Q: “I race endurance wheel-to-wheel and at present I do not use heel/toe downshifting. I understand that this technique is a needed skill to be a “great” driver. If you had to rate this skill, where would you consider it to be?”
A: The short answer is I still think it’s a very important skill. How would I rate it? A 9 out of 10. Sure, braking is more important, but heel and toe is actually part of the braking procedure.
I hear some drivers say that heel and toe is not needed anymore, especially since so many cars have semi-automatic transmissions. But if you’re doing any endurance racing, I’ll bet that you’re currently racing a manual transmission car, or at some point you will be. If you’re asked to drive a car that needs it, and you can’t heel and toe, what a shame that you’ll lose that opportunity. And let’s put it this way: If I was looking for a driver for my car, I would never consider a driver who couldn’t heel and toe properly.
Heel and toe is easier on the car than downshifting without it, it helps you drive more consistently, you’ll be faster and smoother, and you’ll have more control. All of those seem pretty important to me!
Even if you’re currently not driving a car that requires heel and toe downshifting, knowing how to do so will make you more understanding of the needs and dynamics of any car. You’ll be a more complete driver.