A common misconception about racing is that it’s easy. Yes, we can all put the pedal to the floor and speed around an empty track, but there’s much more to it than that. There are a lot of dream chasers and weekend warriors out there hitting the track at various levels of experience, and while learning from doing is the best practice it’s wise not to aim for top speeds before doing your research.
Next time you hit up a race track consider your strategy before gunning it. Consider these tips that Eric the Car Guy picked up at the Bondurant® school in Phoenix.
Jerky movements on the steering wheel and treating the brakes and accelerator like on/oﬀ switches are not the way to go.
Bondurant® teaches you to be smooth in your movements, that doesn’t mean slow, just smooth. If you watch videos of the fastest drivers, they really focus on what the car is doing. They work hard not to upset the balance of the vehicle and as a result, they go faster. Remember, smooth is faster.
In other words, look to where you want to go and your brain will tell your arms where to put the steering wheel. It’s weird, and may take some getting used to if you’ve never tried it, but it does work. Look to where you want the car to be and it will follow.
This really isn’t the best position for performance driving. It’s much better to hold the wheel at 3 and 9 o’clock. You’ll have better control and it will be easier to turn at speed. For me it feels more balanced. The main take away here is control. Also, if the airbag goes oﬀ, it will blow your hands away from the steering wheel instead of into your face.
This was an issue for me. While driving on the road, I often let oﬀ long before I start braking. This doesn’t work as good on the race track. Not if you’re trying to go fast. I’m not saying you need to stab the brakes at the last second. That could cause you to loose control if the wheels lock up. What I’m saying is that you don’t need to worry about coasting for a long time before braking. Perhaps 1-2 seconds at most.
Some tracks have markers for where to start braking. These can be helpful if you’re not familiar with the track. The longer you can hold speed into the corner, the faster you’ll be able to go. Proper braking will take a bit of practice, but once you master it, you’ll have faster track times as a result.
If you know the track you’re driving on, you’ll be able to navigate it better. You’ll know when to speed up and slow down for the best possible time. If you can, walk the track. If you walk the track, you’ll have a real sense of what the track has for you. You’ll be able to gauge distances, elevation changes, and also learn how sharp the turns are.
Another option is to do a few ‘get to know the track’ laps. Just drive the track normally without any real speed. Take some time, find the lines. This way you can get a feel, not only for the track, but also how your vehicle is reacting to it.
Tracks can change due to temperature and humidity; your tires are aﬀected by this as well. The track and your tires need to get along and you’re going to be pushing the limits when you start driving.
Taking the time to see how your vehicle will handle on the track at low speeds can help you prevent an issue at high speeds, and as a result, you’ll be able to go faster because you know where the limits are.
Here’s a bonus. Practice makes perfect. The best drivers drive all the time. The more you drive on a track, the faster you’ll be. Good luck!