Ask Ross

Q&A with Ross Bentley

 

Q: What is “fishtailing” & how do I control it?

Q: “What causes the phenomenon known as “Fishtailing” and how do you stop it? I was at a HPDE event at Road America many years ago and the instructor said a quick stab of the brakes would stop it. I’ve have only gotten to use it when towing an unstable race car trailer, and it did work on that. Should that work in a race car or on the highway?”

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Q: Any comments on the similarities between skiing and driving?

Q: “I’ve been an avid reader of your content since about 2002, and I find that you always have some new angle of providing new knowledge to us drivers. I have a question that’s a bit borderline off-topic. I don’t remember whether you’ve mentioned alpine skiing anywhere, but even as an inexperienced skier I find there are some similarities which could actually help my driving. For example, the use of vision, the importance and use of balance, and of course, the way of finding “the line.” I know that you often look into other sports to find ideas for use in car racing, and therefore I want to ask you if you know of any good alpine skiing “speed secrets” books to explore?”

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Q: Do I need to learn how to double clutch downshift?

Q: “I’m currently reading Skip Barber racing school’s book “Going Faster” and came to the chapter about shifting. The author wrote that race cars usually don’t have synchros, and thus require double-clutch for downshifting. Since the book was written in the ‘90s, I’m wondering if it’s still true for race cars nowadays? Is it a required technique if I plan to develop my racing career in the future?”

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Q: When & how should I develop different driving styles?

Q: “A friend of mine and I have been discussing driving styles lately. We both work in motorsport as technicians/engineers and don’t mind cutting laps on a sim. He has been telling me to try using the brake as a turning tool; i.e., if I’m accelerating out of a corner and I was too greedy on the throttle and have introduced understeer, I should continue accelerating and tap the brakes to not upset the car’s balance too much. This got me thinking about different driving styles. In many racecraft books and tutorials we talk about the ideal line and standard techniques, but when do different driving styles develop in a professional driver and how do you adapt as an engineer when going over the data with the driver?”

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Q: As an aspiring driver, when should I contact the teams I want to drive for?

Q: “I’m an aspiring rally driver who just finished reading your book Speed Secrets 5: The Complete Driver. In Chapter 5, “Career Steps,” you discussed getting started in racing as well as choosing a series. As a driver, I have done a season of competitive karting, a season of rallycross, and been to two racing schools. I plan to attend one more school and do some rally sprints before eventually getting my full competition license, but the question I have is: When is the right time (if there is one) to contact a team to show your interest in joining them for the next season? Should I wait until I have more experience later in the year and a race license, or is it best to let them know as soon as possible?”

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Q: How can I get up to speed faster during a race weekend?

Q: “After 1.5 years of club racing, I find that on a good day I can fight for 3rd. The problem is, I can only get to that level of performance on Sunday afternoon, after a three-day weekend. There are points on Saturday, and I have neither the time nor money to put in all those Fridays. What can I do to be fast on my third lap out?”

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Q: What should I do differently when racing on a street circuit, rather than a permanent road race track?

Q: “Are there any substantial changes to driving technique, vision focus points, driver inputs, etc., that you would recommend when going to a street circuit rather than a “typical” racetrack? Obviously, there are walls instead of gravel traps so you don’t want to focus on them, but are there many changes you make to the actual driving?”

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Q: Does what I learn on a skid pad feel the same as what I experience in a fast corner on a race track?

Q: “Okay, you’re on a skid pad and you begin to under or oversteer at a certain speed, say 40 MPH. Now you’re in a big fast corner on a race track. Does it feel the same in the seat at 90 as it does at 40 when things start to get a bit unsettled? I’m asking because at a track like Big Willow I don’t like leaving speed on the table due to intimidation.”

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Q: How can I learn to trust myself when performance or race driving?

Q: “How can I learn to overcome anticipating what the car is going to do instead of reacting to what it IS doing. I am too much of a technical/comfort driver that wrongly anticipates how much grip is in a corner, entry speed, or tenses up when really pushing, expecting the car to slide. I am still improving but a lot slower than people that go out and spin or go off course and have to dial it back. How can I learn this aggression?”

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Q: How do I know if I’m the one causing my car to understeer, or whether I should adjust my car?

Q: “I recently saw your Speed Secrets Quick Tip on a car’s weakness (https://youtu.be/4MSsc99y2VU), and I can relate to one of your specific examples of a car understeering. I’ve been having a terrible time getting my car to rotate into one corner in particular at my local track. Last time I was there, I determined that I was upsetting the car’s balance by either poor brake or steering management. It happens every time, though I’ve tried many different approaches to the corner. How do I determine whether it is my car, or my lack of skill? Is it me, or do I need a stiffer rear anti-roll bar? I felt like a chump for blaming it on the car this year, but now that I’ve started reading your autocross book, I’m starting to wonder if I’m justified in making a change to the car in my first year of driving.”

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Q: What is & how do I use the End-of-Braking (EoB) point on the race track?

Q: “I have been pondering EoB (End-of-Braking) after attending your Improve Your Braking & Corner Entry webinar. You said we should focus on the EoB, rather than BoB (Begin-of-Braking), just like we are driving on the street and trying to stop before the traffic light. I’m still not sure if I understand that completely. On the street, when we brake for the traffic light, we probably use 20% to 50% of the braking power of the car. There is a lot of room for us to modulate the braking, harder or lighter, during the entire process to get us to stop perfectly at the white line. On track, we are probably using 95% to 100% of the braking power right from BoB. There is not much room to adjust the braking distance if we brake too late so we can still come down to the optimal speed at EoB. The question still in my mind is how we can focus on EoB and still consistently hit the brake at the right BoB point that leads to the optimal speed at EoB. Could you share some more insight? Thanks a lot! The webinars were all very inspiring. Please keep them going!”

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