Q: “I am transitioning from driving a Mini Cooper S (181 hp FWD) for the past six years or so – my one and only track car until we took possession of our 2020 Corvette C8. I took the owners’ program at Ron Fellows and have one day in the C8 at Thunderhill. My question is, and recognizing that the principles you talked about are generally universal, do you have any particular suggestions for things to look for in the car or in my driving as I make the transition?”
A: You’re right in that all the principles apply equally to FWD and RWD (and AWD) cars. Of course, a Mini and Corvette do handle differently when driven at or near the limit. The main difference is going to be when you get back to power exiting corners – a Mini will tend to understeer because your front tires are the limiting factor with grip; the C8 tends to oversteer, because the rear tires are the limiting factor.
Of course, you also have traction and stability control to help manage the oversteer. My approach is to work up to the point in the C8 to where you’re “tickling” the stability control. Here’s what I mean by that: You know with ABS if you pound on the pedal and hold it down, you feel the ABS pulsing in the pedal; if you don’t brake hard enough, you don’t feel any of that pulsing; if you brake just hard enough to barely feel the pulsing every now and then, to me, that’s “tickling” the ABS. Same is true with stability control. If you come out of a corner and just plant your foot flat to the floor on the throttle, the stability control will look after you, but you’re hard into it – you’re relying on it. If you don’t apply enough throttle to even get a hint of stability control helping, then you’re not driving near the limit. If you squeeze on the throttle just hard enough to feel the stability control activate a tiny bit, then you’re “tickling” it. So, my advice to you would be gradually add more and more throttle coming out of corners until you feel as though you’re activating the stability control just a little bit; then apply a little more until you feel you’ve activated it too much, and then dial it back just a little. Your goal is to use the stability control, but not rely on it to do all the work for you.
This process will teach you a ton about the car and the way it handles. Over time, you can make the decision whether to turn stability control off, but do so in small bites. And use the same approach to learning the limits – “tickle” the amount of oversteer you experience as you squeeze on the throttle exiting corners. Still, stay smooth.
As for corner entry, in the recent Improve Your Braking & Corner Entry webinar, I talked about looking for the EoB (End-of-Braking) point, and experimenting with the timing and rate of release of the brakes; see how you can use that to help you rotate the car, so you can be lined up to get to full throttle sooner.
Your goal is to gently inch up on the limits, knowing that the rear tires of your Vette will talk to you the same way as the front tires did with your Mini.