If you want to drive fast, and you want to do it safely you’ll want to invest in track school. In half a day you’ll learn more about how to drive faster, safer and be more confident behind the wheel of cars of all kinds. We recently spent the day with CGI Motorsports in the Dodge Challenger alongside the new Widebody Hellcat, Dodge Charger, and the insane 2018 Durango SRT learning how to control cars better at high speeds on the track. This is what you can expect to learn when you go to track school, and why you should invest in track school.
You can find a track school near your location at almost any place in the U.S. This is an excellent way to spend a day or a half of a day learning about your skill level, how the car behaves at speed and how you can control the car better. Most track schools include a ride along with a professional driver to learn the track and the lines you will follow, then you will drive on the track to get familiar. Over the course of the day, you will learn new skills in the car and in a small classroom setting, alternating between the two as you put your new skills to work.
This is what we learned thanks to our amazing instructor from CGI during a Dodge sponsored track day at Gingerman Raceway in Michigan. You can expect to learn similar information when you go to any track school worth attending.
The Right Way to Sit In a Car
When you get in a car at track school, you need to sit and place your hands much differently than when you are driving around town at 35 miles per hour.
When you get in the car adjust your seat forward enough, or the wheel back enough to let your hands hang slightly over the wheel. You want the wheel to touch just behind your wrist. When you take your hands and put them on the wheel, you will then form the right angles with your elbows and you can keep your hands on the wheel when you turn.
Switching your driving position and where you keep your hands while driving around town can help you better react to accidents or bad drivers, so you may want to make this change for all of your driving.
Why Your Wheels Should Only Do 1 Thing At a Time
When you are driving fast or driving on a track, your wheels should only ever be doing one thing at a time. Here’s what your wheels can do;
- They can Brake
- They can Turn
- They Can Accelerate
When you start to mix any of those two actions you can run into trouble with controlling your car. You want to brake when you are going straight, then go off brake to turn while maintaining speed and then slowly accelerate as your wheels are almost back to straight. If you try to brake or accelerate while turning you run the risk of losing control of your car. The instructor will explain this as you drive and should be giving your braking and acceleration instructions as you work through where you need to be on the track.
While you are doing this you will also learn to accelerate and brake smoothly. Don’t stab at either pedal, and when turning you simply keep your speed with the accelerator until it’s time to add more power.
Where to Look and What a Line is
You always want to be looking to the next turn and where you want your car to go. If you are looking right off the hood of your car, you’re not going to be lined up with the next turn and you are not going to have time to correct. This is why many rear end accidents happen on the road because someone is looking right in front of their car, instead of out to what is ahead.
As you learn where to look, your instructor will help you stick to a line. The line is where you want to keep the car as you go around the track. In a learning experience like this, you will see cones that tell you when to start the turn, where to aim for the apex and where to exit the turn. Your instructor will typically show you the line then have you drive the line slowly before introducing speed to the equation.
What Weight Transfer Is & Why it Matters
When you accelerate the front of the car lifts putting more weight on the rear. When you brake it puts the weight on the front. You need the weight at the front when you turn. This is the simplest explanation, of a very important process.
It’s hard to turn when the weight is on the back of the car. At Gingerman Raceway we had to brake coming out of a corner, and then as the weight came to the front of the car there was enough grip to make an important turn and complete a tricky part of the track.
If you attempt to make a turn with all of the weight on the back of the car, you won’t have the same grip and will likely run into issues. It’s smart to have a good overview of this, but your instructor will walk through it and will help you feel it in the car in a safe way.
When turning one way and then quickly another way, you’ll want to feel the car settle before the next turn. If you haven’t driven fast around turns before this is the movement of weight you will feel the most and it’s also important. Track school isn’t just go fast, it’s going to teach you to feel what the car is doing so you can make the right decisions.
Don’t Try to Fix a Mistake When It’s Happening
When you are learning on the track, you will make mistakes. My most common mistake was turning too early. There are many turns where you need to go further into the turn before you even think about moving the wheel. It’s un-natural at first and well into my second session, I was turning early. This means missing the line and coming out of the turn at the wrong spot. After the second time I made the mistake I could tell things were wrong, but it was important to ride it out instead of trying to make major corrections with the wheel. Doing so would have more than likely left us worse off than we were.
This is not a race. While you will share the track with other drivers, you don’t need to hit a perfect line or attempt to save your steering, braking or accelerating mistakes. Listen to the instructor and plan how you will avoid making the mistake again, instead of trying to make a major change right away.
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