Q: My first track car was a 2015 (981) Porsche Cayman S with PDK. Now I have a 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 with PDK. I’ve been told that I’d get better results if I’d use the paddle shifters instead of letting the car do the work. Is that true? If so, how do I figure out where I could do a better job than the car?  It seems like it’s always in the right gear to me – but I’ve grown accustomed to what it does. While definitely a slow learner, I have around 100 days on track so I’m comfortable enough with what I’m doing to tackle this.”

A: You’re right in that the way a ’21 Cayman shifts is almost perfect. Having said that, there are times when shifting when you want might help… a little. The tradeoff is that you then have to focus on shifting, rather than all the other “stuff” you need to focus your brain power on. So, you have to decide whether the small benefit of shifting when you want is worth what it takes away from.

You can also flip that around and decide you’d rather do the shifting because it might be more fun for you, and challenging learning experience.

Another factor is whether the very small gain you might make in lap time by shifting when you want is worth it. How big a trophy are you chasing? How much in prize money? What are the odds of Roger Penske hiring you? 🙂

If you did decide to shift rather than let the car do it, you might use a taller gear through a particular corner because it helps you carry more momentum – sometimes you slow down to just the speed where the car downshifts, and that slows you a little bit more, and that “more” is not needed. So, sometimes the car’s downshifts can make you over-slow for corners, and if you control whether you downshift, you may carry more speed through the corner.

There might also be a place on the track where short-shifting to a higher gear slightly early will settle the car and result in being able to flow more speed through a corner.

When you say you’ve grown accustomed to what it does, maybe it’s time to drive a little bit outside your comfort zone. Sometimes adding something like shifting gets you to think in a slightly different way, and you learn more by doing that. Again, it comes back to what your personal objectives are. If you want to learn more, sometimes that means doing something different. You say you’re a slow learner, and if you’re right, maybe it’s because you’re not experimenting enough (or maybe you’re just being hard on yourself!). As a friend of mine says, “You learn more from experimenting than you do from experience.” If you do the exact same thing 100 times, have you learned as much as you would if you experimented for some percentage of those 100 times?

I wish I could give you a definite yes or no answer… but I can’t. But keep in mind that the goal is not to outsmart the car’s automatic system, but to work with it to get the best performance on the track.

NOTE: If you don’t want to wait for me to answer your question(s) here, you can always use my new SpeedSecrets.ai by signing up at SpeedSecrets.ai. The real beauty of using this app is that you can get out of your car after a session on track, and immediately ask it questions and get your answers, as well as what you should work on for the next on-track session. Since it’s “trained” only with my content, it really is like having me with you at the track.