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? Any tips, practice drills would be appreciated. Also I wonder how much time could be lost due to slow footwork?
“Second question: My son is 14 and is getting ready to attend drivers school in February. What advice or preparation would you recommend before attending competition licensing school?
“Lastly, we race on a tight budget, and I mean tight! My car is a collection of wrecking yard parts, we use others’ throw-away tires, and my kid pays for all his own entry fees. With a tight budget ,where would you spend your money? What is the most bang for the buck outside of karting and what would your priorities be?”
A: I wish I could give you that one super-secret trick that will make all the difference in the world, but I think you’re covering most of it. Checking your data and video are the most important tools to see how you’re dong – to become more aware – and keeping your heel on the floor is critical. I hate to just say it takes more practice… but it probably just takes more practice. The practice drill would be doing it more. You can practice some of it while sitting still, with the engine turned off. In fact, I highly recommend this, as that can help because you’re able to watch your feet. But it doesn’t give you a lot of feedback, so it’s not perfect – better than nothing, though.
Depending on the car, a heel stop/rest can help, as that provides your foot with a solid pivot point to work from. But in some production-based cars, the travel in the pedals are so long that a heel rest is almost unusable. Take a look and see if a small piece of angle aluminum attached to the floor would work for you.
Preparing for one’s first comp school? Wow, that’s a big topic, but the main advice I’d give is just to learn as much as possible beforehand. Read as much as possible, watch as many quality videos as you can (I have some at https://youtube.com/speedsecrets1), etc. The more that all the terms and concepts are understood beforehand, the more brain power is available for what the school teaches. I’d also recommend practicing the use of mental imagery/visualization. It’s a huge help in the learning process, so if your son can use it as a learning tool when he gets to the school, it will help him make the most of the time there. In fact, he can start now by reading something about driving, then closing his eyes and imagining how that would look, feel like, and sound like.
Racing on a tight budget? First, my advice is always race where you have the biggest budget. If you have a billion dollars, race in Formula One; if you have $30 million, race Indy car; if you have $1000, race radio controlled cars (maybe that’s not a big enough budget to win there!). With that in mind, I think the “budget” endurance series, like Chumpcar/Champcar, WRL, and AER are great bang for the buck. I’ve not actually done a LeMons race, but that’s an option. Part of your decision should be dictated by your goals. If your goal is simply to have fun with your son, and it doesn’t matter where you finish, then any of those series are good. If winning is important, again, look at where you have one of the biggest budgets. Figure out what you can afford to spend, then see where that puts you.