Ask Ross

Q&A with Ross Bentley

 

Q: Can you recommend a driving simulator setup?

“You are a big proponent of simulators. I have a sim seat at home and use it to learn tracks, but my seat, wheels, and pedals just don’t feel right for learning habits. Can you recommend a sim setup (as in actual parts) that will work for most people? I think it is the biggest barrier to entry since there are so many options.”

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Q: How should I adapt my driving to a Front-Wheel-Drive car?

In an article you wrote on adapting braking style for each type of corner, you state that fast turns should be approached with a ‘brush of the brakes’ so that the car will be balanced at turn in. In this scenario, there isn’t much need for trail braking to help rotate the car. However, FWD is best characterized by understeer. Thus it seems to me that even in fast turns, trail braking is needed to help load the front wheels to minimize understeer at turn in. Can you address this question?”

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Q: How do I learn to drive an aero car – deal with downforce?

Q: “I raced in the T4 class in SCCA for two seasons, sold that car, and now I have a formula car. I’m hoping you might have a few pointers for me in transitioning to an open-wheel car with wings. I know my cornering speeds will be much higher, but how do I go about safely getting used to taking advantage of the aero? I plan to get 3-4 track days before the season, and want to take full advantage of my practice time.”

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Q: Does ‘slow in – fast out’ always work?

Q: “Does ‘slow in – fast out’ always work? I hear the advice all the time, but I seem to do good going into corners really fast. My car control is really good, so that might be why. Is it because drivers with bad car control need to be slow in to be fast out of the corners?”

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Q: How do I find & select a driver coach?

Q: “How do I find and select a driver coach?”

A: First, I have a personal interest here, so be forewarned and take that into consideration. And there are many factors to consider when finding and selecting a driver coach, so this is not as simple a question as it seems! It’s a big topic that I could almost write a book on – so this is not a short answer!

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Q: When do I stop trying new approaches to performance driving?

Q: “When I listen to your podcast, a question always pops up to my mind. I know an open mind is very important in all the learning process and I am always trying to keep my mind open. But sometimes other drivers will introduce their method to me, for example, a very different line and braking technique in a certain corner. I tried a few times however it didn’t work as good for me or I didn’t see much different. But I did see some other very reputable drivers also do that. So my question is that in these cases, should I keep trying until it works for me (open mind) or go back to my original driving (not so much open mind?)? Is there a boundary like open mind and too open mind? In this case I want to go back to my original driving, however I am afraid that I am just being closed minded. Thank you!”

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Q: How do I stay focused on improving my performance driving?

Q: “I’m not a racer, just a guy who tries once a month from May through September to do open tracks days. This past summer, I’d go into a track session planning on working on a particular thing, but a few laps into the session I’d get lost in the moment and stop working on what I wanted to improve.  Any suggestions on how to stop this?”

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Q: How do I adjust my suspension & driving to reduce understeer?

Q: “How does the Bump/Rebound/Spring Ratio settings in the rear suspension affect a cars handling? I’m driving a FVee with zero roll suspension. So I don’t know how the suspension basics differs from a more conventional suspension. My main struggle with this car is that it turns in well, but mid-corner when I try to get back on the throttle it understeers a lot, so I end up having to release/accelerate a few times during the corner to get the car to the line I want. A few times I managed to get the car in the perfect mini-drift that rotated the car just enough to be able to get on throttle and exit cleanly. But it wasn’t easy to replicate. So how much of this can I improve with my driving and how? And what can I do with the setting to help out?”

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Q: Why do drivers drive over apex curbs?

Q: “I have seen on some racetracks sometimes driver skip the apex ‘kerb.’ I mean they do not go for those red and white kerb. Instead, they turn far away from the apex and quickly back to straight line. Does this supposed save time and make the car go faster? I have seen it in Formula One sometime as well. It might be in Hungary Grand Prix. Could you please clear the idea for me? Is it always necessary to touch the kerb in the middle of a corner (apex)?”

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Q: How can I improve my corner entry speed?

Q: “I keep hearing that corner entry is the most important part of the corner, and how you come off the brakes will dictate how much speed you can carry. What are some good drills we can do on track or on the street to try and improve our braking and turn-in phases of the corner? I’ve found with practice, I can match mid-corner speeds of some of the top guys, but they’re killing me on entry. I’m doing something wrong during application of the brakes and turn-in that’s losing me a good chunk of time.”

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Q: Is it okay to lift off the throttle & coast before braking?

Q: “I just listened to your latest podcast, which reminded me of an instructor I had around 7 years ago who discouraged me from going full throttle and jumping onto the brakes. Whereas your podcast with Kenton Koch said this was the optimal time to apply brake pressure. I’d originally learned this technique watching races on TV where drivers jump on the brakes pretty dramatically. This instructor’s comment, along with “smooth is fast,” and watching Indy car races where they identify fuel savings when a driver coasts the car into the braking zone made me develop the habit you describe where you are slow to switch from throttle to brake. Now that I only run in Chump Car endurance racing, I figured the coasting into the brake zone was ideal for making the car last (I brake about 7/10 pressure), extending the life of the brake pads/rotors and fuel. Am I wrong?”

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Q: How do I avoid getting frustrated when trying to drive faster?

Q: “Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with frustration and break out of the vicious cycle that sometimes develops as a result? I’ve found on occasion that if I run into an obstacle—say, a particular corner that I’m just not able to get right no matter what I try, I start obsessing about it and can get frustrated to the point that all other learning and improvement stops. Eventually, I can force myself to give up on whatever that is for the time being and focus on other parts of the track, but that might take a couple of sessions or even overnight and until then, it’s no fun for anyone, especially me.”

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