Continuing our offseason training, we now pick up with one of the most important drills you can do: driving with no brakes. Why would we do this when it’s not the way you intend to race your car?
- It trains your brain to look for reference points
- It trains your speed estimation skills
- It makes you appreciate that the steering wheel slows you down
- If focuses your attention on optimizing grip
- It helps you optimize corner entry speed
- It allows you to focus your attention on your racing line and steering technique
- Track: Brands Hatch Indy
- Weather: default
- Vehicle: NA Miata
- Setup: default (yes, use the shitty tires), but you should turn tyre wear and fuel consumption off so that the vehicle doesn’t change over time
After getting out of 1st and 2nd, you will spend the entire time in 3rd gear. No shifting! You will be using only one pedal (throttle) and your hands have only one job (steering).
Do ~20 laps and then take a break. You brain does some important learning in the downtime between sessions.
Your goal is to lap the track in the lowest time possible. All you have to do is figure out the following:
- When to cut throttle
- When to start steering
- When to add throttle
That’s it. One pedal and the steering wheel. How hard could this be? I’ve made a scale for this so that you can label your progress over time.
- 1:08+ – novice
- 1:07.x – low intermediate
- 1:06.x – intermediate
- 1:05.x – high intermediate
- 1:04.x – advanced
- 1:03.x – expert
I typically lap around 1:03.9.
So let’s say you’re a few seconds off pace. How are you going to go faster? Well, there are only a few things you can do:
- Change your reference points
- Change your position on track
- Change the way you steer
In addition to these, you can make an even more significant change: change your whole outlook on where speed comes from. Race tracks tend to have a lot of corners, and corner speed comes from grip. If you’re going to optimize your lap times, you first have to train yourself to feel and optimize grip. In your next session, focus on what grip feels and sounds like.
Here’s my data trace for RPM, speed, and throttle (it’s a 1:03.76 lap). The RPM and speed graphs are nearly identical because there is no shifting. The throttle trace shows that I’m using the throttle mostly as an on/off switch.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on the utility of this drill. Like other drills, the point is to focus on specific skills in order to improve in specific areas. The main areas we are working on are our eyes (finding and using reference points) and hands (feeling grip and steering). This drill is used constantly in the Keith Code motorcycle schools. They’ll do multiple sessions per day with everyone going around the track without braking or shifting. It’s that important.
Try doing the drill several times over the next week . See how much you can improve. Note where your improvements came from. Was it reference points, position on track, steering rate, or something else? Take notes with pen and paper. Writing things down cements them into your memory.
Compare your “no brakes” lap time to your “use everything” lap time. You might be surprised how similar they are. On this track with this car, I’m only about a second faster pushing 3 pedals and shifting. In some areas of the track, I’m going faster with “no brakes”. I think that’s because I’m able to focus my attention on fewer inputs and outputs. In the picture below, the panels are brake, RPM, speed, throttle, and time delta.