How To Learn A Race Track - Part 1

How To Learn A Race Track Part 1

We all know the added anxiety a driver experiences when they show up for their first session on a new track. We don’t have that comfort hundreds of laps give you, even worse this race weekend is on your rival’s home turf.   In your mind you have already told yourself, “this is their home track, of course they will be quicker here.” So, not only do you have the disadvantage of not knowing the track, but now you are also losing the mental battle before you even get on track.

How do we overcome this and learn a track quickly? Below I will break down the ways on how pros learn tracks quickly.

We at Racers360 want to make it easier for all of you to learn tracks by our in depth track breakdown videos, but I also find Youtube is a great resource for a driver.

For every new track I go to I want to find the best quality video onboards I can find of that track. While I am a believer in Sim racing software such as iRacing, I don’t typically like it as much on a track I have never driven before unless you have the right mindset. The tracks on iRacing are almost perfect, it is actually pretty amazing, but the car physics are not quite there. If you enjoy sim racing I think a combo of watching an onboard video of a similar car to yours and then driving like how he did on your sim would be good. Occasionally driving a car that is different enough to yours on a sim on a new track can actually cause you to develop some bad habits.

Once you have a great feeling from the video on the flow of the track from the video and or the sim I then move onto visualization.   The more immersive you can make your visualization the better. I want to put myself in the driver seat, hear the engine, feel the load of the car, and see myself nailing every apex.

Those are my steps on how I like to prepare ahead of a race weekend or track day on a new track. But how do we breakdown the driving side once we get on track?

I like to breakdown each corner into 3 sections: exit, entry and braking points. The first question I have is what is important on the exit? Is there a long straight, is it leading into a complex of corners that I need to setup for? As a driver what I want to do is figure out where is the apex, where do I want to place my car on the exit first. Once I have done this I can focus on where I need to start picking up throttle to have the car end up where I want it placed. If I can use all the road on exit I want the car to take me out there with the speed I have, I don’t want to just use all the road by opening my hands and driving it there, the car really has to take me there! If I need to hold it to the inside to setup for the next corner then I want to be fighting the car a little bit to keep it where I need it.

Once I have got a good feeling on the line, where I want to pick up throttle, apex and exit then I can work on the next part, corner entry.

In my mind I want to focus on how much speed can I bring into the corner while executing the exit I figured out before. I know most drivers here the term “slow in fast out” but racing is much more “as much speed as I can bring in while still being fast out.” Usually it is this corner entry and trail braking technique that really separates drivers.

As a driver you are working on bringing in a little more speed every lap until you start making mistakes such as missing the apex, getting to throttle too late or becoming very inconsistent. At this point you back down to where you found that limit on entry to where you were bringing in good speed but still hitting your marks.

Now for the very last part of learning a track, brake zones.  Working up your brake zone to that very late point is always the last thing to perfect. As with the entry speed, we are focused on braking a little bit deeper every lap while keeping the corner entry and exit the way we want it. Every lap brake a little bit deeper, until you start just missing your apex, or holding the brakes too long once those things start happening you know you are just over the limit. We then bring it back down to where everything flowed together.

As the weekend goes on and you work on car setup you are continually adjusting all these steps. Also one important thing to note as a driver is that as the weekend goes on and the track grips up the points you initially used will change. As the weekend goes on and the track changes if you feel like you are making mistakes you must ask yourself which part of the three corner phases is causing the mistakes. During the weekend continue to work on your visualization and as you get more laps start focusing on making that visualization feel more like real life every time you do it! If you follow these steps you will be learning that new track as fast as pros and taking away the advantage from your rival at his home track!

During our Racers360 weekly blog I like to answer questions from fans! This weeks question came from super6axis on Reddit!

His question was: “In that moment you close the door, fire the engine, and pull away, what is your mental condition? Are you overwhelmed by the out lap technique you have developed? Are you calm and methodical? If so, how did you train to be so composed when even the best have shown errors in out laps, cold tire moments, and the beginning of stints?”

First off, thank you super6axis for the great question! I think every driver will be slightly different here as we all feel that “zone” in different ways. For me I focus on being calm and work on clearing my mind.   When I am on pit wall waiting for the car to come in I work on visualizing exactly what I need to do for a perfect driver change, once I have done this I move to focusing purely on my breathe. I have confidence in my ability and know the engineers have given me a good car, so for myself to preform to the best of my ability I want to have a brain with almost no thoughts. This will let my ability of purely driving come through and not any preconceived thoughts limit me from performing at the best of my ability. That way once I have run around performed the driver change and feel my heart pumping while in the driver seat and waiting for that Go Go Go radio message! I can find that calm mind much quicker. Errors at any moment can happen, but thinking about what may go wrong not only doesn’t help, it actually makes those errors more likely to occur. Just as we say in driving “wherever your eyes go the car goes” I also say, “wherever your thoughts go your driving goes.” A lot of this takes experience to really master, but focusing on your breath and having a clean mind is the best habit you can form at any level of motorsport!

Thanks again super6axis for your question! Any if you have a question that you would like me to answer next week please just leave a comment with it below!!

See you on track soon,

Dion von Moltke