Q: Will karting help me learn to adapt to an understeering car?

Q: I am a track day guy and get out on track about 6 times a year various road course tracks. This year I switched from a modified street car to a full-on race car for track use. The race car I am driving understeers and rotates very easily. This is very different from the previous car which had a more neutral setup. Rather than start the process of adjusting the car’s setup to match what I had previously, I am trying to adjust my driving style to match the car’s setup. In order to get more comfortable driving a car with understeer, I was wondering if karting in between track events would be a good way to transition my driving style to match the car’s setup? Do you have other suggestions as to what I can practice to get more comfortable with this new setup? Thanks in advance.

Q: What advice do you have for me after I’ve crashed my car?

Q: I recently crashed my track car coming out of turn 12 at Mid-Ohio. While I have been doing HPDEs for 10 years now, this was my first time at Mid-Ohio, and my 5th different track that I have been to. I am writing this not for sympathy, but to share with your readers some mistakes I made, and also to learn from it. I’m hoping you can help with that last one.

This is my second season in a modified 2007 Cayman S, after driving 911s for the previous eight years – they handle different. I requested and was given an instructor – he was a good one and an especially good communicator. I asked if I could go out with him in his car (a 993 911) and “see” his line. We did and then his communicated line made more sense to me. I then asked him if he thought the Cayman should follow that line too? He had never driven a Cayman so I asked him if he’d like to and he did. He dialed it back a bit but drove it 5 laps using the same line. Then we swapped seats and on the very first lap I lost control on the exit/track out of turn 12 (Thunder Valley).

His line was a very early apex (riding on the right-side curbing, almost off the track) whereas I had been doing a mid to late apex. The turn finishes with a crest and downhill and you track out to the left curbing, but stay off of it, as it was known to be slippery. As I tracked out and made a very slight right turn my car oversteered or maybe “power oversteered” which a Cayman can do easier than a 911, and the disaster began. The car made four fishtail oscillations and the 4th ended with the right front hitting the wall on the right just past the tire wall on the right. We came to a stop 180 degrees from the contact angle directly under the pedestrian bridge. We were okay, minus some minor lower back soreness and mild headaches. The car, not so much.

So what can I learn from this. Well first, I admit that I had not studied the track or even watched any track videos. I was busy with family commitments for the two weeks before, and a 3-day DE the weekend before Mid-Ohio. Two, I should have tried my instructor’s line with it dialed down a bit, though I do remember saying to my instructor, “I’m not going to go try and emulate you right off”. And three, what was I thinking with less grip in the back than I was used too?

Q: How do I know if it’s me or the car that’s causing a handling problem?

Q: I drive a 2017 Mazda MX-5 for fun on track, no competition, just always trying to learn and improve. When driving into one or more corners and the car understeers, how do I know when it is me entering too fast versus when the car setup can be improved? I don’t have access to a skidpad. I know I could go slower into the corner or adjust the line a bit, and 9 times out of 10 it’s probably me that is the problem. But how do you know when understeer is a setup issue?

Q: How do I use data to help me define what to do to improve my driving?

Q: I’ve been looking at the telemetry data and onboard footage of faster drivers to improve my driving. I’m at the point where I understand what I’m doing wrong and what I can do better conceptually, but I can’t seem to apply it when I go out on track. What’s confusing me is I don’t understand what exactly I’m doing wrong when I’m in the car. For example, if I need to use less brake going into a corner, I’ll tell myself that before the corner, but I just end up repeating the same mistake as before. How do I figure out what exactly I must do with the controls by looking at data?