Improve Driver Habits

How to improve driver habits by avoiding bad ones is easy. Never start learning and developing them in the first place. A driver must become a student in the art of driving a race car fast. A driver must be like a sponge trying to gather and increase the driver knowledge on the subject. The driver always learn from experience putting this knowledge to work on the race track.

Knowledge generally comes from these sources:

  • Seek advice from more experienced drivers
  • Research by reading books and articles
  • Attending driving school sessions

From this knowledge a driver learns how to drive a race car by simply going out and doing it. It is easy to confirm whether or not you are applying this knowledge correctly. The laps times will become more consistent and faster after many hours of practicing good driving habits. Develop and hone what you have learned from the races and continue to duplicate it on the track, race after race. It is much easier to avoid bad driving habits before they begin.

Bad Driving Habits Employed By Most Drivers

Copy Cat Driving

The biggest mistake most drivers make is to blindly following the guy in front of them. Most drivers get in a trance or fixate on the car in front of them, they end up copying what they are doing. Sooner or later you end up making the same mistakes they make. Learn to always apply the proper techniques and drive the correct line.

You can never pass a car when you are running the same line and doing the same things as the car you are following. If the driver is aggressive into the turn, entering too fast and overshoots the corner. You end up doing the same thing, losing your opportunity to take advantage of their mistake.

This sounds like a pretty simple thing to correct, but it is a lot easier to fall into this habit than you think. When you follow a car that is basically running the same line you are running and you are looking for a way to pass. Remember it is easy fall into the habit of driving the track the same way he does. If he is aggressive into the corner, do something different. Try a different line, change your apex, always try something different. Slow in fast out. It is easier to pass a car on the exit than entering a corner.

As the race progresses and the track rubber builds up it forces the driver to change the line slightly. This will require a

change in your driving style, which might confuse the guy behind you. What it is really doing is forcing the other drivers to learn how to do something different if they are going to keep pace with you. When they have to do something they weren’t accustomed to, that can be an advantage. A lot of drivers just stick with old driving habits far too long.

Most drivers go out and really run hard for a few laps. Running laps like this only last for a short period of time. As their tires start to go away, suddenly everything changes with the way their car handles. All they are doing is just overdriving the car. You must protect your tires so that they will be their best for as many laps as possible.

Be prepared for when the tires start to go away. You need to find out how the car handles when driven with a full load of fuel, a partial load of fuel, and with the fuel cell nearly empty. Always run a full fuel run in practice sessions to feel the changes in the car handling as the fuel and tires go away.

Learn to adjust your driving technique and line when the tires are worn versus when they were new. Being able to accomplish this is a huge advantage over the competition. This take patience, practice and experience, which will get you to the winners circle.

Look Farther Down The Track

The common mistake many drivers make is failing to look far enough down the track. Every driver must guard against  falling into the bad habit of looking at the car right in front of them. You really have to train and ingrain the ability to look farther down the track. Get in the habit of looking for the apex of the turn before you start to turn into the corner. Looking ahead will also allow you to see what is going on ahead of you. If an accident develops several cars in front of you, you are going to drive right around it. Many drivers drive right into a wreck, because they weren’t looking any farther than the car in front of them.

There are times when it can be difficult to look far enough down the track. You really have to be aware at all times of everything around you. Sometimes you need to be aware of the car directly behind you, because you don’t want to let him pass you, to 10 or 12 cars ahead of you.

In sim racing spotters cannot help us with this. You must use the relative screen F3 all the time, to help become aware of everything that is going on around you. You must be able to concentrate on how a driver is driving so you can take advantage of his weak spots and pounce on them. Sometimes it will take a few laps of watching them before you can spot any weakness.

The greatest part of your concentration should be used for what is going on directly around you, but will shift throughout the race. You just have to be able to develop an awareness, a six sense of what is happening all over the race track.

Light Grip On The Wheel

Light grip on the wheel at all times. It is very important to develop and ingrain the habit of not putting a death grip on the wheel. By not learning to do this will lead to the tightening of the forearms, shoulders and neck making all your muscles tighten up. You will tire earlier, lose quickness, control of wheel and the balance of the car. This leads to poor concentration and slower lap times. In the end everything will become stiff and sore making you a much slower driver.

Learn to drive with a very light touch on the wheel. Occasionally stretch out your fingers to relax the tension in your forearms, shoulders and neck. It take a lot of practice. On super speedways try driving with just your index finger and thumb on each hand. You’ll be amazed how much better control you will have of the car and you won’t be as tired and sore.

Driving Too Hard

Most drivers overdrive the race car by being too aggressive driving into the corners. Drivers are very aggressive by nature. All drivers think about is that fast time, got to be number one on the board. It’s very important to learn patience and develop the habit of not overdriving the race car. As a general rule it is not a good idea to go into the corner too fast. All this does is upset the balance of the car and eat up the front tires. This never works out well.

It is difficult to get the car to rotate and turn by being so aggressive into a corner. You end up applying the brakes harder, losing the balance by transferring weight too quickly to the front of the car. Remember slow in fast out. The car actually needs to be off both the brakes and the throttle for a second to allow the suspension to take a set so the car can rotate. When you allow the car to roll in the middle of the turn, it may feel slower, but it will turn better and be easier to drive. This allows you to get into the throttle sooner and overall make you faster.

By controlling the weight transfer, being careful not to upset the suspension or balance of the chassis. It is all about maintaining speed through the turns. Just let the chassis roll so it will turn, allowing the throttle to be picked up sooner, smoothly and carry all the speed to the next turn. In the end this results in saving tires, fuel and being faster with more consistent lap times.

Wearing Out The Tires

All drivers have a tendency to hammer the throttle coming out of the turns. Having the rear of the car get away from them, creating throttle oversteer. Remember the throttle is not an on off switch. This is one of the most abusive things you can do to the tires. Doing this you end up “hazing” the rear tires. This puts excessive heat into the tire, and it also burns the “goodie” off the tire. When the tire is gone you can’t get around the race track as fast and your lap time fall off.

Once you start sliding the car coming off a corner or over driving going into the corners, the maximum tire traction goes away pretty quickly. The first thing that takes the abuse is what’s making contact with the track, and that’s the tires. Remember if you can keep the balance and momentum of the race car up through the corner and get into the throttle sooner and smoothly, you will increase your lap times!

The things that separate a good driver from the rest of the pack is he knows how to take care of his equipment. He knows how to make his tires last. Don’t run into the corner too hard and overdrive the car. Learn to squeeze the throttle coming out of the corners instead of just mashing it quickly to the floor. It takes a lot of touch to be able to get the power down without upsetting the balance of the car and destroying the tires. When you are able to do this you are going to be faster for a longer time during a fuel run.

This gets even more difficult when your car starts getting loose. You have less available grip in the rear tires than the front, and the tendency of the car is to slide the rear end. When you are loose, it can be really tough not to make things worse as you have to be even smoother getting on the throttle than before. Again this forces you to control the balance of the car by being slower in and faster out of a corner. Back up the corners further as the car becomes more unstable to gain control over the balance of the car.

Assume Nothing

Good starts and restarts are always tough, and they only get tougher as you advance to faster race cars on bigger tracks. As you get to bigger tracks where aerodynamics becomes more important, you cannot afford to be bending up the nose of the race car. Now you need to be able to develop a good feel for what the driver in front of you is going to do. Never simply assume you know what’s going to happen, because that will get you into trouble.

When everybody is lined up in one or two rows, it can be difficult to see what’s going on three to five cars ahead of you.

Finally, one of the most important things to remember is that you have to race people the way you want to be raced. Show respect for other drivers and their equipment. If you don’t, then that kind of stuff is going to come right back on you later.

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Written, Composed and Illustrated by Michael Schrader

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