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

Q: “I participate in HPDE in a FWD (Front-Wheel-Drive) car. I have modified the suspension in my car to minimize understeer, but in the end, it is always there. I sense that much of the information that you and others present is directed to RWD (Rear-Wheel-Drive) cars. I wonder if the approaches need to be adapted for FWD. 

“For instance, 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?”

A: The simple answer is that my advice applies equally to RWD, FWD and AWD. I certainly don’t aim my writing towards one platform over another, unless I specifically mention it.

Think about this: There could be as much of a difference between two RWD cars (a Porsche 911 and BMW, or Mustang and Miata) as there is between some RWD and FWD cars. Everything I’ve talked about applies to either platform, it’s just a matter of “how much.” A brush of the brakes might be more in one car than another, but it’s the same technique/approach. You’re right in that you need to manage the car’s ability to change direction, and that might take a longer brush of the brakes, or a heavier/shorter one. But the same approach is taken with both.

The great thing is you’ve identified what it takes to get your car to turn more, as it does understeer more than some other cars. I have to say, though, that you can certainly make a FWD car oversteer, especially on corner entry, through the use of the brake release – which it sounds like you do. Well done!

I think a mistake many drivers make is in thinking there’s a bigger difference between FWD and RWD cars, and how you drive them. Or, maybe turning that around, they don’t realize that there can be as big a difference between two FWD, or two RWD cars as there is when comparing FWD and RWD cars.

The key message I want to get across here is that the same techniques apply to any platform. The difference is in how much, where, when and how you apply them. And that’s the key to being a great driver – being adaptable to what the car needs.

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