Hey everyone! We received so much awesome feedback from all of you that we decided to do a part 2! In case you didn't get a chance to read part 1, we will be comparing track driving and city driving revolving around the little nuances and skills it takes to adequately drive in both environments.
I have brought back Mike R from RamsEyeTheTrackGuy. He is a complete track professional, where he started high performance driving in 2011. He currently does track days, amateur racing, rallycross, and also works as an instructor. Clearly, he will take care of the track portion of this post. I will be covering the city portion, because you all know how much I like talking smack about driving in the city. Let’s get started!
TIRES, TIRES, TIRES
Best bang for the buck to improve performance. Another broken record like modding from Part 1, I know, but somehow, it still gets overlooked. You'll find people saying I can't afford this tire or that tire but they do springs, or dampers, or roll bars, etc. First, find the right compound. There are plenty of good tires that serve double duty as track and street tires and you can read more about those that I have tried here. If you want to get more serious and can't have a dedicated set of track wheels, street legal DOT track tires are your best bet, as long as you won't be driving very much on the street. For a car that doesn't see many street miles, and especially if wet or standing water conditions are avoided, DOT track tires are hard to beat.
Once you figure out what type of tires you are going with, find the right size. The right size is the widest tire that will fit without rubbing. Fat tires go faster, all else being equal. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. After that, all that's left is to find a set of wheels wide enough to support that size tire (make sure offset works and backspacing fits your brakes) and pull the trigger.
If you want to go faster, use more power. By that, I don't mean modifying to get more power. Just use more of the go-fast pedal on the right. I've found that for most people (and unless you're in a momentum car), drivers probably lose just as much taking their sweet ole' time to get back on power as they do by braking too much.
A lot of people focus on corner speed to go faster; they try to trim a little braking, optimize braking point, carry more speed, etc. All of this is very good and cannot be ignored, but so many people get hung up on corner speed and forget about corner exit. Nail the exit and get back on the power earlier and harder. You'll make up A LOT of time. If you can't use much power without spinning, look into a limited slip diff if your car doesn't have one or a limited slip diff with a higher bias ratio if you do (just don't go too far with bias ratio). You can read more about limited slip diffs here to figure out how they affect the car.
DANCING WITH THE --STARS--> CARS
You have to be smooooth. Always “listen” to what the car is saying. I’ve been in a lot of cars on track. Some are caged and some aren’t, some are in showroom condition and some, not so much… It can be scary when you get in a car that makes you wonder if it all will hold together at the end of a track session, but nothing scares me more than being in a car on track with someone whose every input feels like prodding the car with a cattle iron. Cars are like dogs. Most dogs who are even half decent will avoid biting, but if you keep upsetting them, they’ll start growling, maybe bare their teeth, and eventually snap. If you keep upsetting a car, it’ll eventually bite, and it might even bite the first time if you upset it enough. But like a dog, if you listen to the car and be smooth with your inputs, it’ll be your best friend.
Being smooth gets harder and harder as pace picks up because there’s less time spent on every input, but the cruel irony of physics means that smoothness becomes more and more crucial as speeds pick up and you approach the car’s limits. You have to always be mindful of your inputs and how the car is reacting to them. But here’s the great thing about getting this right. Listening to the car is not just good for safety. It pays massive dividends in speed. If your inputs are smooth and you avoid doing anything that upsets the car, you’re guaranteed to pick up speed.
THE ART OF --WAR--> TIRES ..ARE WE ON A ROLL WITH THESE HEADERS OR WHAT?!
On the track, especially in F1, you pick your weapon (from the list of designated tires). Track drivers need to be able to not only surpass the competition with their skills but also with their strategy. In F1, there is a long list of dry-weather tires (Hypersoft, Supersoft, Medium, Hard, etc. -No I’m not going to list them all). Then there are also wet-weather or intermediate tires. Anyway, you get the idea. There is a lot of strategy involved when it comes to switching tires during the race and so much more that I simply don’t have time to get into in this post (but I did here!).
In the city, your insurance company picks your weapon for you. Although I won’t be driving my Vantage in the snow this winter, the insurance policy demands that I switch to winter tires. At least the options for city driving are a lot simpler. We have winter tires, summer tires, and all seasons, and …yea that’s it. I guess one notable difference here is that in the city, you don’t need special tires for rain, but you do need special tires for snow.
THE OTHER FOOT
You get bonus points if your mind instinctively thought about the book by Ray Bradbury. But in this case, I am referring to which foot you use for braking. On the track, you could use your left foot to brake as you come speeding into a corner. In the city, unless you drive a manual car, your left leg has no purpose. It just sits there, like a limp fish while your right foot does all the multitasking between the brake and the gas pedals. Exciting stuff. With manual cars, your left leg can get a good workout when you’re stuck in traffic. If you really want to get a workout however, you can look into getting an ultra rare Ferdinand GT3 RS. Not quite suitable for the track, but they’re better for your health and the environment.
Okay so, drafting (see Part 1), your left foot, and unlimited tire choices are pretty unnecessary for city driving. Let’s talk about something that can sometimes be incorporated into daily driving skills. Obviously, no one wants to see you blasting down a road and hitting the apex at 5PM on a Monday, however, sometimes observing what would be the appropriate racing lines for a curve can be more efficient and rather fun. Plus, if you ride a motorcycle, it’s a good way to practice your skills too.
There are both good and bad times to practice your racing lines. The good times are when there is little to no traffic, there is an on or off ramp connecting to the highway with a decent curve, and you feel comfortable driving in anything other than a straight line. The bad times are when there is a lot of traffic, there are giant medians that cut off your ideal racing line, or you are convinced that racing lines are some sort of fast-track lineup to pick up your daily Starbucks coffee.
And that's it! Hope you enjoyed our lists. Do you prefer driving in the city or on the track? Let me know in the comments, otherwise I will assume that you’re one of those people who is still confused over what racing lines actually are.
Ram's Eye The Track Guy. 210 likes · 314 talking about this. The journey of a (car) nut and track rat, including blogs, car reviews (ideally, always on track), technical articles & features, and some...