Q: “I’m a novice with a couple HPDE track events and I’m hooked. I’m getting conflicting information as to whether I should turn Traction Control off or leave it on while learning to drive faster. I drive a 2017 Mazda Miata so power isn’t huge. I know that TC may save me from myself, but might it also mask some of the ‘limit sensors’?”
A: Ahhh, the most-asked question of them all! And one that is impossible to answer definitively. And everyone has their own opinion. So, here’s mine… It depends! 🙂
In the perfect world all drivers would start track driving in low-horsepower, low-grip cars with no traction control (E30 BMWs, early Miatas), and the driver would learn car control at relatively low risk. But so many cars have TC now, so it’s less likely that a driver will not have it as an option. So, what to do? I believe a driver should start track driving with TC on, and then when he/she can tell when the system is helping, then and only then should the driver turn it off. If the driver can’t tell whether it’s assisting or not, then the driver has not learned enough about sensing what the car is doing. Once the driver has developed the ability to sense when TC is helping, then it’s a good idea to turn it off so he/she can fine-tune their car control skills.
Yes, TC masks limit sensors. They also cover up mistakes that drivers make – often mistakes that the driver doesn’t even realize they’re making. TC also reduces the chances of crashing. So, some good things, some less-than-good.
Since I don’t know what level you’re at with your ability to sense the limits of your car, I can’t say for sure what you should do. But based on you saying you’re a novice with a couple of events under your belt, I’d suggest leaving TC on until you can consistently tell exactly when it’s assisting – when it’s activating. Once you know exactly when it’s activating, and even when you’re able to predict when it’s going to kick in, then consider turning it off.
I’m not sure what the new Miata has in terms of settings for TC – does it have steps? If so, turn it one step off, where it activates a little, but not fully; then with more experience, turn it off entirely. I also don’t know whether your car has stability control in addition to TC? If so, I’d emphasize what I said about TC.