Q: How Do I Use a Skid Pad to Be a Better Driver?

Q: “Can you share a skid pad curriculum or recommend best exercises?”

A: Okay, here’s an overview of what I’d suggest. However, without having more information about your driving, the tracks you drive on, your car, and your goals, it’s difficult to provide too much detail.

  • Start by getting comfortable with what driving on a skid pad is like, ideally just driving around a circle. Gradually pick up the speed until you feel the car begin to move around a little – a little slide.
  • For most cars, as you increase speed it will begin to understeer, and the circle you’re driving will get bigger as the tires slide.
  • Now you have a baseline – both speed and a comfort level for driving in a circle on the pad – gradually increase your speed (smoothly) until the car understeers. Even make it understeer (turn the steering more, quickly), but ideally due to increased in speed. Now it’s time to practice correcting understeer…
  • As the car ploughs or pushes on a larger radius than you want, rather than turning the steering wheel more (which is human instinct), turn it less. Actually straighten the steering just a tiny bit, and notice what that does to the direction of the car. As you bring the front tires back to an angle that they can grip the skid pad surface again, note how the car turns more. This is managing understeer.
  • Now work on oversteer. Gradually increase speed until the front begins to understeer just the slightest amount, then quickly lift the throttle to transfer weight/grip to front tires. If this doesn’t induce oversteer, and you’re driving a rear wheel car, give the throttle a good squirt of throttle to induce power oversteer. Now the goal is to maintain that oversteer for as long as possible, balancing it with throttle and steering.
  • Once you’ve spent a good amount of time inducing and managing both understeer and oversteer, I’d suggest setting up 2 circles with cones so you can then drive a figure 8. Now you should have a little speed as you accelerate in between circles, and you’ll have to brake a little as you approach the point where you begin turning around the circle to come back the other direction. This is similar to approaching a corner. As you do this, induce rotation as you brake and then release the brakes – use the brakes to help you turn the car. Once you’ve induced rotation in the car, use the throttle to manage the oversteer the rest of the way around the circle until it’s time to straighten the wheel and accelerate towards the other circle; then do that over and over again.
  • An overall goal is to use the brakes, throttle and steering to purposely induce understeer and oversteer, and then manage both. Repetition and experimenting with it is the key.

I hope that helps give you an idea of where to start. Like I said, without knowing more about the skid pad you have to work with, your car, and your driving, it’s hard to suggest more – every time I do skid pad training, I adapt it to those factors. I should also mention that I’ve done this kind of training on purpose-built skid pads, and also in large paved parking lots. In the case of using a parking lot, I’d recommend renting a water truck or getting access to a fire hydrant so you can water down the area to reduce grip.

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