Sorry it’s been a while since I last posted. My injury has me feeling sorry for myself and I haven’t been motivated to write about cars since I haven’t and won’t be driving them in a sporting manner for some time.
6 Big Lies
We’re taking a deep dive into stupid driving clichés.
- Drive the racing line
- In slow, out fast
- The first driver to full throttle wins
- You should be on throttle or on brake, never coasting
- Imagine a string connecting your steering wheel and throttle pedal
- Separate braking and steering
All else being equal, the first driver to full throttle wins
— some racing authority
The problem with this statement is that it gives one the idea that full throttle is an important goal. If you want to spend a lot of time at full throttle, stop the car in the corner, and drive out of the big hole you created. Clearly, that’s not a great idea.
One of Ross Bentley’s favorite coaching exercises is that he asks students to estimate how much of the track they are at full throttle. If the student says 65%, he says try 67%. I think this can be a good exercise, but again, the emphasis is on full throttle, which I don’t really like.
Let me tell you one of my secrets: the key to driving faster isn’t full throttle, it’s maintenance throttle. When does maintenance throttle happen? In the middle of the corner. From the time you let off the brake to the time you’ve wound the steering all the way out, you’re on some form of maintenance throttle, not full throttle.
If you’re full throttle in the middle of the corner, you didn’t go in fast enough
There isn’t much nuance to full throttle. That’s why it doesn’t separate bad and good drivers. Anyone can mash a throttle pedal. When you’re in a 4 wheel drift, which Paul F. Gerrard calls “zero steer”, you change direction with the throttle pedal. More throttle: increase radius. Less throttle: decrease radius. If you’re steering the car primarily with the steering wheel, you’re not in zero steer. You’re not at the limit. You went in too slow.
Driving the limit
If you want to get a lot faster, don’t focus on how much time you’re on full throttle. Instead, focus on how much time you’re forced to be at maintenance throttle because you couldn’t go any faster without falling off the track. Exit speed is determined by mid-corner speed. Mid-corner speed is determined by entry speed. If you’re not at the limit on the entry, you won’t be at the limit at the exit.
How do you know if you’re at the limit through the corner? Data of course. You need to compare your data traces to faster drivers. Where do you get that data? I don’t really know in the real world. But it’s easy to get in the sim racing world. As an added bonus, you can make sure that the people you’re comparing to are using the exact same car with the exact same setup and weather.
That said, you can’t rely too much on data. Ultimately, you drive the car by feel. You have to figure out what it feels like to drive the limit. More importantly, you have to figure out how it feels to be OVER the limit and then still be able to navigate your way through without crashing. This is why I say that the only thing better than driving the limit is a brief trespass and safe return from well beyond. Trusting your skills to save you feels even better than executing the perfect corner.
So the big question is, “does sim racing make you faster at cornering in the real world?” YES, it definitely worked for me. I’ve driven less than 100 hours on track in real life, and only a couple hours in the rain. Yet my rain corner speeds are much faster than other people I race against.
How do you learn to enter a corner on the limit if you don’t have a sim rig? I don’t really know. But if this is your plan, take your time and don’t do something you’ll regret later.