Driving fast is all about seat time, setting up your car and learning how to get the most out of your car. When you get to the track there are 3 main things you want to concentrate on to drive fast they are the driving line, looking ahead and driving smooth.
1. Know the driving line
Getting the right line is key to driving fast. It is very important to make sure you have the car in the right place facing the right direction. The correct line on an autocross track is nearly always the shortest line between the significant cones on the track. Prior to racing the course you should perform a course walk, when doing so pay attention to which cones force you to drive around them and which cones can be ignored, typically only about 10-20% of the cones really get in your way. Once you have established which cones you need to drive around start visualizing the route that your car needs to take around the important cones. Visualize getting the car as close to the important cones as possible and which directions the car should be facing as you pass each cone so you can carry as much speed though each element as possible.
2. Look ahead to know where your going
It is very important to look ahead when you are driving fast the further ahead you look, the more time you have to get the car in the right position enabling you to drive a quickly as possible. When you are driving fast you need to set your car up for each element be it cones in autocross or a corner on a race track, look ahead and imagine the ideal racing line then put the car where you imagined that line to be. Once you have the steering wheel turned and the car is loading up the tires you need to be concentrating on the next element and then the next and so on. As you get more experienced you will look 2 – 3 elements ahead, enabling to take the current element faster and easily setting yourself up to drive faster through the next element.
Like many sports it is very important to look where you want to go not where you don’t. If you have played Golf you know that thinking about water when you take your shot, will likely result in hitting the ball into the water. Same thing with applies with driving fast, you will naturally make the car go where you are looking subconsciously, so make sure you are not looking at the run off area or the cones. Always look ahead and envision getting your tires exactly where you want them to enable you to drive fast.
3. Driving smooth is driving fast
Driving smooth is on of the most overlooked parts of driving fast especially when you are inexperienced. Everything should be smooth when you accelerate you need to press the gas pedal with enough force to get maximum power without losing traction, you should never stamp on the gas pedal rather apply the power gracefully over a few tenths of a second. When you need to brake you apply pressure and as the weight transfers to the front wheel you increase that pressure up until max grip of the tires this allows you to brake much harder without locking up the front tires. When cornering you should turn the wheel progressively loading up the tires, the longer it takes to load up the tires the easier it is to reach maximum grip allowing you to corner as quickly as possible..
Driving Fast at the Bay Bottom Crawl
This video is me driving fast in My Mazda Rx8 at Bay Bottom Crawl in Florida Keys. Now I don’t claim to be an expert driver as you can see in the video. However if you look at my hands they move relatively slowly and smoothly and when I change gear I do it with relaxed hands. It is difficult to tell how fast I am going so a good reference is that every time I change gear to 3rd I am going 70 mph and by the time I hit the brakes for each element I am going between 70 and 100mph. I look ahead and try to take the elements as smooth and quickly as possible. This track is quite dangerous, you may also notice that there is no run off on this track so I was driving about 95% through the elements. The track is amazing and so exhilarating allowing you to drive very fast.
If you are looking to get into Autocross then visit up your local club most of which offer some type of instruction. If you are in Florida then check out Gulf Coast Autocrossers in Ft Myers which is a great place to start driving fast legally.