Breakthrough or delusion?


(Dom Callan) #1

I had a potentially significant level up over the course of last race weekend and I need to articulate it, throw it out there, and see what you folks think.

So here goes:
Over the course of the final race, my coach walked me through the evolution of the laps and helped me understand when I “came into” my driving. Long story short for the first 8-9 laps I’m hunting for balance and speed, lap 10 I find it and everything changes, gets tighter but more fluid, basically, go-time.

Up until recently, I have been driving point-to-point. Accelerate… decelerate. Think of the space between turns as being all about acceleration and the defining characteristic of the turn being the deceleration. Big, long braking. So in effect, my driving has been big waves crashing on a beach. I see a turn, go as fast as I can to it, then try to remove speed in big bites.

Bear in mind that under this model, every turn is an island. Nothing links together. Accelerate, decelerate, turn in, get back on gas, go. They are all steps that must be accomplished as you try to manage the forces being thrown at you. You are too busy trying to get the steps right that you forget that what is done in this corner affects the entry into the next corner. Basic stuff, but hard to process when you are learning how to pilot a kart at speed.

Sorta the reason I have been driving this way is because that’s what I thought you were supposed to do: Brake late and hard, be forceful. Etc.

That’s not really it at all. The Norberg analysis I did was to try to articulate what I think I’ve learned. And he’s got the skill set to illustrate it.

Over the course of the race, I started being less and less “wave-like” and more “constant throttle”. Meaning that rather than trying to build a wall of power that is then literally thrown into the turn (heavy braking), I instead started looking for reasons to feed throttle as constantly as possible and, importantly, use the brakes like a scapel. Sharp, fast braking to slice or peel speed off as opposed to heavy, chopping off of speed braking.

So imagine the entry to a turn… as you approach the turn, instead of preparing to go in hot and brake hard, instead keep the throttle going buzz buzz, quickly peel whatever speed off you need earlier than normal and get right back on throttle (even just a little peck) so that you are building throttle as early as possible.

You will be, if you judge the scalpel work correctly, able to effectively accelerate through everything. You will be on gas earlier and earlier. You will be getting faster launches that flow into the next turn and so on and so forth.

Norberg illustrates this beautifully. When I said you can’t tell where the throttle ends and the braking begins, this is what I meant. He is on boil from the get go because he doesn’t drive in a binary start/stop point-to-point way. He goes out, gets the revs up and pins them there, shaving off little bits as needed, while the almost constant throttle keeps his kart balanced, on edge, turning freely.

The side effect of driving this way is that, if you are constantly looking for excuses to feed the slightest bit of throttle in, you are going to find yourself filling in the “gaps” in your driving, the moments when normally you’d lift or be slow transitioning to brakes. In short, you will be much much faster as you will, as a byproduct of this, be on gas much sooner (you never really left). And because you have “quickened” your fluidity goes off the charts. As the true grip potential of the kart is revealed, everything starts to “fly” or “float”.

The other byproduct of this is balance. A loaded kart is a balanced kart. I used to think that, so long as I was either accelerating or braking, I was loaded up. I really wasn’t. Load isnt speed or G-forces. It’s how close to the limit of the tires and the chassis you get and keeping the kart right there. Heavy braking steals balance. Throttle settles the kart. More throttle, less brake.

Final and most impressive side effect. Throttle input while turning induces good stuff in terms of grip. It locks the kart down and in turns that you’d normally “scritch”, it just doesn’t.

In my case, the speed came on too late in the race to catch second. But I know what I’m looking for now and that dude is doomed.

Does this resonate with any of you or have I lost my mind? I am not sure I am correct here, I am hopeful though. Proof will be in next race. Post session data indicates theoretical best lap that was eye opening. (Sub 41 at etown. My best ever is 41.2.). It also revealed new absolute speed records (for me) both min speed and max speeds. I picked up 3-4 mph in multiple corners, also. I think this is a real change.


(Ted Hamilton) #2

Up until now, I drove like your early description, probably from too many car driving books, etc. I’m focusing on fluidity now as well… Glad you did a write up, and I’ll be curious to read the next edition. I’ll post back. I’m “re-learning” karting at 42, having only dabbled enough in the past to realize some missing links. “subconscious” driving, linking things together is my goal. Good luck in your progression…unless we’re on track together. :slight_smile:


(TJ Koyen) #3

I think we started to work on this a little bit last year, where we were looking to tackle sections of the track rather than focusing on each corner as an individual task. Specifically on that last section at E-Town.

There will definitely be sections you need to tackle with hard braking and quick throttle input and there will be sections where you are trying to keep a rhythm and be more delicate. But I don’t think it’s just a matter of either “driving hard” or “getting on the throttle early”. You can definitely achieve both, they aren’t mutually exclusive. I think it goes without saying that you should be on throttle as early as possible. Some corners will require you to brake harder and later, but in a flowing section, you will want to be trying to drive the kart through the corners more. You always want to be loading the kart through the corner, not in the middle of the corner.

I think everything you’re saying you already knew in the back of your head as pieces, but maybe watching the Norberg video caused you to assemble those pieces into a more coherent strategy. I’d say breakthrough. :beer:


(Dom Callan) #4

I didn’t mean to imply that braking goes away, rather than it’s not the main thing anymore. Certainly it still is the case that I have to dump 32mph in about 20 feet entering turn 6. The difference is how that braking is going to he expressed, the lead up to it, how I hit the brakes, how long I am in braking. I think you will be seeing a considerable change in carry speed and exit.

Further edit: it’s doesn’t feel like I’m driving hard when I’m on it and I’m flying. It feels like I’m driving hard in the initial laps when I’m hunting. When I get to that point where it’s all coming together the sensation is slippery and light, but really really intense. It all just kinda works and it’s smooth but powerful.


(Dom Callan) #5

Ted, I look forwards to it. Maybe we can become the old, fast guys!


(Ted Hamilton) #6

My goal is a national-level win… If only to prove to myself that I’m capable. And I want it to be a legit win against people like TJ not a 3 entrant gift win. We’ll show those young whippersnappers how to do it!


(Dom Callan) #7

I haven’t figured out my goal yet, but beating the fearsome John Bonanno is part of it!


(Lee Swindell) #8

Nicely articulated Dom. I’m a fan of these driving metaphors

I too am chasing ‘loaded flow’. One of the few things I feel I can throw in here is a technique I’ve used to move my game forward, which is to imagine the brake pedal having a razor blade welded to it.

I once realised that almost all my use of the brake had nothing to do with the capabilities of the kart - it was a fear reflex which I had to eradicate.

There’s a cool sweeper at the end of a long downhill straight at the track I ran on as a kid, and one day I set out to conquer it. Over a dozen laps I used the razor blade metaphor to replace a reflexive step on the brake with a lift of the gas, which each lap became increasingly brief. This eventually led to driving that sweeper wide open without touching the brake, and as far as I knew I was the only guy in my class doing it (on crappy rubber at that).

You’ll know how much speed a kart scrubs away from pushing a kart along the ground with some steering lock on. I’m working on using that effect to adjust entry speed while treating the brake pedal as if it were poison. I suspect most drivers don’t realise the extent to which a touch of the brake wrecks momentum.

At a high level, I’m trying (in the speed limited karts I race) to reverse engineer my driving from the karts ideal state of motion, which is maximum speed in a straight line. The challenge then is shaving speed and steering to cope with those deviations away from straight.

This goes to your scalpel model Dom, which is the opposite of a digital point and squirt method and thus conducive (I think) to finding ‘flow’.

The point of all this is that (I suspect) ‘flow’ is what’s left when you start with that ideal state of motion, and then minimise your inputs to make it round the lap.

What do you coaches, psychologists and regular winners out there think?

Lee


(Dom Callan) #9

Gee Lee,
Thanks for sharing that. It’s great to hear what you are searching for, and from whence that came. I bet that everyone driving is searching likely for answers to the same questions.

This interests me:

“Over a dozen laps I used the razor blade metaphor to replace a reflexive step on the brake with a lift of the gas, which each lap became increasingly brief. This eventually led to driving that sweeper wide open without touching the brake”

Did this carry over to your broader driving or did it remain as a solution for a specific turn? Did it change your thinking and approach or did it not have significance at the time?


(Lee Swindell) #10

Yea, this was the biggest breakthrough I’ve ever made as a driver, and it led to the next biggest breakthrough I’ve made as a driver, which is aiming inside the apex while carrying enough speed that the kart ‘’yeilds’ onto the correct geometric line.

This means driving a collision course with the Armco or tyre stack or whatever lines the inside of the apex. It takes some guts to do because getting it wrong (or worse, attempting to bail once you’ve committed) is going to hurt.

That sweeper didn’t have tyres or rail or aggressive kerb, just a 4 inch drop into dirt so I was able to learn this relatively free of risk. I this case I was whipping through there with the inside wheels hanging in the air.

Not sure if this is a version of TJs ‘driving under the rubber’ - but it sort of feels like it to me. I guess it’s really just driving to the slip angle.


(Lee Swindell) #11

And to be clear - I’m no race driving legend. I’ve never won a ‘proper’ kart race - This is just stuff I’ve discovered in trying to get better. there’s plenty of genuinely good drivers here who’ll take me to task for what I’ve written.

Which I hope they do.


(Dom Callan) #12

which is aiming inside the apex while carrying enough speed that the kart ‘’yeilds’ onto the correct geometric line.
This means driving a collision course with the Armco or tyre stack or whatever lines the inside of the apex

Are you describing some kind of anticipatory awareness? Are you trying to rotate the kart on the way in to the blind apex, approaching it from below, effectively?
I
I’ve always imagined “under the rubber” involving approaching the apex from a more “below” angle and using the rubber to act as a sorta grip-backstop to throw yourself into. My description of this is wrong but that’s how I interpret it.

How does that slip angle look to you? Is it a line you drive or a feeling or both? I have noticed that in the laps I drove where I was totally “on top” of the kart, my driven lines in GPS got “rounder”.

Example: light green is a very good lap where I’m flying the kart, blue is where I am in late mid race, trying to get the damn thing to light up. It’s not a terrible lap but it’s an example of my normal driving. Some good stuff and some bad stuff, inconsistent. In any case, when I start “planing” or driving on the slip angle, look at how the line changes.


Green Turn 4 into 5 seems to be “under the rubber” (top right corner) as compared to the more pointy blue version. At this point my tires are almost done. I’m fairly certain that the light green line, on pre-final tires, whould have gone very low indeed.


(Lee Swindell) #13

“Are you describing some kind of anticipatory awareness? Are you trying to rotate the kart on the way in to the blind apex, approaching it from below, effectively?”

No anticipation Dom and no blind apex - merely driving a suicidal trajectory while carrying enough speed to avoid suicide. Which might be the ‘approaching it from below’ that you propose.

Visualise a 90 degree sweeper with a stack of tyres inside the apex kerb. I used to aim at the kerb and miss. Instead I started aiming at the tyre stack, making sure I was going fast enough that the kart couldn’t hold that line. I started nailing difficult apexes more reliably. Not guaranteed because I wasn’t practiced enough. But it was a breakthrough.

“I’ve always imagined “under the rubber” involving approaching the apex from a more “below” angle and using the rubber to act as a sorta grip-backstop to throw yourself into. My description of this is wrong but that’s how I interpret it.”

I relate here - aim below the rubber and ‘yeild’ into it. TJ?

“How does that slip angle look to you? Is it a line you drive or a feeling or both?”

A line in the first instance, which generates a feeling - clarity. I find focussing on the kerb at the apex really hard because it’s so indistinct at speed. A tyre stack or Armco is bigger and more definite, thus easier to focus on. That said, it’s counterintuitive and therefore hard. And maybe wrong if you ask the fast dudes. But, I’ve yet to demonstrate to myself that it’s the wrong way to drive.

Can’t be much use interpreting your graphic because I can’t imagine a track less conducive to what I’m trying to describe because the corners are so long. A karts’ ratio of linear to lateral acceleration (so the rate at which it scrubs speed) makes this idea something I’d suggest trying in short, fast corners. In this situation it can be the difference between trimming speed and getting through there flat out.


(Dom Callan) #14

That’s very interesting. I wonder if some of what makes that possible is how the kart behaves under acceleration. On the one hand you have the scrubbing of speed from steering angle, on the other hand, putting the throttle in hunkers down the kart and induces some understeer.

When you aim at the corner, you are aiming inside the apex, rather than trying to clip the outside of it? I am guessing you aren’t sliding through. So, the wheel scrub from turning is what does the braking, mainly?


(TJ Koyen) #15

So what you’re saying is that when you look at the apex, you miss wide, but when you look at the barrier/tires/armco you hit the apex perfectly? So it’s like sighting in a gun scope. Your visual reference point wasn’t letting you hit your target, so you just adjusted the scope a little and started compensating your aim and you started to hit the target.

That seems viable. You’re not really doing anything different than I would coach with your actual physical driving, you’re just using reference points and marks that work for you, which is something all drivers should do. I have my own set of marks on each track, someone else might use different marks to achieve the same thing.


(Lee Swindell) #16

TJ:

Great analogy.

I’d extend It by visualising shooting a target with a cross wind. The adjustment you’ve made for the cross wind is analogous to the slip angle of the tyre.

Aim wide to hit your mark.


(Lee Swindell) #17

Dom:

Aiming inside the apex, yes. Not sure what you’re referring to With ‘clip the outside of it’. If ‘outside’ in this case is your normal apex point on the track, then yes. I hit this by aiming inside that point while carrying enough speed for the kart to not be able to make that line (which is great, because I’ve just hit my apex instead of the Armco).

Sliding: correct - not sliding. The delta between steering angle and trajectory is (I guess) the slip angle.

And yes, I’m trying to where possible trim speed with steering alone, not steering and brake. I think this will force me to find a slower rhythm, which I hope is another breakthrough in the making.


(Dom Callan) #18

Ok gotcha. I think I see it. I remember seeing a guy at Jim Hall, one of the instructors trying to make the kart go round the 90 at the end of the straight using wheel angle and body English to try to get the kart to turn. In his case, it was the end of the straight so too much speed, but I suspect he thought it doable.

Lemme see if i got this. You aim inside of the apex, but since you aren’t using brakes, you get some push? That undershoots what you are aiming at but clips apex, which is what you wanted.


(Lee Swindell) #19

The 90 at the end of the straight sounds like a candidate for what I’m describing. If the driver thinks it might be flat, then he/ she is almost certainly right. The challenge then is figuring out how to do it. Some drivers might adjust track or something at this point, but the permutations of setup are way too confusing for me so I’m more inclined to look for answers in my driving.

I’d suggest seperating the braking and slip angle issues in your thinking tho - they aren’t necessarily related. You can try the slip angle experiment on sweepers that don’t need brakes. you might find you can get through there with less lock and less scrub, therefore more speed.

I needed to use brakes to work up to slip-angle speeds tho, and gradually replace brakes with deliberate scrub, and ultimately no brake and no scrub. At this point I couldn’t see how the kart couldn’t go any faster - it was accelerating through a turn that before I’d previously been braking for.

Sounds like you’ve got it tho - undershooting what you’re aiming for at a high enough speed in order to hit your apex.

And remember - this might be all wrong. Try it and let me know if it works. I reckon it does. Big.


(Dom Callan) #20

[quote=“Motormouse, post:19, topic:3727”]
I needed to use brakes to work up to slip-angle speeds tho, and gradually replace brakes with deliberate scrub, and ultimately no brake and no scrub. At this point I couldn’t see how the kart couldn’t go any faster - it was accelerati
[/quote]…

I think I know exactly what you mean. Driving in sim, I have been experiencing something similar.

Edit: not the deliberate miss, but finding the way through like a gravity snake.