Q: Should I skip gears when downshifting?

Q: “Following up with a question on Heel & Toe that was asked recently. My question is about downshifting through a corner and the correct timing. My example is a corner where you begin braking from 5th gear and want to exit in 3rd.  My current method is brake, clutch, shift into 3rd, release braking, blip, release clutch and accelerate out of the corner, never having used 4th gear. I have noticed in car videos of drivers, in the same corner, rowing through 4th gear and finally into 3rd. There are also multiple blips involved. You can also hear multiple blips listening to cars while standing as a spectator at the same corner. This seems to me a lot of extra work when a lot of concentration is need for cornering.”

A: The quick and short answer is you’re “skip shifting,” and it’s something I recommend – once someone is good enough with heel & toe and timing downshifts. Some drivers don’t like to do this because it’s harder for them to get the right timing and rhythm. Also, some cars make this more difficult, as well.

Obviously, a car with a sequential gearbox does not allow this, because you have to go through all the gears in sequence. Depending on the video or the cars you’re watching from the side of the track, that might be the case.

Now, I want to go back to how you described your approach to the corner, and specifically what you’re doing with the brakes, clutch and throttle. You said, “…brake, clutch, shift into 3rd, release braking, blip, release clutch and accelerate out of the corner…” I italicized the “release braking” in your statement. If that description is accurate, then you’re not heel & toeing, and what you’re doing is braking, releasing the brakes to blip the throttle, and letting the clutch out while turning into the corner. That can be dangerous. If you release the clutch and engage the lower gear while turning, and the matching of revs is not perfect, you’ll upset the balance of the car – exactly when it needs to be balanced (while entering the corner). If you’ve ever popped your foot off the clutch while turning and had the car lurch into a spin (or near spin), then you know what I’m talking about.

You would be waaaaaaaay better off heel & toeing through the brake zone, releasing the clutch before every turning into the corner. That means working the brake and gas pedals at the same time to blip the throttle while maintaining accurate pressure on the brakes. In fact, that is what heel & toe is.

You make a good point about concentrating on cornering as you enter the corner, and that’s why we heel & toe – to get the car into the proper gear for the corner before we turn in. And that means having that downshift completed entirely, with the gear engaged with the foot off the clutch before ever turning the steering wheel.

1 Comment

  1. Ross,
    This seems that it could be an issue with finding the right cornering speed.

    If the OP was at optimum speed in the corner. Then the imbalance that was a result of any sort of modulation of the trail brake or un-smooth rev matching during shifting, in the corner, should be met with an immediate ‘ohcrap’ sensation. (long downshifting can be hard to match precisely)

    Would it be possible for you to link to your existing ‘finding the right cornering speed’ articles or talks or perhaps even touching upon it again with the context of how the edge ‘feels’?

    This would give the OP a plan to find the speed for the corner and as a direct result of that, smooth things mid corner. Possibly even getting the busy work done prior to turn in. Or at least realizing how dangers of chancing an unbalance condition mid corner.

    Thanks,
    David J

    Reply

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