Ask Ross

Q&A with Ross Bentley

 

Q: Should I trail brake more or less in a fast corner?

Q: “This season I’m working on corner entry speed. Briefly, my general approach has been on tight, slow corners, go in deep, brake hard and rotate the car to get to gas before the apex. On high-speed corners, brake early but lightly to get the car balanced and myself comfortable so I can carry more speed through the corner and get on the throttle before the apex.

“I’m thinking of trying a subtle adjustment on the high-speed corners; i.e., maybe trail braking a little longer and carrying more speed to the apex so that I don’t get to the throttle until or very slightly after the apex. In other words, if I get to the throttle early, then I took off too much speed on entry. I realize a book could be written on this, but I would love your general thoughts for my guidance.”

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Q: When lightening my car, is overall weight more important than balance?

Q: “This is a question I have been wondering about for some time now. I do informal track weekends in my 2011 BMW M3. I’m starting to add lightness and adding track parts through replacing things like the battery, lighter brakes, removing the rear seat, and adding aero. For this particular car, it is much easier to take weight out of the rear of the car than the front of the car. Is having less overall weight in the car more beneficial than a more weight-balanced car? Can aerodynamics be used to compensate for a car starting to lean towards a front-weight bias?”

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Q: Should I raise or lower tires pressures in the rain?

Q: “I did a track day at NCM in the rain – not damp, but RAIN. Rain, as in standing water many inches deep against curbs, little rivers flowing, no visibility when following… you get the picture. Years ago, I thought you would lower your hot (coming off track) tire pressure to soften/make more compliant tires as you do for sway bars, shock settings, etc. However, a pro who’s name I won’t mention (but he’s won a “few” races in BMWs), suggested that lower pressure was flat wrong. He said you should increase your hot pressure significantly to help pump the water from under the contact patch. Since then, I’ve tried raising a couple of psi a few times and it didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t obviously better either. What’s your take? Raise pressures, lower pressures or the same in the rain?”

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Q: What is the End-of-Braking point & what squeal do tires make at their peak?

Q: “After your recent Improve Your Braking & Corner Entry webinar, I have two questions:

“1. Where is the EoB (End-of-Braking) point? Could it be defined as “when the car is under control and pointed where you want it to be”?

“2. Listening to tire squeal… first, in relation to the Slip Angle curve, where does tire squeal begin, near the peak, at the peak, or on the downslope? And when tires squeal, are we close to (or already in) pushing/front and/or getting loose/rear?”

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Q: What are the right steps to begin racing?

Q: “Where does one start to begin racing? I have looked at the Trans Am series (starting at the TA4 class) but there are so many series. Which does one chose? Is there a progression one should follow – maybe we start with HPDE days, then time trials, then getting licensed to race, then pick X organization to go with to race. What’s your advice?”

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Q: Will brain training apps help my track driving?

Q: “I have a question about a topic in your Speed Secrets book. In the book you talk a lot about the mental side of racing and a lot of the specific cognitive abilities that race car drivers need. I’ve been using brain training apps like Lumosity and Peak and I was wondering if doing brain training to improve in areas such as processing speed, mental agility, focus, coordination and others would be helpful.”

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Q: How close should my lap time be to the data system’s theoretical best?

Q: “I just finished re-watching a couple of your webinars as I work to step up to the next level and go to the Runoffs this season. Reviewing data I see my typical best lap is 1 to 1.3 seconds slower than the theoretical best lap from my data system. No one does the perfect lap, but should my goal be to close that gap to 0.5 seconds? That seems a reasonable goal. Thanks for all your books and webinars! They’ve really helped me improve and consistently run with the leaders.”

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Q: Why do I get slower with more laps?

Q: “When I am in qualifying, or even just a test or practice session, I often post my fastest time within the first 3 flying laps. This happens despite trying different approaches to certain corners and segments that ‘feel’ faster. Many times I seem to try multiple things within a session, but always come out 1-3 tenths slower than that first fast lap. Could this be from over-driving the car?”

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Q: What advice do you have for heel-toe downshifting, comp school prep & racing on a budget?

Q: “I have three questions for you. First, while listening to Podcast #99 (Driving with 3 Pedals), it made me think about my heel-toe downshifting. I had thought I was pretty decent at it, however when looking at my data and watching video of my feet I not only realized that I was lessening my brake pressure while downshifting but I was also pretty slow and sloppy with my footwork. Any advice beyond keeping your heels planted?…

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Q: Why does Nico Rosberg make such violent steering movements?

Q: “I have a burning question about a video of Nico Rosberg blasting around Silverstone in a Porsche 918 (https://youtu.be/7nEp8fHCGGU ). His counter steering is so immediate, quick, and almost violent. The question is: are these almost full-opposite lock “twitches” managing potential oversteer, or are the front tires being driven just over the limit and “letting go.” Any analysis would be much appreciated, Ross.”

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Q: With limited time between autocross runs, should I spend time analyzing data or do mental prep?

Q: “I am an avid autocrosser, running a Porsche 914 race car. I only have 10-15 minutes between runs. I always have a course map (either provided by the organizers or drawn myself from a morning course walk), and my past habit is to close my eyes and carefully rerun the last run in my mind, making note of what went well, and where I think I can improve. That’s also very good for just calming me and putting me in a peaceful state of mind for the next run too. Is that perhaps better prep than worrying about the data? Your insights would be appreciated.”

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Q: How do I know I’m progressing if I have 3 different HPDE instructors telling me different things?

Q: “My question to you is, how do you progress while having three different instructors in three different events. Yes, they were all helpful in their own ways, one even guided me to your books, but it is hard to track progress without any basis. My only basis to know I am progressing is becoming able to drive my car comfortably at the limit of my tires. I don’t have any information gathering devices to know track times, but I have taken videos of my events. Any advice?

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