You may have been driving on the road for 30 years or more, and you may be a good driver, but regardless of your experience you will learn a lot at the track in just a short time.
We can’t stress this enough: keeping the car well balanced, and using the controls in smooth flowing motions will keep your car on the road at all times. Aggressive, abrupt or wild movements will unbalance the car and potentially tip you off the track.
Your thumb palps are the most sensitive part of the hands, and you should be holding the steering wheel such that the pads of your thumbs rest gently, but firmly, on the rim of the wheel. If you are in a Porsche, it’s likely there is a special rim, or an area on the wheel especially for your thumbs.
Please move your seat forwards until you can hang your hands over the back of the wheel, while your shoulders are against the seat. When holding the wheel, there should be approximately 90 degrees between your upper arm and your forearm. This may feel too close for some, but it provides the best ability to control the car.
Old school style is hands-at-10-and-2 o’clock positions. New school thought is to keep your hands opposite each other at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions. This makes it easier to push the wheel.
In normal driving, one pulls the inside of the steering wheel down in order to make a turn, but we recommend you push the outside of the wheel up instead. This ensures your shoulders are correctly positioned against the seat, and also results in smoother steering we believe.
You can try this in your day-to-day driving too if you like. Pushing is actually physically harder to do, but the results are worth it.
On the track, you are asking your tyres to perform to their very limit, and sometimes beyond if you aren’t careful. Road tyres are not designed for the track, and tyres can wear aggressively when used hard on the track.
You will notice that your tyres perform much better after a warmup lap or two, and we suggest you take it easy on the track until your tyres reach a good temperature. Cold tyres perform very poorly, even on the smooth surface of the track.
You must think about your tyres as being very good at 3 things: Accelerating, turning and braking, BUT tyres are only capable of doing any ONE of these three things at a time.
Trying to turn and brake at the same time is a recipe for disaster, the tyres will not turn well, and they will not brake well. Trying to turn and accelerate will result in wheel spin and loss of control.
So, knowing that you can only ask a tyre to do a single thing at a time is a window into good racing technique and good general driving skills.
For this reason, there is etiquette to achieve the best cornering speeds and the lowest lap times:
- Brake late, and hard
- Do not turn the wheel until you have finished braking
- Turn the wheel as you let the brakes off
- Coast to the apex of the corner
- Accelerate hard from the apex.
Using this technique will result in the best cornering speeds possible.
Let's take a look at the steps in the process.
Braking late and hard means braking in a straight line (or as close to it as the track permits) and this lets the tyres do their job properly. Braking also transfers the weight to the front of the car, and loads up the front suspension. So, by the time you have finished braking, the car is properly set up for turning.
Turning as soon as you stop braking means not allowing the front of the car to rise up from its loaded position. As most of the weight is properly on the front wheels at the end of braking, so the car will turn very well when so much force is concentrated on the front wheels.
Coasting to the apex means having your foot completely off the gas pedal until you reach the apex of the turn. This may sound strange, and when you first do it, it feels strange too, but if you followed the first two steps correctly, it makes the job very easy. Because you are not asking the car to slow down, all you are doing is steering it, and it will respond very well to your steering inputs.
So, you can concentrate on getting the car as close to the apex as possible.
Accelerating hard from the apex means waiting before you put your foot down on the gas. You must not start accelerating until you KNOW you will not have to back off prior to braking for the next corner. Hitting the gas before the apex (and having it work) means you braked too hard and entered the corner too slowly. Hitting the gas before the apex, if you braked properly will result in an over-steer situation, which will require either counter-steering to balance, or getting off the accelerator. Counter steering is preferred, but can be hard to control (and road tyres work best in a straight line) and if you get off the gas, this will unbalance the car, and hence you will be very slow on the next straight.
As previously stated, your tyres need to be properly warm in order to reach their maximum grip levels on the track. The rear tyres are heated by accelerating, and the front tyres are heated by braking and turning.
It’s necessary to always do one relatively slow lap at the start of each session. You can brake hard on this lap, and accelerate hard too, but do not push harder than your tyres can handle: you may spin and overheat them.
After one or two laps depending on lap length, and how hard you worked the tyres, they should have reached a good temperature, and you should begin pushing.
At the end of each session, you should perform at least one cool down lap, where you do not brake or accelerate hard. This lets the tyres cool down, but more importantly, lets your engine’s cooling system bring the internal temperature of the motor down.
Two laps may be required on a short circuit.
It’s important that when you come off the track and into the pits that you ensure your engine temperature has lowered substantially before shutting down the motor.
If you manage to spin your car for any reason, or drift sideways off the track, it is most likely that your tyres are useless for some time to come. That sort of treatment creates stupendous amounts of heat, which causes the rubber to lose a high percentage of its grip.
If you spin your car, it’s a good idea to drive slowly around the track back to the pits, to allow the tyres to cool, and your adrenalin to calm down too.
Don’t continue driving hard, or you will spin again, guaranteed.
When you see formula 1 drivers spin and continue, they often spin again shortly thereafter. This phenomenon can catch out even the world’s best drivers and the world’s best tyres.
Heel and Toeing is the action of using your right foot to brake as hard as possible, while simultaneously using it to blip the throttle as your change down the gears.
It is not commonly used in road driving, but is beneficial to good driving, nevertheless. Heel and Toeing is designed to prevent the rear wheels locking due to over-torqueing them as you let the clutch out when downshifting.
If you are close to the red line, and changing down, the engine revs are not matched to the wheel speed unless you blip the throttle to match engine revs to wheel speed. Failing to do this can cause the rear wheels to lose traction, and this is undesirable from a survival perspective.
It is an advanced technique used only on strict-manual gearboxes. Tiptronics and automatics do not require heel and toeing as the torque converter controls the amount of torque being fed to the rear wheels.
For a comprehensive description of the technique, please visit:
May we recommend that when teaching yourself to heal and toe, you practice on long, straight, empty roads? We are sure you will miss the brakes, stab the throttle, slip off the brakes and graunch a few gears before you get the technique working nicely.
In order for heal-and-toeing to work, the pedal set-up of your car is critical. Porsche have ideal arrangements. Additionally, most drivers’ cars have reasonable pedal arrangements, but don’t expect to be able to use the technique in a 4 door Toyota sedan.
You will be familiar with this term if you have watched any track-based motorsport. Simply put, the Racing Line is the fastest way around the track.
The concept of the Racing Line is simple, but finding it is not, and the ability to discern the true racing line is a skill that will get you to the podium on race day.
Basically, the racing line is the arc that maximises the turn radius through any corner or set of bends. Staying on the racing line will allow very fast progress. Falling off this line will result in dramatic loss of speed and a corresponding increase in lap times.
It really is stunning how quickly you can get around a particularly challenging corner when you are on the right line, and enter the corner at the correct speed.
Being in the right gear at the right time can be the difference between driving off the track and winning the race. Novices will often have too low a gear selected, in the mistaken belief that revs win races.
A crushing blow we know; but true.
Yes, those indefinable things called “torques”; that’s what’ll get your car round the track the fastest. But wait, torque isn’t indefinable at all – it is quiet simple in fact:
Torque is a twisting force, and torque will turn an object just as force will move an object. “Applying torque” to a wench, spanner, or wheel is the action of turning it. How powerfully is determined by the size of the lever applying the twisting force.
Having a bigger lever gives you more ability to twist. So think of torques as levers which rotate the car’s wheels.
When cars are tested on a dynamometer two curves are displayed on a graph: the X-axis is the engine revs, and the y-axis has two scales – Newton-metres of torque, and Kilowatts of power. The graphs overlap somewhat, but are distinctly different.