Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Driving techniques on or off a track
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Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Ski_Lover » Sat Jun 14, 2008 4:08 pm

When I was 17 I did a 3-day driving course at Sears Point with Bob Bondurant's school. I'll always remember from the class room our first day, the mantra:

The three keys to High Performance Driving are:
1. Concentration
2. Technique
3. Smoothness

Here's something I googled on Bondurant in the area of smoothness.

Cheers,

Craig

http://www.thecarconnection.com/Enthusi ... .A234.html"

Bob Bondurant's Driving Basics by Bob Bondurant (5/5/2001)

One of the most important things I tell my students at the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving is that smooth driving is the essence to safety on the road and speed on the racetrack. And the essence of smooth driving is total balance of all the vehicle's systems.

Braking, cornering and acceleration work together to produce track speed. But they can't work together well unless the driver is smooth. By smooth, I mean careful and prepared for the next task, whether it's rounding an apex instead of slashing across it, or squeezing the acceleration instead of flooring it.

When it comes to driving smoothly, concentration is critical, even more so when it comes to the race environment. As the driver, you must constantly focus on the feel of the vehicle and ascertain a complete awareness of your surroundings.

Under normal conditions, such as street driving, staying focused on the ever-present task of driving can be difficult enough. Distractions like radios, pedestrians, the big sandwich you're wolfing down for a late lunch, or cellular conversations all take away from our ability to focus. On the street, you can simply slow down or pull over. On the racetrack however, this is a luxury you simply can't afford.

The key to speed
That's why it's so critical to be a smooth driver before you can become a fast one. Smoothness comes in the relaxed way you sit, the manner in which you hold the steering wheel, the way you squeeze on and off the brakes and throttle. It's not a matter of doing one thing smoothly but instead, everything. Are you changing gears abruptly? If you are erratic with even just one aspect of driving, it will ultimately have a negative effect on the vehicle. Smoothness is the sum total of everything you do while driving.

A reflection of your driving style can also been seen in your pocketbook. A smooth driver, one who effortlessly blends each function of racing, or street driving for that matter, saves unnecessary stress and wear. You can extend the life of the brakes, transmission, suspension, the engine, the whole of the car really, if you are smooth in your driving style.

The old adage "practice makes perfect" is the key when it comes to developing concentration, technique and smoothness. I don't condone driving at high speeds on the street, but you can use street driving as an opportunity to improve braking, downshifting, double-clutch or heel and toe almost anytime. Off the racetrack you can also practice cornering, not by going fast but just by doing it properly. Trail braking, looking ahead for the turn-in, finding the apex - these can all be done safely in daily traffic.

Don't be discouraged when you, for the first time, try to blend together all the necessary ingredients of racing. It can easily be considered awkward to say the very least. In the beginning of your career as a racecar driver or simply as a better street driver, it is essential to be smooth first, then quick. This alone takes a great deal of time and can be difficult to achieve. Keeping safety first and foremost in your mind, practice, practice, practice, anytime, anywhere, and you too can accomplish what so few do.

As you practice, you'll learn balance is the key to performance, thus placing you closer to your goal of achieving 100 percent car control at all times. Blending these three variables - braking, cornering and acceleration - to work in your favor can only be accomplished through complete concentration. Once you've got that, you'll find your driving getting quicker. And smoother, too.



Bob Bondurant, racer and entrepreneur, owns and runs the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix, Ariz. For more information on classes and schedules, click over to http://www.bondurant.com" or call (800) 842-RACE (7223).
Craig Northcutt

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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby mianna » Tue Nov 11, 2008 12:15 am

wow.. really helpful stuff...
although, i think that a drawing or two would help...
i think i tend to early-apex...
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby red5racing » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:19 am

.. partially tongue in cheek, but:

(1) Just who is Bob Bondurant anyway? He never won anything of significance.
(2) I never saw a supernaturally fast driver be smooth. Senna, Hamilton, Villeneuve (G), Moss - watch a qualifying lap from any of them and it isn't smooth.
(3) Smooth only gets you so far, then you have to be fast.


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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Chase42 » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:45 am

red5racing wrote:.. partially tongue in cheek, but:

(1) Just who is Bob Bondurant anyway? He never won anything of significance.
(2) I never saw a supernaturally fast driver be smooth. Senna, Hamilton, Villeneuve (G), Moss - watch a qualifying lap from any of them and it isn't smooth.
(3) Smooth only gets you so far, then you have to be fast.


Craig 2


easy to prove:

Speed is a function of traction: The more traction you have, the greater capacity you have to put power down (thus, you can be faster). Traction is (relative to the driver and his actions) a function of contact patch, vertical/lateral load, which is controlled by aerodynamic downforce and weight transfer. There is a theoretical maximum of traction for a specific car on a specific day, but it is up to the driver to use his technique to coming as close as possible to that boundary, as the most time spent close to this maximum will result in the most speed. To maintain maximum traction, smoothness is required.

TL;DR : Anyone can touch the limit of traction (and exceed it), some can stay close to the limit, but only the smooth will be able to maintain that limit at will.

Also, although in an autox or sprint race a rough-riding driver can compete with a smooth driver, the smooth driver will win out in any race longer than a few laps (because of tire/gas/car/self conservation).

If you want a better explanation, look up the "traction circle" in any driving handbook (e.g: Ross Bentley, Bob Bondurant, Carroll Smith, etc)


As for Bondurant, I don't know much about him personally (I haven't read any of his books yet...), but I know he taught Paul Newman how to drive for "Winning", and that was about 40 years ago. Even if he isn't the absolute best driver, he's probably better at teaching about driving than anyone on the planet.



F1 drivers must be smooth to literally survive, both in competition and in their lives. The margin for error in an F1 car is so small....

That said, qualifying is a "chaotic lap". Although it may look incredibly hurried or rough to us, keep in mind that F1 cars need so little input from all four appendages (and the geometric "instant" weight transfer is so great) that the difference between rough and smooth is barely visible. Now throw one of the drivers you mentioned into a showroom-stock car and watch them. Chance is that, if they aren't screwing around, they will be calm and smooth, like when they are racing in F1, but at a tenth the speed. Look up Ayrton Senna's NSX testing on YouTube and you will see what I mean.



Also, its big bragging points, too. Whatever you think, I find it ironic that I heard someone call you incredibly smooth at the autox the other day. :D




EDIT: I have too much time on my hands, lol.
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby nitewing117 » Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:54 am

I was watching videos of Schumacher and steering inputs are far from smooth. They actually look like he's constantly jerking back and forth.

Based on the video footage and researches of his technique:
being fast is not smoothness, its how close you can get it to and keep it at the limit. The reasoning behind his actions is due to finding that limit; you'll never find it unless you exceed it. You can only find what is under the limit and over it, not directly on it all of the time. So his driving is based on exceeding it, then correcting in this pattern continuously. Fast is on how quickly a driver can read and adjust these small "overcorrections".
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Ski_Lover » Tue Nov 11, 2008 9:25 am

nitewing117 wrote:I was watching videos of Schumacher and steering inputs are far from smooth. They actually look like he's constantly jerking back and forth.

Based on the video footage and researches of his technique:
being fast is not smoothness, its how close you can get it to and keep it at the limit. The reasoning behind his actions is due to finding that limit; you'll never find it unless you exceed it. You can only find what is under the limit and over it, not directly on it all of the time. So his driving is based on exceeding it, then correcting in this pattern continuously. Fast is on how quickly a driver can read and adjust these small "overcorrections".


Smoothness is about keeping the correct line, with minimal steering corrections, be it for corrections to bad technique, or corrections for having to catch the car from exceeding the grip envelope.

The "jerky" steering input you see from in-car videos is the driver catching the car. The faster you catch it, the better you can maintain your SMOOTH line. When your at the limit you need to catch often, and the best drivers are very quick with their steering input to make the catch as quick as possible.

Any pro driver or instructor worth their salt will tell you smooth is fast. It's simple physics (read about slip angles, and static vs. kinetic coefficient of friction). The smoothest (fastest) drivers can maintain the perfect slip angle for maximum grip, but the busier they are, the more they are scrubbing speed.

When I'm instructing I tell my students to think of the steering wheel as a big brake (the more you use it, the slower you go).
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Douche Bag Boy » Tue Nov 11, 2008 10:08 am

A friend of mine's father drives a heavily modded Porsche Turbo. And he drives it fast.
I've ridden along on some laps and, basically, he goes around a corner see-sawing the car, constantly catching it, the faster you can do that, the faster you can go, I suppose. With a front engine car, I guess you could aim in a bit and push through, but mid-engine cars don't have the weight placement for that...?
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby red5racing » Tue Nov 11, 2008 10:28 am

Theory vs practice. Countless books will tell you smooth is fast, but the fast guys aren't smooth.

Ever noticed how often Hamilton locks up a wheel?, and who's to argue with:

http://tinyurl.com/5d634k





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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Douche Bag Boy » Tue Nov 11, 2008 10:59 am

Being smooth doesn't necessarily mean being smooth with the wheel. You're keeping the line as smooth as possible by correcting as quickly as possible.
(Basically condensing and reiterating what people have said above.)
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby nitewing117 » Tue Nov 11, 2008 11:01 am

Ski_Lover wrote:
nitewing117 wrote:I was watching videos of Schumacher and steering inputs are far from smooth. They actually look like he's constantly jerking back and forth.

Based on the video footage and researches of his technique:
being fast is not smoothness, its how close you can get it to and keep it at the limit. The reasoning behind his actions is due to finding that limit; you'll never find it unless you exceed it. You can only find what is under the limit and over it, not directly on it all of the time. So his driving is based on exceeding it, then correcting in this pattern continuously. Fast is on how quickly a driver can read and adjust these small "overcorrections".


Smoothness is about keeping the correct line, with minimal steering corrections, be it for corrections to bad technique, or corrections for having to catch the car from exceeding the grip envelope.

The "jerky" steering input you see from in-car videos is the driver catching the car. The faster you catch it, the better you can maintain your SMOOTH line. When your at the limit you need to catch often, and the best drivers are very quick with their steering input to make the catch as quick as possible.

Any pro driver or instructor worth their salt will tell you smooth is fast. It's simple physics (read about slip angles, and static vs. kinetic coefficient of friction). The smoothest (fastest) drivers can maintain the perfect slip angle for maximum grip, but the busier they are, the more they are scrubbing speed.

When I'm instructing I tell my students to think of the steering wheel as a big brake (the more you use it, the slower you go).



Yeah, that makes sense. I'm just saying that it depends on where and how you're defining "Smooth". Some may misinterpret it.
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Ski_Lover » Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:54 pm

Chicken Scratch Boy wrote:Being smooth doesn't necessarily mean being smooth with the wheel. You're keeping the line as smooth as possible by correcting as quickly as possible.
(Basically condensing and reiterating what people have said above.)


Bingo!
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Ski_Lover » Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:58 pm

red5racing wrote:Theory vs practice. Countless books will tell you smooth is fast, but the fast guys aren't smooth.
Craig 2


Wrong! All other things being equal, the smoother driver is the faster one Talk to any pro driver.
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Chase42 » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:23 pm

nitewing117 wrote:I was watching videos of Schumacher and steering inputs are far from smooth. They actually look like he's constantly jerking back and forth.

Based on the video footage and researches of his technique:
being fast is not smoothness, its how close you can get it to and keep it at the limit. The reasoning behind his actions is due to finding that limit; you'll never find it unless you exceed it. You can only find what is under the limit and over it, not directly on it all of the time. So his driving is based on exceeding it, then correcting in this pattern continuously. Fast is on how quickly a driver can read and adjust these small "overcorrections".



That works for schumie, but what makes him so fast is that no one (that I know of) in professional racing is anywhere talented enough to have mastered all the levels of driving below "micro-corrections in the midcorner phase". He's basically experimenting, but he's so fast anyway in every other area, that it doesn't slow him down.

Carroll Smith once wrote that he believed that, past a certain professional level, racing was only 20% technique and 80% mental. This means a multitude of things, but relative to smoothness, it means that the smoother you are:
-the less you are exhausting yourself
-the better you can concentrate
-the more traction "insurance" you have
-the higher your driving "self-esteem"

Also, its easier on the car, tires, and gas. Simply put, scrubbing the tires creates resistance, which slows you down, wears down the tires, puts more demand on the chassis, and causes you to use more gas.
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby red5racing » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:58 pm

Chase42 wrote:...
it means that the smoother you are:
-the less you are exhausting yourself
-the better you can concentrate
-the more traction "insurance" you have
-the higher your driving "self-esteem"

Also, its easier on the car, tires, and gas. Simply put, scrubbing the tires creates resistance, which slows you down, wears down the tires, puts more demand on the chassis, and causes you to use more gas.


It's a few years ago, but Mansell and Mario Andretti both drove on the same CART team together in 92 (?). Two truly great drivers. Old man Andretti would emerge from the car barely sweating, Mansell would need an IV drip. Mansell was faster, but he worked so much harder.

Look at the corrections from Senna in every corner. Listen to him feather the throttle.
Look at Hamilton and the way he locks up so often.

The book fast people are smooth, the *really* fast people aren't smooth- maybe they *want* to be smooth, but they aren't.



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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Chase42 » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:53 pm

feathering the throttle has nothing to do with smoothness. as long as the actuation of the throttle is smooth, its a very good way to transfer weight.

I don't know what's going on with Hamilton, but it's easy to say that everybody makes mistakes. Smoothness isn't an absence of errors so much as it is a state of mind. What is perceived as rough movement by one's naked eye may be utterly smooth to the person controlling the car. Keep in mind that visual hand and foot movements aren't so much an indicator of smoothness as the very subtle weight transfer. A roll-cage mounted camera captures 3 things: driver movement relative to the car, track movement relative to the car, and sound. Smoothness mainly has to do with g-force and weight transfer, which are things that a camera does not consistently register.

There's two things at work here: the major half is the mental half, which psychologists could write many pages on. The other, more quantifiable half is the traction circle. Simply, the smoother you are, the more consistent your traction is, and the harder you can push the car.
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby the token girl » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:56 pm

It makes sense that smoother is faster, since you're losing less energy with each transition. However, I think this only works to a certain point - once you've reached the limits of the car's capabilities, you have to try to maintain that smoothness, but also correct for every time you cross the limit. This is where quick reflexes and a good instinct will help you, because the faster and more easily you can compensate for asking the car to do something it simply cannot do, the less time you will spend out of control and the quicker you can get back to driving within the car's limits.

(Warning: the next paragraph may be sacreligious to some of our more dedicated racers because it's about drifting, but it's just to give an example.)

Although they are used in a very different sense from on a racetrack, drifters also need to pay close attention to traction, speed, slip angle, steering inputs, weight shifts, etc. If you watch in-car videos of drifters, you should be able to see the constant micro-corrections necessary to maintain a certain level of "out-of-controlness". If they are good at it and have quick enough reflexes to head off any mistakes early, the appearance from the outside should be of a smooth and seamless drift, which is the final product of all the corrective inputs. In racing, the idea is much the same, except you're working to maintain a certain level of performance from the car rather than a certain degree of showmanship. The faster you can get the car under control, the less you will have to do to achieve that (i.e. smaller corrections), ergo the smoother your driving will be.

I suppose in a perfect world, with a perfect car, perfect driver, and known and fixed variables (friction coefficient, temperatures, weight, position on course, etc.) , it could be argued that the smoothest line would not necessarily be the most efficient way to hustle around a course. However, in THIS world, with our imperfect cars and drivers and all those damn variables, I think it's pretty safe to say that smoother is better in nearly all circumstances. Watch a driver who spends all his/her time on corrections, and then tell me that they wouldn't have been faster if they had gone a little more conservatively and not gotten themselves to the point of needing those corrections in the first place.

I would like to end this post by noting that my fish are having an orgy in my little aquarium on my desk, and I think I'll be breaking that up now. The mommy fish is already pregnant, and she doesn't really need the amorous attention of all 8 adult male fish in the tank.
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Ski_Lover » Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:03 am

Good point Melina.

Craig2,

Referring to Hamilton's mistakes (wheel lock up) does not make a good argument. It's not the mistakes (rough driving) that makes Hamilton faster. Its that Hamilton can spend a larger percentage of his time at the very edge of the limit that DOES make him faster (but he has to make up for lost time when he gets it too sideways, or locks up in a braking zone)

I'm really surprised to hear you arguing against smoothness when you seem to grasp the art of driving so smoothly in practice - you are very good at it! I urge you to talk to some real Pros, or read their books, or provide some references to back up your claim that smoother is not faster.

Meanwhile, I'll list my top 10 references all of which I've participated in 1st hand:
1. Bob Bondurant's High Performance Driveing School
http://www.bondurant.com/high_performan ... durant.php
2. Jim Russell's Schools (1 x Track and 2 x Karting)
http://www.jimrussellusa.com/
3. SCCA Race Licensing School
4. Racing in Spec Miata (with Off Camber Racing and Hooverspeed; learning from west coast and national champions).
5. Kart Racing (125 cc TaG)
7. Ski Racing (Squaw Valley Race Team in early 80's)
8. Too many HPDE track days to reference
9. Various books on High performance Driving
10. An understanding of physics (Engineering Degree)

All of the above experience, and all the above instruction I've received is in stark agreement: Smoother is Faster.

Now you can argue all you want from your observations on TV, or in-car videos, but I request you back up your claims with something a little more substantial.
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Scandinavian Flick » Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:59 am

I kinda get the feeling (correct me if I am wrong) that you are all arguing the same point really. You just have a different definition of smoothness. Smooth driving doesn't necessarily mean entirely smooth input. Especially on cars that have very delicate input (such as F1). There is a constant need for correction, as Melina pointed out in her drifting example, but the result is smooth movement from the car. In order to take a smooth line, one must be making constant corrections while driving at 100% for every time the car goes 100.5%.
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby red5racing » Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:28 am

I was really just being devils advocate. Everyone says go smooth, and it makes perfect scientific + engineering sense, but in the real world the truly fast drivers don't look smooth either inside or outside the car.
Truly fast in my book would be Senna, Hamilton, maybe M. Schumacher, Gilles Villeneuve, Mansell, maybe Montoya.

Were I to argue against, I'd cite Prost, Stewart, Mario Andretti, maybe Alonso, maybe Piquet sr.

Here's some (crappy) video I took of Craig N demonstrating that smooth is very fast:

http://red5racing.blogspot.com/2008/11/ ... ns-at.html



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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Ski_Lover » Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:54 am

red5racing wrote:I was really just being devils advocate. Everyone says go smooth, and it makes perfect scientific + engineering sense, but in the real world the truly fast drivers don't look smooth either inside or outside the car.
Truly fast in my book would be Senna, Hamilton, maybe M. Schumacher, Gilles Villeneuve, Mansell, maybe Montoya.

Were I to argue against, I'd cite Prost, Stewart, Mario Andretti, maybe Alonso, maybe Piquet sr.

Here's some (crappy) video I took of Craig N demonstrating that smooth is very fast:

http://red5racing.blogspot.com/2008/11/ ... ns-at.html



Craig


Can I get a copy of that:) Although I coned one, it was my fastest run of the day and the raw time (61.450) bested the two Supercharged Honda S2K (ITE) cars. It's always fun to be able to hang with fully prepped, trailered race cars that are up 250+ HP on you, especially when one of the drivers (Rylan Hazelton) was the ITE champion this year.
Craig Northcutt

D-Prepared '90 Miata (TC Design Cage & Prep, Rebello built '00 1.8L NA, Ankeny Racing Custom Penske shocks, OSG superlock Diff, 949 15x10 6UL's, Hoosier Tires, 1924 lbs w/50# Rear Ballast)

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red5racing
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby red5racing » Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:21 pm

I'll try and send you the hi-def version, the quality is much better.

Craig
94R: no ABS, no PS, no AC, no OBDII, no TCS, no DSC, no ASC, no CC, no PDL, no PW. Just 225/50 Hoosier A6's

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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby nitewing117 » Wed Nov 12, 2008 4:15 pm

nitewing117 wrote:Yeah, that makes sense. I'm just saying that it depends on where and how you're defining "Smooth".

TehOutsyder wrote:I kinda get the feeling (correct me if I am wrong) that you are all arguing the same point really. You just have a different definition of smoothness.






I agree
Glenn
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Ski_Lover
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Ski_Lover » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:04 am

Jackie Stewart on Smoothness:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=OgSiK_VarK8
Craig Northcutt

D-Prepared '90 Miata (TC Design Cage & Prep, Rebello built '00 1.8L NA, Ankeny Racing Custom Penske shocks, OSG superlock Diff, 949 15x10 6UL's, Hoosier Tires, 1924 lbs w/50# Rear Ballast)

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Popstoy

Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Popstoy » Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:00 pm

I often find, it's easier to start slow and smooth, develop a rhythm, and then pick up the pace. It's much easier to sneak up on the limits, than to over drive, looking for them. Another secret, look as far ahead as possible, plan ahead, don't put all you attention just on the corner in front of you. Following someone faster than you is a good way to learn, and remember, seat time, seat time, seat time, there's really no substitute for seat time. Bob
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Re: Bondurant's Basics: Smooth Speed

Postby Ski_Lover » Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:31 pm

Popstoy wrote:I often find, it's easier to start slow and smooth, develop a rhythm, and then pick up the pace. It's much easier to sneak up on the limits, than to over drive, looking for them. Another secret, look as far ahead as possible, plan ahead, don't put all you attention just on the corner in front of you. Following someone faster than you is a good way to learn, and remember, seat time, seat time, seat time, there's really no substitute for seat time. Bob


No doubt about seat time. When short on that, and under safe conditions like AutoX, I take the hard charge approach to probing the limits, and get dialed into a new car quickly that way. I like your approach better for mountain roads and fast race tracks where the consequences of a mistake are costly.
Craig Northcutt

D-Prepared '90 Miata (TC Design Cage & Prep, Rebello built '00 1.8L NA, Ankeny Racing Custom Penske shocks, OSG superlock Diff, 949 15x10 6UL's, Hoosier Tires, 1924 lbs w/50# Rear Ballast)

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