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Thread: Approaching the Learning Curve Correctly

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    Administrator ucfbrett's Avatar
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    Default Approaching the Learning Curve Correctly

    Having gone through NASA HPDE and track days on the way to a racing license, I can look back and see what I did wrong. I can also see that what I did wrong occurred when I thought what I was doing was quite right.

    I started in drag racing long ago, then moved to autocross, then HPDE, skipped Time Trial and went right into racing. I still think that was a pretty good way to go, but there are a few things I would change if I were to go through the learning curve all over again:

    - Tires: When I started in autocross and entered HPDE, I ran on Toyo RA1s, because I thought it would be best to learn to drive on what I was going to race on. If I had to do it all over again, I'd start with street tires of a higher treadwear rating so I could have hit their limits earlier in the learning curve and learned to drive at the limit sooner than I did using RA1s.

    - Braking: There wasn't much I could do about this because none of my instructors or mentors told me, but braking on the racetrack is completely different from braking on the street. I wish I had learned the difference earlier. No one told me early on what the braking curve should look like on a graph. Even just a simple, hand-drawn graph would have driven home how important a smooth release is.

    There are other things that will come to me, but I was curious if you guys had any wisdom to share? What do you see as the best ways to learn to drive fast.

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    Senior Member bellwilliam's Avatar
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    get data logger and learn to use it........

    I see many many experienced racers completely lost on analyzing their driving by NOT using a data logger.
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    I started off with high performance street tires, but after about three track days I went to an RS3 which might have been a bit too soon IMO for the higher speed corners.

    I had 6 months of drifting experience prior to my first track day which helped with feeling comfortable going over and close to the limit in lower speed corners. But, finding the limit for triple digit plus high speed sweepers would of been a lot easier to learn had I stuck with a less grippy tire with more audible feedback at those speeds.

    I also wish I would have gotten a data logger sooner rather than later, and over-layed my data with others more and gotten more instruction.

    Hindsight is always 20-20 though.
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    Senior Member bellwilliam's Avatar
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    once I started using data logger, I learned:

    1. exit speed isn't everything. it matters more if it is a long straight after.
    2. higher entry speed, higher minimum speed and higher exit speed don't mean a lower lap time. yes, it sounds weird, but once in a while, you will see this. because of distance traveled.
    3. better to data log 2 drivers in a same car. very difficult compare data of 2 drivers in 2 cars.
    4. higher minimum speed is always the issue with intermediate drivers.
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    When I make my return to racing at some point in the (not near) future I intend to get a data logger I can understand and pay for coaching. While the Racepak dash I had was nice, I never could figure out their software. It would take me hours every time I tried to download and analyze the date. It ended up being little more than a nice dash with predictive lap timing. I will look at loggers with the most user friendly software even if the dash isn't as cool.

    I also should have stayed on street tires longer, I think I was too interested in lap times assuming the better lap time meant I was improving as a driver not just improving my car.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellwilliam View Post
    get data logger and learn to use it........

    I see many many experienced racers completely lost on analyzing their driving by NOT using a data logger.
    This, definitely.

    I got an AiM Solo when it came out, but I'm only now starting to understand the software to analyze it.

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    Hire a dedicated driving coach that can log and interpret on-track data. Spend a whole weekend with him/her.
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    For a true beginner, ignore everything the internet and most racing books tell you about how to brake properly. Beginners should not be trying to use the brakes at 100%. Braking is basically the first phase of a corner, so if you get the braking wrong, you have to fight to get the car back under control for the rest of the corner, and it takes a long time for a beginner to get a good understanding of what it feels like to actually get a corner right.

    I start my students off by telling them to brake early and to only use 50-75% of the car’s braking capability, and then once they’ve spent a few days getting a good feel for how much speed they can carry into a corner and what the car is supposed to feel like mid-corner, we can start working on shortening the braking zone without missing the apex or upsetting the car’s balance. Every time I get in the car with a 2nd or 3rd day student who can’t drive worth a ****, braking is the main thing they’re screwing up, and it’s because their first instructor started off with threshold braking.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpreston View Post
    For a true beginner, ignore everything the internet and most racing books tell you about how to brake properly. Beginners should not be trying to use the brakes at 100%. Braking is basically the first phase of a corner, so if you get the braking wrong, you have to fight to get the car back under control for the rest of the corner, and it takes a long time for a beginner to get a good understanding of what it feels like to actually get a corner right.

    I start my students off by telling them to brake early and to only use 50-75% of the carís braking capability, and then once theyíve spent a few days getting a good feel for how much speed they can carry into a corner and what the car is supposed to feel like mid-corner, we can start working on shortening the braking zone without missing the apex or upsetting the carís balance. Every time I get in the car with a 2nd or 3rd day student who canít drive worth a ****, braking is the main thing theyíre screwing up, and itís because their first instructor started off with threshold braking.
    nah, buy ABS and stab on them as hard as you like !!! you will look like a hero !!
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpreston View Post
    For a true beginner, ignore everything the internet and most racing books tell you about how to brake properly. Beginners should not be trying to use the brakes at 100%. Braking is basically the first phase of a corner, so if you get the braking wrong, you have to fight to get the car back under control for the rest of the corner, and it takes a long time for a beginner to get a good understanding of what it feels like to actually get a corner right.

    I start my students off by telling them to brake early and to only use 50-75% of the carís braking capability, and then once theyíve spent a few days getting a good feel for how much speed they can carry into a corner and what the car is supposed to feel like mid-corner, we can start working on shortening the braking zone without missing the apex or upsetting the carís balance. Every time I get in the car with a 2nd or 3rd day student who canít drive worth a ****, braking is the main thing theyíre screwing up, and itís because their first instructor started off with threshold braking.
    That's interesting, that's the very opposite, of the way I teach students and the way I was taught... I teach them right out of the box how to use the brakes properly so I don't have to break bad habits down the road or constantly have them relearning/adjusting the same subject as their speed increases...

    Some students you spend the entire first weekend working on braking and down shifting and setting up for the corner, ignore the rest, to me it's the most important skill for driving a car at speed.. I've found it much easier to adjust the driving line, it comes almost naturally to most students since the car dictates that if you have corner entry correct, when you have the car set up for the corner correctly it'll tell you if you're off line or not...

    Not saying your way is wrong, just different... thousand different ways to teach and learn
    Last edited by KJSCV; 05-25-2016 at 01:23 PM.

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    I read a book that broke down a whole lap into mathematical terms. Specifically, where time is lost (favorably). It found that maximizing exit speed before long straits is where the most time is lost. It found little time is lost, comparatively, on corner entry. The conclusion was: a driver trying to find time to lose should examine corner entry last. Better dividends are found literally everywhere else.

    This is not an argument in favor of neglecting the teaching of corner entry to n00bs, but it does indicate that no special emphasis should be placed on corner entry. However, in my opinion, corner entry is the most exciting moment of every lap.
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    Interesting discussion. As the beginner with the relatively fast car, and always pushing for late braking, I was/am always fighting with the brake zones and a proper corner entry. Every time I had a chance to drive a slower car on the track I am improving by quite a bit. I guess in a slower car the brake zone is less crucial (at the beginner/intermediate level that is).

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    Quote Originally Posted by KJSCV View Post
    That's interesting, that's the very opposite, of the way I teach students and the way I was taught... I teach them right out of the box how to use the brakes properly so I don't have to break bad habits down the road or constantly have them relearning/adjusting the same subject as their speed increases...

    Some students you spend the entire first weekend working on braking and down shifting and setting up for the corner, ignore the rest, to me it's the most important skill for driving a car at speed.. I've found it much easier to adjust the driving line, it comes almost naturally to most students since the car dictates that if you have corner entry correct, when you have the car set up for the corner correctly it'll tell you if you're off line or not...

    Not saying your way is wrong, just different... thousand different ways to teach and learn
    Yeah, I was taught from the same book as you, KJSCV, although that was twenty years ago! And as I'm reading some of the posts, I realize there have been a few revelations since then.

    Anti-lock brakes; I think, one of the biggest changes to happen in 20 years! Back in the mid-nineties, my tool was a Skippy car with no computer-aided do-dads (more on that later) and Michelin MXMs-basically an OEM passenger car tire that was really chatty (eg: Squealed,shudder before breaking away) !
    I believe those elements combined allow me to get in any car and get used to it. You physically get a feel for what the car's doing just before, at, and after it looses it's tire's adhesion.

    Not only does one learn about the tires' characteristics, the "feel" of the suspensions' loading properties are "cataloged" in the form of muscle memory. I thought being able to extrapolate all of that info would find anyone in good stead-that is, until traction control!

    To me, traction control, ESC (hell, even A/C!), all of that stuff makes getting the most out of a car over a long race WAY more efficient, but is it as fun and more importantly, does one learn?

    I think about data analysis and wonder, "Well the data says you can go faster through a particular turn, but if you're not comfortable with the car going that tenth quicker (no muscle memory reference at/after tire limits), are you going to actually utilize that info? Dad of Two w/e warrior; Probably not: Paid racer;Probably!

    Brett, like I was saying last December at our K1 karting brunch, for me, it's all about getting a "feel" for the vehicles limits; any vehicles' limits! With that, and not knowing how your car is set up (anti-lock, TC, etc), I say get some decent, communicative tires-not too high in tread-ware rating as suspension loading characteristics change front/rear over the suspensions travel, and hit a skidpad or autocross (racetrack if time/money permits).
    Last edited by 2GRX7; 05-26-2016 at 07:02 AM.
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    Start with a reliable car so you can focus on flogging it. Driving an MR2 is like being 85 and watching your friends slowly expire, while waiting for your turn. Well not that depressing, but you get the idea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2GRX7 View Post
    Yeah, I was taught from the same book as you, KJSCV, although that was twenty years ago! And as I'm reading some of the posts, I realize there have been a few revelations since then.

    Anti-lock brakes; I think, one of the biggest changes to happen in 20 years! Back in the mid-nineties, my tool was a Skippy car with no computer-aided do-dads (more on that later) and Michelin MXMs-basically an OEM passenger car tire that was really chatty (eg: Squealed,shudder before breaking away) !
    I believe those elements combined allow me to get in any car and get used to it. You physically get a feel for what the car's doing just before, at, and after it looses it's tire's adhesion.

    Not only does one learn about the tires' characteristics, the "feel" of the suspensions' loading properties are "cataloged" in the form of muscle memory. I thought being able to extrapolate all of that info would find anyone in good stead-that is, until traction control!

    To me, traction control, ESC (hell, even A/C!), all of that stuff makes getting the most out of a car over a long race WAY more efficient, but is it as fun and more importantly, does one learn?

    I think about data analysis and wonder, "Well the data says you can go faster through a particular turn, but if you're not comfortable with the car going that tenth quicker (no muscle memory reference at/after tire limits), are you going to actually utilize that info? Dad of Two w/e warrior; Probably not: Paid racer;Probably!

    Brett, like I was saying last December at our K1 karting brunch, for me, it's all about getting a "feel" for the vehicles limits; any vehicles' limits! With that, and not knowing how your car is set up (anti-lock, TC, etc), I say get some decent, communicative tires-not too high in tread-ware rating as suspension loading characteristics change front/rear over the suspensions travel, and hit a skidpad or autocross (racetrack if time/money permits).
    ABS, traction controls, ESP or whatever the version is called are always one of the first things I try and disable if the student is using a car equipped with it... You can turn it on later it's always fun for them to feel the difference but I feel the student learns more if he actually has to deal with the vehicles dynamics one on one without those aides... that's if the students goals are being fast or to actually go racing one day.

    Data Aq I still wrestle with depending on the student.. with beginners I'm pretty sure most the info data aq supplies is just noise they don't need to be wrestling with... most beginners are just struggling to come to grips with everything they've had thrown at them already...lol One of my goals is to get the students out of their heads, teach skills through repetition that become as you said "muscle memory" I don't want them thinking about where they should be looking or where the braking point is, That should all become automatic. The more their minds are clear of the extra clutter the better so I try and avoid data early on as much as possible and that includes lap times... We'll keep lap times but I won't show them to the students until the end of the day, fun to see their faces when you show them the difference from where they started to where they are after 4 or 5 sessions under their belts...

    When I run a one day corporate HPDE program we don't run lap times at all and discourage the students from running them on their own. the goal there is to make sure nobody's car goes home on a flatbed...lol
    Last edited by KJSCV; 05-26-2016 at 09:41 AM.
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    Great Thread! A few people have alluded to this, but i think this can be added to the list: Drive a low power car first. I have learned a lot more driving my Alfa than I ever did driving my Z.
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    Plus one on a low-power car. You really get a better sense for your mistakes because the car doesn't have enough power to make up for them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ucfbrett View Post
    Plus one on a low-power car. You really get a better sense for your mistakes because the car doesn't have enough power to make up for them.
    you bet... HP cures a lot of driver errors. In a low hp car you learn real quick what too much steering input is...

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    Quote Originally Posted by VagaXt View Post
    Hire a dedicated driving coach that can log and interpret on-track data. Spend a whole weekend with him/her.
    Anyone know a good driving coach in the socal region? Also, how much should I be expecting to pay a coach for a day out at the track?

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