Q: I am a track-day guy and get out on track about 6 times a year various road course tracks. This year I switched from a modified street car to a full-on race car for track use. The race car I am driving understeers and rotates very easily. This is very different from the previous car which had a more neutral setup. Rather than start the process of adjusting the car’s setup to match what I had previously, I am trying to adjust my driving style to match the car’s setup. In order to get more comfortable driving a car with understeer, I was wondering if karting in between track events would be a good way to transition my driving style to match the car’s setup? Do you have other suggestions as to what I can practice to get more comfortable with this new setup? Thanks in advance.
A: When you say your car “understeers and rotates very easily,” can you clarify that? Understeer and rotating are pretty much opposites, so are you saying that it does both, or just one?
Would karting help you become more adaptable with your driving? Yes. How much depends on the kart and how it handles, as well as what changes you need to make to your driving. In fact, that can be said for almost any car, but karting is relatively inexpensive, so it has good bang for the buck.
The other thing is to deliberately make changes to your car’s setup to exaggerate the handling problems, and then drive it. The goal is to learn to adapt to your car when it’s handling not the way you want. This is usually the most effective way of learning to adapt – it’s what I do to help the drivers I coach learn to adapt. You could start with tire pressure changes (make the changes big enough that you can feel them), then anti-roll bar(s), ride height, shock absorber settings, springs, etc. Start with the easiest things to adjust, and go from one end of the adjustment to the other. These are called “sweeps,” the goal is simply to learn what each change feels like. In the process you’ll begin to adapt to each one, and eventually become more sensitive to your car’s setup, what it needs, and how you can drive around issues.