get the most out of the car – whether you race or not. (NOTE: Use these at your own risk.)
In no particular order:
1. Remember that smooth is fast. As a rookie I had a tendency to mash the throttle and the brakes. Cars don’t like abrupt inputs. Make sure you roll on the throttle and then accelerate to maximum speed rather than just mashing down the gas peddle and going as hard as you can. Likewise press the brakes in a fluid motion, more firmly as need to full peddle if needed. They will perform better and last longer.
2. Smooth hands make fast turns. Handle the steering wheel gently. Don’t grab on for dear life. Keep a loose grip. Turn the wheel slowly, not abruptly.
3. Look as far down the track as possible. Looking at where you are will get you into trouble. Looking at where you want to go will get you there safely. Always look at the place you want to go. If you fixate on the wall – sure enough you’ll hit it. Look ahead, look where you want to go. Use your eyes to tell your hands what to do.
4. Brake in a straight line. The brakes work much better when you are stopping in a straight line. So start breaking before the turn. Let off the breaks at the beginning of the turn, (assuming you’ve applied enough brake to get you to the proper cornering speed, then let the car roll through the corner – gently (very gently) applying throttle once you’ve hit the apex of the turn.
5. Turns are about apexes. Hit the apex, straighten out the wheel. By the time the wheel is straight you should be at full throttle, not before. See ahead to the next apex, drive to there. Break, look, turn. That’s the way it works best for me.
6. Pay attention to the g-forces in the car. If you hit the breaks hard, you’re going to front-load the car. If you have a rear-wheel drive car that means you won’t be getting maximum power down to the rear tires. Likewise, when you accelerate hard, the front wheels tend to lift. That means you won’t have the steering you need in tight corners if you’re under too much acceleration. Think of it as a teeter – totter. You want to load up the part of the car you need when you need it. Act. Don’t react.
7. Get the right seating position. You want the wheel up so that your arms are bent at the elbow when you turn the wheel 180 degrees. This usually means getting the seat closer as well. Also remember to keep your hands at 3:00 o’clock and 9:00 o’clock on the wheel. This gives you the best stance.
I can’t make you a race car driver in one blog post but I can give you some things to get you started. Feel free to add to this list IF YOU HAVE ACTUAL RACING EXPERIENCE.