In slow, out fast, and other lies of the racetrack: part 2 of 6

6 Big Lies

If you’re just joining us, we’re taking a deep dive into stupid driving clichés.

  1. Drive the racing line
  2. In slow, out fast
  3. The first driver to full throttle wins
  4. You should be on throttle or on brake, never coasting
  5. Imagine a string connecting your steering wheel and throttle pedal
  6. Separate braking and steering

2. In slow, out fast

As a driving student, you have surely heard the phrase “in slow, out fast”. This may have given you the idea that you’re supposed to brake heavily before a corner and then hammer the throttle on the way out. You’re not. The reason faster drivers tell slower drivers “in slow, out fast” is because faster drivers want to continue to be faster than you. Racers have fragile egos and they don’t need more competition.

Wait, is that really true? Yes, everything on YSAR is 100% true all the time.

Let me tell you what the fast racers won’t. Every corner has an ideal entry speed. Your job is to match that  speed exactly. Not 1 mph slower or faster. If you end up below the speed, bad things happen. If you go over the speed, different bad things happen. What separates fast drivers from slow drivers is how close they get to the ideal entry speed. And what separates safe drivers from dangerous drivers is their ability to handle going over the ideal entry speed.

Most improving drivers have no idea what the ideal entry speed is or how to feel it from inside the car. The consequences for going in too fast can be crashy, so many drivers tend to enter well below the limit. Let’s see what that looks like.

Data or it didn’t happen

The picture below is the first speed graph I ever posted on this blog. It represents two drivers in the same car (Miata) at the same track (Willow Springs) on the same day. The blue trace is me and the red trace is another driver on my team. 

Look at the red trace in T1. This is a typical in slow, out fast corner. If you didn’t have the blue trace, you may think that the red driver is doing okay. However, in comparison, it’s obvious he’s way off pace. This is why you must record data and compare yourself to other drivers. If you’re not logging data, you’re not taking driving seriously. And if you’re not comparing data, you’re not taking learning seriously. If you’re serious about wanting to improve your driving, keep reading YSAR. If not, you might as well stop now and do something more entertaining, like driving your car under the limit.

In slow, out last

Where were we? Ah yes, what happens when you over-slow the car? Nothing. So what’s your response? Out fast, of course. Isn’t that where the fun is? You can see from the steep upward slope of the red line, that the red driver gets on throttle more aggressively than the blue driver. This is a direct result of “in slow”. If you enter a corner well below the maximum entry speed, you are invited to add a lot of throttle. What happens next isn’t good.

  • Adding throttle moves weight and grip to the rear. In other words, grip is removed from the front, which is called understeer.
  • Mid-corner understeer often leads to running wide at the exit.
  • Running wide to the exit may mean going off track. Inexperienced drivers who go off track sometimes turn a lot when the wheel goes light and end up crossing the track to the inside. Lots of wrecks are caused by dropping a wheel at the outside and hitting the k-wall on the inside.
  • An alternative to running wide at the exit is lifting at the exit. So, just when you should be going to full throttle, you’re having to lift to prevent yourself from going off track. That’s slow.
  • Adding throttle in a corner can also lead to oversteer in a RWD car. While this may look cool, but drifting has lower grip than not drifting. In other words, mid and late corner oversteer is slow.

To summarize, entering a corner well below the limit doesn’t just make you slower in the early part of a corner, it also makes you slow later as you battle understeer or oversteer. This is why “in slow, out fast” is actually “in slow, out last”.

In on the limit, out on the limit

So why do we tell driving students “in slow, out fast” rather than something like “in on the limit, out on the limit”? Safety. It’s a clever way of saying “please survive the weekend” without actually saying “please survive the weekend”. Unfortunately “in slow, out fast” is so easily remembered that drivers take this lesson with them beyond the novice stage.

Disclaimer

Here at YSAR I’m not going to bullshit you. I’m not selling anything. If you want to learn how to hit a tennis serve correctly, you will hit a lot of balls out of the court. Similarly, if you want to learn how to drive a corner at the limit, you will sometimes go off track or spin. This is what learning looks like in a high performance driving setting. If you do your learning in a safe practice environment (e.g. sim racing, skid pad), your crashes may not be costly. However, if you attempt to learn car control skills in a real car on real race tracks or streets, bad shit will happen to you. Don’t be a fucking idiot.

One thought on “In slow, out fast, and other lies of the racetrack: part 2 of 6

  1. I usually counter “in slow, out fast” with a suggestion to try “in fast, out fast.” If a person progresses incrementally they can keep ratcheting up entry speed until they just reach track edge – unless another variable isn’t controlled, like line – I recall leaving the track while pushing because I had gotten behind in a series of turns such that the last turn was approached with too early of an apex – my speed was too fast for that line.

    Liked by 1 person

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