Q&A with Ross Bentley
Q: “In a chalktalk you did earlier this year there was a statement: get 2/3rds of the braking done in the first 1/3rd of the brake zone and the last 1/3rd in the last 2/3rds of the brake zone. I want to make sure that I got that right.”
Q: “How should I prepare for my first track day? It’s organized by a car club – I think they call it a HPDE event.”
Q: “Can you address the g-load differences between cornering and braking. Should tires be able to achieve equal lateral and longitudinal loading?”
Q: “I understand that a consistent turn-in is an important concept for novices, but I wonder if we spend too much time thinking about it as people progress through the spectrum. Just as we move from straight line braking to trail braking, should we be de-emphasizing turn-in as something to expect to be consistent? Or, am I missing something more fundamental?”
Q: “I wonder how much braking or braking transition points have to do with the changes in tires. I wonder if techniques have evolved with the tires? And does it vary with the type of car.”
Q: “I seem to be pushing the limits NOT OF THE CAR, but my driving abilities lately as I try to improve my lap times. Where do I go from here to improve and not be frustrated with my driving? My lap times have improved with later, harder braking and carrying more speed through the corners.”
Q: “As I look forward to the 2022 race season, and watching instructional videos, I often hear people talk about the importance of being ‘smooth’ with your inputs. At one level, I understand that, when going down the front straight, if I rapidly step on the brake while turning the steering wheel as fast as I can is likely going to cause me to lose control. But I also know that “smooth” is not the same thing as ‘slow.’ So, my question is, how can you make rapid inputs, while still being ‘smooth’?”
For most street platform “race” cars, do you want your head rested in the back of the seat at all times or do you want your neck a little farther forward and using the muscles to hold it balanced?”
Q: I seem to hit a plateau with my lap times – how do I push beyond that and go even faster?
Q: “When trying to correct for big oversteer, at a certain point I can’t rotate my hands any more, as my arms are already crossed. While experimenting on a skid pad, I found that the car will “correct itself” if I let go of the steering wheel (really just holding on very loosely) and let the wheel turn under my hands. Is this a good way to catch big oversteer? Or should I try to go hand-over-hand and always have at least one hand with a good grip on the wheel? Letting go of the wheel seems almost too easy, and works most of the time, but I also feel like I’m losing control in some way when I do it. Also, if you have any more thoughts that would help us with how to best use a skid pad for training, I’d love to hear them.”
Q: “How do I try to manage my tires’ heat so that they don’t get oily and slick as the day gets hot as I’m driving? I’ve noticed I can get efficient traction my first two laps if it is hot out, but after that the tires seem to want to slide a bit more.”
Q: “In June I had raced at High Plains Raceway, a track I am very familiar with, and I was averaging around 2:24 lap times, but I was consistent with lines and felt confident with my skill. This past weekend I was there and was averaging 2:16 lap times – getting quite a bit faster – but I felt like I was inconsistent and off my game. So, in your opinion is there a correlation with learning to be faster and being more inconsistent with lines?”
Q: “I have a series of questions that were triggered by the Tires for Drivers webinar you and Samir Abid did recently. First, what is the grip tendencies of tracks that are super smooth like the newly-paved Watkins Glen compared to a very rough-course surface? The slides in your webinar of the tire on stones vs the smooth surface raised my awareness. My interest is in car setup for each, and a game plan or base line to start with a set up’s.
1. Tire pressures best being lower or higher on a smooth or rough surface?
2. Do tire temps (we use a probe) increase normally or decrease on each of these surfaces?
3. Which way do dampers get adjusted based on these two surfaces?
4. Is camber increased or decreased based on these surfaces?
5. Is body roll increased or decreased based on these surfaces?”
Q: How can I go full throttle & still have steering in when exiting a corner – I thought that was asking for more than 100% from the tires?
Q: “I have been trying to improve my corner exit speed. As I am exiting certain turns, turn 1 at VIR for instance, I am at full throttle pretty much past the apex even before I fully straighten my steering wheel out. So, I am cornering at full throttle. Why am I not sliding or spinning? I am a firm believer in what you said many times in your books that the tires can only do 3 things at 100% – each either accelerate, decelerate or corner and they can do a combination of the above but only up to 100%. So, I am 100% accelerating and still cornering. How can that be? I drive a Cayman GT4 with Hoosier R7 tires. Can it be that these tires can handle more, meaning 100% full throttle in my car is really less than 100% throttle for these particular tires? I hope I am making sense!”
Q: “I once had an instructor in my car tell me that my tires were overinflated. How could he tell that? How can I get better at noticing that kind of thing?”
Q: “The question I have is about heat treating to break in new tires and improve tire longevity. I usually heat cycle a set of tires for 20 minutes on a single session, then take the tires off and let them sit for 24 hours. I then put them back on for the remainder of the 2-3 day event. I run a set of tires for about half a season, ~4 events. Is there a better way of getting the tires ready for a season, and is there a normal life of tires that would indicate a replacement point? Could I run tires for a full season without suffering hardening and loss of grip?”
Q: Which reference points are the most important when approaching & driving through race track corners?
Q: “I’m doing my yearly brush-up on the basics and realized that I’m thinking more about the start of throttle rather than the End-of-Braking. Pretty close in terms of where and when in the corner, but not quite! I also think about the point of full throttle to make sure I don’t get there too soon (or too late!). How do these three points rate in terms of importance? And if a driver gets one wrong, which one has the highest cost in terms of lap time? Which one can be compromised with the least penalty?”
Q: How can a driver out-brake another on the outside of a corner like Lewis Hamilton tried on Max Verstappen in the Brazilian Grand Prix?
Q: “Here’s my conundrum. As a theoretical proposition, how is it possible to make an outside pass (I’m thinking of Lewis’ attempt in Brazil when Max pushed him off track)? In this example, it is assumed that these are perfect drivers who are absolutely at the limit. If Car A is ahead of Car B and takes the correct line through the turn – it seems to me that it should be impossible for Car B to pass Car A. Since Car B will be, by definition, off line, his maximum speed must be less than Car A’s. Thus, he can’t pass Car A. Or is it that outside passes are an attempt to freak out Driver A, and provoke him into a mistake? Or make Car A slow down?”
Q: “Should I be using the ABS when braking hard for a corner, or apply just enough pressure to stay just before the ABS activates?”
“If I want to spend two hours a week on consciously improving my driving style and technique with sim racing – instead of just practicing for my next league race – what kind of drills or exercises would you recommend?”