FKI Oct. Article Preview – Learn a Track In 3 LapsBy
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…