Ask Ross

Q&A with Ross Bentley

 

Q: How do I improve my threshold and trail braking consistency?

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?”

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Q: Is there ever a time for coasting, where I’m not on either the brakes or throttle?

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?”

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Q: Do I have to spin or crash to learn to drive the limit?

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.”

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Q: How do I transition my driving from a FWD Mini to a RWD C8 Corvette?

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?”

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Q: How can a driver learn to correct slides and spins better?

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?”

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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.”

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Q: How long should a driver focus on the turn-in point before looking into the corner for the apex?

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.”

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Q: How can I avoid abusing my tires, and save them when driving fast?

Q: “There is one thing that I have wanted to know, but I never found anyone whom I thought would be able to answer my question correctly – until now. How do you save tires? How do you abuse tires on the track? Oops, that’s two questions. The second question may seem obvious, but drivers do many things with their cars that we are not aware of, or assume to be the right thing to do.”

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Q: How can I better transition from sim racing to my real car?

Q: “Now that sim racing has become more popular and I’ve done quite a lot of it during lockdown, I find myself with some bad habits. Braking and brake feel for instance is much different on my sim rig compared to real life. It can take me hours in real life to find the right amount of trail braking after doing it on the sim one way for so long. Also, I have the problem of thinking I’m going faster the more g’s I pull which isn’t always true now that I can feel g-forces again. How do I quickly adjust from sim racing to real life racing?”

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Q: How can I use tire noise to learn to drive faster, at the limit?

Q: “I had a quick question with regards to tire squeal and using it as a gauge for performance driving. Recently, I took part in a driver training program and was reintroduced to the saying “a squealing tire is a happy tire.” My previous belief was that tire squeal occurred in the frictional region after the point where a tire has peaked in the force vs. slip angle curve, not approaching or at the peak. Obviously, every compound, construction, and even batch of tires act differently, however have you found a general trend in your experience? Also, does the same apply for racing slicks? In my limited experience with driving on slicks, I can’t say that I have ever gotten them to the onset of tire squeal before I’ve had to catch the slide.”

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Q: Should I expect to see the same level of g-loads in slow and fast corners?

Q: “This question is a variation on one that you already answered on your website. That question asked if the driver could expect the same g-force limit during braking vs. cornering. Looking at my data, I see that the faster the corner, the lower the g-force I’m achieving. I’m not surprised, since I’ve never been comfortable with fast corners. Assuming the track conditions and track camber are the same, should I be able to pull the same g-force in a fast corner as in a slow corner? That would be a guide to how much faster I can do the fast corners.”

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Q: How do I know if I’m driving the limit of my car?

Q: “I’ve been experimenting with different techniques, different lines, trail braking, rotating, controlled-over or understeer where needed, and on and on, and my lap times are no longer improving. How do I know if I’ve reached the limit of the vehicle, or my skill limit? Is it safe to say that some cars will never achieve “insert-super-fast-lap-time-here,” no matter what you do to them, within reason? I can only go so wide of a tire, or reduce weight so much, or tune suspension so much, before there isn’t much left to tinker on the car. I see cars with half the power, similar weight, running similar or faster lap times than I do.”

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