Q: “When I am in qualifying, or even just a test or practice session, I often post my fastest time within the first 3 flying laps. This happens despite trying different approaches to certain corners and segments that ‘feel’ faster. Many times I seem to try multiple things within a session, but always come out 1-3 tenths slower than that first fast lap. Could this be from over-driving the car? I don’t feel that I am a ‘good enough’ driver to be ‘getting the good’ out of the tires in the first few laps, and struggling to match that later in the session is because the tires have fallen off. It is just a 200hp Honda S2000, so no big HP monster or anything like that.”
A: You have the opposite challenge from most drivers… most take too long to get up to speed, so I’d rather have your problem.
If you get slower as the session goes on, yes, it’s likely that you’re overdriving the car and/or the tires have passed their peak performance temperature. You might try starting with a little less tire pressure, and see if that delays when you get your best lap time. That would point in the direction of the tires going off from being too hot (over-pressured). If you didn’t see any difference, then it may not be the tires causing the problem (it could still be, but not from over-pressuring).
I’ve spent enough time in a S2000 to know that they are an absolute blast to drive. And, it’s not difficult to overdrive them because they’re a blast to drive!
If you’re overdriving, then a couple of things to try: First, if you’re able to see your lap times while driving (you have a timer, or data acquisition), turn it off or cover it over. Don’t focus on the lap times, but instead, just focus on feeling the car’s grip level. Notice the grip level build, and then begin to taper off as you go beyond the peak traction/slip angle point. Focus on being smooth with your inputs – turning the steering wheel, brake release (don’t worry too much about brake application – that can be pretty hard in the S2000), and throttle application. Focus on looking further ahead. Focus on the act of driving, and not on the result (lap time). Ask yourself how smooth you can be – and then get even smoother.
Second, doing the Sensory Input Sessions that I talk about in my books, Speed Secrets Weekly, or my YouTube videos (https://youtube.com/speedsecrets1) will help. They do two things: they give your brain better quality information to work with (to sense the limits of the car/tires), and it distracts your mind from trying so hard and overdriving.
That should give you a direction to follow. Let me know how it goes the next time you’re on track.