Performance & Race Driving Tip

Speed Secret: Successful race starts are more about your mindset than they are any specific technique.

race-startYour goals for starts and restarts (in order of priority):

  1. Gain positions
  2. Maintain your position
  3. Minimize any loss of position

Gaining positions is as much about your mindset as any technique. How many different scenarios are there for the start of a race? An infinite number. So, you can’t imagine every single one of them – you can’t imagine every technique you’ll need. But you can imagine (mentally program) being ready, no matter what happens. It’s amazing what doing some mental imagery of “I’m ready” and having the mindset of “I’m going forward” does.

This mindset – one of “owning” the positions in front of you, that you’re gaining on or pulling away from your competitors – will do more for being ready and taking advantage of what happens at the start.

Much of this mindset comes into play on the pace lap. Other drivers will try to send you a message on pace laps, by taking up your space while warming their tires. They’ll try to block you a little, and move you over just a little when you’re packed up 2-by- 2. You need to push back and let him know you’re not going to let him dominate you. Better yet, you need to start this game before he does.

I wish I could tell you where to line your car up in relation to other cars, but I can’t make such a sweeping rule. For example, should you always be right on the rear of the car in front of you, or hang back and try to get a bit of a run? It all depends… Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I think the “safest” place to be is closed right up behind the car in front of you. If you hang back, trying to get a run on others, there’s a chance you’ll miss the timing and actually lose positions. That’s why I say it’s safer – there’s less likelihood that you’ll lose anything. I think that being all over the car in front of you sends a message to other drivers, too – “I’m here to do battle, so don’t mess with me.”

Sure, you can hang back a little, and then just before you think the green flag will come out you can begin to accelerate even a little bit (having a one MPH advantage over others will give you a chance to pass them). But again, if you time it wrong and have to lift off the throttle just as the flag falls, you’re likely to lose positions.

Tips: Go watch the start of other races, noting where the starter typically throws the green flag, and whether he does anything with his body that’ll give you a clue as to when he’ll throw the flag.

Oh, and remember, when you get to the first turn on a start you’re probably not going to be traveling as fast as you usually are. That means you may be able to begin braking later than normal. Then again, if there’s traffic in front of you, expect it to stack up and cause you to brake a little earlier or at your usual place.

Check back here often for more tips and advice for performance drivers, race drivers, high performance driving instructors, and anyone else interested in learning to get around race tracks quickly.

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