Ask Ross

Q&A with Ross Bentley

 

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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Q: Does braking help stabilize the car?

Q: “Years ago I did a coached track day at Spa-Francorchamps where the coach encouraged me to brake gently to ‘stabilize the car’ during the weight transfer in a quick ‘right-left’ sequence (the corners between the long downhill double-left of Pouhon and the 90-degree right of Campus – corners sometimes called ‘Fagnes’). I found this puzzling at the time and dismissed it as it didn’t seem to fit my ‘mental model’ of smooth weight transfer – why would you want to move the weight/mass from the left, to the front, then to the right? Instead I concentrated on just trying to give the car a short piece of ‘straight’ between the corners so the weight didn’t go directly from the left to the right – I left the braking bit out. Recently I was re-watching the DVD ‘Drive to Win’ filmed at Mt Tremblant circuit, and again the coach was mentioning a left-right sequence where you should brake between the bends to ‘stabilize the car’ and I wondered… is there ever any reason why you would want to do this? Does engaging the brake pads with the discs give any sort of stabilizing effect?”

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Q: How do I get faster when I feel like I’ve plateaued with my driving?

Q: “My question is this: I’m kinda at a plateau where the improvement curve has seemed to flatten. I really don’t have resources for a $1500 per day coach… well, my wife says I don’t! I want to improve my times with better driving and not HP, and I do enjoy chasing down GT3s! So, Ross what do you suggest for a 58-year-old guy who loves the track and wants to be smoother and faster?”

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Q: What’s the best way to drive corners with high / steep banking?

Q: “My question is about the best line and speed through banked corners. The two I have been on are Turns One and Tunnel at Pocono, and as well as the Carousel on the Summit Shenandoah circuit. I’m not sure if I should be taking a traditional line and hitting the apex, or just travel parallel to the corner and hold a steady speed? Also, do I just keep adding speed to find my limit like a traditional corner? Especially at Pocono, the speeds are high and a mistake ends with a trip to the wall, so any input would be helpful.”

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Q: How do I know when to trail brake into a corner, and when to be on the throttle at turn-in?

Q: “I’ve heard the general wisdom that for high speed corners, you want to be on the gas – at least a little – to settle the car and have equal weight across all four tires. My question is how can a driver determine when a corner is fast enough to require that technique, versus trail-braking to the apex? Is it more about speed per se, or track surface, bumps and camber, or do you just try a conservative technique and see how the car behaves?”

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Q: What’s the best way to save fuel while racing?

Q: “I was having a discussion with a buddy about fuel management while racing. I know that if things are getting dicey, drivers will start to coast at the very end of a straight, for example. But how common are other techniques, especially in long endurance races? Is short shifting common? Will people be running 90% throttle down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans if they’re not feeling threatened? FWIW, this conversation was born from laughing at the number of times in movies that two cars will he racing down a straight and the drivers will then do something (downshift, upshift, more throttle) to jockey for position instead of simply being wide open to redline in the first place.”

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Q: Can you suggest specific training exercises or drills to help me drive faster in the rain, and adapt to the changing conditions?

Q: “Living in the UK, the combination of all our rental karts being fitted with slicks and reliably crappy weather gives me plenty of opportunity to become a very capable wet weather driver. Whilst my raw pace is actually pretty good, one thing I particularly struggle with is staying consistent and knowing how much speed I can carry through corners on a constantly changing circuit (weather in the UK is so changeable that a track can go from wet to damp to wet again within an hour!). Are there any particular drills or techniques I can use to help adapt faster to this?“

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Q: Can you tell me about the Garmin Catalyst?

Q: Can you tell me about the Garmin Catalyst?

Q: "I’ve recently heard a lot about the Garmin Catalyst. Can you tell me about it – what it does, and can it help me?" A: First, I was involved as a consultant during the development of the Garmin Catalyst, and yet, I’m not an expert on every little detail of what it...

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Q: How do I manage my frustration after having a bad race?

Q: “How do you deal with the frustration after having a bad race? How can we deal with that energy to put it somewhere positive? Your mental imagery course was great for before and during the race, but I just don’t know how to deal with those tough results! In the race itself I’ve been able to deal with the situation and put in some good laps to do the best I can, but it’s so frustrating knowing that I could’ve been so much higher up the order had someone not tried to make (for example) a dangerous move beyond the limits of their tires and grip.”

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Q: How do I get started in racing?

Q: “I’ve been following racing for many years, and recently I’ve gotten involved with the flaggers and safety crews with the SCCA. This has only turned up my desire to go racing, but I don’t know where to start. What do I do?”

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