Ghosting the Aliens: part 3, driving harder

Imagine you’re heading down the main straight and the following thought enters your mind, “I want the next lap to be my personal best”. There are a lot of people who approach this problem with a solution that sounds like “I’m just going to drive it harder”. How can you drive harder?

• Brake more aggressively
• Hold more entry speed

If you’re a complete chicken-shit who coasts into braking zones or parks their car before the corner, these strategies might actually work. And if they do, you’ll think that by braking harder and hoarding speed, you’ll eventually become an alien. Not true. Your understanding about the nature of speed is fundamentally flawed. You can’t bluff or bully your way to expertise. It’s got to be earned.

Brake aggressively

As we did the last two weeks, we’ll load Alex Czerny’s fast lap into Lap 1 and choose Leon Jagusch (1:43.477) for Lap 2.

In nearly every braking zone, Leon is braking much later and harder than Alex. He’s also more than 3 seconds behind. Threshold braking is an important skill, especially in cars that don’t have ABS. But if you focus too much on braking, you may inadvertently also do the following.

• Slow the car too much
• Separate braking from turning
• Get to throttle later
• Cause understeer as you fight your way out of the corner

Examine Leon’s traces and see if you can find these symptoms.

Hold more entry speed

So if over-braking isn’t the answer to going faster, surely it must be holding more entry speed. Let’s take a look at what that looks like. Load up Michael Smith67 (1:46.328).

Look at vertical line in the picture. This is positioned just after the apex of T5. The speed graph shows that this is his point of minimum speed. I call this the nadir of the corner. Note where Alex’s nadir is: earlier. Michael is trying to go fast by holding as much speed as possible. Unfortunately, this means he’s still fighting the steering wheel at the apex. Meanwhile, Alex’s wheel is nearly straight and as a consequence he’s on the gas much earlier than Michael.

Practice makes perfect… not

Now let’s take a look at Hiroshi Ueda (1:42.509). Hiroshi is faster than most of the drivers we’ve been looking at. That’s understandable because he’s been an iRacing subscriber for 7 years and has over 1500 races under his virtual harnesses. The fact that he’s 2.5 seconds behind Alex suggests that he still has fundamental misunderstandings of how to drive a car.

If you look at his brake pressure you’ll see that it isn’t too bad. He gets to maximum pressure quickly and it then tapers off. It’s not as tidy as Alex, but it doesn’t look like the source of the 2.5 seconds. Now look at the throttle trace. Hiroshi is late to the throttle in nearly every corner. Why? Because he’s trying to keep too much speed. He’s fighting understeer as he works to keep the car on track. Meanwhile, Alex is completely unwound and at full throttle. Why is Hiroshi still driving like this after 7 years and 1500 races? Because there’s more to training than the number of hours. You have to train the right way. Going back through the archives at iSpeed I looked at some laps of his from 2 years ago. He’s faster now, but not in the right way. Hiroshi has been perfecting a low yaw early apex style of driving.

Summary

If you’re a slow driver and you want to drop your lap times, you can improve them in a number of ways. Pedal-mashing a high power car is one way. Holding more speed in a low power car is another way. Practicing either of these techniques will lead to good lap times but not great ones. Sadly, this is where most drivers end up: perfecting dead-end solutions. There is better way, and it’s a heck of a lot more work.