Q: “In a recent webinar you said you should be done with all your downshifting before you turn in, but how about when your car only uses 3rd and 4th gears and 3rd over-slows you, and 4th is too tall? Sometimes I feel I need to downshift as late as possible (sometimes in the trail braking zone with a big heel and toe) to gain some entry speed, what do you reckon?”
A: There are exceptions to every rule (that’s why they’re guidelines, not rules). I think making that downshift after turning in is dicey and I don’t recommend it. And I think there are ways to either drive it in 3rd without over-slowing, or 4th while carrying more momentum. But you have to do what feels right – just make sure that downshift is super-smooth if you make it after turning in.
I would really challenge you to make 4th gear work, or make the downshift to 3rd in a way that doesn’t over-slow the car. I’d start by really focusing on rolling momentum and making 4th gear work. It probably won’t feel as fast, but often using a taller gear is faster. If you work at minimizing the amount you slow and the amount you turn the steering wheel (using every inch of track), and focusing on getting back to throttle sooner, the taller gear often makes you faster.
Try it. In fact, I challenge you to making it work. Let me know when it does!
One type of corner that I was driving this weekend where I could see that working well would be a tight decreasing radius – if you need to lift or even tap the brakes to get the car rotated right before the apex, maybe a downshift there would serve the same purpose?
I had a similar situation. 2nd gear felt faster, but the data showed 3rd gear was the smart choice. I was consistently 7 mph faster at a point compared to downshifting into 2nd.
Data doesn’t lie.
Yes, data never lies! And it’s fantastic that you experienced how the taller gear can pay off. Of course, data doesn’t always tell the complete story… and that’s why it’s important to really understand the data and also use it as a tool to generate more questions to get an even deeper understanding. But that’s a whole other topic!! Have fun, Ross!
Those the trickiest corner of all! Generally you want to avoid a downshift in the middle of a corner, but sometimes the best way in a dramatically-decreasing radius corner is to do what you’re suggesting and pop it down a gear just before tightening the radius and beginning to accelerate. But you better make sure you’re making a perfectly smooth downshift! Heel and toe is critically important in a manual; of course, some cars make that downshift smooth for you… Thanks for the comment and suggestion, Richard.
Richard, It’s usually not a good idea to use the clutch as a brake. It’s way more expensive and harder to properly control if you are conditioned to do a proper revmatched shift. AND if you are carrying the ‘correct’ amount of speed in that corner, then any miss in the control of the ‘clutch braking action’ should toss you off into the weeds. It’s better to be in a longer gear and manipulate the throttle/wheel/ brakes in that order to get the car to do what you need for the decreasing radius of that corner =]