In a previous article we provided 10 tips to help make you faster. In this article we provide even more advice and tips to make you even faster. After several more years of racing I have had a few light bulb moments that have really changed my pace. Here are just a few of the things I have learned along the way. I hope they make you faster too! Unless I am racing against you, then you shouldn’t read any further.
1. Ignore “The Line”
When you first start out driving you are taught “The Line” around the track. Often what happens is people just drive the line without understanding why it is “The Line”. The line isn’t something you need to follow around the track. As you build up speed and experience you will find that car will naturally want to take a certain path around the track. For example as you track out of a corner the car will go out wide on exit. A lot of people get too focused on driving the perfect line around the track or through a corner. Instead focus on what the car is doing and where the speed carries you. I’m not saying drive down the middle of the track or in a lane like you are on the highway. It is faster to create a sweeping arc carrying speed from the outside down to the apex and then to the track out. But sometimes it is faster to take the shortest distance like between connected corners. The point is to focus on driving the car fast feeling and using all the capability of your tires to determine the path around the track rather than “The Line”. You might find some corners require more track out or that some tracks have more grip by hugging the inside of turn. Try different approaches to corners and see what works for you and what the data tells you is faster.
2. Angle to the Apex
When I was first starting out and learning new tracks I would look at the track maps and various onboard videos to determine where on the berm they were apexing for the different corners. Some corners are mid-apex, some corners are late apex. But I was missing a crucial piece of information that only really clicked for me last year. It is just as important to understand the angle of the car to the Apex. A wide versus a tighter angle to apex can really affect how quickly you can get back to full throttle. Say you have a wide angle when clipping the Apex berm the front of the car is still pointing to the outside of the track. A shallower/tighter angle to the Apex and the front of the car is pointing more down the track or next straight. The tighter angle has the car more pointed in the right direction down allowing the driver to get to full throttle sooner and consequently reducing the lap time. Next time you are out on track take a few laps to note not just where you are apexing but what angle the car has to the apex.
3. Full Throttle Until Braking
Most drivers think they are at full throttle right up to braking. I used to believe this too. But when I actually focused on it during some on track sessions, looked at my data and watched my pedal box video I could clearly see I was cheating. Cheating myself of hard earned tenths on the track. I couldn’t believe it my foot would come up off the throttle. Over all those early years I had incorrectly trained my brain. Subconsciously my right foot would ease off the throttle in anticipation of hitting the brakes for the upcoming brake zone. It took conscious effort and focus to fix that bad habit.
Have a look at your own foot work and make sure you are not also subconsciously making that same mistake. You can see this in your data where there is a gradual or different slop at the start of your braking before the major downward slope of a hard brake zone in the speed trace. You can also see it in the longitudinal acceleration curve. The most obvious way to observe it using a foot pedal camera.
Why do people do it? As you approach the corner, your mind knows you are going to brake, so you start subconsciously coming out of the throttle as you approach the braking point. Nearly everyone does this on the street in their daily driver as they are approaching a stop sign or red light. All that street practice has been working against you. Once you know it is a problem you can fix it with mental practice and spending sessions out on the track consciously noting what your feet are doing right before the brake zones. With time you can break the bad habit and gain back those tenths of a second the self preservation part of your brain has been stealing.
4. Look Through the Corner
We have all heard it before look further head or “Eyes up, look ahead”. Yep down the straight I am looking all the way clear to the next corner. Ok, Turn-In point, Apex, Track-Out. I got this, “Eyes up, look ahead”. Right? Wrong! The problem was I was looking at the Turn-In point and then once I started my turn then my focus would shift to look at the Apex point and then once I reached the Apex, I would focus on the Track-Out. I was segmenting my turns and segmenting my vision and focus.
Unfortunately that meant my turns weren’t continuous sweeping arcs at the maximum traction capability of the car and tires. This meant I was driving too each of these points as my hands and feet followed where my eyes were looking. I thought I was smooth and driving through the corner as fast as I could but I wasn’t. It was not a single sweeping arc. Instead I was driving each segment as fast as I could and you could see it in my video, my hand movements and in my data traces, with lateral Gs. There would be subtle adjustments to my steering angle as I reached each of these points. Not corrections because the front or rear was dancing around. Plain and clear changes to drive each segment of the corner. It was only obvious when I knew what to look for.
Spend some time out on track practicing your vision, look through the entire corner as you drive through the entire corner. Picture in your mind the entire smooth sweeping arc as one continuous motion.
5. Squirts of Full Throttle
More time at full throttle is better right? Of course it is! Everyone is always working on getting to full throttle as soon as possible in a corner or maintaining as much throttle as possible until braking at the last possible moment. There is always time to gain, going into a turn and coming out of a turn. But what about between the turns?
Think about the tracks near you? Are the sections of the track that have connected corners or esses? Think Turns 3-4 at Thunderhill, Turns 3/3A or the esses at Sonoma. What if you could get more throttle in those short moments between turning the wheel left and right or right and left. You can and it all helps.
I used to use a maintenance throttle or shy of full throttle between interconnected corners say 50-80% throttle but when I started comparing my data to some of the faster people I noticed not only was I loosing time into and out of the turns but also between the turns. It took some head scratching to work out and lots of practice to fix after it afterwards.
The easiest gains were achieved by going to 100% throttle instead of 80% throttle. The difference between 80% and 100% is not much and in most cases the grip levels would allow me to just get to full throttle for those short blips of time. Not surprisingly it helped, it was faster. So try hustling the car next time you are out on track. Try getting those extra spurts of full throttle all over the track you just might see those improvements in your lap times as well.