Ask Ross

Q&A with Ross Bentley


Q: What separates the champions from all other drivers? What tip would you give a driver to be a tenth of a second faster?

Q: “I’m ‘studying’ about the art of racing, mostly karting. What actually separates a champion from the rest of the field? You’ve said that what separates drivers is the release of the brakes. In karting, I see a lot of drivers brake in a straight line, turn in (with brake pedal) and move to the throttle. So, if I’m right, the best drivers brake in a straight line but at the turn in point they do not release the brake pedal but slowly release pressure on the brakes. How would a karting champion handle this transition? Racing is about fine-tuning your driving style, but what is perfect driving? You see drivers so close in lap-time, but what tip would you give someone to be a tenth faster than everybody else?”

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Q: How do I reduce the amount of “chatter” I get with the tires while cornering?

Q: “I have a question for you – it’s about the ‘tire chatter’ I experience a fair amount of at Sebring. It’s most notable at Turn 7, and to a lesser extent at Turns 5 and 10. Other drivers have described this as me needing to reduce corner speed a bit, as well as not ‘throwing the car in there quite so aggressively,’ but I was wondering if you had other ideas. My setup is that I run a Ford Focus ST with some engine and suspension mods, and Maxxis Victra RC-1 tires. In experimenting on Turn 5 a bit I found that if I relaxed my hands a bit at the apex and let the car run out a bit more to track out, that I could reduce the amount of chatter, but the chatter is still there. I don’t see too much opportunity to do that sort of an adjustment at Turn 7.”

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Q: Why are new race track surfaces faster? Why do old tires have more grip?

Q: “Why are new track surfaces faster and why do they seem to like old tires? I race regularly at two north Texas tracks (Eagles Canyon and MSR Cresson), both of which have new surfaces. Cresson just received a new top coat and immediately became over a second faster. ECR is essentially a new track. Both tracks are at least a second faster on high heat cycle tires compared to stickers. What is it that makes newer surfaces faster, and why would old tires add to the speed even more?”

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Q: How can I drive smoothly, but also be fast?

Q: “As I look forward to the 2022 race season, and watching instructional videos, I often hear people talk about the importance of being ‘smooth’ with your inputs.  At one level, I understand that, when going down the front straight, if I rapidly step on the brake while turning the steering wheel as fast as I can is likely going to cause me to lose control. But I also know that “smooth” is not the same thing as ‘slow.’  So, my question is, how can you make rapid inputs, while still being ‘smooth’?”

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Q: Do you recommend letting go of the steering wheel when correcting for a big oversteer slide?

Q: “When trying to correct for big oversteer, at a certain point I can’t rotate my hands any more, as my arms are already crossed. While experimenting on a skid pad, I found that the car will “correct itself” if I let go of the steering wheel (really just holding on very loosely) and let the wheel turn under my hands. Is this a good way to catch big oversteer? Or should I try to go hand-over-hand and always have at least one hand with a good grip on the wheel? Letting go of the wheel seems almost too easy, and works most of the time, but I also feel like I’m losing control in some way when I do it. Also, if you have any more thoughts that would help us with how to best use a skid pad for training, I’d love to hear them.”

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Q: Is there a correlation with learning to be faster and being more inconsistent with lines?

Q: “In June I had raced at High Plains Raceway, a track I am very familiar with, and I was averaging around 2:24 lap times, but I was consistent with lines and felt confident with my skill. This past weekend I was there and was averaging 2:16 lap times – getting quite a bit faster – but I felt like I was inconsistent and off my game. So, in your opinion is there a correlation with learning to be faster and being more inconsistent with lines?”

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Q: How do I adjust my tires & suspension to suit tracks with different grip levels?

Q: “I have a series of questions that were triggered by the Tires for Drivers webinar you and Samir Abid did recently. First, what is the grip tendencies of tracks that are super smooth like the newly-paved Watkins Glen compared to a very rough-course surface? The slides in your webinar of the tire on stones vs the smooth surface raised my awareness. My interest is in car setup for each, and a game plan or base line to start with a set up’s.

1. Tire pressures best being lower or higher on a smooth or rough surface?
2. Do tire temps (we use a probe) increase normally or decrease on each of these surfaces?
3. Which way do dampers get adjusted based on these two surfaces?
4. Is camber increased or decreased based on these surfaces?
5. Is body roll increased or decreased based on these surfaces?”

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Q: How can I go full throttle & still have steering in when exiting a corner – I thought that was asking for more than 100% from the tires?

Q: “I have been trying to improve my corner exit speed. As I am exiting certain turns, turn 1 at VIR for instance, I am at full throttle pretty much past the apex even before I fully straighten my steering wheel out. So, I am cornering at full throttle. Why am I not sliding or spinning? I am a firm believer in what you said many times in your books that the tires can only do 3 things at 100% – each either accelerate, decelerate or corner and they can do a combination of the above but only up to 100%. So, I am 100% accelerating and still cornering. How can that be? I drive a Cayman GT4 with Hoosier R7 tires. Can it be that these tires can handle more, meaning 100% full throttle in my car is really less than 100% throttle for these particular tires? I hope I am making sense!”

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