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Archive for Driving Techniques/Tips

These guys are going to want to know what’s going on with your car during a race, so will your tuner, so should you.

To refresh your memory, I started the “How To Drive Your Own Race” series at the request of one of my subscribers who wanted help in this area.  One of the things he stressed was his inability to recall what his go kart was doing during the heat of battle in a race.  Consequently, he was unable to make any meaningful tuning changes to his go kart before the next heat because he felt he would just be guessing.  So how do you focus on what your go kart is doing and still focus on the race – establish a proper test procedure.  I’ll explain the correlation below.

By establishing a proper test procedure you are ingraining a natural instinct to think about what the go kart is doing while you are driving so you can analyze the feedback and make the go kart better for the next session or race.  Your goal is to make this a habit so that you are automatically thinking about what the go kart is doing regardless of whether it is a test session or the main.  How do you get there?  Change the way you practice/test…

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If your braking in any way resembles this picture, you are Lazy Braking and leaving time on the table.

Lazy Braking. If there is one bad habit I fall into more often than I would like to admit, its Lazy Braking. What exactly do I mean by Lazy Braking? Lazy Braking is when you brake early and/or brake under your go kart’s braking threshold. Why? Because it feels safer and you are less likely to go off, especially if you have a kart with only rear brakes. How do you know if you are braking at the threshold and if you are not, what can you work on to make sure you are? Well, there are a couple of things you can do plus there are some instances where Lazy Braking may actually be faster…
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At the 2010 SuperNats, I and three other drivers I race with decided to work together and share information with great success.

If you continually get caught out on your set-up over the course of a race weekend due to the changing grip levels, this article is for you. It is widely thought that multi-car teams out perform single-car teams at every level of motorsport. Why? Because the drivers and engineers on multi-car teams share information and cover twice as much ground in half the time to arrive at an optimum set-up quicker. How important is this at the karting level? Well, the three other guys I race with felt it was important enough to all be on the same exact chassis for the 2010 SuperNats that two of us, Arie Luyendyk Jr. and I, bought new chassis to match the ones owned by the other two drivers on our “team.” It was also fortunate that three of us ran in the morning sessions, three classes apart, and the fourth driver ran in the afternoon session (more on this later).

Just so I am clear, I am not suggesting that you need to buy another chassis or convince your friends to take up karting to “form” a multi-kart team (although your kart shop owner will love you). It is possible to accomplish the same goals even if you are on your own at the track. Let me explain…

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Drive your own race and stay out of trouble!

One of my subscribers asked if I could address how not to become so emotionally involved during a race that you end up just following guys instead of getting around them.  He went on to say that for him personally, he becomes so fixated on the guy in front that he starts to turn-in too early and pinches off the corners during the heat of battle.  After the race, he can’t even recall how his go kart was handling so he is at a complete loss to make any changes to improve the kart before the next race.  So the question is, instead of just going to the track and pounding around with his buddies, is there anything he can be working on to address the above issues?  The answer is yes.  In fact, there are a number of things you can work on so this will be the first in a series of kart driving drills designed to not only help you improve your times while on your own, but help your racecraft as well.

But first, a little history.  When I started karting, I had the privilege to kart with Page Jones, son of Parnelli Jones, 1963 Indy 500 winner; 2-time Baja 1000 winner; Trans-Am, Sprint Car, Midget Champion, and one of the best drivers this country has ever produced.  We are family friends with the Jones’ so I lived at their house, prepped my kart at their shop etc.  One of the best things about this experience and the reason I mention it is Parnelli would occasionally come to our tests and races and would give both Page and me advice whenever he thought we needed it whether we were at the track and at home.  As I was brand new to karting, he gave me a lot of advice.  As I write this I realize that everything I mention here, I’m just reiterating what he told me…

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Set-up sheets and providing good feedback have as much a place in karting as they do in big cars.

Why would I write an article on feedback?  Why would you read it?  Let’s examine these questions from top down.  Name one top line driver whose engineer and/or chief mechanic says he doesn’t give great feedback.  At that level, everyone can drive, what separates the field is the fastest guys are also the most technical in how they relay what’s going on with the car to their engineer.

Perhaps looking at the issue from the bottom up will help.  When I started shifter karting, I used to go out with a buddy of mine who was a good driver but was horrible initially on giving feedback.  So, we’d go out for a session, come in, I’d ask him how is kart was and he’d reply, “It’s not good, it’s sliding.”  Well ok, sliding where?  What part of the turn? Which end of the kart, front or back?  I think you get my point.

To jump to the opposite end of the spectrum, in my second year of racing Opel Lotus in Europe I was lucky enough to be teammates with Derek Higgins for a handful of races.  I learned a lot from Derek especially since Derek’s dad, Vince, ran Jackie Stewart’s Opel Lotus team the year before for drivers Gil DeFerran and David Coulthard.  We were in our hauler for our first team debrief and I was struggling to convey what the car was doing to my team manager when Derek grabs a track map and writes T/I, M/C, and EXT (Turn-In, Mid-Corner, and Exit) on every turn and hands it to me stating, “This is how my dad broke down every session with Gil and David last year.  Go through this map, corner by corner, and write down what the car is doing at each of these points of the turn and we’ll go from there.”  This is one of the more productive events of my racing career and I haven’t looked back since…

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In January of 1990, on 4 days notice, I signed with PTM Motorsport and flew from Phoenix to Zandvoort, Holland for my first test in an Opel Lotus car (150hp, 990lbs, wings and slicks, 0-60 in 4.2).  Up until this point my racing experience included Off-Road, two summers of KT100 kart racing, and three driving schools including some time in a Formula Mazda.

Whenever I moved up to a new car/series, the first thing I always did was warm the tires, get on the biggest straightaway, and floor it to see what I was in for.  Well, this was a big jump and I freaked the bejessus out of myself.  So, I spent the next few laps carefully getting used to the speed, finding my braking and turn-in points, and then came in to take a break and digest it all.

The team owner rushed up to the car and said, “What the hell is wrong?  Is the car OK?  You’re going really slow, you’re in the wrong gears in all the corners….”  My first thought and my reply was, “Everything is fine, I’m just learning the car and the track, I’ll be up to speed in a couple of sessions.”  At that point the team owner said, “No, you need to come up to speed in 3 laps.  Everyone else in this series will, and we race at a lot of places where we you won’t be able to test beforehand.  3 Laps!”

….3 Laps?  Are you kidding me?  Is that even possible?  Not only is it possible it is actually extremely beneficial.  The quicker you come up to speed and learn the track, the quicker you can start working on your set-up and look for the subtle nuances in the track that will gain you time.  The guys that learn the track the fastest will get a head start on setting up their kart which will be a distinct advantage as the weekend goes on since you can’t afford to be off or “miss” a session these days.

So, how do you learn a track in three laps?  Let’s break it down…

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Rain ShotFirst of all, hopefully you’ve either read or heard of the book The Art of Racing in the Rain, a story of a driver told through the eyes of his dog, hence my title.  Great read but will not make you quicker in the rain.  The following will however.

I know that the sight of rain clouds on the horizon of a kart track strikes fear in many a competitor.  You can see it in their face and can see it in the poor turnouts on rainy race weekends.  It shouldn’t.  Rain shouldn’t be viewed as a threat, it should be viewed as an opportunity.  Rain is the great equalizer, the leveler of the playing field.  Who builds your motor etc. all goes out the window in the wet.  Being successful in the rain can be broken down into 5 simple components:  1)  a good rain set-up (which I outline in the free trial of FIRESTONEKARTINFO, click here to receive yours), and 2) four basic on the track tasks I outline in this month’s FKI

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When I first started karting, I was presented with one of the best opportunities in my racing career.  Our family friends, the Jones (as in Parnelli Jones), had a dilemma on their hands as they had no way to get their youngest son Page (age 15 at the time) to the kart races as his older brother PJ (age 18 at the time) was moving up the ranks to race Midgets.  For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Parnelli Jones won Indy in 1963, could have won it 5 times, and is regarded as one of this country’s best all time drivers.  So, for two summers, I went to California, moved in with the Jones, and literally lived, slept, and ate karting.  In the first summer, Page and I competed in 28 races in 12 weekends.  It was karting heaven!  I was racing in one of karting’s hotbeds and had Parnelli Jones as a mentor.  I mention all the above because the biggest single element that I remember from this experience was Parnelli constantly telling Page and me that you need to be smooth and consistent to be fast.  Period.  He would drill that into our heads every single chance that he had.  Easy enough concept to understand but how do you become smooth and consistent?  Well, there are a number of things that you can do…

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Sections A, B, and C are all examples of areas where the brake or roll dilema comes into play.

Roll out of the throttle or brake for a corner?  When a FKI subscriber requested that I do an article on this exact subject I got very excited as I think this is one of the quintessential questions in all of karting.  This question becomes even more poignant in faster corners and in mid speed left-to-right technical sections that seem to be prevalent on most go kart tracks.  Luckily, my hometown kart track has both of these types of corners and I have spent many a lap experimenting with the brake or roll concept.  So which is better?  Well, obviously that depends on the corner.  The more important question is: How do you go about determining which is quicker.  That, I can answer

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If this is how you feel as you approach the apex of a corner, you may be charging the corners!

Charging the corners is one of the most prevalent driving errors in karting.  I see it all time at the track and more often than not it is one of the biggest areas I address when coaching.  The good news is it is easier to put the brakes on a driver than light a fire under their ass to get them going.  (Yes, the pun was intended…) Still, I think not charging the corners is one of the hardest things to learn as it requires a great deal of discipline and faith that the time you feel you are giving away under braking will be more than regained by having a good exit and carrying all that extra speed down the next straight.  So how can you tell if you are charging the corners and if so, what can you do to eliminate it from your driving style?  Well, let’s explore…

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