In a previous article we provided 5 more tips to help make you faster. This time we focus on 5 items that made me faster all learned from reviewing and reflecting on my driving. Some of these items may seem straight forward and simple but they made a huge difference in my performance and lap times. I hope they help make you faster too.
1. In Fast, Out Faster
Right after learning the line you will here countless instructors at the track state the “In Slow, Out Fast” mantra. If you are just starting out this is good advice, it prevents people new to the sport jamming on the brakes at the very last minute and charging the corner. But as you progress you will learn that over slowing for a corner can cost you lap time.
Thanks to some of the fast racers I was able to compare my data against theirs and I found that my exit speeds out of the corner and up the straights were pretty good but I was still 1-2 seconds a lap slower. I was loosing time on corner entry. I would slow the car down and then immediately get to full throttle as I turned the car into the corner. This artificially convinced me that I was at the maximum speed I could take the corner. The problem was I was entering the corner 3-5 mph too slow then getting back to throttle to make up the difference.
Now I am focusing on slowing the car just enough to make the turn in and using all the ability of the tire for turning instead of turning and accelerating. This means I now squeeze on the throttle and get to full throttle just around the apex either slightly before or after depending on the corner. While 3-5 mph might not sound a lot it turned out to be 0.1 to 0.3 seconds per corner which quickly adds up to over a second around the entire lap.
Next time you are out on track, take notice on where in the corner you are getting to full throttle is it at turn in or well before the apex? You might just be over slowing the car too. Try gradually coming off the brakes a little earlier and carrying just a little more speed as you turn in, squeezing on the throttle and getting to full throttle right near the apex. I use a new mantra to help me focus during a test day “In Fast, Out Faster!”
2. Video Review
Ok sitting down to watch my video after a session out on track. Yep watched my lap, great lap. Looked fast. Good job! I need to show someone my new personal best lap time.
How many times do you playback your video? I used to watch it once or twice see a few things and say oh ok that’s it I need to work on my early apex. There is lots you can still learn from your video, so many we already wrote a couple of articles about it:
I used to watch back my videos and try to spot everything in one or two viewings, it was impossible. Often I would find a racing buddy watching over my shoulder and comment on an aspect of my driving I had never even noticed. Afterwards I thought, wow how could I miss that? It was because I wasn’t consciously looking for it. I was looking at a different aspect of my driving. Now before and after each day out on track. I find myself watching fast laps and in car video ten times or more over. Each time I watching for a different attribute. Listening for when I get on and off throttle, watching my hands and how quickly I turn into a corner, how smooth are my downshifts, am I at full throttle right up to my braking point, do I let the wheel unwind on Track-Out or am I pinching, how hard is my initial application of the brakes, how well do I position my car making a pass. You get the idea, the list could go on.
Next time you watch your video make a note of what specific element of your driving you are reviewing and just watch the entire lap for that one specific element. Then rewind and go back and watch it for different element. Then another and another. After awhile of doing it you will get better at reviewing your video and being more critical of the various specific aspects of your driving. Take notes. You can then use this information to plan out the next sessions focusing on the items that stood out most or were prevalent throughout the lap.
3. Use the Dead Pedal
A few years back I posted some video showing my car footage and pedal camera of my then fastest lap around Sonoma Raceway. I was talking with another racer and they saw that I didn’t use my foot on the dead pedal and that it was just on the floor. They asked why I did that? I didn’t know it just felt natural. Their comment back was that they used the dead pedal as a brace and also to get feedback from what the car was doing. Watching the video you will note in several of the higher g turns my left foot is sliding around.
So of course I tried it out on the next few session, it felt weird but I immediately noticed a difference in the feedback from the car. The problem was, I was so used to having my foot on the floor it was an unconscious habit and I would regress back to doing it without thinking. This is a perfect example of where you can use your street driving to improve your on track driving. So for the next few months I focused every time I drove my car on the street to put my left foot on the dead pedal and feel the car. At first it felt weird and unnatural, but with time it felt perfectly normal and it also improved my feedback from the car. Are you using the dead pedal? The next time you notice a bad habit see if it is something you can easily practice on the street and incorporate it into your daily driving.
4. Smooth Hands for Fast Corners
It took me awhile to realize that there was more to cornering than cranking on the wheel especially in the fast flowing sections of a track. The more the wheels are turned the more speed you are scrubbing. I used to jerk the wheel quickly in the fast corners just like the slower hairpins. The problem was this quickly loaded the outside tires and unbalanced the car, meaning I couldn’t carry as much speed through the turn as I had less overall grip. I thought I was going through the turn as fast as I could but racing against others I could see they were carrying more speed and I was loosing time and dropping behind. It finally clicked after watching some videos and reviewing the data. Now I focus on gradually and gently turning the wheel just enough trying to minimize the amount of steering input for the corner. In the video you can see just how little steering input I am trying to put in for fast Turns 7 & 8 at Thunderhill Raceway.
This does two things: 1) with less steering angle input there is less scrub on the tires reducing the speed lost in the corner and 2) slowly loading the outside tires means their is less load transfer and the car is more balanced with greater overall gripping allowing me to carry just a little more speed that makes all the difference, especially at places like Thunderhill Raceway where there are lots of fast corners. Next time you are out on track try slowing down your hand movements and minimizing your steering input you might just be able to pick up those few extra mph or kph.
5. Focus on What You Did Well
After an on track session it is easy to concentrate on items that you messed or areas you need to improve. While it is important to look at items to improve in your driving, it is also just as important to reflect on what you are doing well on track. A positive attitude can make a huge difference to your outlook on track and overall performance. If you are always looking at the mistakes you made you can get too focused on the errors. Much like when you are on track if you make a mistake on a corner and dwell on it you are more likely to loose focus and make more mistakes and errors.
Focusing on the positives can help you see the bigger picture of your driving. After each session I like to take notes and start with feedback on session goals what worked, what didn’t work, areas for future improvements followed by a few things I did well on track. I used to just focus on what I needed to improve and any mistakes I had made. I have seen progress in my driving whether it is a placebo or improvements in other elements of my driving it is hard to say. But reflecting on the areas I did well has helped me enjoy each session more and my driving has improved. If you also focus on just the mistakes try taking some time after each session to focus on the things you are doing well. You might also find yourself seeing all the little improvements you are making and having more fun!