Fast driving

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A very big part of all sorts of motorsport is of course driving fast. However, this might be harder than you may think. It's more than just threading on the gas, much more. In motorsport, a car is always being pushed to it's limits, so any margin of error is small, because most of the grip is already being utilized, and the amount you adhension you have for any corrections is small. For this, cars must be handled in a specific way that will contribute to a safer and faster ride.

There are three principles:

1. Smoothness: The basic and most important rule a driver should have.

2. Decisiveness: together with being smooth and sensitive, the driver must be decisive and quick. Any hesitations or slow actions slow you down. Being too smooth slows you down and does not contribute to safety.

3. Accuracy: The driver must be accurate with inputs of steering, acceleration, braking and shifting.

The driver must make a fine balance between the three elements, with smoothness always being top priority. The balance changes according to two parameters:

  • Passive: Car handling: Engine power, drive system, but mainly due to road surface and suspension and chassis build up (soft is for a smoother handilng, while stiff is made for a more decisive application).
  • Active: Driving style. In track racing, driving is 98% neat, in fine driving line, with a minimal amout of slip and no drifting. In Rally driving or stunt driving, a more "messy", jerky and slippery ride is used, either due to conditions or the style of the sport.



The main thing about advanced motoring is smoothness. It is a basic concept that beginners struggle with. However, smoother is faster. Even Rally drivers, that are indeed more decisive than smooth, maintain a certain amount of smoothness and of neat driving. Every action must be carried out in a single, flowing and somewhat gradual motion. This contributes to stability, safety, stress on the car, minimizes slip and maximizes grip.

For the sake of discussion, imagine a spring, like that you may find in the car's suspension. Apply pressure on the spring and it will "close" up. Release it and it will "open" up. However, if you release in without sensitivity, the spring will bounce up more than you wanted, and only than squizze down back to normal state. The same happens with weight transfers and grip during applications of steering, braking, acceleration and shifting.

More information on driving smoothness:


Steering is done in a single, flowing movement. It is done progressively and without jerking the wheel or car. If you jerk the wheel, the suspension will have to balance out the shocks you transmit upon the car, rather than to do it's job in pressing the tires against the road. Sharp steering will cause exagerated body roll, causing the springs on the "inside" (the right side in a right turn, for an example) to bounce open, so not all of the weight is being transfered, but some is actually lost along the way. The inside wheels will lose grip and the outside wheels will not be supplied with enough grip to turn the car. The car might slide and lose speed and the laden wheels might be overloaded.


Stabbing the brakes at once will not allow to maximize the braking potential. What will happen is that the front suspension, mainly the dampers, would squizze down too quickly, and the front tires will tend to slip or lock-up. At the same time, the rear tires would lose grip due to an exagerated forward weight transfer.


Too much acceleration too quickly will result in an exaggerated weight shift, which will hinder the ability to convey the engine's power to the wheels and onto the road, particularly on front-wheel drive and on all-wheel drive. Additionally, such driving will put more strain on the drive train, engine, suspension, differentials and transmission (rear and all-wheel drive) and might generate yaw up to the point of actually spinning the wheels.


Unsmooth shifting creates drag between the wheels and engine, causes damage to the transmission and induces weight transfers.


However, many drivers (and instructors) take smoothness way too far. Being smooth does not mean being slow or indecisive, as this will naturally slow you down. With a bit of skill, the driver can be both smooth and quite fast, on the very brink of being sharp. That's an indication of being quick.

If you are not moving, you can put steering as fast as possible ("dry steering"). We have said that the smoother you go, the faster you go. This equasion can be placed upside down: The faster you go, the smoother you need to be. Notice that the sharper or more slippery is the turn, the slower you are, and therefore can and should be more decisive.


Steering "too smoothly" will not induce the nessecary amount of friction and roll nessecary to turn the car efficiently. Quick steering puts the suspension and chassis into work, and also generates a forward weight transfer due to a braking effect created by the friction the front tires generate. The sharper the corner, the slower is the entry speed, the later is the turn-in and APEX, and the stronger and greater is the steering input, along with weight transfers and tire slip. Note that on the track you will rarely have to turn the wheel very quickly, but it's critical not to steer slowely.


It's very clear why braking slowely would be a mistake. Many drivers squizze the brake pedal down through the braking zone. However, in a modern car, the suspension allows for the braking to be carried out quite quickly, almost instantly (but still without stomping on the brakes), and than release the brake slowely through the process.


Clearly managing the accelerator slowely means you are not accelerating quickly and that you are not inducing a rearward weight transfer in a rear or all-wheel drive.


Slow shifting makes for lost of speed, engine drag and lack of control over acceleration or steering (one hand being off of the wheel).


Being accurate is the third factor. It means exploiting every bit of your grip and adhension, by being on the knivesedge of slipping, actually with a little amount of slip taking place.


In slippery conditions, for an example, a decisive steering input is actually more important than it is on the dry. However, the car's reaction might be slightly "delayed" in this case. The common mistake beginners make is to try and force the car to turn-in by applying more lock, which makes it even harder for the car. The idea is to let the car turn on it's own, with an accurate steering input, which should get it turning with a slight "slip angle" (a little difference between the direction of the front tires and the direction of travel).


Being able to brake at the threshold of the front wheel lock, with the wheels slipping slightly and just shy of losing adhesion. This allows for a smooth and maximal slow down.


Being able to accelerate at the brink of spinning the wheels, with a tiny amount of yaw actually working on the wheels, allowing for 104% of adhension to be used to power the vehicle out. A concept closely related to this concept is "neutral throttle", which is the point where the car is traveling at a constant speed, constant RPM and nearly perfect balance. This point is achieved by a very light and steady application of throttle through certain stages of cornering.


The ability to shift quickly, gently and just on the point where the powerbands of both gears overlap, by use of techniques for revving up the engine, in order to maintain RMPs.

The goal: Neutral handling

The goal of fast driving on the limits, is to induce a small amount of slip, and ideally reach a situation of slight "neutral handling": This, to differ from understeer and oversteer is the rare situation where all four wheels slip in unison. It is the fastest way around. This should be distincted from a four-wheel slide, since aquaplaning, locking-up all of the wheels or spinning them, are also counted as a slide of all four wheels. This should also be distinguished from Drifting.

A four-wheel drive car is easiest to be used in order to reach neutral handling, but this also depends on suspension geometry, aerodynamics, chassis bracing and much more. Ideally, the driver should enter the corner with a forward weight shift caused by lifting off of the throttle (used in the WRC) or light braking, and than apply balanced throttle, and use left foot braking, taking off the steering lock and using a balance of brakes and acceleration to steer the car and slide it, rather than use the steering wheel. Note that neutral handing, regardless of drive, is short lived, quite like oversteer in a front-wheel drive car.

Driving fast in slippery conditions

A modern race car, in a modern race track, works on very high levels of grip. Therefore, the driving is based completly on maximizing this grip, without actually going over it's limits, at which point recovery will be near impossible. However, once grip levels alter due to rain (a wet track), or other road conditions (autocrossing, rally-crossing), your driving style might require some changes.

Contrary to the common belief, driving on a wet road is not essentially different from a dry one. It's simply more slippery, particularly when a small shower dropped after three dry days of traffic, causing a build-up of a slick surface of oil over the water. Many drivers, including many racing drivers, are prejeduced about these driving conditions. They are commonly afraid of skidding and are not focused on the driving. However, driving on a wet track only means different tires, a bit less speed, a bit more smoothness, but not instead of being quick as required. A quick application -- in every driving aspect, is even more important on the wet than it is on the dry.

Your braking should be similar, though slightly less powerfull to reach the threshold. Your acceleration should be less powerfull to avoid wheelspin. This is not the case, however, when accelerating through fast curves. Steering needs to be smooth, but this is not the case in sharp corners, where the need to turn the wheel quickly is even more potent than on the dry. It is possible (though not nessecarily desired) for the car to respond with a slight delay to such an input. It is imperative not to turn the wheel even more. Shifting should be like on the dry. However -- when cornering, use one gear ratio higher than you would on the dry.

In regards of the racing line, the driver might take slower line through some of the moderate bends or successive corners, not seeking to iritate the car's balance too much. However, the driver should not refrain from late-apexing whenever possible.

A gravel surface is also not particularly different. With the right suspension geometry, tires and drivetrain (typically all-wheel drive), you can get quite a lot of grip. However, once car and road conditions reach this state it might be better to do slide the car slightly, more than you would on the track. This is the method used in rallying. The drivers still don't try to be sharp or to Drift their cars, only a small, controlled, brief state of "neutral steering" or even oversteer, through the desired cornering line. One of the ways of achieving this is to take most of the lock off early, before braking or E-braking the car, to line the car up to accelerate through the corner.

Common mistakes

It's better to start off slow and build up speed and skill with professional instruction, rather than too attempt being quick to begin with. Anyhow, don't foreget that motorsport is more than just about driving fast, and sometimes you have to slow down more than what you think is appropriate, especially in sharp or successive corners. Also keep in mind that you can be "too fast" or agressive. This is actually worst than being too smooth and slow, in terms of lap times, and should be avoided. The ride should be smooth.

Indications of slow driving

These symptoms mean a car is not driven as fast as possible:

  • Overdriving: The first and most prominent beginners' driving issue. This hinders both driving percision and driving smoothness. It includes early-turning into corners (because of the rush and excessive entry speed), too early application of power, too strong or long application of either controls, mainly steering and power. Remember, the less you do with the controls, the faster you will be going. If we look at the steering wheel, as an example, you need to turn it as least as possible for a short of a duration of time as possible. The key is that once you pass the APEX you are progressively unwinding the wheel.
  • Trailing throttle and coasting: Any coasting without pedalwork as you are about the access a corner means you are not pushing the car to it's limits. Additionally, if you are able to enter a corner with "trailing throttle", going off of the power as you turn-in, you are again driving too slow. Additionally, if you are able to power your way through the whole corner, or let go of the brakes before the turn-in, you are not fast enough. Sometimes, in relatively rare cases of road conditions and car handling, one might gently peel off of the brake just as he turns the wheel into the corner.
  • A solid ride: If the car feels "on rails", without any tire squealing, weight transfers or quick inputs, it's not being driven fast enough.
  • Excessive smoothess: If the driver is very smooth, slow and relaxed, and does not need any quick applications, lightning fast instincts and a "need of speed", he is not pushing himself or his car to the limit.
  • Easy skid control: If the driver goes into oversteer or understeer, it does not mean he had indeed pushed his car to the limit and beyond. However, if these phenomena can be too easily controlled or be sustained (drift), it means the driver is not on the limit of grip. Additionally, if the driver can shift or de-clutch his way out of these situations, he's going too slow.
  • No rev-matching: If you are not matching revs you are crawling along.
  • Hands and feet: If you are able to work slowely with your feet, shifting clutchless, not heeltoeing, shuffling hands, relocating hands constantly, all means your slow.
  • No references: If you are able to drive without using your visual field efficiently (In rallying, also without listening too closely to pace notes), not keeping mind of tactile feedback (if you are getting any since you are driving slow), or without paying too much attention to lines through corners, you are too slow.
  • Too much power: Clearly the application of the go-pedal allows to go faster, but it is not the only method of fast driving. In fact, a none the-less great role relies on your brakes and even more so on your cornering grip. Furthermore, overpowered cars are hard to tame at first. In terms of driving style, one may be quite quicker by leaving the power for a later, more appropriate time. Going to power transfers weight to the rear of the car and takes away grip from the front tires. Every sharp corner, and most moderate-speed corners, are turned into under braking (brake turning) or any sort of deceleration (trailing throttle) and even braking deeper into the corner (Trail braking) using the left foot can help in specific situations.
  • Wrong corner entry: Drivers will often enter corners too fast or in an early line (which is also related to a fast entry). The drivers are too eager and are reluctant to wait to turn-in late or to slow down sufficiently. In sharp corners, you will need to slow down and wait far more and much later than what feels appropriate. This allows to apply the power more quickly at the exit, gaining speed on the entire, long straight following the corne/corner-sets, rather than gaining fractions of seconds into the corner and through it. Naturally, even the geometric APEX is not nessecaily going to be the instinctive one.

Indications of unsmooth driving

These symptoms show that the driver is trying to be too fast, and ends up slower:

  • Jerks: Any jerks, fishtailing and countersteering means you are driving too slow or too fast.
  • Agressive weight transfer: Being sharp and agressive means you brutally throwing the weight of the car and are causing understeer and oversteer, possibly drifting along the corners. This is not the fastest way around. Weight transfers and slipping tires are only good at a minimal amount, and in specific cases only.
  • Unsmooth braking: If the driver locks-up wheels for more than a moment, or finds himself braking too weak or not consistantly on a straight line, he is being too slow. Going in and through corners, the opposite is true, and any braking that is more than light is slowing you down needlessly. One particular problem, involving medium and sharp corners, is that drivers approach too quickly and find themslves braking too hard through the turn-in, and turn the wheel too quickly. The drivers in this case are inclined to believe they are running smoothly, however driving slowely and in a tight radius. In theory, braking as late as possible is faster, but untill great skill is acquired (which will take time), one needs to set a fairly distant braking point before sharp corners. In a high level of skill, the driver can skip the brake point (focus on the turn-in point) and brake very late.
  • Trying to be fast: Trying to be quick without the correct training and the nessecary experience, means you are pushing yourself and your car beyond their limit. This is what normally leads to all of the above problems. Sometimes, the illusion of a fast work with the hands and feet, and the corner entry speeds, cause the driver to believe he is driving fast and smoothly, but is actually shocking the car and driving in a slow line. This is why you need to brake well before a corner, wait and enter the corner late, sometimes quite slower that what might feel right (especially in sharp corners). Make sure you are almost off of the brakes as you turn-in and that you turn-in quickly but without unsettling the car or jerking the wheel.

Indications of fast driving

  • Controlled slip: The car is just shy of drifting, with the tires on the brink of slipping, with a certain amount of slip taking place.
  • A smooth ride: Regardless of decisiveness and accuracy, the driver should always be smooth as a basic rule. The best action is as quick as possible without disturbing the smoothness of the ride. That is to say, steering might be almost sharp, but the cornering itself is done smoothly.
  • A fast ride: This does not refer merely to lap times. If you are constantly focused and "at work" inside the car, it's a sign you are heading in the right direction. Clearly you will not realize this untill after the session.
  • Good basic and advanced techniques: While lack in technical knowledge can be overcome with "talent", using the correct techniques has been found to make a great difference in times. Many racing drivers use techniques which are not pefect. These include:
    1. Steering: The common mistake of modern racers is to incorprate shuffle steering into racing. This is not the best technique to steer a car with. Other drivers, simply don't notice the way they manage the wheel, or use fixed-input steering all throughout. Another common mistake on the track is to relocate both hands before steering into corners, or to push the wheel along or cross hands over it.
    2. Oversteer control: The common problem here is to correct all sorts of oversteer with countersteering. This is not technically advised and will also slow you down. In a front-wheel drive car, it's actually the throttle that makes up most of the correction. In theort, any countersteering in a front-wheel drive means you have corrected too late or too much, which again makes you slower. Even in a rear-wheel drive, there is not always the need to countersteer and, even if nessecary, it should be used accurately and with light throttle.
    3. Understeer control: Any attempts to take a substantial amount of lock off in order to recover from understeer means you are going in a slow and jerky line through your corners. Any gearshifting or de-clutching is not reconmended.
    4. Cornering: Trying to adopt the traditional racing line into every corner, or engage any corner with neutral throttle from the turn-in to the APEX. Even if neutral throttle is used, it is preferably used from after the turn-in, to just before the APEX where progressive acceleration may begin to take place. However, trail braking is normally recommended and refraining from it means you are not driving fast enough. At least keep a bit of brake pressure through the turn-in.

External links

  • Notice the mistakes this driver makes:
    1. Turns in too early and in a jerky manner.
    2. Particularly notice the part where he understeers: The driver is going in a speed that appears to be not very fast (while in fact he is), and is therefore not slowing down sufficiently before the corner. He understeers, his eyes lock on the edge of the roadway, instinctively making him tighten up the steering, which only makes recovery harder.
    3. Also notice when he is oversteering: He immediatly puts in opposite lock, which creates a pendulum effect, followed by a fishtail.
    4. He has an extended "panoramic" central-view mirror fitted on the original rear-view mirror. These mirrors, allthough increasing the rear-view, can actually obstruct the clear vision of what's behind, create problems in jugding distances, and can shatter or fly off and at you in accidents.
    5. He is not gripping the wheel right (10 and 2 when turning).
  • Handling
  • In this video, a race car, F-1 racer and WRC car battle across Silverstone. Notice how Jeremy Clarkson, although being caught by Colin Mc'rae and Johnny Herbert, does not try and push his car over the edge.
  • A collection of videos showing how fast driving is supposed to look and sound like.
  • importancy of smoothness
  • importance of neutral handling
  • Fast autocrossing in the old Maslulim location, compare with this in their new grounds.
  • Fast drifting. This one is far slower to begin with.
  • Fast Rallying, notice how Peter Solberg fails to notice a bird flying into his car, because he's concentrated on driving fast. Here you can see what it looks like going slow.
  • Fast racing and (relatively) slow driving.
  • Fast single-seater driving. Compare with Richard Hammond's slow time.