Q: Until this year, I have been driving a Cayman street car that was modified (suspension, roll bar, etc.) for track use. This setup was a compromise between track performance and drivability on the streets. Over the winter, I purchased a used Cayman race car that ran in the IMSA ST class. A friend who is an SCCA racer looked at one of my track videos from VIR and explained that the car is set up for people graduating from karting to racing. In his opinion, the car rotates very easily in the corners and he recommended avoiding trail braking in the car. When I was at Watkins Glen last month, I noticed that if I released the brakes too quickly, the back end would tend to come around fairly quickly. In retrospect, I believe this is what you and Peter discuss in your track walks that I was never able to replicate in my previous car, so it caught me off guard, but I was able maintain my composure and control of the vehicle. What’s the best way to adapt my driving to the way my car handles?
A: It sounds like your car does rotate – begin to oversteer – fairly easily on corner turn-in, right? That’s why your friend would have suggested not trail braking much, since keeping the front tires loaded as you slowly release the brakes when turning in would exaggerate this tendency. When you say that you noticed it rotate quickly when you released the brakes quickly, that’s pretty much the opposite. Are you sure you weren’t turning in with some brake on (some trail brake), then released fairly quickly to help catch the car when it began to rotate?
By the way, be sure to check other posts in my Ask Ross column here, as I’ve answered a lot of questions about rotating the car.
If your car rotates too quickly, sure you can work on balancing it with your driving style – most likely beginning to release the brakes a little earlier, but still smoothly. Or you could make some setup changes to help make it more forgiving. I don’t know what options you have for making adjustments, but perhaps softening the rear shocks (if that’s an option), softening the rear anti-roll bar (or stiffening the front bar), lowering the rear ride height of the car (resulting in less rake), or less toe-out on the front (I’m assuming your car has front toe-out, so even a small reduction in that toe-out).
It’s good to learn to adapt your driving, but it’s also good to make sure your car is in the “good handling” window. Your car might be now, or maybe it’s just a tiny bit outside it, in which case making a setup change might be best – then you can learn to adapt your driving.
As far as adapting your driving to a car that rotates quickly, it pretty much completely comes down to the timing and rate of release of the brakes (something I’ve written and talked about a ton). Your initial turn in of the steering plays a role in this (and make sure you’re not “crabbing in” from the edge of the track before initiating your turn-in; make sure you’re right against the edge of the track surface, using all the track), but how you release the brakes is the biggest factor.