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Old 10-30-2011, 10:26 PM   #1
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Doing trackdays vs actually learning to drive

I just finished a AX day yesterday .. my 2nd AX day ever .. and had TONS of fun.

As with my first event, I went with an instructor again. Long story short, though I thought I pushed my car pretty hard ( 1 spin .. couple of almost that I caught luckily ) .. turns out I was not. My fastest non spin / dnf time was almost 5 seconds behind my instructor's first run in my car.

WOW!

That's quite a bit of time I left on the table .. more than a 7% difference. The car was actually capable of going even faster .. maybe low 60s if the instructor had more time with it.

Now my question .. how do I get faster ?

Do you guys just get fast by doing tons of events year after year for fun and eventually you just become fast .. or do you guys actually seek out "professional" instruction?

I left the event yesterday knowing SOME areas where I'm messing up .. braking too early in some spot .. not using the entire track in other .. ect ect .. of course I can try to keep working on these areas next event but this feel as if I'm trying to learn to fight by jumping into the ring .. instead of actually going to a boxing gym and LEARNING.

What are your thoughts ?

Last edited by nefarious986; 10-30-2011 at 10:32 PM.
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Old 10-31-2011, 05:24 AM   #2
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Practice makes perfect. Having an instructor helps.
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Old 10-31-2011, 05:43 AM   #3
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You can do pro instruction, but practice is the main thing. You can learn a lot by following faster drivers, riding w/ faster drivers, etc. More than anything else, though, seat time is key.

BTW, it is possible to push your car hard & be SLOW. when i first started, i DESTROYED tires, brake pads, etc. I thought i was senna! Now i am in a whole other league speed wise, but my equipment lasts 5x as long......

as they say, don't focus on being fast. focus on being SMOOTH and the speed will come.

also, if you really want to learn to drive, you won't do it w/ six minutes in the seat during an Auto-X. you're in san jose; that's like an hour from laguna seca. go there & drive!
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Old 10-31-2011, 06:11 AM   #4
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If you haven't already, you can also read performance/racing books to understand not only the how of driving technique, but the why of chassis dynamics. You can also see how your cars responds to different inputs in your street driving, just don't do it as "race" speeds!
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Old 10-31-2011, 08:08 AM   #5
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Insite .. I'm doing a trackday @ Laguna next month .. will be my first and pretty psyched about it.

From the sound of it everyone thinks just getting more seat time is the way to go. Its certainly cheaper than the alternative of seeking out professional instruction.

I agree too somewhat that 'feel' is a big part of driving that can only come from seat time. Knowing that moment before the tire give up its last bit of grip wont come from a book or classroom ..

I guess I just wanted to make sure I don't find out 5 or 10 autox days, and 2 set of tires / brake pads / rotors later that I was learning things the harder way.

Stephen, what book do you recommend ? Any thing out there similar to 'Twist of the wrist' but for 4 wheels ?
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Old 10-31-2011, 08:19 AM   #6
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pro instruction is expensive. if the margin between you and a pro is 10% of lap time, PCA instructors + seat time will get you 8% of that. pro coaches help you get that last 2%.

to put it another way, if you're looking for SECONDS, keep driving. when you're looking for TENTHS, coaching makes sense.
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Old 10-31-2011, 08:35 AM   #7
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Hah. Nicely put insite.
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Old 10-31-2011, 11:05 AM   #8
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I used to race motorcycles and my first time on the track, the instructor made us do the "no brakes" drill, which really worked in getting you familiarized with the track. We had to drive around the track without using the brakes, so that our concentration was on getting good corner speed. You quickly got a good sense of the lines to take into corners and the corner speeds. When we added braking, a lot of people's lap times went DOWN significantly. For me, judging speed while braking hard is still hardest part of racing.

Not sure if this applies to cars also.
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Old 10-31-2011, 03:01 PM   #9
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If you want to 1. be safe, and 2. get good you do need proper instruction to start. There are many basics that you should get down pat before you start looking for speed, and the best way to do that is with good instruction. Like any sport you need the fundamentals first, and at times the only way to learn them is to be shown by a qualified instructor.

I see experienced drivers at the track who have had lots of seat time, but still don't know how to hold a steering wheel (a PCA instructor recently... he gained a few seconds a lap by fixing just that one thing) or many other of the driving fundamentals.

It can be pricy to take instruction... but it is much cheaper then hitting something. I see so many people spending big money to try and make their car faster, when what they should be doing is tuning the driver up.

Don't worry about being faster... worry about driving better and the speed will come.
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Old 10-31-2011, 03:22 PM   #10
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Hmmm....I'll have to get back to you on a book recommendation, I have read many over the years. Corner-carvers.com had a good thread on that very topic.
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Old 10-31-2011, 03:52 PM   #11
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As insite said: to drive faster, don't focus on going fast. Focus on the racing line, hitting your marks consistently, getting your corner entry speeds exactly right, drive smooth and settled, and fast will happen all by itself.

You are near PCA-GGR. They are good guys with a lot of very experienced drivers. Yoke their strength. Get with as many different instructors as you can and ride in their right seat often. I learn as much from the right seat with a skilled driver as I do behind the wheel. After 5-6 DEs with a good instructor a light will go on in your head.

If you ever get to a SoCal PCA event, look for me. I'll run a session with you.
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Old 10-31-2011, 06:50 PM   #12
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Awesome topless. Might take you up on that offer sometime next year.

I've only done two autox events .. and had the opportunity to take advantage of 3 of GGR's instructors .. awesome guys .. all drive like madmens .. and taught me alot.

Some small changes make a huge difference .. for example one instructor actually totally changed the way I sit in the car .. very upright and forward .. almost to the point of being uncomfortable and hated it the first time I tried it .. now I do it everytime I race .. then switch back to my lazy relaxed sitting style when I'm back on the street.

I'll keep taking advantage of the available instructors for the next couple events. Kinda feel bad sometimes though when I do ask for an instructor because I'm sure those guys would rather spend their day doing their own things than running back and forth from their car to my car to ride with me.

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Old 10-31-2011, 09:01 PM   #13
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Just discovered this great series on youtube 'Autocrossing with Dick Turner' ( Autocrossing with Dick Turner - 8 - Slaloms - YouTube ) .. already identified a bunch of other things I was doing "wrong" that I didn't realize before just with the slalom alone.

Like entering the first slalom cone @ a wide angle .. and then trying to jerk the wheel quickly to change direction .. in fact this is where I actually spun!

I cant wait until the next autocross day where I can practice again .. =D

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Old 11-01-2011, 04:00 AM   #14
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Fast is smooth and smooth is fast.

I don't think reading a book is a good idea. It's like reading Penthouse for instructions on how to have sex!

And yes try to go to a track instead of auto-x... I always spend more time figuring out where the cones are pointing instead of getting the right line.
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Old 11-01-2011, 06:01 AM   #15
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I have never done auto cross. What skills would be developed as oposed to the track?
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Old 11-01-2011, 04:10 PM   #16
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After 18 track days this year, here is my advice on improving your times:

1. Experience
2. Experience
3. Experience
4. Experience
5. Experience

Ok, you get the point. Now, here are a few points to consider:
6. Learn to brake later and harder. This will pick up whole seconds per lap.
7. Get comfortable carrying more speed through the corners. Its not just about ripping through at breakneck speed but maintaining your momentum while keeping the car balanced. Its a lot harder than it sounds.
8. Keep the rev's up. If you're dropping below 4,500K rpms, then consider downshifting. The sweet spot is 4,500 - 6,000 rpm.
9. Get on the throttle earlier on corner exit. You can probably get on the throttle much earlier than you think without inducing throttle oversteer.
10. Get stickier tires. Use the lowest treadwear rated tires you can find.
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Old 11-01-2011, 05:20 PM   #17
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Here is what I have learned from the many autocrosses I have done.
1) slower is faster. Chances are you are completely over driving the car. Your grip is limited by the little contact patch where your tire touches the ground. If you are braking hard and attempting to turn at the same time, you are over extending that contact patch. Working on smoothness and obtaining the speed you want to go through the turn at.

2) typically stay in one gear during an autocross. If you go into a turn, you might catch yourself pushing the clutch in and switch gears. It places undo stress on the clutch and slows you way down because you are shifting too much. Most courses I do, I get into second and stay there. Second is a perfect gear....it is really tall.

3) smoothness...smoothness...smoothness. The more you jerk the car around, you can upset the balance.

4). Depending on surface, most of the time my tire pressure is set at 34 in the rear and 30-32 in the front. Make sure you do not wear below the triangles on the side of the tire. You can ruin a set of good tires by destroying the sidewall.

I will leave it at that right now. You will really enjoy autocrossing and it will make you a much better driver on the road. You will truely learn the outer dynamics of your car at the limits. I think my autocrossing experience actually saved my families life last year when a car crossed into our lane on a winding road in the Appalachian mountains coming home from a cruise. it was by far the scariest moment I have been through in a long time.

Happy autocrossing.
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Old 11-02-2011, 09:10 AM   #18
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Slower is faster .. that explain why all the old folks out there driving 914s are so quick ! .. JK =D

With GGR's course layout .. both times I do stay in just 2nd gear after I get up to speed.

After researching more ( videos / books ) I'm infact probably losing a lot of time by 'overdriving' the car .. pushing too hard through corners that I hear the tires chunking ( or maybe the fact that they're 19's is causing the chunking .. lol ).

I see now a ton of new areas I can practice and improve instead of just late braking and using the entire track.

Thanks guys!
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Old 11-02-2011, 09:23 AM   #19
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a lot of it is managing slip angle. when you're newer, there's a tendency to think the car is pushing like hell. after you've been driving awile, you'll learn to get the car to lean onto its rear haunches a bit & understeer becomes much less of an issue. your tires will start to thank you.
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Old 11-02-2011, 09:57 AM   #20
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Yeah like getting on the throttle on a downhill off camber sweeper...in the rain!
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