Seven Tips To Driving Like A Professional Race Car Driver

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.

How fresh is your car’s battery?

Guest Post By Cami Carmody

Driving through town one day, husband and I passed a billboard that said, “Budget Batteries.” He says, “Sure, that’s what I want my wife to have…a cheap battery so she can be driving along at night, have her car break down, leaving her stranded.”
 Husband had just replaced my battery, even though it probably had another year left on it.

Just a week later, one of my co-workers came into the office and told me he’d had to rescue his wife from the side of a busy road after her battery died the previous night. I pictured her in the cold, with rain pouring down and cars whizzing by.

When I asked him how old the dead battery was, he said it had been in the car eight years and it was rated to last five. He said it as though he was pleased to have eked out those extra years.

So many things are out of our control. But replacing a battery before it dies and leaves you stranded generally isn’t one.

As fall approaches, check to see how much juice your battery has left. If it’s almost at the end of its life, show your car and the ones who ride in it a little car love and replace the battery before it dies.

Battery tips:

Test your battery to see how much juice it has left. It’s likely your most reliable predictor of failure. Auto parts stores and mechanics often test batteries for free.

Extreme weather conditions, hot or cold, can take a toll on your battery resulting in earlier than expected failure or less than optimum performance. Protecting your battery from high under hood temperatures and keeping it well maintained and fully charged are the best ways to extend its life.

If you have to jump a dead battery, don’t assume it will recharge quickly. It can take hours to restore a full charge, especially in the winter.

Rainy Day Driving Tips

When roads are wet from rain, water over the roadway reduces your vehicle’s tire traction. Add to that the fact that rain can reduce or impair a driver’s view of the road, and it’s easy to see that driving in the rain needs to be treated with extra caution.

Use the following safety precautions to help drive safely in the rain:

* Only travel in heavy rain when necessary, and always leave extra time to safely reach your destination
* When getting into the car during rainy conditions, wet shoes may slide from pedals. Dry soles of shoes on vehicle carpeting or rubber matting if possible
* Buckle up
* Turn on headlights to see and be seen
* Defrost windows if necessary, both before and while driving
* Reduce speed. Speed limits are based on normal road and weather conditions, not rainy conditions
* By Nevada law, wipers must be on while driving in rain or snow
* Keep additional distance from other vehicles
* Watch carefully for other vehicles and pedestrians
* Turn off cruise control to reduce hydroplaning
* Brake earlier and with less force, and turn slower, than you would in normal driving conditions
* Do not slam on brakes. Apply steady pressure on ABS-equipped vehicles and pump the brakes if necessary on non-ABS vehicles
* If vehicle begins to skid, steer in direction of slide and slowly remove foot from accelerator
* Temporarily pull off the road to a safe location if you have difficulty seeing the roadway or other traffic
* Be aware of and avoid flooded areas. Never attempt to cross running or flooded water

Courtesy Nevada DOT

Seven Warm Weather Driving Tips

Heat is hard on any car. If your car is more than 10 years old it’s going to suffer even more. Here are a few tips that might keep you on the road and out of trouble during warm weather driving.

1. Maintain your car. Make sure you get it serviced according to the owner’s manual. Pay particular attention to radiator coolant levels.

2. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Not only does this get you better gas milage, it helps prevent blow-outs which are more prevalent during hot weather months.

3. Check your battery. Batteries don’t last nearly as long in high heat as they do cold temperatures. If you have a car that’s more than five years old and you still have the original battery I suggest you replace it now, before it leaves you stranded on the highway.

4. Have a fully-charged cellphone and emergency numbers such as highway aide and local police help lines readily available should you get stranded. Also, always have fresh water with you even on short trips. You never know when you may get stranded and what was supposed to be 15 minutes turns into two or three hours.

5. Never ever, under any circumstances, leave children or pets alone in a parked car.

6. Check your hoses and belts for signs of wear. Heat will crack hoses and if you’re running on marginal equipment best to get it replaced now, before it becomes a safety issue.

7. Make sure your car’s air conditioning has the proper level of refrigerant.

Taking a few precautionary steps now, may save you from much bigger hassles later.

Five Mistakes Convertible Owners Make

I love convertibles. I just got my second in six months. But I’ve noticed that sometimes my fellow convertible owners make mistakes and I’ve listed the most common ones here. In no particular order…

1. Mistake – buying a convertible where it rains most of the time. I used to live near Seattle. In Seattle we only had two seasons: rain and road construction. Owning a convertible there never made any sense to me. If you own a convertible it should be because you want to drive with the top down. Hard to do in the rain.

2. Mistake – driving with the top up. See number one above. The only reason to own a convertible is to drive with the top down. If you’re driving a convertible and you’re spending more time with the top up than down – something is missing.

3. Mistake – tinting your windows. Really? Since you are going to be driving around with the top down (see numbers one and two above) you’re kind of already exposed to the sun. Tinting the windows (which should be down by the way when driving a convertible) is silly.

4. Mistake – forgetting to use sunscreen and/or wearing a hat. When you drive a convertible here in Vegas (where it’s sunny nearly every day) then you need sun protection. Skin cancer is no fun. I should know. I’ve had it.

5. Mistake – Failing to properly maintain your convertible top. If you have a soft top (which most convertible owners do) then you need to take basic care of it. And here’s all you really need – a lint brush. Yes there are fancy coatings that detail shops will sell you to put on the top, but most of the experts I’ve interviewed say those aren’t necessary. Use a common lint brush (or a big wide roll of tape) to get all the dust and debris off your top. Wash your car (now you get to put the top up) – let it dry and then repeat. You’re done.

Owning a convertible is something everyone should do once in their life. It’s fun and these days, pretty safe due to anti-roll technology and automatic self-deplploying roll bars. So go have fun in a convertible.