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5 Secret Tips From Professional Racing School Instructors

Published June 6, 2015

When you drop a few grand on a pro racing school, they’ll teach you some valuable skills. Here 5 pro instructors shares their best tips with you for free.

Collected here is the wisdom of several instructors of the largest racing school in the world, who have a combined teaching experience of 28 years. In addition, several are top competitors in several professional race series in the US. There’s just not a better group to go to for advice.

Target Fixation

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There’s a phenomenon among human beings called Target Fixation, that normally associated with a negative outcome, but is actually useful to a driver on a race track, according to one of our instructors. Target Fixation is described as ” a Attentional Phenomenon observed in humans in which an individual becomes so focused on an observed object that their awareness of hazards or obstacles diminishes.” Okay, that’s the bad part.

The good part is that the same brain activities that cause someone to drive toward a hazard (like over a cliff) can be used to reduce your lap times and improve your driving: that is, your brain and body make every effort possible to go to where you’re looking.

Think!

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Another mental aspect of driving, shares one instructor, is to think about what you’re doing before you do it. In other words, don’t go rushing up to that fast corner in your Porsche, expect to downshift, brake, steering and get back on the throttle without having thought it through. Where’s your braking marker, where do you initiate turn-in, and a half dozen other questions. You can even talk your way through the corner, almost co-driving yourself.

Have a Plan Every Time You Head Out

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You’re lined up in the paddock ready to hit the track in your Honda Civic. Were you just planning on driving around and see what happens? No, says an experienced instructor. Every time you head out onto the circuit you need to have a specific plan of action in mind. It could be improving your transition between two turns, carrying more speed through a long sweeper, or working down your braking point for a critical turn. Take notes after the session. Did you improve? By how much? Is there more there? What are the goals for the next session?

Sit Closer. No, Closer Still.

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On the street most of us sit back further from the steering wheel in a position that more comfortable for day-to-day driving. However, on the race track when a spin is almost always imminent, sitting closer to the wheel allows you to quickly catch the car should it get into a skid. It will feel awkward at first, but once you’re on the track you’ll forget all about it. So how close? Here’s what our instructors recommend:

You need to be close enough to the steering wheel so that you can hang your wrist over the wheel at the 12 o’clock position. But here’s the other part: you have to be close enough that when your wrist is on the top of the steering wheel your shoulders are still pressed against the seat. Tight? Yes. Uncomfortable? At first. Safer? You bet. Wouldn’t you rather catch that spin rather have you car hid something hard?

Be A Pro

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Even if your aspirations don’t go beyond an occasional track day, this instructor encourages you to approach it as a pro. Plan before you attend your event to make certain you’re bringing everything you need along with you (right down to a bag of quarters to buy cold water from the soda machine, if that’s what it takes). Be on time for drivers’ meetings, line-up promptly for your group. Think about how a pro team would manage the day and manage your day accordingly. And at the end of the day make it a point to thank those individuals who put the time and effort into making the event happen.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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