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- - Tyres - - Suspension - - Driving - -

Driving Technique

When we are driving a car in an attempt to get a car round a track as fast as possible, we have two main goals which will help us to achieve it. These are:

To spend as little time in the corner as possible, and,
To exit the corner with maximum speed.

This generally means sacrifice, since corner entry speed is often traded off against exit speed, depending on how we drove the car round the corner, what line we took, and how the car was setup. It is, however, very important to consider both of these since exiting a corner as quickly as possible will help you maximise speed down the straights, but being slow into the corner will have a detrimental effect on overall lap time.

It is also important to bear in mind that it is overall lap time that is important, not just speed through one corner; it is fine being ultra quick round one corner on the track but if you are being overtaken into each and every other corner you are not going to win any races. Likewise, consistency is also important; it is no good being fast on only one lap in a sixty lap race. This is why the vehicle’s setup and driver familiarity with the vehicle is so important. As mentioned in the tyres section, a car which is difficult to drive will be a drain on the driver, and concentration and consistency will undoubtedly suffer. However, it is also important to take times during practice, and set the car up for the quickest time, rather than setting up a car to ‘feel good’; often if the car feels like ‘it is on rails’, it is not being driven as quickly as possible. Again, a compromise has to be found, but ultimately the quicker setup/driving technique must be selected.

Back to our two goals mentioned earlier. In order to analyse what is going on in the corner, we break each corner into four phases; braking, turn in, apex and exit. Each driver will have slightly different points for each phase, depending on their car setup, entry speed, cornering technique and amount of trail braking used. A good tip is to try to pick up reference points in order to help you judge where each of the four phases begins and ends, or, in the case of the apex, the exact point you are aiming for, whether it be a particular curb, cone or sign on the edge of the track. These reference points are invaluable in judging and assessing your driving technique. (They are also very useful as reference points when visibility is reduced in the wet). For example, if you brake at a certain marshals post, and you gradually alter the car setup so you find yourself able to brake slightly harder than you did previously, leave your braking until a yard after the marshals post, and see if you can still make the same turn in, apex and exit points.

When going on a track for the first time, you will not be familiar with what exactly the best line is round each of the corners. Walking the track will give you a good idea, and whilst walking round note any reference points mentioned earlier that may help you judge braking points and turn in etc. Also watch other drivers to get a feel for what could be right, but at the end of the day, you have your own car, setup and driving technique so it’s unlikely that their lines will work ideally for you. They may be similar, but not the same.

It is important when choosing a line round a corner to consider that you can brake far quicker than you can accelerate, or looking at it the other way round, you spend far more time accelerating than you do braking. You therefore want to take a line that allows for this, especially in tighter turns. For example, take a later apex on hairpins in order to maximise the acceleration time out of the corner, so as to maximise your speed up the following straight. It is also essential that you also allow for other factors such as changes in road surface, camber, bumps, dirty parts of the track (or puddles etc in the wet!). Remember, all things being equal, the one who exits a corner faster will arrive at the next corner first.

When playing with the vehicles setup, bear in mind changing the setup on a car will change the way the car feels when trying to take the same line, and different cars will have differing ideal lines round the same corner.

As mentioned in the tyres chapter, a smooth transition between the phases is the most important thing to keep the car balanced. The brakes should be ‘squeezed’ on with little transition between the release of the brakes and application of the throttle, so that the whole process is as smooth as possible to keep the car balanced with no sudden forces acting on it. Clearly this has to be done as quickly as possible. It is beneficial to practice this as often as possible so that it becomes second nature, after all, there is plenty to think about whilst on the race track, and removing one thing to concentrate on will help! It should even be possible to practice this safely in everyday road driving. Smoothness is the key to fast lap times, especially in the wet…

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Albins Performance Transmissions sponsors MacG Racing
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