I’ve sat and instructed many newbies. Some guys that have street experience, guys that have other track experience, and guys with absolutely zero experience. Regardless, the first thing I do when I hop in the car is ask them the following questions:
- – What is your car’s power level? This sounds like a “who cares” thing but lots of power can mean lots of finding a wall. But that also helps successive questions like…
- -What are your tire sizes/pressures? If you don’t know, I send you back to the pits until you can tell me. If you are higher power, you can get away with those 255s. I still might ask you to air them to 40psi in the rear after a run or two though. I like to start new people with setups that are easy to slide. Then you can lower the air pressures. Usually 35psi is what I suggest off hand for fronts. Tire pressure is key.
- – Do you have a locking diff? If so, what kind? If you’re rocking an open diff, there isn’t much fun you’re likely to have today. The best we can hope for is a good sustained single slide. Maybe a manji if you’re lucky and skillful. If you have a locking diff, I like good clutch types or welded diffs. VLSDs are generally inconsistent in my experience.
- – Do you have suspension work? If so, what are your spring rates? I don’t have time to get into shock settings and what not. Really, I need to know how stiff your car is.
Now why do I ask that? A factory suspension on 65 sidewall tires and an open diff will be vastly different to 12k/10k on an S14 with some 18s and low pro 255 width tires. If your car is cobbled together, you won’t have a nice day. If you can’t tell me these basic things, you aren’t ready to drive.
Take all corners half speed of what you think you need to (seriously, like 20-25mph in most cases). It’s likely your first lap or two of the day and you may have never driven on a track before. I’d like to not die today so let’s start slow. Clutch kick the first corner and bring the car back under control (generally second gear). Take the next corner the same way. Once you can do that, things like faster entries with a hand brake and linking corners can be discussed. But until you can prove to me you can do a single slide, please don’t manji.
Almost always I’m ignored. The first corner is hit way too fast and the car understeers. That’s fine. Learn what understeer is. The steering will start to feel like it isn’t responding. Sometimes the wheel will go limp in your hands or start vibrating. You have to turn more but you’re turning less. That means you entered the corner too fast (you aren’t good enough to talk about line yet). Let off the gas, bring the car under control and try the next corner. Don’t slam on the brakes. Learn this feeling and learn to back off when it happens. No, don’t touch that hand brake to “level it out” just yet. I want to not hit that wall.
Common newbie mistakes:
- Going too fast. Slow down
- Tires are too meaty for the car’s power level. If you don’t have spares, air them up to high hell.
- Weak clutch kicks. We go slow so you have time to react. Kick hard!
- Death grip on steering wheel. This is a hard one. Let the wheel slide through your fingers when the car begins to slide (don’t just let go). Timing is key. Too soon and the car will go straight. Too late and you’ll spin out. Most road racers/experienced track guys have issues with this.
- Once in a slide, stay on throttle. Especially with lower powered cars, if the throttle is lifted immediately, the car will snap back. Leave it floored. For high hp cars, don’t lift entirely. But a little. The amount depends on your car’s setup.