Q&A with Ross Bentley
Q: “I purchased and watched your “Virtual Track Walk” for Road Atlanta, which was awesome. It helped a lot to prepare me for that challenging track. I was there last weekend for a 3-day HPDE and there was PCA Club Racing too. The races in the rain Saturday afternoon were scary! I have also just finished reading “Ultimate Speed Secrets,” my 3rd book from you. I have a question that I can’t find an answer to specifically, and as it relates to a fast and long straightaway (such as the straight at Road Atlanta from turn 7 to 10A). I have a Porsche 981 GT4, I was going all the way to using 6th gear at about the “bend” at turn 9 to keep the RPM below 7k (peak HP is 6500), and then tried different downshifts for the braking and turn in at 10A. I first went through all the gears on the way down, doing the turn in 3rd. I then tried a down shift to 5th and then short-shifted from 5th to 3rd during the braking. I also tried going straight to 3rd from 6th during the braking, and last, I tried staying in 5th instead of shifting to 6th (had to lift a little to keep it off the redline) and then short shifted to 3rd. I found no “time” differences in any of the options. What technique would you suggest?”
Q: Should I change my line & braking points throughout a race as fuel is burned off & my tires wear?
Q: “I was wondering, as you progress through a race and you lose fuel and your tires get worn out, do you have to change your racing line, braking points, apex, etc.?”
Q: “I’ve been told to work on my driving before making mods and tuning my car, and I’ve taken that advice. But my car understeers badly. No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to get it to turn. Can you tell me what I can do with my driving to help this? And then, what should I do to my car to make it understeer less?”
Q: How can I improve my ability to sense how closely I can get to another car on track?
Q: “If telemetry tells me I’m over-braking for a turn, but reducing braking creates understeer, is it a steering input issue? To clarify, reducing braking causes me to miss the apex. What is going on here? Do I stink at turning in?”
Q: “I’ve you heard you talk about being “comfortable being uncomfortable.” I think I know what you mean, but I’m not sure, and for sure I want to know how to do that consistently in a long stint on track?”
Q: “For momentum cars like Spec Miata, is trail braking still an effective method for improving overall braking and speed out of the corner?”
Q: “After many years with BMWs, I’ve gone to the ‘dark side’ and bought my very first American car: a 2021 C8 Vette. My question is, can I take advantage of the 8 gears and dual-clutch with instant rev match to actually up and downshift in the turns? Shifting is reportedly so quick and smooth in both directions that it may seem like steady throttle application. Also, watching the F1 boys, I’m pretty sure I hear them changing gears on entry and exit. Tough to do with a standard six speed, even though heel-toe is second nature.”
Q: “I have been working on improving my braking and corner entry skills for the last few months. I can definitely see improvements in my lap times. One challenge I have as I’m chasing the last tenths of seconds is that I’m not consistent at threshold braking and trail braking. Mental fatigue, physical fatigue, as well as tires and brakes going off, cause errors. I can do well for a few laps, then the errors cause more lost time than pushing the limits. Luckily most errors are correctable, so very few spins and offs. Any thoughts on the risk versus reward and how to decide when to push the limits?”
Q: “In a recent webinar that you did (the Improve Your Braking & Corner Entry – I learned a ton from it!), you showed a diagram of a corner where there was a period of time where there was no braking or acceleration. It seemed like coasting, and I was always taught that I should always be on the brakes or the gas pedal, with no coasting in between. What am I missing? Or was your diagram wrong?”
Q: “What are some ways to think of going “all four off” during a track day? I’m driving a Spec 944, and generally pushing hard, learning what the limit feels like. But, by so doing, end up all four off perhaps once, maybe twice during a weekend. I’m torn about what this signifies: Is it reasonable in the name of progress, or does it simply mean I’m not yet advanced (or skilled) enough to consistently push so hard? I did hear an instructor mention that small changes produce small surprises, which did resonate with me. Any thoughts would be appreciated.”
Q: “How do I approach a decreasing corner where I cannot straight line brake and must have some steering input while braking?”
Q: “I am transitioning from driving a Mini Cooper S (181 hp FWD) for the past six years or so – my one and only track car until we took possession of our 2020 Corvette C8. I took the owners’ program at Ron Fellows and have one day in the C8 at Thunderhill. My question is, and recognizing that the principles you talked about are generally universal, do you have any particular suggestions for things to look for in the car or in my driving as I make the transition?”
Q: “What advice do you have for an experienced track day driver preparing for their first club race?”
Q: “How do you “test” if a corner can be taken flat? How do you build up, mentally and input-wise, to go faster through a corner than you ever have? How do you prepare for it not working out?”
Q: “I’m coaching a driver, and from his videos he is very slow to correct oversteer, and even slower to release the correction. This is leading to him spinning almost every time he gets oversteer. He has limited experience and is in a car with slicks, so maybe not surprising. He is a budget-limited guy (like all of us), and I don’t know if I could get him on a skid pad. Any ideas on how to address his slow hands during a practice session at the track? Traction sensing session focusing on oversteer/understeer to get him at least recognizing the onset of oversteer earlier? I just don’t know of a good way without going and sliding a car around somewhere. Have him buy a cheap Miata and go autocrossing? Suggestions?”
Q: “Let’s say you’re scheduled to compete at a track you’ve never been to before. What are some “best practices” to exercise in the weeks/days leading up to race weekend? How do you prepare to compete at a new track? Do your expectations change in respect to how competitive you expect to be?”
Q: Is turning into a corner aggressively so that the inside-rear tire lifts off the track a good thing? Should I be doing that?
Q: “I compete in a very grassroots series, predominantly filled with 900kg 1.5L Korean hatchbacks running cheap but soft street tires. One thing I’ve noticed some of my competitors doing on entry to a second gear hairpin is they turn in really aggressively. So much so that the inside rear tire lifts momentarily. Do you think there is an advantage to doing this? My thought is that it unnecessarily loads the front tires on corner entry, but maybe it also generates a touch more heat for more bite? They don’t seem to be getting a better corner exit than I do, but my eyeballs aren’t the most accurate data gathering system.”
Q: “How long do I tell my driver (6-year-old son) to keep his eyes on his entry point/turn-in spot before he picks up his apex? He finds his entry/turn-in spot off the exit of the previous corner really well, but then I feel he’s looking to his apex too soon and he drifts off his turn-in point, making his entry a half a kart more shallow then it needs to be.”
Q: “What are the keys to learning a new track and getting up to speed quickly like the pro-drivers do?”