In slow, out fast, and other lies of the racetrack: part 5 of 6

6 Big Lies

We’re half way through 2022 in the middle of the racing season. Let’s continue to talk about the expert advice that’s holding you back.

  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

String Theory

The advice goes like this: imagine a string connecting your steering wheel and throttle pedal. When the wheel is straight, you can depress the throttle. But when you turn the wheel, it pulls on the string and raises the throttle pedal. This is supposed to get novice drivers to open the wheel as they accelerate. I think. I’ve heard this advice called “String Theory”. Hey, let’s take a really complex physics model that has nothing to do with racing and borrow the name for attention! Once again, the emphasis is on the corner exit. Yes, if you mash the shit out of the throttle when your wheel is turned (even slightly) you could spin. Watch this dumb fuck turn off his nannies and then nearly kill himself and his passenger in T1 at Willow Springs. I guess this is what “string theory” is trying to prevent. If you want a thrill ride where you provide the gas and the car does the work, leave the nannies on. If you want to learn how to actually drive, you’ll need more than “string theory”.

Brake string theory

There’s another version of string theory where the focus is on the brakes. During threshold braking, the string is taught and the steering wheel is straight. Good. But then as you release the brakes, you have an opportunity to add some steering. What happens if you mix braking and steering? You get oversteer. That’s what trail-braking is all about. At the end of the braking zone, mixing some braking and steering will cause the car to rotate. This is where the magic happens. The car turns without hardly steering. This is also where the danger happens. It’s very easy to spin.

Spinning is generally looked down on when you’re on track. Some organizations will kick you out after 3 spins, and others will do it at 2. Is this a conspiracy to keep you from learning the deep secrets of driving? Yes. The faster drivers don’t want you to learn how to properly steer a car and so they make rules to prevent you from learning.

In order to prevent yourself from spinning, you have to counteract the excessive rotation with a steering correction in the opposite direction. It must be fast and the magnitude might be kind of large. If you do too little, too late, you will spin. If you do too much, you may find yourself fish-tailing and possibly making matters worse. At the end of the day, your muscles must be able to make the corrections automatically. It’s not something you can learn from a book or by imagining a string connecting your wheel to your foot. It takes training, hard work, perseverance, etc.

Imagine corrections

Instead of imagining a string connecting your dick to your ass, or whatever, I think intermediate drivers should use their imaginations to make steering corrections. Even if you don’t have the muscle memory to save a spin right now, it might be a little closer to the forefront of your mind if you think about the actions you’ll need when the time comes.

Here, I made up a rhyme so that you can remember it more easily.

Light feel? Counter wheel!

Hopefully you can get to a skid pad or a simulator to work on this. The moment you feel the steering go light is the moment you have to act. The actions are:

  1. Steer quickly in the opposite direction
  2. Wait for the car to “settle”
  3. Steer back to neutral
  4. Drive your way out

3 thoughts on “In slow, out fast, and other lies of the racetrack: part 5 of 6

  1. Few weeks ago, you advised me to try thousands laps on Brands Indy. At first I thought it was the stupid idea to waste my time doing it because I mainly used sim to improve counter steering by doing drifts, fishtailing, trail braking, flicking etc., but somehow I gave it a try. Today I’m getting close to one thousand laps. I drive BMW 1M, 3rd gear + brakes and my best laptime is 1 second slower than the radiators-champ record. I suck at Split 1, my best is 0.7 slower.

    I’m really thankfull for your advice because I start to see what driving fast is all about. I always thought it was about smoke coming from the wheels, hard brakings/accelerations, going sideways and tires squeaking. Before sim (5 months ago) my all knowledge about driving came from speeding on public roads. I learnt the hard way what it is like to hit grass, kerb, ditch, what is understeer oversteer, what it is like to crash at 130kph (and luckily survive with minor scratches).

    Discovering sim and accidently finding your blog is the best thing that happened to me in my driving career.

    Like

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