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"The wind noise, suspension hammering, tires squirming, engine screaming all filled me with a sense of excitement and wonder."

 

Advanced Driver Tuning

 

By Greg Haas

 

My first time on the track remains a vivid memory that I tap into on a regular basis during my instructing activities.  I had my 240Z out on the track for the first time at Summit Point Raceway in 1983 when track days were far less structured events.  My first few laps were overwhelming with input and excitement.

In the beginning it amazed me that all the cars were going in the same direction, there were no speed traps, and it appeared that there was plenty of run-off room in case I ran out of talent (not likely, I figured).  On top of that I felt input from the car that was beyond anything I had experienced in driving around with my hair on fire out in the country.  The wind noise, suspension hammering, tires squirming, engine screaming all filled me with a sense of excitement and wonder.  This was truly driving freedom unlike anything before.  Sure, hauling around in a field car or blasting on my dirt bike had been “fast,” but it became obvious that I had no idea what fast really was.

Haas1Of course I needed more of the juice and I proceeded to beg, borrow and scheme to get as much time on the track as possible.  More track days, racing, etc., etc.  Another bunch of stories for another time.

As I get into the car with a student, particularly a new one, I remember those days and make a point that I can relate to the amazing experience they are about to have.  If I do my job right, their lives will never be the same because they are likely to discover the ability to truly enjoy piloting an automobile.  My first job is to be a guide into this wonderful world and act as a filter to keep them safe and confident as they explore the magical dance with physics that is performance driving.

This is where I begin my conversation about Advanced Driver Tuning.  There are essential elements to performance driving that must be addressed prior to unlocking one's true potential in the cockpit.  In spite of the fact that most of us in this sport would like to believe we were born to drive, the reality is that human beings are not wired to handle the business of hurtling through space in excess of 20 MPH.  Even after over a century of automobiles, we still have the same basic systems to contend with and that is why the value of driver training is immeasurable.

Most of us who evolved after the era when the earth was cooling, learn by trial and error.  I discovered quite by accident that if you hook the inside front on theHaas2 edge of the pavement you could corner faster on a back road.  Who knew that was a technique?  Spins, tank slappers and gut wrenching push all came under the heading of; “that was bad, let's figure out how to fix it.” Part of the revelation of becoming an instructor was discovering that there were methods to evaluate and improve performance without blowing past the limits and hanging in midair like Wile E. Coyote waiting for the impact.  (Warner Brothers©)

Much of the joy and satisfaction I get from mentoring students is the “aha!” moments when they get it.  Whether from effective eye placement, truly sensing feedback from the steering, or comprehending what threshold braking really feels like, I deeply enjoy sharing the experiences of a driver when suddenly they are going faster and feeling more relaxed and in control.  As the right front seat guide, my task is to constantly evaluate performance, mood, and stress level in order to choose the right circumstances to introduce the next skill or dial back to reinforce the current level of performance.  It is little wonder that I am exhausted after a day of instructing.

The path to achieving outstanding and consistent performance is a matter of mastering the basics and having the discipline to practice the elemental techniques that assure success.  Drivers who are in the formative stages of their journey must develop an understanding of these components and can depend on the guidance of their training.  Experienced drivers have a bit more of a challenge on their hands because they have achieved a level of performance that tends to mask issues which remain hidden under layers of compensation and adaptation.  The car becomes a co-conspirator as well.  As one rises through the ranks, higher thresholds are available.  Better equipment often provides improved lap times without a corresponding driver improvement and in some cases deterioration occurs because one can lapse back into bad habits.

The core elements of driver performance include eye control, good driving form, hand management, and input calibration.  These components don't necessarily determine strategy but they will make an impact on its effectiveness.  As one approaches the collective limits, every input and correction becomes more critical.  Most importantly the quality of one's driving has to exist on a subconscious level because there is no mental overhead available for adjustment.  Unfortunately, because track time is precious, there is often very little time available for tuning the basics.  In reality one can and will lose the edge without constant practice because after all, we are wired as human beings.  Eyes will seek the “shiny object,” hands will re-actively respond, muscles tense, breath becomes labored.  For these reasons a driver must calibrate periodically to assure excellent interaction with the vehicle and consistent levels of performance.

Haas3Invest the time to revisit core elements of your driving skills.  This may involve taking some track time in a low horsepower car with limited tire size.  Change your venue for a day and spend some time exploring different limits.  Find a good respected coach/associate and get evaluated.  Read one of the great books on driver performance.  After reading, give yourself time to percolate and nestle new knowledge in your head for future consideration.  Drive for FUN a little bit with no pressure to perform, tune, sort, etc.  Practice looking waaay into the next county as you are driving your favorite road.  Get into something silly and try to drive it as fast as it will go.  Wait for a snow fall and; well you know...  All of these things will suspend the noise that happens on any given day at the track.  Moving forward you will be a better, faster, and safer driver. 

 

 

Greg Haas

“Think fast, go faster”

HAASmobility

240.527.5543

[email protected]

Advanced Driver Tuning Flyer

 

Here is a track video of the new Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point courtesy of Greg Haas:

 

 

 

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