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 II: Be Smoove!
If you’ve worked enough race driving schools, you can always spot “THAT ONE” usually by the end of the first session. My most memorable “THAT ONE” came at Bridgehampton, Long Island road racing circuit, a very famous old-school course that like so many others, has been bulldozed over to “build for progress”. This track had some amazing corners and elevation changes that we will never see again.
At 8AM, “THAT ONE” arrived in an $100,000+ custom Corvette, full of himself, and certain that he was going to show all the instructors a thing or two about his “skills”. At the end of the first lapping session of the day, the group of race cars headed back to the pits single file from a coned drill area they had been working prior to lunchtime. “Mr. Corvette” proceeds to pass the entire group of cars from the back to beat them into pit lane (No, you’re not allowed to do this).
When we returned from lunch, he went out in the second lapping session and proceeded to throw the race car off Turn 3, through an old wooden flagging tower destroying three of the four corners of the car’s suspension, and narrowly missing serious personal injury.
Clearly, not smoove!
Last month, we started Part I with the concept of slowing down to go faster. If you’re following through with this idea, being smoove will naturally follow because you’ll have time to not overdrive the car in a given turn or scenario. Example: this turn (Figure 1) shows a smooth arc through the center of a 90-degree turn from your turn in point to the apex (innermost contact point of the arc) ending at your track out point. If you’re doing it correctly, it should feel like one smooth turn of the wheel with a balance of brake and throttle (the gas) at given points to keep the car comfortably in control.
If you find yourself sawing at the wheel, hard on and off the throttle or brakes, jerky motions with the steering wheel rather than one smooth turn, you’ve probably not slowed down fast enough to go faster.
Another technique I use involves small movements of the steering wheel with your hands and wrist rather than arms and shoulders. While I typically do more of this on highway driving where there’s less big movement, little modulations versus big ones during turning can be very helpful to reducing big jerky motions, thus making your turns smoover.
When you’re doing it right, it will make you appear effortless in your driving!