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: 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?
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?
Q: I am relatively new to your podcasts and advice columns and have already benefited greatly from the fantastic information you share. I have been doing HPDE type track driving for a handful of years and just got my SCCA competition license this year. I have the opportunity to join a Champcar team for a 24-hour Enduro and anticipate some nighttime duties. I have only one weekend of experience at VIR from six years ago. What are your thoughts on the added challenge of nighttime visibility especially with my limited track knowledge? What do you suggest as the best way to prepare and what other difficulties might I expect to encounter?
Q: I’m really having trouble understanding what slip angle is and how it works. Is it something you should feel? Is it like or does it feel like oversteer? How do I know what slip angle I’m at? What differences does it cause to my lap time? And most importantly how to do it?
Q: In one of your Chalktalks (thanks for those!) I asked you to describe car rotation, which you did. But what I didn’t ask was how do I get the car to rotate – how I can initiate rotation in a corner? What techniques to try and practice to do this, on track and maybe on some empty roads?