Top Mistakes Folks Make at the Race Track
After coaching hundreds of people these are the top things I see enthusiasts doing wrong on the race track. Let’s get right into it.
Stop braking so much
One of the first things I typically notice is that people are afraid of really diving into the braking zone. Understandably, pushing through your comfort zone into the unknown is difficult to do at first. It is said that the pedal in the middle is the one that wins races so learning how to brake late and slide the car on entry is essential to being among the fast guys. It’s not just about braking late everywhere, but using the brakes less. Too many people over slow for corners costing precious time.
Open your hands
Unwind your hands a little earlier than you think you should. I know that this is not an easy thing to wrap your head around at times but it is necessary. Subconsciously a lot of people unwind their hands later because it feels safer. You have to learn how to hang it out a little and get the wheel pointed straight earlier. Straight lines are the fastest way around a track and will cut tenths. Open up those hands!
Use the whole track
Age old track wisdom right here: Tracking out on exit is essential to getting faster. You have to get comfortable in certain corners running out to the edge of the track. In some cases, you need to be comfortable getting extremely close to walls. The final corner at Sonoma is a great example of this. Using the whole track allows you to carry more speed and every fraction of a mile an hour adds up big time when you cross the finish line.
Choking off the corner
Inconsistent radius corners one thing I see a lot of guys do is tuck in too tight. Autocross guys typically do this when they make the transition into doing track days because they don’t have as much room to play with. As autocross is a low-speed format the fastest way is often the shortest distance. As speeds increase there is a trade-off between carrying momentum and shortening distance. Choking off a corner can lead to needing more steering input later in the turn which can result in traction loss and unnecessary steering input. If you’re a cone dodger make sure you are thinking about this when you get onto the race track!
Move with precision
Going over the limit is just as bad as staying under it. You have to fine-tune your sense of when the car is going to slide and predict it as opposed to reacting to it. Slightly counter steering through corners means you’re right on the limit. It’s not easy to learn, but it’s something I see a lot of “veteran” drivers struggle to do. Watch any tarmac rally specialists or F1 drivers from back in the day and you will see them apply subtle amounts of opposite lock mid-corner to corner exit. Staying in your comfort zone is a mistake. Pick corners where you can safely go over the limit and let the car move around.
Perfect practice makes perfect
Be aware of these 5 things when you go to your next track day and I guarantee you will be faster. After working with people from all over the world I would say each of these points have equal weight. Opening the hands and learning to control slides are two of the hardest to learn, but pay off big. Get out there and have fun!