Braking – smooth and progressive
Progressive application of the brakes is vital to maintain stability and composure at speed
Progressive application of the brakes is vital to maintain stability and composure at speed. To do this, press the brake pedal until contact is made between the brake pads and discs (i.e. take up the slack), then squeeze on the pressure until the required rate of deceleration is reached. This doesn’t mean you can’t brake firmly or quickly but it’s important to make the application progressive rather than simply stamping on the pedal. Equally important is the smooth release of the pedal. Remember you can brake much faster than you can accelerate thus the weight transfers while braking (and easing off the brake) are more extreme. Progressive braking will make you less likely to lock a wheel or lose control due to loss of traction.
Acceleration – squeeze on the gas
No matter how much (or little) power your road car has, you can practise progressive acceleration, although the benefits will be more dramatic in more powerful cars. Applying the throttle too early or too aggressively can lead to unwanted weight transfers and spinning wheels.
Steering position should be at the nine and three o’clock positions, as this is the position which gives you a good range of motion without forcing your hands off the wheel. Adopting this position will allow you to turn the vast majority of corners without shuffling hands or taking one off the wheel. Allow both hands to do the work – don’t simply pull with one or push with the other, splitting the effort will allow you greater control and give you more feedback from the road.
Changing gear is often overlooked but is often where the greatest gains can be made
Changing gear is often overlooked but is often where the greatest gains can be made. Rev-matching and heel and toe should be second nature for anyone changing down in a manual transmission car. When making any gear change, the shift should be imperceptible from the passenger seat as in extreme cases, dodgy shifts can lock wheels of cause wheelspin any any loss of traction means you’re losing time on the track. Don’t use the gears to slow you down, modern brakes are very good at doing this for you and give you a much greater amount of control, if you do decide to change down before a corner this should be done to give you maximum acceleration on the way out, not to slow you down on the approach. Finally, when changing down before a corner, ensure you brake first then change down – this will get the engine speed down to a point where the gear change is easier to perform smoothly.
Avoiding dramatic shifts in weight due to aggressive driver inputs is vital for every performance driver. You may be able to get away with this behaviour at lower speeds, but as soon as your car approaches the limits of grip even a tiny weight transfer in the wrong direction can cause you to lose traction. Practising smooth driving every day will make the journey more pleasant for your passengers, but also allow you to cover the ground more quickly and safely.
That’s all for now – happy motoring!