Many people love the feeling of driving at high speed, whizzing along the road with the wind whistling past the windows. What stops most of us is the knowledge that excessive speed is both dangerous and, in many scenarios, illegal. However, there are places where driving fast is not only allowed, it is desirable!
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Those places are race courses, of course, and almost everyone can take advantage of experience days to unleash their inner speed freak. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your high-speed experiences.
Take the recommended theory class
Many racetracks offer a quick run-through of the theory of high-speed driving, talking potential racers through hazards and good-practice behaviours for the track or vehicle you will be using. Never skip this class, thinking that you know it all already – there may be specific conditions on that day that are different to previous visits or the rules may have changed. Gearing up to the test, you should do some research online to get you prepared.
Watch the line
‘The line’ is the optimal path that your vehicle follows while you are travelling around a race track. The straighter the vehicle travels, the faster you will go, therefore the line makes use of the full width of the racetrack to widen turns. This is because travelling around sharp corners at high speeds will unbalance the vehicle so much that it can roll. Being aware of, and anticipating, the line of travel will help you to traverse corners as speedily as possible while remaining safely on all four wheels.
How to turn safely
Build your speed on the straights, but be aware of the turns. At the appropriate time before the turn, you will need to change down a gear or two, and apply the brake. Brake strongly while on the straight to dramatically reduce speed – never while actually cornering. Accelerate into the turn, building speed up preparatory to entering the straight again. Following these steps mean that the vehicle will be balanced entering the corner which reduces the risk of rolling; something which is never a good option but especially so at high speed. Again, the line is key to performing the perfect turn.
Know your understeer and oversteer
Understeering is the term for when a vehicle’s front wheels lose grip on the road, meaning that the back wheels are guiding the vehicle. Oversteering is when the front wheels are in control and the back wheels are lacking drive friction. On the straights, these conditions are not quite as important, but they can make a huge difference to the vehicle’s performance and to your relative safety on corners. Under the influence of an understeer a vehicle tends to swing wide around the bend, bleeding speed off and wasting valuable seconds of time – it is also harder to control the vehicle, meaning that if you are a little too close to the edge of the track you could veer off and lose control. Under- and oversteers are impossible to correct at speed, and usually require you to slow down enough for all four wheels to grip the road properly once again. However, over and understeer can sometimes be mitigated by correcting your driving; taking turns correctly and using brake and accelerator appropriately.
Eyes on the prize
Always watch where you are going. This is a lesson that many people learn as children on their first bicycle – looking at that nasty looking pothole inevitably leads to you bumping through it, despite your ardent wish not to! Your brain is wired to direct your body to automatically follow your line of sight. This trait carries through into the highly unnatural process of driving too, so train yourself quickly scan the whole road, but fix your gaze on the precise course you want your vehicle to follow.
Nothing beats practice and experience, but bearing these tips in mind will help you to make the most out of your high-speed driving experience!