Q&A with Ross Bentley
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.”
Q: “What is the best way to practice driving when lap timing is not allowed? My club has open lapping days, but timing isn’t allowed for insurance reasons. I’m trying to find out the most efficient way to practice and make use of these sessions so I’m more prepared for the time attack competition days.”
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?“
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...
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.”
Q: “I always read your content, love racing, and have a quick question on g-force. Are all “g’s” created equal? Meaning, I’m making 1.6g on a high-speed turn but only 0.8g when braking. If I’m more aggressive with braking, should I be able to make 1.6g on braking as well?”
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?”
Q: “My home track is Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park). One of the more challenging turns for me is the very fast Turn 8. What I find is that the rear gets loose when I try to brake later. Any help would be appreciated.”
Q: “I haven’t been in a car, on track, for months. I’m going to be in the car for the first time next month, and I find myself super nervous about it – way more anxiety about it than I’ve usually had. It’s to the point of self-doubt and wondering if I should even do it. I’ve had similar situations in the past, and it usually disappears as soon as I unload the car and get on track. But this time it seems stronger. And I know self-doubt is super-dangerous, given the situations racing can put you in. Is there anything I can do to calm my anxiety? I love racing and being at the track, and it’s not something I want to give up on. But at the moment, the nervousness is a bit overwhelming. Thanks for any insight.”
Q: “Is it better to treat the double apex corner as a single apex corner or is there room for a little more brake release — or quick blip of the throttle — to gain a bit more “mid-corner” speed through the short stretch of track?”
Q: “An area I really want to work on is “trail braking” and “brake release.” Do you have some training techniques or drills to use, to focus on & practice on, so I can better feel & use the “end of braking” to best advantage?”
You’ve mentioned how brakes are useful for more than slowing down, and can be useful for rotating the car and helping me drive faster. Is there something about the actual rate of release beyond, (1) not over-slowing, and (2) keeping some weight on the fronts to steer in the corner? Also, isn’t this “trail braking”?
Q: “One thing I continue to struggle with (even after 20 years of largely amateur sports car racing) is finding and retaining my brake points. What could/should I be doing to create these points of reference from seemingly nothing?”
Q: “I’ve heard the term trail braking. I’ve been told that the best drivers use it. I’ve been told that I should use it. But I’m not sure exactly what it is, and whether I’m already doing it or not. I think I am, but not sure. Can you tell me what it is, and how to do it?”
Q: “I’m looking for the formula to adjust my cold tire pressure based on the ambient air temp. I had heard someone at the track mentioning this but missed getting the formula. I have used the pyrometer to ensure I have a tire pressure that gives a very even temp across the tire, let the tire cool overnight and took the tire pressure as my future starting cold tire pressure. At the same time, I recorded the ambient air temp to have record of both. My question is, if on the next time to that track, the ambient air temp is higher or lower than the day I recorded my previous tire pressure, how much do I adjust my cold starting pressure? Of course, I have done all of the above for each tire, arriving at four different starting cold pressures. Is there a formula that will give me the adjustment?”
Q: “When watching racing on TV I hear commentators talk about blocking and defending a pass. I think I know the difference, but can you clarify? What’s the difference between blocking and defending? Where’s the line drawn for proper, fair, safe racing?”
Q: “I watched a video of Alexander Rossi closing his eyes and imagining driving a lap of the Long Beach Indy car track. It was amazing how accurate he was. My question, then, is how important is circuit visualization for a driver?”
Q: “I’m new to HPDE and have done 2 events so far. I live in Colorado and my first HPDE event was at Pueblo Motorsports Park. I drive a modified Miata and my instructor at the time thought I did amazing and that I took all the right lines and everything on the track. I was “in the groove” so to speak. My instructor thought I was good enough to advance to HPDE 2 and I told him I wanted to stay at 1 to be safe because this is only my first track. I then went to my second event at High Plains Raceway and had a completely different instructor. At that track I could not “get into the groove” and went completely off track at turn 10 twice. I kept pushing myself even after because I knew I could do better, but I felt I was not getting any better. What I’m saying is I was extremely comfortable racing at Pueblo and thrown off by High Plains, due to either the elevation changes on the corners or the track having, in my opinion, odd lines. My instructor had taken me in his car around High Plains to show me the lines I should ideally be taking, and I noticed he wasn’t using the entire track width. But the next time I went out I mimicked the exact lines he was using and he said I wasn’t using the proper lines, and it dropped my motivation a little bit. What I would like to ask is how I can adapt myself to become comfortable to different instructors and different tracks?”
Q: “How important is the balance between getting back on the power early and quickly exiting a corner, but making sure that you are smooth?”
Q: What advice do you have for getting rid of motion sickness when riding as an instructor?