Performance & Race Driving Tip

Speed Secret: Understand Tires.

At one time I wondered about the few drivers that I noticed who were constantly looking at their tires when they came off the track. I mean, it’s a tire! Come on, what are you looking for?

But I also noticed that it was usually the most successful drivers who were doing the most poking and gazing at their tires. So, being a competitive kind of guy, I started doing the same. And guess what? I learned a lot. No, not at first. In fact, at first I couldn’t tell you whether a tire was good or bad. But over time, the more I compared how the tires felt with what they looked like, the more I learned what a good performing tire looked like and what a bad one was like.

So, here’s my advice: Every time you finish a session, think about how the tires behaved. Did they have good grip to begin with and then began to fade? Did they gain grip with more laps? Did they give you lots of feel for the limit, or not? Could you feel them flex; was the ride over the bumps harsh?

Then, immediately after coming off the track, look closely at all four tires. Do you see where they were rolling over and there was some scrub on the top of the sidewalls? What does the surface look like? Do they have a shine to the surface? Do you see the rubber graining? How about some chunking of the rubber? Are they dark black or are they more gray than that?

The more you do this, the more you’ll begin to relate what you felt with what you see. Over time, you’ll be reading the tires with the best of them, and knowing when to change a setting on your car or change your driving to suit the tires.

Remember, everything you do is transmitted through the tires, and they’re the only things connecting you to the track.

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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