Driver training expert and former F1 driver
Hello Michael. The driver’s input is a crucial factor in developing overall performance. If the driver can provide the team with accurate and reliable feedback about racecar handling and troubleshooting problems, the team will more effectively be able to develop a competitive and reliable racecar.
The best way that a driver can improve his feedback is working methodically with the engineer in debriefing meetings after each session. The engineer questions the driver on the car’s handling corner-by-corner, segment by segment, normally with the engineer taking notes. I do recommend that drivers create track maps after each on-track session (as described further down), to note the racecars specific handling characteristics.
Data systems are a great tool for driver and chassis development. It is important for the driver to be able to manipulate and understand data and data systems without aid from the data tech or engineer to review his performance. This can also be taken away to review at the hotel or back home between race and practice events.
Many years ago I was working with a race engineer and I did not agree with his approach to car set up. I received some sound advice from my dad who was with me at the time. "Allen if you do not like what the engineer is doing to your car, then take control of it and request specific changes yourself. You will have a better chance of improving the car set up this way and if the racecar is no better than before at least it is because of your own decisions, not someone else’s." In the end this worked out very well for me. However with today's racecars this may no longer be a viable solution as the engineers all use spreadsheets for the overall car set up. However it is vitally important that the driver have a complete understanding of the chassis and set up to become an integral part of the racecar development.
Hello John. The fact that you are able to set times with only three years experience simulator racing is very impressive.
My personal feeling about simulators is it can give an indication as to abilities, however it is not always 100% accurate. I have seen very good drivers that are unable to perform on simulators and drivers that have done well on the simulator and not being able to replicate it in a racecar.
My suggestion for you John is to look at karting. I suggest you should seek out the local kart club and look into the most popular racing category in that club. Hopefully that will be a four-cycle category as two-cycle racing can get extremely expensive. You can buy a used kart at a reasonable price and pick up a good four-cycle motor that will last you a long time. Karting is by far the most cost effective form of racing.
SAFEisFAST video: Karts to Cars
Canaan I find that turn 9 is one of the most challenging turns on that difficult and very fast track. When I conduct the morning track walks at the school I always suggest that for turn 9 the driver considers the cornering speed in anticipation of the exit of the corner in mind.
My experience in driving in the rain and what we encourage at the school for rain driving is to focus on driving the car applying only a single force at a time i.e. braking in a straight line, cornering at a relative constant speed being very consistent on the throttle, and accelerating in a straight line. In the rain it is very difficult to drive a tire at the limit combining two forces. I think that if you apply this technique through turn 9 you should find yourself to be more consistent and less prone to errors. I hope this helps, let me know.
I learned a great technique ice racing years ago from a seasoned rally driver that I use throughout my career whenever I drove in rain conditions. If you have lost control and going into a spin, if you can do this soon enough you may recover control: Push in the clutch (in a manual transmission racecar) and come off the brake and throttle. By doing so you will allow the tire to work in full lateral capacity (no acceleration or deceleration force). You will be astounded as to how far sideways a racecar can be and still being able to bring it back under control. I am not sure how many drivers that I competed against were aware of this, I certainly never discussed it with them and neither did they with me!
I am not a street performance tire expert so cannot really give you any direction in this regard.
There were a number of factors that we took into consideration when we selected our racecars and data systems Marc. For the racecars we wanted the safest option possible. I wanted to provide an experience in an authentic modern racecar (i.e. carbon fiber chassis, pushrod suspension, wings, sequential gearbox etc.) and we needed a racecar that would fit a wide variety of driver sizes. After considering numerous options felt the 1600 Monza had the right performance for new drivers. With our MoTeC data systems find that although the racecar is an entry-level formula car, experienced drivers can gain benefit of running with us due to our extensive data debriefing sessions. So it is a reliable versatile package that has proven to the right choice.
There are a number of things that go into determining the potential of a driver, not just outright speed. I've found that drivers that really listen and apply what is taught to them during their programs are the ones that fare the best. Furthermore, at the end of the day the data never lies, clearly showing the speed and consistency of the drivers.
We certainly have aspirations to grow our business into one that operates an in-house racing series with scholarship prize drives Richard. We are still relatively new to the driver-training field in the United States and are not quite there yet. However, we have been supporting the RRDC operated Team USA Scholarship Shootout for several years now, which has successfully selected and supported many of today's top drivers.
Actually Jim I think that you've identified one of the traits that really differentiates good racing drivers from great racing drivers. Turn in and corner entry speed (without compromising mid-corner and exit speed) is one of the most challenging aspects of a fast lap, simply because there is no margin for error if you overstep the limit. My personal feeling is that vision is a key element to this. By looking further ahead the driver can have a slightly better sense of balance, which translates into a better feeling of the racecar at its limit.
A relaxed grip on the wheel also gives driver a better feeling. A friend of mine in the steering wheel business once gave me a great analogy. The nerves in your body are like a computer Internet cable - there is a limit to the bandwidth. If the bandwidth being used (due to muscle input, either subconsciously or consciously) impulses from the brain to the muscles, it leaves less bandwidth to travel back from the fingertips to the brain.
I think that refining left foot braking technique will help in this as well Jim.
That is a complex question to answer Charlie. It depends on the level of experience of the individual driver. For those that are brand new to road racing, it would be understanding and application of the fundamental techniques that we teach in our school. This includes proper control input, driving line, use of vision, fundamental chassis dynamics, a whole range of items Charlie - not one individual skill.
For drivers that are beyond this level I believe an area that requires more attention is being able to feel and relate the chassis handling characteristics to the engineer. I have also come across some very talented drivers that have limited understanding as to set up and changes that are made to the car, leaving it up to the engineers.
One tactic that I always recommend is for drivers to draw a track map and describe handling characteristics of the racecar in each corner. This would include brake points, revs, gears used visual reference points and breaking down each corner into initial entry, turn-in to apex, initial power down and exit. The more track maps that you draw the more you will start to remember information about the car each session and ultimately make you more sensitive to the handling characteristics.
I recall in Formula 3 Martin Brundle was my teammate and he had a great memory for detail and changes made to his racecar, not just from the session but from previous race events.
Regardless of the level of driver Charlie remember that smooth is always fast.
Sam I think your question relates to Jim and Sam's queries above. My feeling is that corner entry is the one area most difficult to master. Experienced drivers can all feel limit of the car apex through exit but it's the entry of the turn really that really can make or break a lap. I recall following Ayrton Senna in Formula 3 and it seemed that he was able to carry just a little more speed into the corners, keep it smooth and still get back on to the throttle early.
What I applied in the latter part of my career was to learn to breathe off the brake more in the final stages of straight-line braking, at initial turn in and deeper into the corner if there was any trail braking applied. The tire was able to work with a little more lateral capacity, carrying more speed into the corner. This seemed to work well for me in qualifying on new tires, looking for that one flying lap.
In our 9 years of operation of our school we've come across many talented drivers from many countries that have great potential. I have come across two drivers that have been through our school that I felt with the right opportunity would potentially have a shot at being competitive in Formula One.
Left foot braking is by far more efficient in a number of ways David. It first allows the driver to position his foot over the brake pedal in a consistent fashion. The transition from throttle to brake is much faster as is transition from brake back to throttle. It also has more stabilizing effect on the platform balance and the driver also has the capability to blend the pedals for minor speed decreases, which is not possible with right foot braking. However, not all racecars and transmissions are set up for this, so it is important to be versatile in both.
While on the subject of deceleration one technique that a driver can always work on is heel and toe downshifting, which has become somewhat of a lost art with the move to paddle shift transmissions and automatic blips. For those that drive our regular manual transmission car on a track this is an essential technique in order to be safe and fast. The purpose of heel and toe downshift or rev matching (as it is also referred to) is to seamlessly get the transmission into the correct gear for the corner without having any effect on brake balance or performance. It will also conserve your transmission and clutch!
I can tell you AJ that there are good days and bad days in being a racing driver and operating a racing school! I think that racing is a tumultuous career path regardless of the type of involvement you have. Most unstable (and shortest) career path is of course the driver.
I have found that nothing that I have done since retirement matches the feeling accomplishment from setting pole position, winning a race or championship. However, I must add that I introduced my young son (9 yrs old) into kart racing last year. He won his club race first race in the rain mid season and for me he may as well have won the Monaco Grand Prix!
I don't believe that this is an age factor. It is more a question of maturity and responsibility. I have met many very mature young drivers that are competitive, consistent and safe, as well as many older drivers that are not so! Race team owners certainly look at a drivers’ performance, including accidents. A racing team is a business and a driver that is prone to incidents is certainly not as attractive as one that can avoid these situations.
Well Roberto, we used to operate our schools in Canada! At the moment we are focusing all our efforts on USA. I have looked at operating programs outside North America in the past and so far have not found the appropriate conditions to do so. It would take the right business partner from that country in order to make this happen.