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"When you get tired or distracted or are not thinking about the right things, you are in a red mist."

 

 

TRACK DAY DEFINITIONS FOR BEGINNERS

by Ziva Allen

 

APEX  This is the center or mid-point of a turn at the very edge of the road or track surface.  You want to get as close to hitting the apex as you can.  Missing apexes is a sign that you are not in control of your driving and often happens as track drivers try to increase their speed.  Track day organizers usually place a cone at the apex of each turn to help drivers spot it.  I had an instructor at Sebring who taught me to hit the little reflectors with my tires at the apex of the turns.  He exhorted me to “hit a reflector,” “hit a reflector” as we circulated the track from turn to turn.  This exercise was meant to help me to hit the apexes consistently.  In turn one at Sebring, an increasing radius turn, you cannot see the apex at the turn-in and so the organizers placed a cone on top of a fence on the inside of the turn.  This is a fast turn and it is crazy as you are urging your car to combat understeer and get as close to the fence and the apex as possible.  After the apex, your car is just drifting out toward track-out using, all of the available real estate.  Read on for the definition of increasing radius, turn-in and track-out.

 

BOTH FEET IN  Should it come to pass that you start a spin, put both feet in.  In other words, you should apply the brake and depress the clutch during a spin.  This will allow you to get the car under control or going again once the spin stops.  If you do not do this, you will stall.

 

BRAKING POINT  The point on a straight before a turn where you are going to apply the brakes to slow down for the turn.  At many track day events, the organizers will mark the braking points.  There will be a series of cones or markers with the number of feet from the beginning of the turn in black characters on a white background usually at set intervals approaching a turn on the outside edge of the track.  Drivers can use these markers to pick their braking point.  Start conservative and brake later in small increments of distance closer to the turn.

 

CONSTANT RADIUS TURN  These turns do not get tighter or looser as you proceed through them.  The radius remains constant throughout.  Constant radius turns are popular at test tracks, since they allow for consistent monitoring of g-forces as vehicles proceed through corners.  If you are doing a lapping day at a test track like The North Carolina Center for Automotive Research, expect to be doing constant radius turns.

 

CONTACT PATCH  This is the small fist-sized portion of each tire that is in contact with the ground.  All of the forces are acting on your car and are being translated to the track through these patches of tire rubber on these four tires.  These four patches result in the total amount of grip that your vehicle has on the track surface at any one time.  Instructors will make reference to this to impress upon you how little is actually holding your car stable on the track.  This is the reason why it takes smoothness and consistency to successfully go fast on the track.  Manage grip by squeezing - not stomping - on the controls of the car, by getting your braking and downshifting done in a straight line, and by winding and unwinding the wheel gradually.  Exceed the total grip available and you will either be understeering off the track at track-out or oversteering into a slide at any point after turn-in.  Both feet in!

 

CORRECT, PAUSE, RECOVER (CPR)  This is a term coined by the instructors at the Skip Barber Racing School.  If you feel the car beginning to oversteer through your seat and your hands, dial in a little opposite lock to bring the car back under control.  There is a tendency to over correct, so be prepared to pause after your initial adjustment and then allow the car to settle in the forward direction.  As this is happening, if you are looking far down the track, you will be more likely to keep the vehicle under control and make these movements smoothly.

 

DECREASING RADIUS TURN If every turn were constant radii, tracks would not be as interesting as they could be.  A decreasing radius turn is one in which the turn actually gets tighter and tighter as you go along in that corner.  This actually will force you to get slower and slower as you proceed in the turn because it is getting tighter.  This one will trick you because you will end up having to overcorrect or lift off the accelerator when you should actually be feathering on the accelerator to get your best corner exit speed.  You should coach yourself in these types of turns:  “slow, slow, slow,” before getting back on the power sooner than you should.

 

DRIVER EDUCATION  This is an old euphemism for track day, lapping day or high performance driving experience, all of which are different ways to refer to the same thing.  Education was emphasized in an attempt to make it clear that a track day is not a race.  

 

DRIVING LINE  This is the line to take around the track that makes use of the entire available pavement.  The driving line will be the first thing to learn for a new track day driver or at any new track.  The key to going quickly on the track is knowing and driving the line and doing it consistently.  Consistency is probably the top criteria in getting passed up the ranks to solo driving.  If you can do what you are doing consistently, you are in control and so you can be trusted on the track.  Today there are a number of aids to help you learn the driving line before even getting to the track.  Go to our track maps and find the website for the track you need to learn.  Each track will almost always have a track diagram.  Print it out and use it as a reference.  Next, search for the track on YouTube.  There will be a host of videos posted of people’s lapping sessions.  By watching these, you can begin to memorize the line.  Finally, racing simulations games like iRacing can help familiarize you with the driving line.

 

HAND POSITION Your hands should be gripping the wheel at the 9:00 and 3:00 positions and should always both be on the wheel except when shifting.  Do not rest one hand on the shifter.  Use the shifter and bring your hand immediately back to the wheel.  Try to turn the wheel without moving your hands from the 9 and 3 positions.  If you have to remove your hands in a turn that requires more of a wheel turn than you can manage with your hands stationary, you should be shuffle steering.  See elsewhere here for the definition of shuffle steering.  The idea behind using the wheel on a track is that you need to have positive control over the vehicle at all times.  You should not have a death grip on the steering wheel while lapping.  If you do, you need to notice this and remind yourself to relax and take a few deep breaths.  Great drivers use only as much pressure on the wheel as is necessary to turn it.  This allows you to feel through the wheel what your car is doing, before control over the vehicle gets away from you.  If oversteer occurs, a soft grip on the steering wheel will give you the chance to sense it and correct before the vehicle spins.  To set your seat position in relation to the wheel, you should be able to drape your hand over the wheel with the wrist on top of the wheel when your arm is fully extended.  This will ensure that you can reach the wheel through the full range of extension as it moves through the turning radius.

 

HEEL AND TOE  This refers to the technique that allows you to match engine revolutions per minute (RPM) when downshifting.  You put the ball of your right foot on the brake pedal and your heel on the accelerator.  Depending on your car you may actually be rolling the side of your foot onto the accelerator to blip the throttle.  While downshifting, blip the throttle by rolling your foot while at the same time applying brake pedal pressure.  Your pedals need to be spaced correctly for this.  Obviously there is a lot to coordinate to do this successfully and timing is everything.  Plus you need to be at least of average height to ensure you are able to sit square on the seat.  I had added aftermarket pedals to bring the brake pedal and the accelerator closer on a small compact 5 speed I once had and used this to practice my heel and toe downshifts.  The purpose of it is to make the car more stable under braking and downshifting and preparing for a turn.  This is a crucial time for the car to stabilize.  You do not want the car bucking due to big RPM changes with all the slowing and preparing to turn going on.

 

INCREASING RADIUS TURN  This is the opposite of a decreasing radius turn.  Rather than tightening throughout the turn, this one actually unwinds or gets looser and straighter.  In this type of turn you can actually pick up speed after the apex.  By increasing your pressure on the accelerator after the apex, you will be maximizing your corner exit speed.  These tend to be rather higher speed turns and can be quite thrilling and fun.

 

OCULAR DRIVING  Looking far down the track makes your driving smoother.  We tend to go toward what we are looking at.  If you stare at a wall, you will head toward that wall.  By looking down the track, you will tend to go there.  When entering a turn, you should not be looking at turn-in, but the apex.  At the apex. you should not be looking right in front of the car, but at the track-out point.  Force yourself to always be looking far down the track.  This will make you smoother and being smooth on the track is good.

 

OVERSTEER  The rear of the car wants to come around or the rear wheels want to swap places with the front wheels.  This is like fishtailing in the snow or the rain.  NASCAR announcers call this “loose.”  The rear of the car wants to slide out.  This can be caused by lifting in a turn, thereby shifting the weight of the car to the front tires (trailing throttle oversteer).  With the rear tires un-weighted, there is less grip in the rear and the rear will want to swap places with the front.  Like above, oversteer scrubs speed and is slower than neutral steer.

 

RED MIST  Red mist is a condition where a driver is losing concentration while on the track.  There are times when you get into a rhythm and this is good.  When you get tired or distracted or are not thinking about the right things, you are in a red mist.  When you notice this happening, you should put your fist out the window signaling that you are coming off the track and pull into the pits to collect yourself or take a break.

 

SHUFFLE STEERING  If you cannot keep your hands at the nine and three positions to turn, you need to shuffle steer.  If you are turning right, for example, keep your left hand at the 9:00 position, reach up with your right hand and pull down on the wheel.  Allow the wheel to slip through your left hand and grip it again when your hands are at the new nine and three.  Adjust the amount of turn by now steering with both hands on the wheel.  Coming out of the turn, unwind the wheel.

 

TRACK-OUT  This is the spot at which you exit a turn and enter the next straight on a track.  This is on the far outside of a turn and your car’s momentum carries you out to this point as you are exiting a turn.  When first starting, many people are driving slowly enough that they literally have to drive out to this point.  As you begin to carry more speed, your car will be heading out there naturally.  If this is not happening, you are not going fast enough in a turn.  Take it gradually and build speed until your car is using the entire track or flowing naturally out of a turn to the outside edge of a track.  Your eyes should be on this point when you are at turn-in.  You should not be looking directly in front of your car at any time.  As you practice, these points will actually only ever be in the periphery of your vision.  The goal of any turn is to not take the turn as fast as possible.  The goal is to have as much exit speed as possible.  If this means going into the turn slower so that you do not have to lift off the accelerator or overcompensate once in the turn, then so be it.  Your exit speed is everything because this gets multiplied all the way down the straight you are entering.  Two things about turning:  wait, wait, wait and exit speed, exit speed, exit speed.  Is that two or six things?

 

TURN-IN  The point that you choose to start turning upon approaching a corner.  This is done from the far outside of the track as you approach a corner to allow for carrying the greatest amount of speed through a turn.  You always want to be using as much of the track as possible.  This is like straightening out the turns as much as you can.  Track day organizers will place a cone often with another lying on its side at the suggested turn in point.  It is recommended that you work on turning the wheel once and leaving it in the position selected to carry you into the turn.  The less you move the wheel, the faster you will go.  You should not be sawing at the wheel when turning.  This loses you time.  I had an instructor who joked about wanting to be paid a dollar every time a student moved the wheel in a turn.  Your eyes should be on the turn-in point well before you are actually at it, from somewhere on the approaching straight as you begin to prepare to turn.

 

UNDERSTEER  When you turn the steering wheel to turn one way or another and the car wants to go straight.  Also called “push,” especially by NASCAR announcers.  Especially pronounced in a kart until you get heat in the tires.  Can be due to low heat and grip in the tires or during acceleration causing the weight of the car to shift to the rear tires (power induced understeer).  This is like in skiing, when you induce up or down un-weighting so you can turn.  Understeer is fun when you are in a turn where there is plenty of run off/not so much fun when you are heading toward a wall on the outside of the turn.  Understeer causes the tires to slip in the straight direction so you are scrubbing off speed.  This is not the equivalent of going fast.  Whenever you are sliding, you are not going in the intended direction and so you are slower.

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