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CatDaddy
CatDaddy New Reader
1/27/21 5:15 p.m.

How slow of a car is too slow to learn racing techniques on track? 
 

Secondary question: 

Can you learn advanced driving skills with a car that has too much grip relative to power?

 

discuss 

Vajingo
Vajingo Reader
1/27/21 5:18 p.m.

Uhh... a slower car teaches you things a faster car can't. Also, a fast car hides your sins and DOESNT tell you how much slower you are than your peers. 

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
1/27/21 5:18 p.m.

As far as grip goes,  its easy to limit grip. Westlake tires are cheap and gripless. 

And you can learn performance driving in anything. Stock 1.6 miata. Stock original mini. Stock mg midget. Maybe an isetta or citroen. The skills translate to faster and faster.

dps214
dps214 HalfDork
1/27/21 5:57 p.m.

You can learn racing techniques in any car as long as the cars you're racing with are roughly the same speed.

I disagree at least somewhat with the "fast car hides your sins" thing...if you're 20mph too slow through a corner, you're still going to carry that lack of speed to the next corner, you'll just get there a lot faster than if you were in a slower car. Also, if your sins are not knowing how to apply throttle smoothly or catch a slide...fast car definitely isn't going to cover that up unless you're letting the TC drive for you. Honestly I think some of my issues with smoothness is a result of learning to autocross/track in a miata and other underpowered cars. Three years later and sometimes I feel like I'm still struggling to rid myself of the instinct to treat the throttle as an on/off switch.

Vajingo
Vajingo Reader
1/27/21 6:25 p.m.

In reply to dps214 :

What I am saying is if you have never done track days and you go out and buy a C5 or C6 Corvette, and then you post lap times comparable to a lot of other drivers that are in Miatas, you might think you are doing great. the reality is your car did most of the work and your skill had nothing to do with it

dps214
dps214 HalfDork
1/27/21 6:35 p.m.
Vajingo said:

In reply to dps214 :

What I am saying is if you have never done track days and you go out and buy a C5 or C6 Corvette, and then you post lap times comparable to a lot of other drivers that are in Miatas, you might think you are doing great. the reality is your car did most of the work and your skill had nothing to do with it

I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but if someone thinks running miata times in their corvette means they're fast, that's their own problem. That's not the car covering up their issues, that's willful ignorance on the part of the driver. That also assumes that there doesn't happen to be anyone else at the track day in anything closer to a corvette than a miata to compare times to.

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
1/27/21 7:16 p.m.

I'm a big fan of learning stuff with E36 M3ty equipment.  Costs less money when you make a mistake.

Learning to drive can be done in any speed car.  Learning to race can as well, but you need someone else running very similar lap times, because driving and racing are two different but related things

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) UberDork
1/27/21 7:33 p.m.
Vajingo said:

Uhh... a slower car teaches you things a faster car can't. Also, a fast car hides your sins and DOESNT tell you how much slower you are than your peers. 

A fast car doesn't hide sins unless you're comparing your lap times to people driving slower ones.

That said, you'll learn everything in a low-power car that you would in a high-power one and at a lower cost in consumables except for throttle modulation on corner exit.

CatDaddy
CatDaddy New Reader
1/27/21 8:00 p.m.

In reply to codrus (Forum Supporter) :

What about the other scenario with a super gripped up slow car? 
 

what if it's slow and grippy enough that you never brake? There are some combos I can think of but maybe it's a lot slower than is realistic. Even 1.6 miatas on Big Willow have to at least let off for Turn 1

buzzboy
buzzboy Dork
1/27/21 8:05 p.m.

Most of my time on track has been in a 3000lbs+ car with 80whp(I've driven faster cars too) and a long wheelbase. The first time I looped it was at a pretty low speed, on crappy 800tw tires. Better than going fast in traffic. The car has slowly lost weight, gained power and gained tire over the years allowing my skills to slowly work up to a faster and better handling car. I got into a 928 and wasn't too worried because I was comfortable driving a slower car on track. I don't think I would have felt as comfortable if my first time on track was in the 928.

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
1/27/21 8:09 p.m.

In reply to CatDaddy :

How slow of a car? My Datsun I vintage race currently has the back up motor in it which makes 80hp at the wheels. My normal race engine makes a whopping 99 at the wheels.

I also run the car at the Porsche club track days I instruct at. I normally run in the intermediate group because the car is so slow.I  routinely pass people in Corvettes and Porsches. 

I was once asked if I minded running the car in the the novice group as the intermediate group was oversubscribed and the novice group only had about 15-20 cars. I lapped the entire group in about 8 laps. There were several 500hp in the group.

The reason why you learn lot in a low power car is the instant you overdrive it you bog the motor and it takes 1/4 mile to build the momentum back up.

Some people will tell you that you won't learn throttle control in a low power car but I do not agree with that. Here is why you will learn throttle control in a low power car; if you get into the throttle to hard to fast you'll unload the front end and instantly lose about 100 rpm. If you've got it really wrong you'll have to lift off throttle at the corner exit to keep it on the road.

I'm also an advocate of running a car on street tires for the first few events as well. 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
1/27/21 8:10 p.m.

Slower cars make it very apparent where you lose momentum on a course.

"All cars are momentum cars"

dps214
dps214 HalfDork
1/27/21 8:16 p.m.
Tom1200 said:

In reply to CatDaddy :

Some people will tell you that you won't learn throttle control in a low power car but I do not agree with that. Here is why you will learn throttle control in a low power car; if you get into the throttle to hard to fast you'll unload the front end, will instantly lose about 100 rpm. If you've got it really wrong you'll have to lift off throttle at the corner exit to keep it on the road.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but you need a truly underpowered car for that to be the case. A 1.6 miata (which I imagine is most people's idea of a slow track car) doesn't really do that.

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
1/27/21 8:39 p.m.

In reply to dps214 :

I raced a 1.6 Miata Showroom Stock C car in the late 90s. To get anything out of it you drove in manner that once you turn in you should pretty much be a passenger from that point till the exit kerb. If you pick up the throttle to early or to hard the car will unload the front end and will run wide. If you are truly driving the car at the limit it will absolutely do that. 

Realistically a new driver isn't going to be doing this in an 80mph sweeper but they will experience unloading the front end with to aggressive throttle inputs in 2nd gear corners. It still teaches you throttle control.

Throttle control is nothing more than learning to tip into the throttle; so regardless of whether you have to do this because your gutless car will push wide or you 1500hp car will light the rear tires the muscle memory is similar. 

Edit: I should clarify what I mean by losing 100 rpm; the motor may or may not bog and go down 100 rpm but it may remain flat so you've not picked up the 100 rpm in a given space, this will then compound itself as the corners goes on. I hope that makes sense.

CatDaddy
CatDaddy New Reader
1/27/21 8:42 p.m.

In reply to dps214 :

In reply to you and 1200 Tom, 

now this is interesting. So perhaps somewhere under 80hp with enough grip to never run wide the learning curve may end quickly. 
 

I have a 1200 as well and it's definitely not fast! 
 

it's an interesting thought experiment so far!

And to BuZz,

What 3000lb car has 80whp??

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
1/27/21 8:57 p.m.

In reply to CatDaddy :

I've pushed the envelope in some 80hp 3000lb cars; what ends up happening is half the corners teach you nothing because the car can't accelerate fast enough for it to be a problem. You end up with a 5 turn road course.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
1/27/21 9:00 p.m.

In reply to CatDaddy :

The point is, if you are on the limit of the tires, ANY amount of power will cause you to run wide, because accelerating will transfer load off of the fronts and on to the rears.

High powered cars just make it easy to go the other way and slide out due to overpowering the rear tires.  But if you use the throttle as something more finessed than a switch, you'll still understeer on throttle.

ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
1/27/21 9:08 p.m.

I had a student with a nearly new S550 Mustang. There was a guy in our group running a bone stock Focus wagon. He knew the line and hit all his points near perfect. "Watch what he does," I told my student. We could blow by him on the straights but we didn't gain much on him in the turns.

My students who drove slower cars were typically much better track drivers than the ones with Corvettes and Mustangs.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) UberDork
1/27/21 9:47 p.m.
dps214 said:
Tom1200 said:

In reply to CatDaddy :

Some people will tell you that you won't learn throttle control in a low power car but I do not agree with that. Here is why you will learn throttle control in a low power car; if you get into the throttle to hard to fast you'll unload the front end, will instantly lose about 100 rpm. If you've got it really wrong you'll have to lift off throttle at the corner exit to keep it on the road.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but you need a truly underpowered car for that to be the case. A 1.6 miata (which I imagine is most people's idea of a slow track car) doesn't really do that.

Pretty much any road course is going to have a long-enough straight followed by a slow-enough corner to require braking in any street-legal car I can think of.  A big banked oval like Daytona or Indianapolis might be different. :)

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) UberDork
1/27/21 9:51 p.m.
Tom1200 said:

Throttle control is nothing more than learning to tip into the throttle; so regardless of whether you have to do this because your gutless car will push wide or you 1500hp car will light the rear tires the muscle memory is similar. 

Throttle control is also about judging how fast you can put the pedal down as you're straightening the car out of the corner.  Sub-100 hp cars will generally let you mat it at the apex, 600 hp Corvettes take a different technique.  It's an easier thing to learn than the braking on corner entry, but it's still important.

flatlander937
flatlander937 HalfDork
1/27/21 10:46 p.m.

In reply to codrus (Forum Supporter) :

I think what Time is getting at is that if you can literally just "mat it at the apex" then you should have been carrying more speed. You were indeed not on the limit of traction. 

I will add that due to the large amount of available forward grip on the traction circle available (because the Miata just plain can't use it), there is a very fine line between slow and too fast for a corner. The throttle takes very little away from the a available lateral grip so the perceived limits are pretty high.

Same corner in the Corvette... It has a LOT of throttle available... So if it is not at the edge of available lateral grip in the friction circle, it can be compensated by feeding throttle. Then once the edge of the friction circle is found, it begins to make up its time. Not as much as if it were done correctly, but nonetheless it blurs the source of how the lap time is achieved. If it were TRULY at the edge, then you could NOT get on throttle at all until apex, or else it would push wide... And once you do start rolling in the gas, it should be just enough to carry a sloght but steady slip angle the whole way out to the track outer limits.

 

Edit: I've never encountered having a car too slow to learn in... But karts I have experienced this. I took my son to a small go-kart track tourist trap and drove him around in some incredibly slow karts. They were so infuriatingly slow that the shortest line was always the fastest line. Apex did not matter, typical track lines did not matter, it was literally just minimizing distance traveled because they did not have the ability to even oversteer. Ever.

lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter)
lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
1/28/21 6:45 a.m.

Many, many years ago as a driving instructor, when trackdays were nowhere near as popular or populated as they are today, things were a little different. There were marques groups that would do track rentals for their members to drive their cars. Some clubs, SAAC, NCCC, BMWCCA and PCA had guys with BIG checkbooks and very fast cars. Other groups, Corvair, British car clubs and a few others has enthusiasts with lower hp cars. I dreaded getting a call to attend a SAAC event because the same owners, I'm not going to call them drivers at this point, would show up to show off. Never planned to learn anything, they just wanted to show off and drive around the track impressing themselves. Sure some wanted to learn, but after spending all tha money on those few last HP, it was difficult to teach them anything because the car was difficult to drive. A 400+ carbureted small block ford with a light flywheel is tough to heel/toe or ease into the throttle in a corner. A car with 100hp less would not only be easier to drive, but faster everywhere on track except for the straightaways. Now go to a British car gathering where the owners spent some money on suspension and sure, the motor as well, but a 100hp MGB is a much easier car to learn on than a 400hp Shelby. Not only is the car more compliant but things happen at a pace that encourages learning/trial & error.

 

We have had way more fun over the years racing in Showroom stock trying to make a slow car go as fast as it possibly can by evolving the suspension and driver. It's way more satisfying driving a car close to the cars limits and getting everything out of it than always trying to survive when an unwilling car tries to kill you in every corner. Beware though, you need to be honest about both the preparation of the car AND the driver. Both can make each other look both good and bad. Start with preparing the car to the best of your ability, budget and available knowledge. Then, be humble and ask for instruction and take the advise of those who have more experience than you have. Be a sponge and absorb all of their words and remember all of it. 
 

I hope some of this hits home and makes sense. If not, it was a bit of pondering and typing for nothing.

 

Good Luck.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
1/28/21 6:56 a.m.

In reply to CatDaddy :

Hot deal in the For Sale section will get you on the track for $1,500-ish.  

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
1/28/21 6:59 a.m.

Most of the fastest drivers in the world learned to race in karts with less than 20hp that top out around 60mph.  

maj75 (Forum Supporter)
maj75 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
1/28/21 7:16 a.m.

If you are doing DE events, having a slow car sucks.  The vast majority of cars are very fast cars.  You spend the entire event pointing by other drivers.  It's hard to focus on your line when cars are blowing past you.  I've been on track with my FRS and it's slow compared to other cars at our events.  I felt like I was driving with one arm out the window giving point-bys.  I didn't find it fun.  Most of us are doing this for fun, a chance to drive fast cars, fast.   DE events don't record times.  That's on you.  My solution was to get faster cars including a 450hp C5.  It was fun to drive with other fast cars.  I don't record my laps, I don't keep lap times, but I do know how many time I got passed.  When the only cars that pass me are a McLaren and new Z06, I'm happy.  Thankfully, I haven't been passed by a Miata ;)

Most likely you are not going to become a professional race driver.  If you are out there to have fun, get a car that you find "fun".  If that's a Fiat 500, go for it.

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