How Racing School Makes You a Safer Driver

So you think you’re a pretty good driver? You think you hit the apexes and accelerate out of turns? You’re confident that if ever plucked from a crowd and dropped into a race that you could hold your own? The fact is, performance driving is a learned skill, and until you enter in some form of racing school, you will never know just how little you know about driving. Through this school, you may learn how to win races, but the same physics and fundamentals can help save your behind on the open road.

I’ve been an automotive journalist for going on the better part of a decade, and have been turning wrenches for longer than that. I have had the understanding in taking a certain line through a bend in the road, but I had no idea how little I knew about the physics of the automobile, and what certain inputs do to the handling characteristics of your car.

PHOTOS: See more race cars

Don’t know what all that means? Well don’t worry; we’re going to explain. Last week, I completed one of the most prestigious racing schools in the country — the Skip Barber 3 Day Open Wheel Racing School. Next week, we’ll get into the finer points of how I did from a racing standpoint, but today, we are going to look at the lessons taught at Skip Barber and how they play into daily driving.

05-Skip Barber

The car we used was the Formula Skip Barber car, an open wheel racer developed specifically for the school. It might weigh just 1,400 pounds and have a seat for one right in the middle, but the physics in play are still the same as your daily driver.

Bruce MacInnes has raced for more years and in more series than most would care to count. He has been with Skib Barber since 1977, and for him, the fundamentals never change.

“Every car,” explains Bruce, “whether it’s your street car or a racecar has four tires and only does three things — brakes, turns, and accelerates. The same principals apply to all cars, such as doing things like braking a little earlier, and turning a little later than you think you might have to.”

07-Skip Barber

Bruce explained early on that one of the biggest sins a racer can make is to apex (arrive at the geometric center of the turn) early. Rather than turning and braking all at once, you do most of your braking before the turn, and then execute the turn, but if you wait just a little bit later than you might expect, you give yourself more room to work with on the other side of the turn.

RELATED: See more racing videos

The apex is the middle of a turn, and though common thought is to bisect that apex perfectly, if you brake sooner, and turn later, you end up closer to the middle of the road on exiting the turn. You may think you are being clever by turning with a lot of speed, but once you feel how less violent a properly executed turn feels, you will be apexing late, too (where you should be).

04-Skip Barber

But say you can’t pull that maneuver, or have made a right hand turn in the rain, and you feel the back end coming around, you must perform CPR. No, not Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, but Correction, Pause, and Recovery… So the spin starts to occur, you have made a right turn, but the car has over steered (spinning too far to the right, given your steering inputs). That’s when you…

Correct: Don’t panic, but rather turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction (in this case, to the left). You don’t cut it so hard that the car spins out in the other direction, but you also don’t cut it so little that it has no effect. A deliberate, controlled counter steer will begin to right the car, that is when you …

Pause: Let that steering input take effect. Not every car responds to steering inputs the same, and it may actually take a second for the car to begin to right itself. Don’t be overcome by this correction, and try to right the a second time, but also don’t wait too long, because the last part is…

Recovery: If you keep the wheel counter-steered too long, the shocks are pre-loaded for that reaction, and the car could jerk violently in the opposite direction. As the car begins to right itself, you can start to unwind the wheel so that the car begins to straighten.

01-Skip Barber

If a skid grows into a full on, uncontrolled rotation, and the world starts passing you by way to fast, there is also a recovery for that too. “If you spin, two feet in,” says Bruce, referring to planting your left foot into the clutch pedal (where applicable), and your right foot into the brake. This will bring on the brakes and take the power from the wheels. It is the only way to correct yourself if a spin is occurring.

For snow driving, you don’t cut off the angle of the turn quite the way you would in dry weather. You do all of your braking pre-turn, execute a slower, but sharper turn, and then accelerate only once you are in a straight line again.

03-Skip Barber

But when it is dry, you should be able to apply brake and throttle in certain segments of a turn to put the car where you want it. Many racers will tell you that when a turn happens, you set your hands at a certain degree turn, and you use the throttle and brake to modulate how fast or slow that turn is executed.

Mario Andretti once said that “Slow turns are modulated with the brake, and fast turns are adjusted with the throttle.” That means that when a tight turn comes up, you punch into the brakes hard, but not so hard they lock up, and then ease off them while simultaneously starting the turn. If you perform this right, you should be hard on the brakes, and then be easing off them incrementally, so that you are completely off the brakes at the apex of the turn. Once you round the bend, you can start to get into the throttle. That exercise of braking near the lockup limit is called “Threshold braking.”

06-Skip Barber

CPR, Threshold Braking, Heel-toe downshifting — they are all skills taught to those looking to become racecar drivers, but in reality, they are valuable driving skills that prepare you for when the unthinkable happens. Airbags and traction control have made us lazy in our approach to car control, but when traction control fails, or you hit an unexpected patch of ice, the skills taught at schools like Skip Barber could one day save your life.

Most Viewed

  • Bollywood reacts to beef ban in Maharashtra
    Bollywood reacts to beef ban in Maharashtra

    It is reported that there has been a ban on the selling purchase of beef in Maharashtra …

  • Ranbir Kapoor goes gown on his knees to propose to Deepika Padukone
    Ranbir Kapoor goes gown on his knees to propose to Deepika Padukone

    All the eyes are on Ranbir Kapoor and his ex beau Deepika Padukone who have been shooting together for their upcoming film Tamasha. Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone were shooting for a romantic scene, where Ranbir had to go down on knees and propose Deepika Padukone. You can see in the pictures, Ranbir Kapoor goes down on Knees, while Deepika Padukone gets surprised on it. The film stars Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone and is directed by Imtiaz Ali. …

  • Dum Laga Ke Haisha Star Bhumi Pednekar Has Lost Weight!
    Dum Laga Ke Haisha Star Bhumi Pednekar Has Lost Weight!

    Bhumi Pednekar made her Bollywood debut opposite Ayushmann Khurrana in Dum Laga Ke Haisha doesn’t actually look even tiny bit close to her character from the movie. The reason why we didn’t see Bhumi come in front of media to interact, as her character and role in the film was kept a secret from audiences. …

  • Swine flu hits Sonam, Vidhu Vinod Chopra & family
    Swine flu hits Sonam, Vidhu Vinod Chopra & family

    Actress Sonam Kapoor who was diagnosed with swine flu on Friday was moved to Kokilaben Ambani Hospital in Mumbai. …

  • Sussanne Khan Spent Rs 16 Crore On A Penthouse In Pune?
    Sussanne Khan Spent Rs 16 Crore On A Penthouse In Pune?

    Hrithik Roshan‘s ex-wife Sussanne Khan has bought an expensive property for herself outside Mumbai city. According to recent reports, Sussanne Khan bought a beautiful penthouse in Pune for about 16 crore! The penthouse is located in Trump Towers, Kalyani Nagar and the celebrity interior decorator has bought the property only for investment purpose. A source was quoted saying, “Yes, she has purchased a penthouse in Pune. It is located in Trump Towers, Kalyani Nagar. …

  • Sunny Leone Recreates Zeenat Aman’s Hot Look!
    Sunny Leone Recreates Zeenat Aman’s Hot Look!

    For her upcoming film Ek Paheli Leela, Sunny Leone has recreated Zeenat Aman’s iconic look from Satyam Shivam Sundaram where she’s shown to be wearing a white sari. Elaborating on the look, director Bobby Khan says, “The way SSS captured Zeenatji’s beauty was beautiful. When I bounced the idea off Sunny, she immediately approved. Our film has glamour but we’ve kept Indian sentiments in mind, which is why she wore a spaghetti top with her sari.” Directed by Bobby Khan starring Sunny Leone, …

  • Check Out: Alia Bhatt’s Transformed Vanity Van
    Check Out: Alia Bhatt’s Transformed Vanity Van

    Bollywood’s cutest actress Alia Bhatt is too excited and happy for her new personalized Vanity Van. The actress has recently got a new makeover for her vanity van. Alia Bhatt who calls her vanity van as a second home tweeted with a picture, “My second home, my vanity van !!! Thank you amritamahalnakai for transforming my van !! I love you to… Student Of The Year actress got her old vanity van customized into new according to her taste by Amrita Mahalnakai. As you can see in the picture just …

  • Birthday Special: Shraddha Kapoor's cake face
    Birthday Special: Shraddha Kapoor's cake face

    Shraddha Kapoor turned 26 today. This Bollywood actress, who has also ventured into singing, with the EK VILLAIN …