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Old 02-12-2013, 06:41 AM   #1
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General Techniques of Road Racing

Just thought I'd start a thread where we can share some of the basic concepts and techniques of road racing. the idea here is to capture and disseminate knowledge points which a beginner could benefit from during their 1st few events. this isn't about car prep, but about driving technique.

1st off, the sayings "slow in fast out" and "smooth is fast" are absolutely correct. Most newbies tend to try and go as fast as possible into a corner, thinking they're doing really well, but don't realize they're early apexing and giving up a LOT of speed on corner exit. It usually feels fast though, because the car is being thrown around, so they get some validation that what they did was right ... Until they get passed up in their 400HP monster on corner exit by a 120HP Miata with a driver who knows how to carry momentum
  • Getting the apex right is critical to a good lap time. and for beginners, this is what you should be focused on. For experienced drivers, who are looking to get into wheel-to-wheel, knowing how to handle all the different lines through a corner is important for traffic management and passing techniques, but for someone starting out, learn the race line and how to apex correctly.

  • Here's a look at early, proper, and late apexing a left hand corner. Notice the early apex will allow more speed at corner entry, but will require a sharper turn at corner exit to stay on track, which means you'll have to scrub a lot more speed after you've already apexed the corner. This means you can't get back on the gas until you have a safe track exit line, which is way after the apex and too late to carry any momentum.

  • The proper apex allows you to carry the most speed through the corner, and enables you to get back on the gas the earliest

  • The late apex will allow you to brake later when approaching the corner, but you'll need to scrub more speed due to the tighter radius ... but, it is the safest way to take a corner. I do this a lot when there is a hazard at corner exit, such as a wall or tire barrier; just to ensure I don't slide into it.




Pedal management is also a critical factor to getting good laps, and keeping the car settled. You're goal here is to keep the car smoooooth
  • For the brake pedal, push it HARD when 1st getting on the brakes, then let off slowly when releasing.

    • pick a brake point on the track when approaching a corner, and hit the pedal HARD! the initial press of the brake pedal should be the hardest you'll need to brake for the corner. It'll feel violent, but it's actually the smoothest way to do it.

    • Then, as you release the pedal, do it slowly. Don't release quickly as it'll cause a violent weight shift just as you're ready to turn into the corner. Be sure to be off the brake 100% before turning in, so pick a brake point early enough to accomplish this.

    • You can still be releasing the pedal after turn in, and this is called "Trail Braking", but is an advanced technique and should be learned when you have more experience

  • Throttle pedal management is the exact opposite of the brake pedal. Getting on the throttle should be smooth and slow, where releasing the throttle should be fast and abrupt.

    • The reason is due to you trying to get on the throttle as soon as possible during corner exit. Ideally, this can be just before corner apex, and if you smashed the throttle at this point to the floor, you'll cause a sudden weight shift and upset the chassis of the car.

    • the idea is to get on the throttle as soon as possible, and gradually ease it down as you exit the corner and keep the car smoooooth through corner exit and onto the straight.

  • Situational awareness is a big piece of becoming a successful driver as well
    • Knowing the flag stations
    • Knowing what the flags mean
    • Knowing which of the flag stations are actually manned
    • Dealing with traffic
    • Understanding the track surface, and positioning the car for maximum traction based on surface condition (sometimes this can be off the race line due to a bump in the pavement, or a patched area which provides better traction)

  • One of the important things for a new driver to realize, is once you get behind another car, you will have a tendency to follow that car around the track. Don't do this!

  • Keep your eyes on the track, and position your car dependent on following the race line. You should be looking 2 points ahead of where you are

    • by points, I'm referring to brake point, turn in point, apex point, track exit point

  • So when entering a corner, you should already have scanned (with your eyes) through the brake point, through the apex and be looking at corner exit when you hit the brake pedal (and hit it HARD, remember?).

  • When clipping the apex, you should be looking down the straight already and not at the corner exit point. You should have already scanned the corner exit point before reaching the apex because you're looking 2 points ahead

  • I know this sounds strange, but your car will go where you are looking, so stay completely focused on the race line, looking ahead, and your car will follow.

  • If your watching the car in front of you, and he goes off track, guess where you will go too? Remember, your car will go where you are looking, so don't look too long at anything you don't want to hit

Ok guys, that's it for now. Hopefully some of the other track guys in here can add some more info. As you can see, this is a very large subject and I could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on ..........
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Old 02-12-2013, 06:52 AM   #2
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i really want to try my hand at RR. i think it would be more fun for me since i really like to drive and not just go straight real fast.
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Old 02-12-2013, 06:53 AM   #3
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RR rocks and is 10 times better than cone racing in a parking lot which is 10 times funner than drag racing.
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Old 02-12-2013, 06:55 AM   #4
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good read. i'd love to take the goat out to an autocross
event just to get a feel for how road tracks are managed.
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:08 AM   #5
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Stoop, us track noobs and those hoping to hit the track someday, really appreciate this.

Excellently written!
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:17 AM   #6
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Re: General Techniques of Road Racing

Go get some practice at some of those really fast go cart tracks.

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Old 02-12-2013, 07:57 AM   #7
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Good info, I wanna try my hand at some track day events but after I get my suspension in line.
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:04 AM   #8
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Traction Circle




A traction circle is nothing more than a representation of the available traction, or grip, your car can put to the ground. Consider the outer rim of the circle to represent 100% of available grip, and you can apply that to acceleration, braking, or cornering .... or, any combination of acceleration/cornering or braking/cornering.

The thing is, when you corner in conjunction with either braking or acceleration, the total amount of traction for any one of these three is reduced. This is why threshold breaking is so important.
  • Threshold Braking: Is a technique used to slow your car as quickly as possible, and be completely off the brakes before turning the steering wheel

This image is a good representation of how your cornering capabilities are reduced when you add either braking or acceleration to the picture:


  • If the arrow was pointed 90* to the right, you're maintaining a constant speed and have the most cornering traction available.

  • If the arrow is pointed straight up, you're full throttle and depending on how much G force you can generate, may have zero cornering traction available.

  • If the arrow was pointed straight down, you are full braking, and depending on your ABS and braking capability, may have zero cornering traction available.


Think of a string tied from the bottom of the steering wheel to your gas pedal, with the length set to allow full throttle with the wheel straight, and zero throttle with the wheel turned into a corner.

When the wheel is turned due to you being in a corner, the gas pedal is all the way up. As you come through the corner, and start to unwind the steering wheel (slowly), the string would start allowing the gas pedal to be pressed in relation to how much the wheel has unwound thus far.

this mental concept helps you manage your traction circle and get full available traction to the ground without spinning the rear tires or sliding.

Last edited by Stoopalini; 02-12-2013 at 08:22 AM.
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:32 AM   #9
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There has been a question about road racing that always nagged at me. When you look at films of drivers, you see the steering wheel feverishly moving to and fro, and I never quite wrapped my brain around it. It appears that the drivers are constantly making frantic, rapid corrections. Or are they just keeping a rather loose grip on the wheel and letting it move on its own?
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mistermike...View Post
There has been a question about road racing that always nagged at me. When you look at films of drivers, you see the steering wheel feverishly moving to and fro, and I never quite wrapped my brain around it. It appears that the drivers are constantly making frantic, rapid corrections. Or are they just keeping a rather loose grip on the wheel and letting it move on its own?

What you are seeing Mike, is a more advanced technique the driver is using to control the slip angle, and keep his car on the desired path. This happens when the driver is operating the vehicle outside of the traction circle ... ie: he's going really fast!

Slip Angle: Is basically the difference between which direction the tires are physically pointed and which direction the tires are actually moving




The driver is also using the throttle (which you may or may not see in the videos you're watching) to control this as well.

Flipping the steering wheel when the slip angle of the front tires is different than that of the rear tires will prevent a spin (or cause one if you do it incorrectly).

Using the throttle in conjunction with this allows you to control where the weight is being transferred on the car (more throttle = less weight on front wheels = less front traction = larger slip angle .... less throttle, or brake, = more weight on the front tires = more front traction = less slip angle)

Leave it to mistermike to start getting into the advanced concepts

Last edited by Stoopalini; 02-12-2013 at 09:51 AM.
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Old 02-12-2013, 09:35 AM   #11
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Well, it seems from the rapidity of the steering movements, that the driver has some kind of superhuman reaction time?
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Old 02-12-2013, 09:46 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stoopalini...View Post
[list][*]For the brake pedal, push it HARD when 1st getting on the brakes, then let off slowly when releasing.

  • pick a brake point on the track when approaching a corner, and hit the pedal HARD! the initial press of the brake pedal should be the hardest you'll need to brake for the corner. It'll feel violent, but it's actually the smoothest way to do it.

  • Then, as you release the pedal, do it slowly. Don't release quickly as it'll cause a violent weight shift just as you're ready to turn into the corner. Be sure to be off the brake 100% before turning in, so pick a brake point early enough to accomplish this.

  • You can still be releasing the pedal after turn in, and this is called "Trail Braking", but is an advanced technique and should be learned when you have more experience

I'm going to disagree with the bolded statement. It might work if you have ABS, but it's a recipe for flat-spotting tires with no ABS. Now, if it's a corner where I only need to bleed a little speed, then yeah, that's the way I do it. But when I need to bleed a lot of speed, say going from 110 to 40, I roll into the brakes. It's a VERY short transition to full brakes, but that itty-bitty transition time gets the car's weight moving to the front wheels before I get to full braking pressure. Getting the weight up there provides more traction for braking, and thus I can ramp up the brake pressure without locking a wheel. Just jamming on the brakes as hard as I can will lock the wheel before the weight ever gets there to provide the max traction.

Edit: My race car, a '92 240sx, has no ABS.
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Last edited by TObey; 02-12-2013 at 09:51 AM.
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Old 02-12-2013, 09:51 AM   #13
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yes TObey, I agree with you 100% ... Transferring the weight to the front tires on a car without ABS, with a driver pushing the limits to 10/10ths, is absolutely what you want to do before getting to full braking. You're managing the weight transfer to control your traction circle.

The bolded statement you quoted is meant as advice and guidance to a beginner who is just starting out in their 1st few sessions.

Certainly there are more advanced techniques to all of the items I called out, I just thought having a thread to provide beginner info for folks who are considering road racing would be good to encourage them
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:25 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TObey...View Post
I'm going to disagree with the bolded statement.

Agreed...

With the present brakes on my Escort ZX2 you do NOT want to go hard on the brakes. The Ol' Chump Car will getting a Proportioning valve before the next race.
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:30 PM   #15
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What about on your GTO? Do you go hard on them when on the track?
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:03 PM   #16
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Quote:
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What about on your GTO? Do you go hard on them when on the track?

I dont track my GTO so I'm the wrong guy to ask..

If I'm going to beat up a car on the track thats what my chumpcar is for...lol
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Old 02-12-2013, 09:38 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mistermike...View Post
Well, it seems from the rapidity of the steering movements, that the driver has some kind of superhuman reaction time?

there's a technique that basically has the driver saw tooth the steering wheel a bit (turn just past limit of traction, then back inside limit, very quickly back and forth during a turn). It's supposed to give you better feedback supposedly, at the cost of maximal accel in X direction
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Old 02-12-2013, 10:23 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mistermike...View Post
Well, it seems from the rapidity of the steering movements, that the driver has some kind of superhuman reaction time?

Decent chance you've already seen this as it's been around quite a bit, but if not..

Quote:
Originally Posted by TObey...View Post
I'm going to disagree with the bolded statement. It might work if you have ABS, but it's a recipe for flat-spotting tires with no ABS. Now, if it's a corner where I only need to bleed a little speed, then yeah, that's the way I do it. But when I need to bleed a lot of speed, say going from 110 to 40, I roll into the brakes. It's a VERY short transition to full brakes, but that itty-bitty transition time gets the car's weight moving to the front wheels before I get to full braking pressure. Getting the weight up there provides more traction for braking, and thus I can ramp up the brake pressure without locking a wheel. Just jamming on the brakes as hard as I can will lock the wheel before the weight ever gets there to provide the max traction.

Edit: My race car, a '92 240sx, has no ABS.

+1
No abs in my Miata either. It definitely took some time to get a feel for how much pedal to give it. Out of everything that is involved in road racing (minus the "racing" in my case) I'd say proper braking technique is definitely one of the hardest.

Trying to keep track of all the flag stations can also be a bit overwhelming the first few times out. I had an EXCELLENT instructor my first time out and he drove the first few laps. Let me get a feel for the track, braking points, and most importantly he pointed out all the stations to me so I had an idea where to look when I was driving.

If you're thinking about doing a DE I say go for it. Most fun I've had in a car. And don't worry about the car too much in beginning. Fresh set of pads, a helmet, and some common sense and you'll be good to go.

Also, when you blow by the guys in Miatas on the straights, give em some some room to breathe.
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Old 02-12-2013, 10:55 PM   #19
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Old 02-13-2013, 05:06 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TObey...View Post
I'm going to disagree with the bolded statement. It might work if you have ABS, but it's a recipe for flat-spotting tires with no ABS.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 72/04 GTO...View Post
Agreed...

With the present brakes on my Escort ZX2 ....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stay Puft...View Post
+1
No abs in my Miata either.

Guys, you're killing me here!

We're talking about an 04-06 GTO With ABS (a REALLY GOOD ABS unit BTW), driven by a 1st timer ........ Yes, driving a dedicated track car without an ABS unit takes more skill than just pushing the pedal down HARD at the beginning, we understand this, but let's not confuse anyone who might be thinking of tracking their GTO for the 1st time by getting overly complicated on advanced techniques in a car built for dedicated track duty.


And I'm not saying "smash the brake pedal as hard as you can with all your might", I'm saying your hardest braking pressure should be in the beginning of your brake zone, and your time on the brake pedal should be as short as possible, with a gradual release. The idea is to ride the edge of the traction circle around the corner.

Most new drivers do the opposite, because that's the way street driving is done. They start riding the brakes before the brake zone, then gradually ease into the pedal, with their hardest braking being at the end .... then they suddenly let off at turn in, create a huge weight transfer just as they're trying to take the corner.


With an ABS car, you actually can smash it with all your might (although not recommended) ..... with a non-ABS car, you have to learn the traction limit and not go beyond when braking.


Using AIM Data Acquisition To Improve Driving Technique

Quote:
Originally Posted by AIM Data Aquasition...
In Figure 1, you can see Driver A (Blue) had a later initial braking point than Driver B (Red). Due to an ABS-equipped car which a high initial spike of brake pressure engages ABS, Driver A had a quick squeeze of brake application to a high initial pressure and a very nice modulation and reduction of brake pressure throughout the brake zone which trailed off into the corner, keeping the car out of ABS the entire time. Driver B was forced to an earlier initial brake point due to a lower initial brake pressure which cost driver B 0.05 seconds in the first quarter of the brake zone alone due to under maximization of the brakes. The brake modulation was okay but the higher spikes of pressure later in the brake zone resulted in more weight on the front of the car which took away from cornering grip during trailbraking on corner entry which led to a slower entry-speed and more time lost totaling 0.25 seconds.


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Old 02-13-2013, 07:32 AM   #21
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We're talking about an 04-06 GTO With ABS (a REALLY GOOD ABS unit BTW), driven by a 1st timer ........ Yes, driving a dedicated track car without an ABS unit takes more skill than just pushing the pedal down HARD at the beginning, we understand this, but let's not confuse anyone who might be thinking of tracking their GTO for the 1st time by getting overly complicated on advanced techniques in a car built for dedicated track duty.



Your description is spot on from what I've always heard for how to treat ABS.

Dammit, when will it warm up around here. This thread is making me all antsy, and I have parts in the mail too.
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Old 02-13-2013, 06:20 PM   #22
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Really good points here. From my experience I would have to say that this car requires a slower entrance and a later apex. YOu want to get the car turned and get back on the power such that the rear tires are required to only accelerate the car and not provide lateral traction. If you look at a traction circle you can see that as you ad lateral force, the longitudinal force falls off.

Also, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Screaming tires and not happy tires.
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Old 02-14-2013, 12:16 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billyjack2...View Post
Really good points here. From my experience I would have to say that this car requires a slower entrance and a later apex. YOu want to get the car turned and get back on the power such that the rear tires are required to only accelerate the car and not provide lateral traction. If you look at a traction circle you can see that as you ad lateral force, the longitudinal force falls off.

Also, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Screaming tires and not happy tires.

So in other words be ready to be REALLY slow in the corners ? I'm curious to figure this out as much as possible. Most of the cars I'll be expecting to see will be GT3's and such so the better the approach the better.
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Old 02-14-2013, 05:11 AM   #24
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So in other words be ready to be REALLY slow in the corners ? I'm curious to figure this out as much as possible. Most of the cars I'll be expecting to see will be GT3's and such so the better the approach the better.

Not REALLY slow. The point he's making is you only have so much traction available with the skinny tires on a heavy, high HP car. You need the get the car rotated quickly so you can get on the gas as soon as possible while pointed in the right direction.

A Miata will take a different line through the corner. It's considerably lighter and has a better suspension and can carry more speed in the middle of the corner. And since it doesn't have much power, you can get on the gas a lot sooner, while still turning. The primary focus of a Miata driver is conserving momentum. You don't want to make sharp turns that kill your momentum. I know, I have a Miata track car also. And my 240sx is similar. When I sold my '94 Firebird track car and went to the smaller, 4-cylinder cars, I had to adapt to a completely different way of driving.

With the GTO, you can't carry the same speed through the corner as the lighter, bigger-tired cars. So you have to brake a little more and go through the corner a little slower. Therefore, what you want to do is get just bit deeper before you turn in and get the car rotated and pointed down the next straight as you get back on the gas. That's the purpose of the later apex. But we're only talking a few feet difference, at most, between a GTO and a Miata in where you turn in and where you apex.

It's an art, not a science. Every car and every driver will do something a little different. The only way to know what's really working is to do some data acquisition, try different things, and see what's fastest.

But, also, don't overthink it. The primary goal of a track day is to safely have fun. Always keep that as your priority.
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Old 02-14-2013, 05:22 AM   #25
Stoopalini
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For a stock'ish GTO, with tons of understeer, you can get on the gas before the apex, you just have to be sure you can ride the slip angle out to the exit berm. When you start playing with the car on track, you'll know what I mean. (this will be very hard on your tires though)

Basically, you learn to control the car on corner exit with the throttle. More throttle = greater slip angle = approaching the edge of the track quicker .... less throttle = lesser (or no) slip angle = approaching the track edge slower.

The key is to hit the apex perfectly, and have the car oriented at the right angle to allow the most throttle input you can give and ride the slip angle all the way until the outer tire just clips the exit berm.

Sometime this means a late apex, sometimes it means an ideal apex, and yes, sometimes it means an early apex. Every corner is different ....

BUT, for beginners starting out, shoot for the ideal apex every time for learning purposes, and don't be concerned with maximizing your corner exit speeds just yet. There will be lots of other areas to focus on 1st before refining your technique. .

Last edited by Stoopalini; 02-14-2013 at 05:31 AM.
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Old 02-14-2013, 06:07 AM   #26
72/04 GTO
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But of course all these techniques go to hell when there are several cars on the track all trying to hit that sweet spot on the corner!
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Old 02-14-2013, 06:22 AM   #27
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LOL, but for a beginner this won't be a problem. DE sessions typically don't allow passing except by point-by, and only on particular parts of the track (ie: couple of long straights).

Now for W2W, and sometimes even TT, you certainly have to work every bit of the track to compete
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Old 02-14-2013, 09:47 AM   #28
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way to open a can of worms stoopalini. slow is fast because of weight distribution. everybody weighs their cars standing still but if you could weight the car to see how much rear weight shift you get under power then that would open alot of peoples eyes. Thats why the fast guys run 650lb rear springs. They keep their weight shift to a min so the car is balanced most of the way around.

as for apexing. all depends on the radius of the corner and length of it. not to mention how long the next straight is going to be. late apexing is great for giving yourself a longer straight. helps to out run those damn sti's

the gto's are heavy cars, even after weight reduction so you have to roll the car through the corner. the miatas are all wide open or full brake.
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Old 02-14-2013, 10:06 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by turtlespeed...View Post
way to open a can of worms stoopalini. slow is fast because of weight distribution. everybody weighs their cars standing still but if you could weight the car to see how much rear weight shift you get under power then that would open alot of peoples eyes. Thats why the fast guys run 650lb rear springs. They keep their weight shift to a min so the car is balanced most of the way around.

as for apexing. all depends on the radius of the corner and length of it. not to mention how long the next straight is going to be. late apexing is great for giving yourself a longer straight. helps to out run those damn sti's

the gto's are heavy cars, even after weight reduction so you have to roll the car through the corner. the miatas are all wide open or full brake.

That is actually incorrect. You aren't changing the weight shift at all. If anything you are increasing it by making it stiffer. The reason you run large springs like that is because the car is heavy and relatively high up. If your rear springs or roll rate is too soft the CG will "fall over" the cross line on the car or "porpoise". In a left hand turn this is where the LF,RR cross transfers mostly to the RR and overloads it as the effective uf(there really isn't a uf in tires thus the effective wording) of a tire decreases with load.

In short, you want just enough rear roll stiffness to keep the body roll under control but not too much as to transfer too much weight away from the inside rear tire.

Last edited by billyjack2; 02-15-2013 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 02-14-2013, 10:22 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TObey...View Post
Not REALLY slow. The point he's making is you only have so much traction available with the skinny tires on a heavy, high HP car. You need the get the car rotated quickly so you can get on the gas as soon as possible while pointed in the right direction.

A Miata will take a different line through the corner. It's considerably lighter and has a better suspension and can carry more speed in the middle of the corner. And since it doesn't have much power, you can get on the gas a lot sooner, while still turning. The primary focus of a Miata driver is conserving momentum. You don't want to make sharp turns that kill your momentum. I know, I have a Miata track car also. And my 240sx is similar. When I sold my '94 Firebird track car and went to the smaller, 4-cylinder cars, I had to adapt to a completely different way of driving.

With the GTO, you can't carry the same speed through the corner as the lighter, bigger-tired cars. So you have to brake a little more and go through the corner a little slower. Therefore, what you want to do is get just bit deeper before you turn in and get the car rotated and pointed down the next straight as you get back on the gas. That's the purpose of the later apex. But we're only talking a few feet difference, at most, between a GTO and a Miata in where you turn in and where you apex.

It's an art, not a science. Every car and every driver will do something a little different. The only way to know what's really working is to do some data acquisition, try different things, and see what's fastest.

But, also, don't overthink it. The primary goal of a track day is to safely have fun. Always keep that as your priority.

Fun is deffinitely first for me,but all the extra advice is much welcomed !!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stoopalini...View Post
For a stock'ish GTO, with tons of understeer, you can get on the gas before the apex, you just have to be sure you can ride the slip angle out to the exit berm. When you start playing with the car on track, you'll know what I mean. (this will be very hard on your tires though)

Basically, you learn to control the car on corner exit with the throttle. More throttle = greater slip angle = approaching the edge of the track quicker .... less throttle = lesser (or no) slip angle = approaching the track edge slower.

The key is to hit the apex perfectly, and have the car oriented at the right angle to allow the most throttle input you can give and ride the slip angle all the way until the outer tire just clips the exit berm.

Sometime this means a late apex, sometimes it means an ideal apex, and yes, sometimes it means an early apex. Every corner is different ....

BUT, for beginners starting out, shoot for the ideal apex every time for learning purposes, and don't be concerned with maximizing your corner exit speeds just yet. There will be lots of other areas to focus on 1st before refining your technique. .

Thanks man ! It makes a lot of since the more I think about it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 72/04 GTO...View Post
But of course all these techniques go to hell when there are several cars on the track all trying to hit that sweet spot on the corner!

It's funny you say that because these guys are VERY aggressive on the track when they see a MUURICAN car,lol. I might not have great times,but I'll have a great time and pictures to boot.
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