Speed Secrets: Are You Cornering Too Slow?

Features, Racing I By Ross Bentley I August 29, 2020

[photo credit: Otto Hokkanen]

If the car feels like it's on rails, you are probably driving too slow.

The first race I ever drove in the rain was in a Formula Ford at Westwood Motorsport Park… and I got my butt royally kicked. That was probably the best thing that could have happened, because I decided then and there to never let it happen again. Especially in the rain.

Growing up and racing in the Pacific Northwest, I knew that wasn't going to be the last time I had to race in the rain. So every time it even hinted at rain (which was often – hey, it was Vancouver), I packed up my Formula Ford and headed to the track to practice.

My big Aha! moment was when I overcooked it into Turn 1, entering a good 5 mph too fast for the grip level. The second I turned in, the car began to slide. And that was the best lesson I ever learned. Once the car was sliding, I knew exactly what to do to control it. On the previous laps, though, I didn't. I would enter the turn at just less the speed it took for the car to slide – it was on rails – and then I'd spend the rest of the corner waiting for it to do something. And when it did something, it took me by surprise. For sure, I was reactionary.

What I learned was that if I entered each turn just slightly faster than the grip level dictated (even just half a mph too fast), I was ready for what the car was going to do. In fact, I made the car do what I wanted it to do. I was proactive.

And here's the cool thing: driving a car that's on rails is nowhere near as much fun as making the car slide from the very instant you enter a turn.

Of course, this approach applies to driving on a dry track just as much as it does a wet one. Wahoo!

Exerpted from Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets Weekly. For more tips and additional articles on the art and science of racing, click here to subscribe.

Also be sure to check out Ross Bentley's book, Ultimate Speed Secrets: The Complete Guide to High-Performance and Race Driving.

+ Speed Secrets: Why All That Weaving Around On The Way To The Grid

The Guide to Road Racing: Winding Road Magazine's ultimate guide to getting your start in racing.

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