Joe Carbon is a former driving instructor and crew chief for the internationally renowned Skip Barber Racing School and current kart and motorcycle racer. His automotive repair company, “Good Old-Fashioned Auto Repair”, in Mooresville, North Carolina pairs his over 40+ years of automotive service and repair experience with well over 3 million miles of driving experience in all types of vehicles. Joe's insight from road and track will help you stay safe on your “road of life”.
Prologue: Working for the Skip Barber Racing School was a constant learning experience: both from a personal driving standpoint as well as a teaching-to-others standpoint. “What not to do” was sometimes more important than “What to do” and was a constantly evolving experience.
As I embark on pursuing another motocross championship in 2019 (the last time was 2006), I remind myself as I’m training of each and every one of these “things learned”. While you may not be in training for a race, the same skills employed here can be applied to daily driving to make you a safer and more confident “street driver”.
PART I: Slow Down To Go Faster!
While this sounds like an oxymoron, this was the first thing I learned in my first driving school. “If you can’t do it right going slow, you won’t be able to do it right going fast.”
Example: When you go to a new race track, there are reference points or markers you need to learn and commit to memory. Those reference points remind you of what you need to do at that particular point on the course. Coming down the front straightaway, there are typically signs that read 300 feet, then 200 feet, then 100 feet before the next turn so that you can work on your braking points as speed increases.
Little painted marks on the asphalt at turn in, apex, and track out-points that remind you where you begin to turn, apex and end your exit out of a corner. Other little markers specific to a particular track that you can learn to use as a reference point (a tree, a garbage can, and any other object you can commit to memory that reminds you what to do when you reach it). When you’re flying around a race track and don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re going to miss all these reference points because you’re going too fast to see them.
By slowing down and running the track at a snail’s pace (we call this a recon or sighting lap), I can take in all the reference points and commit them to memory. I will do as many sighting laps as I need to memorize them all each time, gradually increasing the pace until it all comes together.
At any given first timers school, we would then begin lapping sessions with a low maximum RPM level in high gear with the target of hitting all the reference points as close and as smoothly as possible until it becomes second nature. Each following session, the maximum RPM level would increase a bit, gradually increasing the overall level of speed but always with the focus on precision first.
“Slowing down to go faster!”
Each day, I begin my routine with a 20-minute car racing session on my simulator. I begin each new track with this process and in a very short amount of time, I am amazed how fast I am going on a “brand new to me” course. As daily street drivers, we may encounter new courses as well on any given day. “Slow down until they become second nature, and speed and confidence will come all by themselves!”