Driver Controls

Any physical command you give to the car is a driver output. There are only four outputs: steering, braking, shifting and using the throttle. How well you perform your outputs, determines your car control ability, speed, and overall performance. What you do with your car controls is the essence of the art of driving a racecar.

Effective use of your controls is paramount. Misuse, or poorly developed skills, cost time on the track. The time and effort spent to develop car control skills is among the most important at any level of proficiency.

Steering:

The most basic of race driving skills is turning the steering wheel. The effect of steering is so dramatically important that it is crucial to do it correctly. The steering wheel also provides you with important data concerning traction.

The steering control factors, which you must manage, include:

1. When to begin steering

2. How much steering is needed

3. How quickly to steer

4. Determining the need for steering corrections

5. When to finish steering

The most important concept for you to fully understand concerning steering is this: Turning the steering wheel is like applying the brakes. It reduces speed.

With this in mind, the most important goal for the race driver is this: Turn the steering wheel as little as possible for the entire lap, or event. All else being equal, the driver who turns the steering wheel the least, will be fastest around the track & the one who saves the tires the most. Any unneeded steering costs speed and time.

Making steering corrections falls within this category. While making a steering correction is crucial at the appropriate time, your goal should be to eliminate the need to make corrections by planning and practicing cornering paths and “seeing” the optimum path before beginning steering.

When to initiate steering depends on the track and the optimum path for that track. How quickly to turn the wheel is another factor, and is dependent on the type of wheel you use along with the amount of wheel lock you have set for your chassis. Steering to quickly can cause overloading of outside tires, which can upset the balance of the car. This causes steering corrections and overheated tires, which in the long run causes tires to wear quicker.

Braking:

Braking is a necessity, but the least desirable of car control. The basic goal when using the brakes is to minimize their use. To minimize braking is to minimize lap times. All else being equal, the fastest driver around a racetrack is the one who turns the wheel the least and who uses full throttle acceleration the most. The only reason to brake is to reduce speed so that the racecar can stay on the track into and through a corner.

Most cars on most tracks spend about 10% of a lap decelerating. The rest of the time is spent accelerating and/or cornering. It is important to maintain this perspective: little time can be saved during braking, but considerable time can be lost. While some attention must be applied to braking, the greater emphasis should be on vehicle speed for the upcoming corner. The focus of attention is on the speed necessary to negotiate the corner at the limit of traction.

The only other areas where you need to brake are in a tactical situation, when you use braking to initiate a pass, or to avoid a collision. In a passing situation, the focus of attention is on the tactics; braking is your tool to help negotiate the pass.

Braking into a turn:

As you approach a corner where you must reduce speed, you have two priorities. The first is to reduce speed to the optimum to negotiate the corner at the limits of tire traction. The second is to spend the minimal amount of time braking. This allows maximum time on the throttle. It is far more important to get your speed correct for the upcoming corner than it is to minimize braking.

Even if you reduce your speed too quickly because you began braking to early, simply ease off the brake pedal to reduce braking. Even though you began braking too early, the speed over that portion of the track is high, on average, as it would be if you had perfectly executed braking. You are much more likely to get the cornering speed correct and this is your number one priority upon braking.

On the other hand, if your main focus is trying to brake as little as possible, chances are you will get the speed wrong at the entry. This will cost you time at the entry of the turn and all the way through the turn and down the following straightaway. If you make a braking mistake when focusing on speed, you may lose only hundredths of a second; but if you make a mistake and try braking to late, (braking just to the limit of tire traction) you may lose tenths or possibly evens seconds a lap.

This is why maintaining proper entry speed is always more important than braking less.

Braking skills:

To become a skilled driver, you must develop specific braking skills.

They include:

1. Judging the relationship between brake pedal travel, distance traveled, and vehicle speed reduction.

2. Braking at the limits of traction.

3. Modulating brake pedal travel to control speed and avoid wheel lock-up.

Finding and using braking points is an effective method to maximize braking performance. Where the brakes are applied is much less important than vehicle speed at the turn in, when to apply the brakes is totally a function of getting the entry speed correct.

The key elements in braking are the relationship between current speed, estimated speed requirements at turn-in, available traction, distance required to reduce speed, and the pedal travel needed to change speed. To understand this relationship requires practice and knowledge of your pedals along with their limitations.

Throttle:

The key to the fastest possible lap is acceleration. The more time spent on full throttle acceleration, the faster the lap. The goal is to apply full throttle as long as possible approaching a corner and as early as possible at the exit of a corner.

The limiting factor is traction. At the entry traction determines deceleration and cornering speed; at the exit, traction determines acceleration and, therefore, throttle position. Use full throttle as long, and as often, as possible.

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