Q: “As a novice driver, am I better to drive the car on a track that I know fairly well and I am somewhat proficient at until I learn the full limits of the car, or is it better to continue to take the car to several different tracks to attempt to gain as much seat time as possible? Obviously, with each new track I go to it means I’m learning the track itself as well as trying to learn the car. That is what my question is mainly centered around: if I know the track well, I’m of the mindset that I can push the car more without learning the track itself. I am fully aware that this poses the situation that as the car handles better than my last one and I become better in the car the way I drive the car on the track will definitely need to change.”
A: Since you describe yourself as a novice driver, I’d suggest spending most of your time developing your skills at one track (or maybe two) until you’re ready for another track. How do you know when you and your skills are ready? Get feedback from instructors/coaches at the track.
I recommend asking an experienced instructor to give you their feedback and whether they think you’re ready to go to more tracks. Let them know that you want solid, well-developed skills before throwing the process of learning another track into the mix. A good instructor will see the value in what you’re asking, and respect what your objectives are.
In the simplest way possible, you can break high-performance driving down into:
- Driving skills and techniques, like using the controls (brake, steering, throttle), driving the right cornering lines, and managing the car’s balance. In other words, what it takes to drive your car near its limits, consistently.
- This is the process of learning the references and subtleties of a track, using the physical skills you’ve developed through instruction and experience.
- Whether you’re participating in non-competitive track events (HPDE, track days), or wheel-to-wheel racing, you have to be aware of, and know how to manage yourself with other cars around you.
I think you’re best approaching your learning in this order, and move onto the next once you’ve gotten the previous one under control. That does not mean that you can ignore learning how to manage yourself in traffic, or even where a track goes until you’ve mastered all of the driving skills. There will always be overlap, but the more you can focus on one at a time, the better your learning experience will be.
Imagine being thrown into a situation where you had to learn how to drive a car for the first time, you’re driving the longest and most complicated track in the world (Nürburgring Nordschleife), with a hundred other cars all around you. Not only would that be unsafe, and a poor way of learning, but it wouldn’t be fun. The more you can tackle things in isolation, the easier it is to learn.
And never forget: have fun!
NOTE: If you don’t want to wait for me to answer your question(s) here, you can always use my new SpeedSecrets.ai by signing up at SpeedSecrets.ai. The real beauty of using this app is that you can get out of your car after a session on track, and immediately ask it questions and get your answers, as well as what you should work on for the next on-track session. Since it’s “trained” only with my content, it really is like having me with you at the track.