How To Handle Your Car on The Track

As a resource to all of our  club members, this area is provided to serve as a guide to proper performance driving habits and preparation. Laying the proper foundation is key to a successful and safe experience on the track. The skills described in the following pages are aimed mainly at road racing, but these skills still can apply to many different types of racing, vehicles, and even normal daily driving. Don’t be intimidated, these are best practices, but by knowing them you will be propelled well ahead of most people relative to their knowledge of racing.

An index is provided below to help you navigate the manual easily. Simply click on the topic to jump to that section:

  1. General Overview
  2. Trackside Preparation
    • Tools
    • Comfort
    • Vehicle
    • Tires
  3. Flags
  4. Track Protocol
  5. Driving Techniques Introduction
  6. Seating Position
  7. Steering
    • Steering Wheel Grip
    • Steering Wheel Control
  8. Shifting
  9. Pedals
  10. Heel-Toe Downshift
  11. Braking and Accelerating
  12. Cornering
  13. Visual Field
  14. Reference Points
  15. Passing

Be A Better Driver

General  Overview

Unlike  the “hot rodding” genre of drag racing with its emphasis on  acceleration, road course racing is primarily about a car’s handling. The car  and driver must work together to corner, brake, and accelerate through a closed  course of straights, turns, and even hills in the shortest possible time. The  best of drivers are not only fast, but can drive with tremendous consistency  lap after lap. It requires a great deal of mental and physical skill to master.

Even  if you don’t need to be convinced it’s a fun thing to do, you may need to be  convinced to find a way to do your fast driving off the public roads. We’ll  spare the moralistic lectures (although they’re probably appropriate), and  appeal to your sense of sport and accomplishment.

Driving  on a race track is far more demanding on your mental, physical, and driving  skills than any amount of street or highway hot rodding. Horsing around on the  street does not allow you to drive at the limit of the car’s ability–there  just isn’t enough room or time. A race track provides the room and the road  design that allows you to push the car to much higher performance levels. This  requires more of you as a driver. It’s also a lot more satisfying than short  little bursts of speed on the street.

The  general public’s perception of racing carries a “dangerous” image,  but any racer would argue that high-speed driving is much safer on a track than  on the street. Even with the higher speeds, the probability of an accident is  lower on the track. On the street, you just don’t know who or when one of the  other cars will pull in front of your driving line when you least expect it.  This simply isn’t safe. Keep it up, and the probability of a serious accident  increases (that’s why insurance rates goes up when you get speeding tickets!).  On the track, in a hobbyist car club event, you’ll have the road largely to yourself,  and a strictly enforced set of rules aimed at making safety the first priority.  The environment is simply more controlled than the unpredictability of  multilane public roads.

What  keeps most would-be hobbyists off the track is usually the cost. While it isn’t  a cheap hobby, club racing can be affordable. If you really enjoy fast  driving–you’ll enjoy it ten times more on a race track, and it’ll be worth the  preparation and costs required. For the budget racer, the Costs of Racing  article will show you how to keep costs to a minimum.

The  articles in this Introduction to Racing section is aimed at preparing you for  your first time out. The Intro section will answer many of the “before you  race” questions beginners commonly have. It will identify types of racing  available, things you should be prepared with at the track, what modifications  you may want to consider for your first time out, and some of the typical rules  of the race track environment.

Once  you’ve been to the track for an event, you’ll have a host of people to get  ideas from, and the rest of this site will make more sense to you. If you  really want to investigate what these events are like, contact a local club or  two, and attend an event as a spectator. The club organizers will be more than  happy to give the run down on how events are run, and you can talk with the  drivers about how they approach the events. You’ll find a few who take their  equipment and performance very seriously, and most others who are there to  enjoy a day or weekend of fun and friendship.

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Trackside  Preparation

When  you arrive at the track, you’ll need to prepare your car (even a totally stock  one), and be equipped for both variety of mechanical mishaps, and your own comfort.

You’ll  encounter more situations each time you go, but this list should help prepare  you for your first time or two until you get the feel for what you want to bring with you, and what you’ll need to do to your vehicle.

Tools  — the amount and type of tools you take with you to the track will depend on how much adjusting or repairing of the vehicle you expect to perform, and how much adjustable race hardware your vehicle has. However, you should have a  minimum set of tools with you. Race driving pushes your car much harder than  street driving, and you may end up having to repair failing hardware. At a  minimum, you should have the following items with you:

  • Basic set of hand tools (wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, etc.) to perform the tightening or replacing of minor service items
  • Tools to change a tire, including a tire repair kit, and an adequate jack
  • Air pressure gauge with a bleeder valve (preferably an oil-filled one reading no more than 50-60 psi)
  • Small 12-volt air pump with a tire adaptor, this is needed to adjust tire pressures up
  • A wooden block or other item to stop the car from rolling when parked (do not use the hand brake after driving on the track, it will warp the rear brake rotors)
  • A spare set of brake pads, and the tools required to change them (know how to do this before you go!)
  • Spare fluids including enough oil to refill the pan, coolant, and brake fluid
  • Items that will be handy for emergency repairs such as duct tape, electrical tape, large tie wraps, and bailing wire
  • Rubber gloves — they’re a few dollars for 40 or 50 gloves and they save a lot of time and hassle in cleaning up between sessions

There  are dozens of other specialty tools or tools of convenience that you may begin  to collect as you discover new needs at each event.

Comfort  — chances are you’ll run with an organization that will rotate several groups  on the track. You’ll have plenty of time between sessions to fill in. You’ll want the typical items you’d take for a day in the park: chairs, drink coolers, snacks (healthy, energy building ones!), etc. You’ll likely spend most of the time socializing between sessions, but just remember you’ll be at the track for a full day or more–take the things you need to be comfortable and enjoy it. A good idea is to take some of the printed pages from this site or the race books you’ve been reading. You may encounter something on the track that you want to  refresh what you’ve read before.

Vehicle  — any club worth running with will insist on a general safety inspection of  the vehicle. Additionally, you’ll want to be sure the vehicle has been properly serviced. For your own safety, and those around you, do not ignore the importance of maintaining your car’s mechanical well being. Find out what the  safety inspection will be, and make sure your car will pass ahead of time.

Most safety inspections, at a minimum, include checking the condition of the brakes, tires, and wheel bearings, making sure there’s no fluid leaks, that the battery  has a tie-down clamp, that there are no loose body parts, and that all brake  lights function properly.

In addition to this, you will want to be sure that your car has been properly maintained. A half-hour of race driving on a track will stress your car far  more than any hot rodding around town you’ve ever put your car through. Be sure  it’s in good condition. Fresh oil, all fluids in good condition and at the  proper levels, lots of brake pad, lug nuts checked, filters all clean, and  spark plugs in good condition are all items you need to check before leaving  home.

Before going onto the track itself, be sure to remove everything that is not a permanent fixture in the car. Take out all loose items you keep on or in the  dash, under the seats, in the trunk, and even in the glove box. Remove the spare tire and tools, and remove the floor mats. If your car’s wheels have hub caps, even the small center bolt cover plates, remove those too. Absolutely everything should be out of the car. This is a safety issue. If you end up off  the track, in a spin, or if you are hit or roll, loose items that normally seem  harmless can cause significant injury.

The other thing most tracks and organizations will ask you to do is tape up the lenses of all lights or other plastic trim items like that. Loose stones, tire  chunks, or other track debris can get tossed up and break light lenses which  just adds more debris to the track. You’ll want to use a tape that has enough  stick to do the job, but not one that will gum up your car, so don’t use common  duct tape, masking tape, or electrical tape. From your car’s perspective, the  more you cover, the less will get scratched or cracked.

Tires — one of the common “mysteries” and subjects of paddock chatter in club time trialing is tire pressure. There’s two parts to the “what  pressure to use” question. First, racing will dramatically heat up your  tires–much more than driving on the street. The starting pressure of the tires  when they’re cold is going to be several pounds lower than you’re used to  using. Second, tire pressure is often one of the very few things you’ll have available to tune your car’s handling, and you may need to fine tune the  pressure of each tire for the best performance. Read the Tire Notes article in  the Practice Sessions tab for a lot more detail about this subject.

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Flags

There  are several standard flags used in auto racing, and for the most part they are  used consistently. However, some organizations use them with slight variations.  Below are the typical uses of each flag, and some varied uses.

  • Green — starts, or restarts, the session. It may also be shown at the end of a caution zone to indicate it is OK to return to full speed.
  • Blue or Blue with Yellow Strip — give way, faster cars approaching. This will not be used during a battle for position, but will be given to cars much slower, or several positions behind. It is typically not a command, but a suggestion (that should be heeded as soon as safely possible).
  • Yellow — “standing” (not waving) means a local cautionary condition, no passing. Used at all stations during warm up laps, cool down lap, or at affected stations when a car is stopped or off course, and is considered not to be in an imminently dangerous position.
  • Yellow — “waving” usually means a car is in trouble, and may be in an imminently dangerous position to other cars. Proceed with caution, slow your speed until past the hazard, or the next flag station either displaying a green flag, or is not displaying the yellow.
  • Yellow with Red stripe(s) — danger, the track surface is compromised (oil, fluids, dirt, car debris or other contaminant on the track)
  • Black Flag – displayed and pointed at your car, or shown with your car number, means return to the pits immediately, you’ve done something bad. The black flag shown at all stations means the session has been stopped, slow down, no passing, and return to the pits.
  • Black Flag with Orange Circle — mechanical black flag displayed and pointed at your car, or shown with your car number, means return to the pits immediately, your car has a mechanical problem.
  • White — extreme caution, service vehicle or ambulance on the track, or extremely slow car ahead.
  • Red — imminently dangerous conditions that cannot be fixed while cars remain on the track, the race or session has been stopped. If this is shown at a corner station, slow to a stop on the track. Wait for the flag worker to motion you to proceed, at which time drive slowly back to the pits or as directed. Some organizations show the red only at the start/finish and display the black flag at all the corner stations. In this case, do not stop on the track, just continue with caution, no passing, and return to the pits.
  • Checkered — the session or race is complete. Enter the pits on the next time by the pit entrance.

One  very important point about flags — pay attention to all flag stations! It is very easy to ignore them as you get accustomed to the track environment. However, you must make it a mental point to know where each station is, and to remain aware of every station on every lap. This doesn’t mean staring at each  one as you approach it, but there is typically enough time for a glance at each  station. You’ll also need to develop the skill of keeping aware of them from  your peripheral vision.

The  flag workers are there for you and your safety. Pay attention to them as they may be communicating something that will save you and your car from serious harm.

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Track  Protocol

Communication  between drivers on the track is critical for maintaining safety. There’s a few  things about general protocol and courtesy that you must be aware of and use  while time trial or hot lap driving on a track.         Don’t  hold up a faster car. Time trialing club rules will invariably include no  passing in corners, and depending on the track, faster cars will not  necessarily be able to easily pass you on the straights. If a car catches up to  you in the corners, but you can pull away on the straights, then the other car  is still faster overall. Slow down on the straight (yes, that means let up on  the gas), and let the other car pass.

Raise  your arm to communicate significant slowing in an unsual spot. If you are  slowing more than usual or in an unusual place for any reason (trouble with  your car, you see debris, or a car in trouble ahead, or you’re planning on  pulling into the pits), raise your right arm so your hand and forearm are  visible through the rear window. If you’re just letting off the gas to slow  down in an unusual place, touch the brake pedal so the lights show. Clubs with  a majority of street cars often prefer drivers raise their left arm out the  window. It is more visible, but under race conditions the window would have a  net, so get in the habit of using and looking for the right arm inside the car  if you plan to move up to a racing class.

Get  off the racing line if your car has problems. If you’re having trouble with the  car, or are going to pull into the pits, drive the car off the racing line.  That is, do not stay driving on the normal path you would use when racing. Stay  out of the way of other cars by driving where they are not likely to be.

Let  faster cars know its OK to pass. As time trial driving typically does not allow  passing in the corners, it is important to communicate with other drivers that  you are aware of their presence and need to pass. Even when there is no passing  in corners you should develop the habit of checking your mirrors. Someone may  have brake troubles, or may simply get in over their head thinking they could  have passed you before the corner. If you see someone needing to pass, wave  your hand and point the driver behind to the side of the car you want to be  passed on.

Whether  passing is done on the left or the right can depend on a few factors. The club  you run with should have very clear rules about this. Usually the safest rule  is to have the car doing the overtaking make the pass off the racing line. The  slower car stays on the racing line. In club time trialing, with many driver’s  not having much track experience, the slower car may not even be aware of the  faster car, and this rule helps to avoid accidents due to miscommunication.

Keep  your cool and use the race steward to mediate if you need to. Time trial  racing, like anything else, will have its hot-dogs that don’t believe the rules  apply to them. If a driver obviously ignores the rules, and is compromising his  and your safety with his driving, you owe it to both of you to complain about  it. You have two choices: you can complain directly to the driver, or do it  through an event official, typically the race steward. Which you do depends on  you. If you can engage in a conversation politely reminding the driver of the  rules that perhaps he wasn’t aware of, then by all means, you’ll probably make  a friend out of it. Sometimes what appeared to you as an aggressive move, was  due to misunderstanding or maybe even car trouble. If, however, you suspect  that either you or the other driver is likely to get a little heated over the  discussion, then it’s better to use an official as your liaison until cooler  heads can prevail.

The  nearest visible corner worker is your commnication point when you go off the  track. If you spin off the track, once you have stopped, give a “thumbs  up” to the nearest corner worker to indicate you’re not hurt. If you do  not move the car, and if you do not motion to a corner worker, the track  officials will assume you need assistance. If your car is not damaged, and  you’re OK, position the car so you can see the nearest corner worker, and he  can see you. The corner worker will let you know when it is clear to enter the  track. If he holds up a few fingers, he’s telling you how many cars will pass  before you can go. Enter the track slowly, and off the racing line if possible.  Do not spin the tires — this will just spray debris all over the track and  cause delays to get it cleaned up.

On  or off the track, never drive against traffic. When you spin off the track, and  want to get back to the pits, never drive against the flow of traffic on the  track or even off the track. Even if the nearest exit is just a few yards back,  drive with the flow of traffic to the next exit — even if it is all the way  around the track. If your car is damaged, stay put until the session is  stopped. You don’t want to end up in a worse position, and you don’t want to be  dropping car parts or fluids on the track, or increasing the damage by driving  the car.

Never  back up in the hot pit unless directed to do so by a track official. The hot  pit is part of the track, and part of the one-way flow of traffic.

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Driving  Techniques Introduction

It  is very easy to get caught up in the showmanship and prestige of expensive  parts for your car, but the best investment you’ll ever make in road racing is  the time you spend tuning your driving skills.

In  this section, our goal is to introduce you to many of the basic driving  techniques used in race car driving. There are numerous details to be conscious  of while racing on a track, and it will be difficult and overwhelming to  remember them all the first few times out. Focus on one or two techniques each  time you go out on the track. As each technique becomes second-nature, you can  work on a new one.

No  matter how much country- or mountain-road hot rodding you may have done, or how  good a driver you think you are, driving on a race track is an entirely new  level of driving that requires very specific skills if you want to be good at  it. Good drivers, like all good athletes, have a natural skill, and yet are  also smart and/or humble enough to know that there are known techniques they  must practice if they are to be proficient. Even if you have natural talent,  don’t make the mistake of thinking all you need is a better car to improve your  performance. Your driving skills can always be improved. Even the Gordon’s,  Andretti’s, and Schumacher’s of the pro-driving world continually analyse their  driving so they can improve.

Many  of the race driving techniques explained here can be practiced on the street,  others simply cannot be. Where appropriate (meaning safe and useful), we will  point out how to practice these skills during everyday street driving. As with  any skill, “knowing” what to do is not the same as “doing” it. Practice, practice, practice. Time in the car, on the track, repetitively performing these techniques is the only thing that will make you good at using  them. Often you’ll find yourself thinking you’re doing something right, only to recognize several months later, that you could do it even better. Because there are so many things to rememeber and practice, be sure to read these  sections often–you will forget a lot of its content.

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Seating  Position

One  of the first things to prepare before you even turn the key, is a proper  seating position. This is often overlooked, or improperly immitated, resulting  in poorer car control and premature fatigue.

If  you look at a variety of race cars, you will see a variety of seating  positions. In the open-wheel CART and Formula cars, it appears that the driver  is almost laying down with arms fully oustretched (they are not). In a  full-bodied NASCAR-type car, you see the driver more erect and almost cramped  against the steering wheel. Neither position is the correct one for your street  car in road racing.

The  body of the open-wheel car is very shallow in height, and the cockpit is very  narrow. This shape determines much of the driver’s position. The driver’s legs  are relatively straight out with a slight bend in the knee, and the feet just  barely below the hips. The pedals in many of these cars are almost touching  each other. The pedals also require little more than a flexing of the ankle to  go from 0-100% depression. The driver’s arms have little room for movement, but  the steering requires extremely little turning input by the driver. In the  open-wheel car, function (driver’s seating position and controls operation)  follows form (the shallow and narrow cockpit).

In  a NASCAR type car, many things are completely opposite. The driver sits very  erect, and is very close to the steering wheel. In fact, the driver can almost  lay his whole forearm on the steering wheel. Why the big difference? The cars  themselves are larger, heavier, and have large front tires. Additionally, on  even the large speedway tri-ovals, the percentage of time spent turning is much  higher than on a road course. All this adds up, and means the driver’s right  arm and shoulder is going to get tired much sooner. Sitting erect and close to  the steering wheel allows the driver to utilize more of the shoulder and back  muscles.

In  driving a street car on a road course, whether the car is stock or fully race-prepared, neither of the above described seating positions is correct. The seat should not be “layed down” to make you look like a formula driver, and neither should sit as close as the NASCAR driver.

There  are three main aspects to setting the correct seating position.  In a street car, it is  possible that some balanced compromise of these three parameters is needed as  the fixed position of the pedals and steering wheel may not be perfectly  matched to your arm and leg lengths. In a race car, or a street car you spend  the money on, the pedal arms can be modified, and a steering wheel with a  specific dish dimension (the depth of the mounting plane to the face of the  handling ring) can be selected to allow a perfect match to your needs.

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Steering

The  steering wheel is where you will get most of your feedback of the track surface  from the front tires, suspension, and brakes. As simple as steering may seem to  be, for maximum control and smoothness, there are definately some techniques  you should be aware of.

Your  hands will spend a great deal of time on the steering wheel, so for both sensory  input and comfort, how the steering wheel feels in your hand is important.  Depending on the size of your hand, you may want a wheel that is thicker or  thinner. The exact style, size, and construction is up to you. If you’re  thinking of changing from the stock steering wheel, choose one that is  comfortable gripping the wheel with your driving gloves on.

Steering Wheel Grip

The  proper grip of the steering wheel starts with the hands at the 9:00 and 3:00 positions. Contrary to the 10 and 2 o’clock positions you probably learned in  driver’s school, you have greater range of motion and control with your hands  in the 9 and 3 o’clock  positions. The palms should be cupping the outer diameter of the wheel, with  the thumbs wrapped around the ring and resting on top of the cross brace. The  heel of the palm should be positioned to apply a slight pressure on the front  of the wheel for stabilizing your arm movements–don’t make your thumbs do all  the stabilizing. Most stock steering wheels in sports cars, and even sedans,  today are properly designed for the 9 and 3 positions with padded thumb  detents.

The  grip itself should be relaxed–just tight enough to maintain control and good  contact for sensory input. A tight grip on the wheel will tire your hands and  arms quickly, and more importantly will significantly reduce the sensitivity to  the vibrations needed to sense the control limits of the vehicle. While  it is a natural tendency to grip the wheel tightly while corning, no amount of  squeezing on that wheel will increase the traction of your tires! However, the more relaxed the grip (without losing contact with the wheel), the more of that traction you will be aware of. It is a learned response to relax your hands (in  fact, your entire body) during high g-force cornering, but it is something that you must force yourself to learn as quickly as possible. It will increase your sensitivity to the car’s traction limits, and improve your awareness of the car’s handling.

Something  to practice to ensure your hands, arms and shoulders are relaxed before  entering a corner, is to take a deep breath during the straight beforehand.  Breath deep, relax your muscles, and exhale. Another thing to do when you’re in  a long enough straight and clear of other cars, is to relax one hand at a time  and wiggle the fingers (leaving the palm and thumb on the wheel). Doing this  often will keep the muscles in the hand, wrist, and forearm from cramping.

Steering  Wheel Control

When  turning a corner, lead into the turn by “pushing” the wheel with the  hand opposite the turn (left hand for a right turn), and stabilizing the wheel  with the other hand. Push the steering wheel through the 12:00 position rather than pulling it towards  the 6:00 position when  turning. For large steering inputs like a turn, the pushing arm has more  control because the wrist stays in a firm position. The opposite wrist becomes  quite bent and will not provide smooth control. “Pulling” the wheel  is effective for small steering inputs such as moving across the track width  where the action is really limited to a movement of the wrist, and not the  whole arm. If you’re a puller right now, it will take a little re-training to  make this comfortable, but in the long run it will make you a smoother driver.

One  of the critical keys to maximizing speed through corners is smooth car control  which comes from smooth steering. If the car is to travel on a smooth  consistent arc, then the steering input must also be a smooth consistent turn.  The purpose of this smoothness is to maximize the traction of the tires. To  understand this, take a sheet of paper, place it on a table, and place a book  on the paper. Pull the paper slowly across the table gradually increasing the  speed. The book stays on the paper. Now, start to drag the paper again, but at  some point suddenly jerk the paper. The book loses traction and slides across  the paper. We’ll talk more about the tire’s perspective of this later, but for  now the motion of dragging the paper is like your steering input. The traction  of the tire is significantly influenced by your ability to provide smooth  turning. Sudden jerks in the wheel will be like sudden jerks on the paper, and  the tire will slide. The smoother driver will have more traction, and will have  higher corner speeds.

It  is common to think you are turning smoothly, when in fact you are turning on a  smaller, tighter, and jerkier radius than you need to. In car video can be a  great help to wtaching yourself, and recognizing where you need to be smoother.  A typical tip off to a driver that needs to be smoother is when a car tends to  understeer during the first half of a turn. More often than not this is caused  by the driver’s lack of steering smoothness than by car setup problems.

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Shifting

You  may think shifting is a no-brainer function, but in a sport where the  difference of winning may be 1/100th of a second, every detail counts. This  discussion is to point out how to use the shifter, and we’re assuming the use  of a typical H-box shifter in a street car for this.

Many  people fall into two bad habits on the street when shifting. First, “Hollywood” has taught  everyone that it looks cool to always leave your right hand on the shift knob.  Wrong! You may as well tie your hand behind your back as leave it on the shift  knob. Your hand belongs on the steering wheel–always. When you need to  shift–shift, and get your hand back on the wheel. Don’t even rest it on the  shifter for a few seconds a head of time to “get ready.” Every time  your hand leaves the steering wheel you’ve given up 50% of the tactile feedback  you have from your hands, and 50% of your capability to control the car. If  you’re racing with other cars around you, you never know when you may get  tapped. Even when racing alone, mechanical failure may cause handling trouble.  You’ll want both hands on the wheel when that happens.

The  second bad habit some people have is shifting with excessive force. Too tight a  grip, and slamming from one gear to another will actually slow your shifting  down, and cause excessive mechanical wear. Proper shifting uses an open palm  grip on the top of the shift knob, and a gentle but fast guide from one gear to  another. We repeat—all shifting is properly done with the hand open and  cupped over the top of the knob, not wrapped around it like a fighter plane control  stick.

To  shift from the top of the H to the bottom, start by forming a cup with your  palm and fingers. Place the palm of the hand over the top of the shift knob.  Using the underside of your fingers and your palm against the knob, use a  smooth straight-line motion to guide the lever to the next gear. Assuming the  shift lever has a fairly short travel, the action involves your wrist for the  majority of the movement. Do not attempt to slam it or force it faster than it  wants to go. If you are locking your wrist and moving your whole arm at the  shoulder, you are using too much force.

To  shift from the bottom of the H to the top, again start by forming a cup with  your palm and fingers. This time when you place the hand over the shift knob, the emphasis of contact is on the heel of the palm. Start with the wrist  slightly bent up. Push the lever using the palm heel in a straight line using  your wrist to extend the position of the palm heel while following through with a gentle push of the arm. This shift is more arm motion than wrist.

When  shifting across the H such as between 2nd and 3rd gears, do not try to make a  conscious jog in your hand movements. The linkage needs very little input to  make the diagonal path across neutral. Your shift should almost look like a  straight diagonal line. Making a distinctive zig zag through neutral is  strong-arming the shifter and will slow the shift down.

Using  smooth, soft control of the lever does not imply doing it slowly. A gentle  force of the lever will allow the shift linkage to move freely through its  natural motions. If you strong-arm the motion you will end up forcing the  linkage through lines that have more resistance. This will slow the shifting  down. Use as much wrist movement as possible in place of moving the whole arm.

Some  of you may be tempted to learn the techniques of “speed  shifting”–shifting without using the clutch–in the interest of saving  time. Many schools and professional racers have shown over and over that there  is no speed or lap time advantage to this, and it carries a much higher risk of  gear box damage.

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Pedals

This  section covers a few basics about the use, and the design and layout of the  foot pedals, and prepares for the discussion of the heel-toe downshift. How many pedals are there? Did you guess four? In a manual transmission car there  should be four pedals:

  • Accelerator (gas)
  • Brake
  • Clutch
  • Rest (or “dead” pedal)

The  rest pedal is a permanently positioned pedal pad at the far left to rest the  left foot on. It provides a place to stabilize the leg when not using the  clutch. In a street car without a racing seat or racing seat belts, the rest  pedal is effective for bracing yourself around corners, but if you have a  proper seat and belts, don’t get into the habit of pushing hard against the  rest pedal–relax and let the seat and belts do their job.

The  first thing to get straight about using the pedals is that they are operated  with the ball of the foot (the bony part just behind the toes), and not the  toes. Secondly, you must be able to depress the pedals all the way with the  ball of the foot while still having some bend in the knee. You cannot have the  needed control and sensitivity in operating the pedals if the leg is completely  outstretched.

Every  pedal must be used smoothly. Stabbing at the accelerator or brake pedal in particular will cause sudden shifts in weight distribution on the car’s suspension and will unsettle the car. Do this at the wrong time, and a loss of  control is inevitable.

When  applying either the brake or gas pedals, ease into it allowing a smooth  transition to the full pressure needed. “Easing” does not necessarily  imply being overly slow about it. A rapid but smooth and controlled transition  is what is wanted. Avoid sudden jerky movements in either braking or  accelerating.

One  of the pedal control techniques used in racing is the heel-toe downshift. To  maximize the speed and smoothness through a corner, it becomes necessary to do  some cockpit acrobatics and operate the steering wheel, shifter, clutch, brake,  and accelerator all at the same time. The problem is that there is five  functions to perform and only four limbs to do it with. Something has to do  double duty, and it turns out to be the right foot.

Refer  to the Heel-Toe Downshift article for details of the technique itself, but the  short of it is that prior to the entry of a corner, the right foot will need to  operate the brake pedal and the accelerator at the same time.

Chances  are the pedals in your street car are not going to allow you to properly do the  heel-toe down shift as it will be too difficult to operate the brake and gas  pedals at the same time, and you will need to have the pedals changed.  After-market pedal kits are used to replace the stock rubber covers on the  pedals. The clutch and brake pedals will be bigger to give you more sensory  feedback. The gas pedal will be larger, but will also have an extension on the  lower left corner allowing it to be more easily reached during the downshift.  Some after market pedals intended for the fashion conscious will have simple  bend tabs to hold them in place over the stock pedal pad. This has no place in  a car used for racing. Be sure to get quality pedals designed to be bolted onto  the steel pedal plate in place of the rubber pads.

Also,  you may need to use shims to raise either the brake pedal or gas pedal to allow  comfortable reach when operating both pedals. The brake and gas pedals should  be close to the same height at the time you need to operate both  simultaneously. When the brake pedal is fully depressed, it’s height should be  roughly equal to the height of the gas pedal when it is not pressed. This  allows for more comfortable and controllable heel-toe maneuvers.

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Heel-Toe  Downshift

The  heel-toe downshift is a fundamental technique to driving fast through corners. During a heel-toe downshift, you’ll be steering with the left hand, shifting with the right hand, clutching with the left foot, and working both the brake  and gas pedals with the right foot — all at exactly the same time. It takes  some getting used to, and it takes repetitive practice to become smooth, and  have it be second nature. At first it takes a lot of concentration. You’re  doing a lot of things at the same time. Besides working on all the controls,  you also need to be sensitive to the tire grip during braking, you have to be  watching your reference points heading into a corner, and to make matters  worse, if you’re racing, you might have to be looking for traffic. However,  after a couple of weekends of practice, you’ll get the hang of it, and in no  time you’ll be able forget about your hands and feet, and concentrate on the  track.

On  the street when you approach a corner, you were probably taught to complete  your braking before the corner, coast through the turn, then as you straighten  out from the turn downshift, and start accelerating again. This works on the  street, but it is entirely too slow a process for the race track.      For  racing, the time spent transitioning from braking to accelerating must be  absolutely minimized. You’re racing! You don’t want to be wasting a bunch of  time coasting while you’re switching between pedals (even if it is only 1/2 of  a second). To maximize the speed and smoothness through a corner, it becomes  necessary to do some cockpit acrobatics and operate the steering wheel,  shifter, clutch, brake, and accelerator all at the same time.

On  the race track, as you approach a corner, your right foot comes off the gas  pedal and presses the brake with the ball of the foot. Before the braking is  done, you need to shift gears so when the braking is done you can immediately  be back on the gas. When the braking is almost done, your left foot pushes the  clutch pedal in, and your right hand downshifts. However, while you’ve been  slowing down, the engine speed has dropped. If you let the clutch out now, the  car will jerk severely as the engine works like a huge brake. If you’re at the  edge of traction limits (which you should be), you’ll lose control of the car.  To prevent this, something needs to rev the engine back up to the right speed  before the clutch is released. The right foot is closest, so it is elected to  tap the gas pedal. Even though the right foot is busy braking, you swing your  right heel over the gas pedal and give it a short push (a “blip” as  it is called) to rev the engine while the left foot also lets out the clutch  (the ball of the right foot is still on the brake). The amount of blip, and the  clutch release timing need to be perfected so there is a perfectly smooth  transition when the clutch engages the engine.

Meanwhile,  the heel is rotated back off the gas, the ball of the right foot has still been  braking, and has been easing off as the car approaches the turn-in point. The  downshift should be completed before the braking is complete, and before the  turn-in. As the engine and transmission are engaged, the braking reduced, and  the turn-in begun as the foot makes a smooth transition back to the gas pedal.  At first only enough gas is applied to sustain the initial corner speed, and  then you gradually accelerate out of the corner.

The  above description is the “what” and the “why” all mixed together, so let’s look at the just the steps involved in the “what” part again:

  • Lift the right foot from the gas pedal and press the brake pedal
  • Just before the braking is done, the left foot depresses the clutch pedal
  • The right hand downshifts (the left is still on the steering wheel)
  • The right foot is still applying, but easing up on the brake pressure, then rotates so the heel is above the corner of the gas pedal
  • The right heel gives a quick push of the gas pedal to rev the engine quickly (the ball of the foot is still on the brake easing up even more)
  • The left foot releases the clutch, the right foot rotate off the gas
  • The right foot completes the braking
  • The right foot slides over to the gas pedal to assume the normal position only to maintain some pressure to sustain the vehicle speed through the first part of the corner. Then accelerating out of the turn.

The  whole sequence above from the second bullet to the last takes less about half a  second. This takes quite a bit of practice to get right. The whole idea is to  transition between braking and accelerating with absolutely no delay, and with  perfect smoothness. Done correctly, there should be no jerking of the car  during the downshift and transition back to acceleration.

One  other note about the above description. We have assumed the use of a street  car, and a street transmission with synchros. If you’re using a true race  transmission without synchros, then you need to modify the above shifting with  a double-clutch procedure. To do this, the clutch is pressed in, the shifter  moved to neutral, and the clutch released. Then the accelerator is blipped,  while the shifter is in neutral (again with the heel, while the ball of the  foot continues to brake), the clutch pressed back in, the shifter placed in the  lower gear, and the clutch released. This is required for maximum longevity of  the transmission. If you expect to get in a race car some day that is likely to  have such a transmission, it’s a good idea to practice this shfting technique  with your street car as well, even though it technically is not necessary.

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Braking  and Accelerating

One  of the keys to good race driving is smoothness, and this most certainly applies  to the use of the brake and accelerator pedals.

Braking

On  the street, braking and accelerating are done at relatively low levels compared  to the vehicle’s capability. The tire’s traction limits are rarely maxed out.  Sure, you can romp on the gas and spin the tires at a light, or slam on the  brakes and slide the car a little, but its very easy to bring the car back  under control.

In  the rain, or especially the snow, you know you have to be much gentler and  smoother with the brakes and with the accelerator. If you lose control on a wet  or snowy surface, it can be much harder to regain control. There is much less  traction to work with.

Braking  and accelerating when racing on a road race course, even when dry, is treated  something like driving on a wet surface–gently and smoothly. Braking and  accelerating are used in conjunction with the corners–you brake going into  them and accelerate coming out of them. Because the objective is to have the  car moving as fast as possible through the corner, the tires will be utilizing  most of the available traction (done right they should be using 100% of the  available traction). The driver must be very smooth with the use of the brakes  going into the corner and the accelerator coming out of the corner. A sharp  change in braking or power at these points will upset the car’s traction  balance just as quickly as if you were driving on ice. Working within the last  1% of traction means there is no reserve to call upon to gain control of the  car back. Even the pros very rarely recover a car that has lost control. It’s  not because they don’t know how, it’s because there’s no traction left to work  with. It is imperative to learn how to be consistently smooth in braking and  accelerating on a road course.

There  are three phases in braking. First, braking begins with a rapid, but not  instant, application of as much braking force as possible. How rapid the brakes  can be applied will depend on the the suspension in the car. The stiffer the  springs and shocks, the more rapidly maximum braking can be applied. Soft  springs will have significant forward roll which will require a little longer  and smoother ramp-up of braking to keep the car stable.        Second,  once the car settles onto the front tires, you’ll be trying to minimize the  length of the braking zone, so it will require taking the tires to the edge of  locking up. You’ll need to be very aware of the vibrations in your foot from  the pedal and in your hands from the steering wheel to feel that small  difference (therefore racing shoes are highly recommended. You just won’t feel  much from the pedals in Air Jordans). The car will travel some distance using a  fairly constant brake pedal pressure.

The  third phase is towards the end of the braking zone when the vehicle has been  slowed to near its final speed. Gradually release pressure off the pedal making  the transition from full to zero braking force as smooth as possible. During  braking, the front tires are under heavy load which increases the available  traction. A sudden release of the brakes will abruptly reduce the load and  reduce the traction potential of the front tires which at this point is needed  for turning into the corner.

The  turn-in is one of the points where the car will be the most sensitive to sudden  weight transfer transitions as though it were being driven on ice. Indecisive  braking resulting in a last second extra tap, or a sudden release of the brake  pedal will unsettle the car’s handling and force the driver to slow down to  gain control and hopefully avoid a spin.

As  the braking zone completes, and you ease off the brake pedal, you will have to  apply some throttle to reach a steady state of neither acceleration or  deceleration. Depending on the shape of the turn, the steady throttle zone will  vary, but with a typical late-apex corner, it will be from the turn-in to just  before the apex.

Accelerating

From  this point to the turn’s exit point, the use of the accelerator must be equally  smooth for the same reasons they were for braking. Through the turn, the car  will have settled with a certain loading of each tire. A sudden change in that  with the accelerator can also upset the available traction on one or more tires  and cause a loss of control. Controlled use of the accelerator is a matter of  depressing and releasing it in smooth motions. Don’t make sudden jerks in pedal  position.

In  a typical street car, applying the accelerator smoothly isn’t as difficult to  master as smooth braking. Once a car is moving fairly fast, most street cars  just don’t have enough horsepower to really cause trouble under most  acceleration circumstances. Even the factory exotics and highly modified street  cars rarely have more than 400 horsepower, and in a car weighing 2500 to 3200 pounds,  that just isn’t an overabundance of power to learn to control. The typical  professional open wheel cars weigh 1500-1800 lbs, and have 700-900 horsepower.  That’s about 5x the power to weight ratio of your typical street sports car.

Nevertheless,  whether its relatively easy to control or not, the introduction of 5 hp too  much at the right point, and you may as well have an extra 900. Coming out of a  turn, as soon as the car begins to straighten out, gradually apply more power  the straighter the car gets. Use smooth consistent pedal pressure–indecisive  on and off stabs will end up being slower than a smooth increase.

Because  most street cars aren’t overly sensitive to rough throttle control (although  there are definately some exceptions), it’s easy to develop bad habits with the  accelerator. Even though you may not have to be ultrasmooth to maintain  control, having the discipline to develop smooth control will still improve lap  times, and should you have the opportunity to drive a higher horsepower car,  you’ll have the skills to keep the car pointed in the right direction.

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Cornering

In  the end, road racing comes down to cornering. Assuming equal cars, the driver  able to sustain the highest speeds through the turns will have the lowest lap  times.

To  get terminology cleared up first, every corner is made of three parts. We’ll  call them the entry, the apex, and the exit. The entry is where turning begins.  The apex is the point where the car reaches the furthest point on the inside of  the turn. The exit is where the car is driving straight again.

The  objective in driving through a corner, or a series of corners, is to have the  fastest possible speed at the exit of corner, or the last corner of a series.  It is not necessarily to have the fastest speed going into the corner, nor even  the fastest speed in the middle of the corner. The last corner exit before a  straight is the most important segment. The speed of the exit determines the  speed during and at the end of the straight. If you can increase the average  speed of an entire straight, that will have greater impact that a faster  average over the shorter distance of the entry to the turn, or through the turn  itself.

The  path, or “line” you drive through a corner will determine the exit  speed. In general, the fastest line through a corner is the one that allows the  greatest radius, or straightest path. As a car can go faster around a large  corner than it can around a tight corner, the shortest path around a corner is  rarely the fastest.

To illustrate these concepts  so far, the classic teaching aid is to look at a 90-degree bend. In the  illustration below, the dotted line follows the path of the road. The solid  line indicates a path which maximizes the radius of the turn, or attempts to  make the turn as straight as possible. As you can see there is significant  difference in the tightness of the turn which follows the even the outside of  the road compared to one the which utilizes the whole width of the road  surface.

Tips Picture 1

As  mentioned, the objective in any corner is to have the highest exit speed. In  addition to increasing the corner radius, this also involves taking a line  which allows the earliest possible point of getting back into the throttle. To  do this, the car must be straightening back out on the corner exit path as  early as possible. We can modify the above corner line further to allow this.

The  illustration below now shows the previously noted large radius path in the  dotted line. The solid colored line shows a path known as the “late  apex.” This path moves forward the point at which the car reaches the  corner apex. The late apex straightens out the exit path of the car, and  therefore allows the driver to apply the accelerator earlier. This increases  the exit speed, and in effect lengthens the straight which allows for higher  speed at the end of the straight.

Tips Picture 2

While  the geometric racing line is faster than the natural line of the road, there is  still a faster technique for most corners. The technique is called using a late  apex. By delaying the turn-in point, and beginning the turn with a slightly  sharper bend, the car can be aimed to apex later than the geometric apex point.  This straightens out the second part of the turn, allowing the driver to apply  the accelerator earlier. The car will have to slow down a little more at the  turn in phase, but exit speed will be higher. That exit speed gives the driver  that much more speed on the straight which will result in lower lap times  overall.

This  approach works for corners which require hard accelerating cornering out of  them, which will be most of them. However, there are many types of corners, and  combinations of corners which require some analysis to understand the best  approach.

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Visual  Field

One  of the first things you were probably taught when learning to drive, was the  simple principle of “look where you want to go.” You were told,  “don’t look at on coming traffic, look at the cars in your lane in front  of you.” “Don’t stare at the dividing lines, look at the road between  them.” “Don’t look at the wall beside you, look at the lane in front  of you.” All sound, practical advice, and the same goes for racing.

If  you’ve played, or even watched, just about any sport, you’ll notice that the  player is constantly looking forward, and not at what he’s doing. In  basketball, soccer, or hockey a player does not watch himself handle the ball  or puck. Rather, he looks down the playing field at where he wants to go or  pass. The player’s field of vision is not the few feet in front of him, but the  whole field before him and beside him. The more of the field area the player  can see and keep track of, the greater are his abilities to avoid opponents,  plan a path through the field, and anticipate the movements of others.

The  distance and amount of territory the player can keep track of is called his  visual field. This requires the combination of two distinct skills. First, the  player must look farther ahead than his immediate surroundings. He has to look  where he wants to be, not where he is. Second, even though the human eye has a  narrow field of focus (only a small portion of what the eye sees is in focus),  the player must be able to distinguish activities in those areas that are not  currently in focus.

These  skills are critical to race driving as well. It should be apparent how they  would apply to road full of cars driving for position, but they are equally  important for a single car to navigate an empty track at maximum possible  speed.

There  is a tendency by inexperienced drivers to focus with a tunnel vision right in  front of the car. It’s a natural reaction. The amount of information the driver  is thinking about can be overwhelming, and it is easy to become visually  fixated on what is happening right in front of the car. Looking farther ahead  requires taking in even more input. At first, it can be very difficult, but as  the driver develops shifting, braking, and traction sampling skills into  “second nature” habits, he can spend more conscious time expanding his visual  field. An every day example of these skills at work can be drawn from the  scenario of trying to walk faster than everyone else through a crowded  sidewalk. Think of how you do this. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, your  brain tries to anticipate the movements of those in front of you. By gauging  the rhythm and timing of your speed along with the speed and position of others  on the sidewalk, your brain calculates when and where “openings”  should appear that you can walk through. In order to make these calculations in  time to be useful, you must look a certain distance ahead of where you are. The  faster you want to go, the farther ahead you need to look. If you were to look  at the ground, or only a couple feet in front of you, you would frequently bump  into people. You achieve a certain level of fluid movement through the crowd by  looking ahead and anticipating your environment’s changing conditions, while  keeping tabs on your immediate surroundings through peripheral vision. Your  body responds automatically by adjusting speed, and your side to side position  as you “dodge” the people around you.

This  same technique applies to driving on the track. A driver cannot be focused on  where he is on the track. He has to be focused on where he wants to be next on  the track. To drive the smoothest and fastest line through a corner, or a  series of corners, your brain must get input from far enough down the track to  calculate the smoothest lines, and anticipate the amount of steering and pedal  input to use.

Driving  through a corner consists of four phases, and requires that the driver be  looking ahead at least one, if not two, phases at a time. The first phase is  the braking zone before the turn. The second is the turn-in, the third is the  apex, and the fourth is the exit. If the driver is focused only on the current  phase where the car is, he will not be driving smoothly or as fast as is  possible through the corner. Each phase will seem like a surprise and will be  driven as a jerky sequence of four lines rather than as one fluid path.

To  describe the use of an expanded visual field through the corner sequence, we’ll  describe a typical turn after a long straight. As you approach a corner, your  focal point will be the braking reference point. A few car lengths before you  reach the braking point, your eyes must focus on the turn-in point. From your  peripheral vision, you will notice the braking reference point and apply the  brakes. Your eyes are still focused on the turn-in point, and as you approach  and get within a few car lengths, your eyes must now look to the corner apex.  Keeping the eyes focused on the apex reference point, use your peripheral  vision to notice the turn-in reference point and begin the turn-in. Now, as you  are approaching the apex, stay focused on the reference point until a few car  lengths away, where you will once again shift focus to the next point which is  the exit reference point. You will drive through the apex looking at the exit  point, not the apex marker. As you approach the exit point, your focus should  now shift to looking down the straight, and you will use your peripheral vision  again to drive out to the actual exit point as you reach it.

In  some situations such as tight chicanes or esses, you may need to be looking  through several corner reference points, and driving through them almost  entirely with your peripheral vision.

Using  your peripheral vision while also focusing in the center of your vision takes  some practice–especially at the speeds involved of race driving. If you have  already been track driving for a while, at first, this technique may slow you  down due to the uncertainty of using your peripheral vision. However, once you  get used to it, you will notice that you’ll hit your reference points more consistently,  and you’ll carry a couple more miles per hour through turns you thought you  were already maxing out. Developing these skills can takes a few weekends on  the track. However, stick to it. Develop the skill first, then bring up your  speed. In the end you’ll go much faster.

To  practice looking ahead, make sure that you are looking through the center of  the height of the front windshield. Several school instructors will even  suggest that you put a thin tape line on the windshield as a reminder to be  looking above it farther down the track until you fully develop this as a  habit. These skills can also be practiced during street driving. Around street  corners or on windy roads, practice keeping your focal point well ahead of  where you are driving, and “seeing” with your peripheral vision.

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Reference  Points

In  the cornering article, we discussed the three phases of the turn. We also  discussed that there is an optimium line through every corner. For consistency,  the driver will need a set of fixed reference points to mark the phases of the  corner, so the line can be driven identically every lap.

Upon  approaching a corner, the driver needs a fixed point to use as a reference for  starting the turn-in. Guessing each time or “going by the feel” will  guarantee that the driver will turn in too soon sometimes, and too late other  times. Inconsistent and slower than perfect lap times will result, and give a  more consistent competitor an advantage. To prevent this, in the practice  sessions the driver must quickly determine the correct starting point for the  turn-in and find a permanent visual landmark to use for reference.

Next,  is the apex point. This is the target point that the inside tire of the car  should touch as it reaches the maximum inside point of the driving line. Again,  without a fixed point to target, inconsistency and slower times will result.

Last,  is the exit point. This is the target point after the apex that the car tracks  out to on the opposite side of the track and is completely pointed straight  again, or is otherwise pointed properly for the next corner.

In  each case, the reference point should be a permanent land mark. A tire skid on  the track is no good. Other skids later on could obscure the original one.  Likewise, a particular rock, weed, or grass tuft on the side may be  questionable if they are in danger of being driven over if a car goes off  course. You should look for unique features in the road itself if possible. Some tracks have permanent signs in the braking zones, or have bump markers such as  those that separate lanes on the highway. You might start braking exactly at  one of the markers, or a car length before or after.

At  the corner apex, most permanent road course tracks will have the white or red  & white cement corner markers. When you find the right apex point, note  whether it is half way, three-quarters, or wherever, and aim for that spot each  time.

The  corner exit reference point can be the toughest to find. Many tracks have exit  markers just like the apex which can be used, but not all. You may have to  search for other fixed landmarks off the track that the car exit path lines up  with such as telephone poles, trees, or signs.

What about a reference point for the start of braking? There is some debate about  this. Some people suggest that there should not be a reference point for the  start of braking. The argument is that the turn-in point is the focus, and the  driver must learn to sense when to start the braking to achieve the proper  speed at the turn-in point. It is assumed that some laps will be faster than  others because traffic is involved, and with all these variables, the focus  must be placed on the turn-in point, not in looking for the braking point which  may be to soon for slower speeds. This is a valid theory.

Nevertheless,  one of the key attributes of skilled driving is consistency, and one of the  keys to consistency is reference points. In practice, qualifying, or time  trialing, a braking reference point is just as effective for marking the  capabilities of the car’s performance (for braking) as is the turn-in point  (for corner entry grip), and acceleration point (for corner exit grip).

An example of where a braking reference point is a must, is a blind corner. A corner at the top of, or just below, the crest of a hill will not be visible to  the driver during braking.

The  debate of whether there is or should be a reference point for braking is  largely semantics. Physiologically, your mind and body needs some reference to  know when to start braking, and how to make that action consistent. For  braking, the term “reference point” itself describes the purpose. It  is a point of reference, and will not be so much a “target” as it is  for the turn-in, apex, and exit points. If the driver is at maximum speed  before the turn, he’s going to need to know when to start braking. If another  lap is slower, he’ll know he can start braking a little later. Regardless of  how it is used and whether you call it a “reference point” or not,  having a point or reference for the maximum braking performance of the car for  each turn avoids guessing.

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Passing

Most  club racing of the hot lapping or time trialing variety will not allow passing  in corners. Autocrossing doesn’t involve passing at all. However, should you venture into racing which involves passing, or you get in a situation where  passing in a corner is inevitable, here’s some things to know.

Passing  is typically achieved under three circumstances: you utilize your car’s greater  horsepower or momentum exiting a corner to pass on a straight, you pass under  braking by controlling the preferred driving line entering a corner, or you  take advantage of your opponent’s mistakes.

First  Rule – it is the responsibility of the driver initiating the pass to ensure  that it is done safely. Where you pass, and how you pass must be done in a  manner that your “opponent” is aware of.

Second  Rule – blocking is illegal. Swerving, whether it’s six inches or six feet, to  keep another car from getting beside you is blocking. Most organizations will  allow you one move to protect your position. Repeated left-right moves is  blocking.

Third  Rule – if another driver has legitimately placed his car beside yours, leave  room for the other car to carry a line through the corner. You don’t  necessarily have to give him the optimum line, but cutting a car off that  results in forcing it off course is poor racing, and if the officials see it as  deliberate, you’re subject to penalty. Racing is not a roller derby.  Eliminating your competition is not one of the objectives.

Passing  under braking or on a straight close to a corner requires a little more  planning than a simple pass on in the middle of a long straight. The object of  passing in the braking zone is to control the inside line to the upcoming  corner. By placing your car between the other car and the corner apex, the  other car must yield to give you room to continue your driving line through the  corner. In this manner you have essentially “controlled” the  preferred line into the corner.

The  potential downside to making this move is that your car will not be taking the  turn on the optimum line. You may control the corner entry, but if you have to  slow down too much, or make too early an apex, the car you’ve just passed may  carry more speed or a better exit line, and pass you right back coming out of  the corner.

During practice  sessions, you will need to not only practice the optimum racing line for fast  laps when you’re clear of traffic, but you will want to practice some passing  lines. Move in from the edge of the track where you’d normally drive, brake a  little farther and turn in a little later. Practice taking a line that puts  your car in the middle of track coming out of the corner, or a least far enough  over from the edge so as not to leave enough room to be passed on the exit.  (Hogging the road so there’s not enough room to pass, but still avoiding the  swerving, is not blocking). By practicing these passing driving lines, you’ll  be ready to use them, and there’s less chance that you’ll cause an accident  when attempting a pass.

Now get out there and have some fun!