Don’t let anyone tell you how to hold the steering wheel. But however you do it you have to be smooth.
I’m really adamant about this one. For years people have been trying to get me to use the classic 9 and 3 steering grip, which tends to work well for the majority of drivers. But since my high-performance driving background is in stunt driving, where lock-to-lock steering inputs are frequent, I prefer to shuffle steer.
You have to use whatever technique feels right to you. If it works better for you, there’s no way it can be wrong. But here’s the key: however you choose to use the steering wheel, you must make smooth inputs.
If you aren’t left foot braking, you’re wasting your time. Literally.
I could never understand why left foot braking isn’t taught in drivers education schools. Not only is it faster on the race track, its so much safer on the road. But let’s focus on the track aspect for a moment. There is one key consideration where left foot braking will make you faster: the minimization of forward weight transfer.
While braking with the typical right foot method, there are two separate forward weight transfers that occur: one when you lift off the throttle and one when you apply the brakes. This causes the vehicle’s weight to shift forward more than necessary which reduces its ability to provide optimal traction.
But while using the left foot braking method the throttle can be released and the brakes applied simultaneously, creating one smooth weight transfer that results in less nose dive. This will allow a more equal weight distribution under braking, and therefore better traction as the vehicle decelerates.
Let the transmission come to you.
This is something I see quite a bit at racing events, mostly with novices. With all that adrenaline pumping its easy to overlook some of the simple things. In this case I’m referring to the management of your transmission.
Let’s face it. Your transmission is one of the most expensive components in your vehicle. It can also be one of the most annoying things to replace. So during their efforts to generate a fast lap its pretty common to see drivers forcing shifts and banging gears. And while that might seem like a requirement to getting the fastest lap, I promise you it isn’t!
Rather than playing rough with your transmission, wait the extra split second for the internal mechanisms to align before grabbing that next gear. You won’t notice a difference in lap time and you’ll be far less likely to damage your car.
Trade small braking inputs for throttle lifts.
Car racing is all about momentum. Especially when you’re driving a vehicle that doesn’t have a lot of power. It always takes more time to gain speed than lose it. So the trick is to keep as much speed as possible. One thing that I figured out quickly during my first season as an autocross racer was to stop using small braking inputs and start using throttle lifts.
Rather than killing more speed than necessary by briefly using the brakes, simply lifting the throttle can have the same effect without over-slowing the car. The result is often faster cornering and greater momentum.
Stop doing the same thing over and over again.
When I was getting started I was totally guilty of this one. For some crazy reason I kept trying to do the same things over and over again expecting to get better results. When I finally realized I was doing this I was so embarrassed with myself. So from that point forward I made it a point to constantly learn new things about racing and apply them on the track.
And you know what? It worked!
Progression doesn’t happen automatically, just like experience isn’t guaranteed to make you faster. It all starts with a decision to become more knowledgeable than the people around you. In my case I read books about motorsport tuning, driving techniques, and engine building. All this new information became an arsenal that resulted in faster lap times and consistent finishes. In fact, during my season following this revelation to learn new things and apply them I finished on the podium in 9 out of 12 races. That’s a 75% podium percentage!
Remember that repeat champion drivers aren’t winners because they’re lucky. They have developed an intricate knowledge and greater understanding of the racing world than their competitors.
If you want to win, you have to make the decision to constantly learn new things and implement them during your race days. Stop doing the same old things and expecting better results!