Going back in time again to revisit some of my favorite posts. This one is near the top of the list. Why? Partly it’s because I love personality tests. I’ve got one in development especially designed for racers that I’ll drop here one day. And partly it’s the subject matter. Lots of drivers misunderstand the brake pedal. To me, it’s the most important part of the car. For such a simple device, there are a lot of subtleties in its application. But in the end there are really only two sides to braking: early and late. The same is true of leaving a sinking ship. You can leave too early or too late.
Most crashes in amateur racing are the result of late braking. If the car is going straight, it tends to plow into the vehicle ahead. If it’s in a turn, you get an oversteer spin that collects vehicles behind. The best way to avoid these situations is to brake earlier. Unfortunately, many drivers have the misconception that the easiest way to go faster is to brake later and harder. Late braking is actually the easiest way to get in an accident.
In my day job, I’m a professor, so one of the important parts of my job is teaching. Students have different ways of learning. Some are comfortable with abstractions while some aren’t even comfortable with the word abstractions. Some are auditory learners while others like to experience things through touch. The best teachers figure out what kind of student they have and instruct in the learning style of the student (this is made difficult in a lecture class of 180 students but that’s a topic for another day and another blog).
There are a variety of ways to describe personality types and learning styles. Two of the most popular are Meyers-Briggs and OCEAN (big 5). These are a bit too complicated to go into in a simple blog post, so I’m going to recommend the Temperament Sorter, which sorts people into only 4 categories: Guardian, Rational, Idealist, Artist: The category depends on 2 scales: concreteness vs. abstractness and utilitarian vs. cooperative.
Here’s a description of the 4 temperaments from the website.
- As Concrete Cooperators, Guardians speak mostly of their duties and responsibilities, of what they can keep an eye on and take good care of, and they’re careful to obey the laws, follow the rules, and respect the rights of others.
- As Abstract Cooperators, Idealists speak mostly of what they hope for and imagine might be possible for people, and they want to act in good conscience, always trying to reach their goals without compromising their personal code of ethics.
- As Concrete Utilitarians, Artisans speak mostly about what they see right in front of them, about what they can get their hands on, and they will do whatever works, whatever gives them a quick, effective payoff, even if they have to bend the rules.
- As Abstract Utilitarians, Rationals speak mostly of what new problems intrigue them and what new solutions they envision, and always pragmatic, they act as efficiently as possible to achieve their objectives, ignoring arbitrary rules and conventions if need be.
For Harry Potter fans, you might recognize these as Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Slytherin, and Ravenclaw. More classically, they are Earth, Fire, Water, and Air. Classifying people into one of four categories may bring peace of mind to some and horror to others. Regardless, everyone has each of these characteristics in them to varying degrees.
Back to the topic of late braking, here are four ways of saying “brake earlier”.
Guardian/Hufflepuff/Earth: Late braking is unsafe. Since every racing series has rules against unsafe driving, you are violating the rules by braking late. To prevent late braking, remember these two rules: (1) always brake 1 marker earlier than you think you need to (2) always leave at least 1 car of room in front of you. By following these two simple rules, you will make the track safer for yourself and everyone around you. Your safety record will be something you look back on with pride.
Idealist/Gryffindor/Fire: Racing is really dangerous. It’s our responsibility to make it safer, and to lead by example. Due to varying track conditions, car performance, and driver experience, it’s necessary to give everyone a little extra room for safety’s sake. While it may make your car slower than optimal, it’s a small price to pay for safety (not to mention sanity). Others may take advantage of the extra room you give them, but it will only hurt them in the long run.
Artisan/Slytherin/Water: A friend of mine lost traction because his brakes overheated and he T-boned another driver. Later, in the paddock, that driver tracked down my friend and threatened to beat him up or sue him if he didn’t pay for damages. I would have kicked that dude’s ass, but my friend became a chickenshit and stopped racing. I’m braking a little earlier these days because it’s helps me optimize my corner entry speed and actually go faster.
Rational/Ravenclaw/Air: Getting a black flag in an endurance race can easily cost you 3 laps as you sit in the penalty box. You can’t make up that loss by driving faster. Paradoxically, driving 0.5% off pace is faster on average because you minimize high risk driving. I can show you the calculations if you’re interested.