Q: “I purchased and watched your “Virtual Track Walk” for Road Atlanta, which was awesome. It helped a lot to prepare me for that challenging track. I was there last weekend for a 3-day HPDE and there was PCA Club Racing too. The races in the rain Saturday afternoon were scary! I have also just finished reading “Ultimate Speed Secrets,” my 3rd book from you. I have a question that I can’t find an answer to specifically, and as it relates to a fast and long straightaway (such as the straight at Road Atlanta from turn 7 to 10A). I have a Porsche 981 GT4, I was going all the way to using 6th gear at about the “bend” at turn 9 to keep the RPM below 7k (peak HP is 6500), and then tried different downshifts for the braking and turn in at 10A. I first went through all the gears on the way down, doing the turn in 3rd. I then tried a down shift to 5th and then short-shifted from 5th to 3rd during the braking. I also tried going straight to 3rd from 6th during the braking, and last, I tried staying in 5th instead of shifting to 6th (had to lift a little to keep it off the redline) and then short shifted to 3rd. I found no “time” differences in any of the options. What technique would you suggest?”
A: It’s great that you tried different approaches to using the gears, as many drivers just stick to one way and never really learn what’s best. I’m assuming that you drove enough laps with each variable to get “good at it”? I know of drivers who try something different one time and say it doesn’t work, when if they worked at it for a while, they would find that it does.
First, whether going to 6th or holding 5th is the best way… my guideline is that if it’s hitting the rev limiter in the lower gear for more than a second or so, then upshift; if not, holding the lower gear saves an upshift and downshift. I say guideline because there are exceptions to every rule. If you can use data, or at least a section time to compare to see which is faster, that’s the best thing to do. Ultimately, do what leads to going fastest, most consistently (which might be different from one ultimate fast lap).
Second, whether to downshift through all the gears or do what’s called skip-shifting (going directly from 6th or 5th to 3rd) is a matter of preference, as it rarely makes a difference to lap times. I believe that the less you do, the less chance of making an error, so going down through all the gears means doing more and increases the chance of making a mistake. But you have to be patient if you’re going to go from 6th to 3rd gear, as you need to slow the engine RPM down before downshifting. It also helps by allowing you to focus completely on using the brakes, and not worry so much about all the downshifts. If it sounds like I recommend skip-shifting downshifts, you’re right.
Since there was no time advantage to any of the options you tried, I’d recommend going with what you feel you can consistently drive the fastest. Again, it’s not all about just one fast lap, but what you can repeat most consistently. Of course, if what you can do consistently is seconds off of the ultimate fast lap time, then working on getting more comfortable and consistent with the more difficult way is important.