Q: “I have just started single-seater racing last year, and although I have done very well, I feel one area I can massively improve upon is how close I can follow the car in front. I feel more comfortable with a few car lengths of a gap to the driver in front, which in a Formula Ford must be making all my passes more difficult and even slipstreaming less effective. I think this is all stemming from a fear of hitting the guy in front in a braking area or getting caught partially up the inside at the start of a corner. I have your book, but haven’t seen this topic covered specifically, so maybe you could point me to some of your other work if it has been covered already?”
A: One quick and easy thing to do to help you understand how much room you have is to belt yourself in your (still) car, with your helmet on, and have someone walk around your car so you can see what “close” looks like. Have the person stand a few inches directly in front of your car, and imagine what that would look like if their legs were the gearbox of the car in front of you. Then have them stand right next to your front tires, then beside you, and then behind you. In fact, have them walk around, so you see varying distances while they’re moving, as long as they never touch your car. You could even tell them how far you think they’re away from your car, and then have them tell you the exact distance.
In the perfect world, you’d do this with another similar car, sitting in the shop or in the paddock area. You could ask a fellow driver who would benefit from the same exercise to work with you, with both of you taking turns sitting in the car and getting a view of what a “close car” really is.
Racecraft is the toughest thing to teach, as I’ve found out! However, I did do a webinar on the topic a while ago, and it’s available at SpeedSecrets.com/Webinars. While racecraft is something truly learned through experience, there are many principles and techniques that can be taught, which I’ve included in that webinar. Check it out.