Performance & Race Driving Tip

Speed Secret: Use the tallest gear possible

shifting-gearsIs that a 2nd- or 3rd-gear corner?

How many times have you found yourself in that situation where you feel you’re in between gears in a turn. Second gear seems too low, and 3rd gear just doesn’t give you enough oomph out of the corner?

My recommendation is to attempt to make the taller gear work. Once you’re going reasonably well through the turn, use 3rd gear. Sure, the engine might feel a bit boggy, but work at carrying enough speed through the turn that it doesn’t bog down. Using a taller gear will force you to work at carrying more speed through the corner, plus make you unwind the steering wheel to let the car run free as you exit it.

Even if you find that the ultimate solution is 2nd gear, using 3rd gear for a number of laps will have helped.

Often, when you go to the lower gear, you’ll force yourself to over-slow the car. By driving through the turn in the higher gear you will have gotten used to the higher speed, and then even if you go back to using 2nd, you’ll be less likely to over-slow the car.

There are other advantages to using a taller gear:

Because your engine will have less torque at the lower RPM, it’s less likely to upset the balance of the car when you modulate and apply the throttle.

The less you do, the less chance to make an error (hey, that’s a Speed Secret!). So, the fewer downshifts you make, the less likely you’ll make a mistake that will upset the car.

When you’re learning a track, or working on other parts of your driving technique, having one less thing to do – like downshifting – gives you more focus to put into more productive areas of your driving.

Unsure what gear to use? Go with the taller gear for now (you can always experiment with a lower gear, later). As always, the “Use the tallest gear possible” Speed Secret applies more often than not, but it’s not an always-do-this rule. There are always exceptions to the rule, but it’s a good guideline.

Check back here often for more tips and advice for performance drivers, race drivers, high performance driving instructors, and anyone else interested in learning to get around race tracks quickly.

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