Q: “For the last two years I have been driving more and more. I have accrued about 35 track days in the last 2.5 years in addition to about 50 autocrosses. On track I drive a lightly prepped 2009 Cayman S (seats, harnesses, Hoosiers, Cayman R suspension, brakes), and for AutoX this season is a 2017 Civic Si (previously 2015 Mazda 3).
“Two weeks ago at a PCA track event I decided to do part of a session without any nannies. In the Cayman stability and traction control are linked, so you either get both, or none. I switched them both off to see how it would go, and less than two laps later, I was sideways in the grass. This was my first time without any aids, and first time really going off track.
“Where do you stand on TC, PSM, etc.? Tips would be greatly appreciated.”
A: Where do I stand on TC/PSM? That’s a big topic! I’ve written a lot about it in the past (that’s an important part of my The Lost Art of High-Performance Driving book that was published last year); I dealt with it in an earlier column (“Should I turn Traction Control off when driving on track?”), and I’ve talked about it on my podcast (specifically episode 42 with Ryan Kristoff).
There really isn’t a simple and short answer, but if there was it would be this: electronic driver aids are fantastic tools to save us; they can be used as a tool to help us learn the limits of our cars; when a driver consistently recognizes every single time that the driver aids have activated when driving on the track, that’s when the driver is ready to turn them off; when turned off, the driver needs to gently inch up on the limits so as to not go so far over as to result in a big crash; learning to drive with the aids off will help develop important car control skills; but a driver can learn a lot without ever turning them off (despite what some people say).
There are two types of track drivers: Those who have gone off the track, and those who will. You’re one who has gone off the track. Learn from that. And don’t be surprised if you go off again. But if the only thing stopping you from going off the track are the driver aids, then focus on sensing when they’re doing that. If you can sense when they are kicking in – every single time – then you’ll be an even better driver.
By the way, I rarely ever turn off the driver aids when driving on track. I actually enjoy working with them, trying to go as fast as I can without activating them (which requires being super smooth), and then even using them – I like to see if I can “lean” on them right at the limit and use them to my advantage.
I hope that gives you a few things to think about.