Getting Ready To Hit The Track - Part 2 of 3
Track Day Driving Techniques
In case you missed part 1 of this series, please follow this link.
Photo Credit: Shoot For Details
Your car is now ready to hit the track and you know the basic track day rules and regulations and now you are wondering if there are any tips or tricks to make driving on the track more comfortable and easier to control. Well, you’re in luck! In Part Two of our “Getting Ready to Hit the Track” series, we will go over some driving techniques and habits to get into that will make your driving smoother. Remember, slow is smooth, smooth is fast!
Your seating position is critical to car control and comfort. You would not believe how physically taxing track driving can be but with proper positioning you can help to reduce the stresses on your body while being able to easily control your car.
There are a few things to look at when adjusting your seat. You may have to move your seat closer to the wheel than you would normally drive, particularly if you are part of the 3 Pedal Mafia. You should be able to fully depress the clutch while maintaining a bend in your knee. This will greatly reduce fatigue. You will also want to make sure you move your body closer to the steering wheel as well. Accomplish this by sitting in a more upright position or bringing the wheel closer to you if you have that level of adjustment on the column.
You can test your seat position by laying your wrists over the top of the steering wheel. Your wrists should be right at about shoulder height, and your elbows should maintain a slight bend with your shoulders firmly against the seat. Keeping your hands on the wheel, turn it 90 degrees. Your elbows should still have a decent bend, and your shoulders should still be in firm contact with the seat. Unless you want to feel like you’ve done 1000 crunches in 5 minutes after the track day, take care to adjust your seat properly.
Holding the Steering Wheel
Properly holding and gripping the wheel is just as important as seating position. Place your hands right at about the 2:45 and 9:15 position, just a bit higher than 9 and 3. This will allow the most control over the wheel with the least amount of hand movement to maneuver. One of the biggest things with high performance driving is to avoid shuffling your hands on the wheel to turn.
Another great tip is that while turning, pull the wheel down with the hand that matches the direction of the turn rather than push the wheel up. This allows you to more easily turn the wheel instead of fighting it, greatly reducing fatigue.
Beyond reducing fatigue and improving control, in the very unfortunate of a frontal collision and airbag deployment, proper hand position will ensure that the airbag does not turn your fist into a 200mph missile that destroys your hand and your face. This is also a great thing to think about for normal road driving as well. Think of it like this; a professional boxer can throw a punch at about 30mph maximum. Multiply that by 7 and that is how hard an airbag will throw your fist into your face.
General First Lap Advise
Don’t go to the track expecting to break records or catch that beat up Miata, it’s not going to happen. Take your first few laps nice and slow. Use the time to learn the track and the lines. Once you have a pretty good idea of how to drive the track, increase your speed through the sectors a little bit each lap or session. Stay smooth through the entire lap and think back after the session to find areas you may be able to go quicker through. Make it a point to put eyes on each of the flagging stations throughout your first session. Waving to them is a good way to ensure you know exactly where they are. Flaggers are a crucial part of track day safety and it is vital you are able to pick up their location while you’re out on track.
If possible, get an instructor in the right seat and listen carefully to what they say. More than likely, you’re reaching your driving limits and not the cars. An instructor will be able to do a lot of the on the fly thinking and adjustment that may be overwhelming to the driver. Build on the lessons that the instructor gives you and slowly pick up the pace.
Photo Credit: Shoot For Details
Vision on Track
Arguably the most important thing to think about while you are driving. In addition to being aware of the track conditions, your environment and other drivers, you should always be looking ahead to your next move and mentally developing your line. Your vision should always be at least one step ahead of where your car is. Keep your eyes on the apex while approaching the turn. Look ahead and find the next turn so you can set up for it. Your car will always want to go where you are looking. Looking ahead will provide you more time to determine corner speed and the best line through the turn.
Many organizations, including NEDE, provide instruction for the Novice Class. One thing you should absolutely leave at home is your ego. Getting on the track for the first time can be a daunting experience and having an instructor in the right seat can help alleviate some of the things that can overwhelm a new driver. Instructors are not there to judge you or to keep you from having fun and getting after it. Motorsports are inherently dangerous and having an extra set of eyes and a calming presence in the car makes a world of difference.