You want to go faster, huh? So does everyone else!
The quick way to get faster is to buy a faster car, better suspension, grippier tires, big aero, or any number of ‘things’ that you can buy. While those things may enable the car to go faster, they will not make you a faster driver.
There are some great books and websites on how to make you and your car faster.
Some will go into great depth on car tech. From suspension setup, tire choices, and even wind tunnel testing to make sure you are getting every last bit out of the car.
Others go into the nuances of the driver and techniques used behind the wheel. Heel-toe, look where you want to go, not where you are going to crash… One of the most popular starting points is Ross Bently’s Speed Secrets. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of excellent resources out there
Most of those resources focus on what to do right. Instead of following their lead, let’s spend some time on common mistakes people make that slow them down on the track.
So, Why Am I So Slow?
You’re Too Fast
It may sound contradictory, but a lot of drivers do not know when to slow down. They get to a turn and try and enter entirely too fast and spend the next few seconds trying to recover and make the exit. By the time they get the car back under control, they have lost more speed and time than if they had just entered the turn a little slower.
You have to go slow to go fast.
You’re Too Slow
This one probably makes sense, but it may not be what you think. A lot of drivers start braking long before they need to. This not only slows you down earlier than needed, but it also generates a lot of extra heat in the braking system. You want to wait as long as possible before lifting off the throttle and transitioning to the brakes and then you want to threshold brake.
Brake harder, later.
You’re Too Abrupt
Smooth is fast, fast is smooth.
The throttle and brakes are not just on / off switches. Start each process softly, then go all-in as needed. Jumping off the throttle and on to the brake pedal makes the car porpoise and lose a little grip at the worst time. Likewise jumping back on the throttle (if you aren’t in a Miata) could cause the car to start oversteering and possibly spin out. Lastly, keep your steering smooth. If you are determined to be quick and jerky about it, hit up an Autocross event!
Be cool, be smooth.
You’re In The Wrong Place
Learn the line. Learn the line. Learn the line.
You will never be fast if you are driving in the wrong places. It can be easy to figure out most turns with some trial and error but never discount the value of someone else’s knowledge. Spend a little time with an instructor to learn the line and nuances of each track you go to. Suck up every bit of knowledge you can from those who have spent time on the track.
Even professionals have coaches.
You’re Looking Down
Look up and look further down the track. Do not focus on what is directly in front of you. Whenever possible, look down the track. Look to the end of the straight, through the turns, and generally as far ahead as possible.
You will be smoother and be better set for the next turn. You’ll also start to notice when other cars are about to make a mistake, long before they even know it.
Be proactive, not reactive.
You’re Following a Bad Driver
Lead-Follow can be a great teaching tool, but both drivers need to be aware you are trying to learn from them and not just trying to catch them and get a point-by!
If you want to follow another driver and learn the line from them, make arrangements before the session so you are both on the same page. Likewise, just because someone is quicker than you does not necessarily mean they are better; they could be driving horrible lines in a super-fast, forgiving car.
A lot of people don’t realize how much the computer is aiding them from careening off track.
Be a leader, not a follower.
You’re Afraid of Your Car
This happens more than you may think; some people do not even realize they are afraid.
Part of driving on a track is pushing both you and your car to the limits. Until you know what those limits are, you cannot get there safely. Understandably, those limits scare some people. A 2020 Porsche GT3-RS has a completely different limit than a 1990 944.
Push a little harder each time. Go to a track day when you know there is a good chance of rain. Yes, rain.
I constantly push people to get out on track in the rain. It is slippery, there are fewer cars, and it is an awesome time to learn how your car behaves at, and beyond, its limits.
It’s slippery when wet.
You’re Not at a Drift Event
As much fun as it can be to slide the car in a turn, it is most definitely not the fastest way through a turn. Any time the car is loose, you are losing time. Keep the throttle in check, slow down a little more before entering the turn, and keep it smooth.
You are not Ken Block.
You’re Nailing Apexes
In this instance, by apexes I mean curbs. Some people are determined they need to bounce their car over every curb on a track.
While there is a time and a place to go over some, generally that is the last thing you want to do. It can upset the car where you least want it (in the middle of the corner) and when done often enough, it will impact your alignment if not damage your wheels.
You’re Going “Full Tony”
Hang out at The FIRM or other area racetracks long enough and you will learn what this one is.
Never go full Tony.
Interested in more personalized tips for improving lap times?
Book a performance road racing course at The FIRM. We’ll teach you ultimate car control, vision management, and driving the proper line. You leave more confident and better prepared for your next track day.