How do you approach a new track?

(Dom Callan) #1

So I went to a new to me track last weekend and spent the day going round in circles getting the feel of the place.
I am headed back on the 26th and want to start shaving off some time.
I lack discipline when it comes to this and could use some advice as to how to approach this.
What should I mess with? Braking points? Entry speed? Carrying sped thru apex? Line tweaking?
Knowing me I’ll try to mess with everything. And get nowhere.
If it were you, what one or two things would you mess around with to try to start improving your times?
Here’s a lap:

(Eric Gunderson) #2

A track walk is always a great place to start. Even if you have been to the track before, just go walk it early in the morning by yourself. Take as much time as you need. It will help you get into a good frame of mind.

The next thing I would say is try to run what you believe to be the proper racing line every lap. Focus less on the speed, and more on the line. If you can simply drive the line, the speed will come. Adjust as necessary.

(TJ Koyen) #3

Also I always try to visualize each corner relative to a similar corner on another track, so you can sort of get your bearings and approach down quicker.

I always take a few laps of my first session at 50% pace just to get a feel for the flow of the track, then slowly dial it up, focusing on nailing one section at a time. So I’ll say to myself, “okay I’m going to try braking really deep this time into turn 1, maybe there’s time to be found there yet…” and once I’ve sorted that section, I’ll move onto the next one… “maybe if I jump this kerb I can set up better for the corner after it…” and just working my way around the track until I’ve got each section down.

Once you’ve built up a knowledge base of corners and combinations of corners, you’ll find it’s much much easier to learn a new track, as you have a bunch of internal data on entry, apex, and exit points to compare off of. I’ve also found that figuring out the braking point and turn-in point for any corner almost automatically sorts out the throttle application point, the apex, and the exit. So I try to figure out my turn-in first.

When we go to SuperNats, the layout changes almost every year. The best guys are on the pace from about lap 5 of the first session on. The less experienced drivers can take all day to figure the track out. I remember watching Nicastro go ballistic fast the first session one year, like several tenths clear of everyone else in the class. He has so much experience and he’s so good, that he was able to come out of the gate and say “oh this corner is like this other corner on track X, this braking zone is the same as the approach to turn 3 at track Y…”

(Dom Callan) #4

What would you say to someone that doesn’t have a ton of confidence in terms of knowing what’s “right” in terms of the line due to relatively low experience.

When I go out there I am taking my best guess in terms of how to get around the turns, but I am not worldly enough to be able to draw on a reservoir of past experience to validate my assumptions.

For example in the video I posted, look at the last turn (double apex u thingy). My guess is that you can be wide the first apex marker and try to late apex into the 2nd marker, which would put you on a straighter and faster line coming out. Looking at other videos, I see some folks doing that as well and some folks taking that turn normally where you clip both markers.

(TJ Koyen) #5

The issue is that you just simply don’t have the confidence, like you said, to push the kart to the limit, let alone push it to the limit in a new setting. It sounds like a cop-out on my part, but really the only way you’ll figure that stuff out is trying it and getting more laps and getting more comfortable. There is no substitute for ass-in-the-seat-time. And there isn’t necessarily one way to nail every corner. There could be multiple ways to tackle a section.

(Davin Roberts Sturdivant) #6

Also, if you’re comfortable putting data off of your Mychron, you can take a look at RPM, Speed and Lateral G traces and see where you’re the most inconsistent.

That or, in an analog way, pick the one corner that you’re having the most trouble with and start working on improving the line through just that corner. As you get a feel for it, then move progressively around the track, a corner at a time.

(Dom Callan) #7

Gotcha and agreed. I guess what I am looking for is to figure out how to make the most out of my seat time.

(Eric Gunderson) #8

Prepare for your practice days, and if you have the luxury to do so, go find a track day where no one else is around. Laps, laps, laps, laps. If you are really looking to shorten the learning curve, looking at data, other onboard videos, or working with a more experienced driver/coach are all great tools you can use if you don’t feel super confident in your own driving.

(Paul Fox) #9

First post here guys, so hello to everyone. Well, I was in your shoes not too long ago and kind of still am! I think before you start turning laps I would make sure you have a good understanding of general race craft, line strategy and common race scenarios. One book that I’ve read cover to cover over and over again would be Michaell Krumm’s Driving on the Edge. It will go over traditional lines that would be considered text book, and also a more progressive or “new school” lines that may help. Either way this book has shortened the learning curve tremendously, and my test/practice days always have purpose.

(Jamie Gonzalez) #10

I am actually new to karting (at 40 years of age!). I believe I was running with you that day. I am still on very steep learning curve.

The most important thing to work on is braking. I am still getting the feel of maximum threshold braking . 75% of your lap time is going to come from getting on brakes hard at right spot and getting kart slowed down and getting kart down to apex at correct speed. It is very difficult to learn and takes alot of laps.

You need to brake very very hard very very quickly with control. It is much different than road car and it is suprising how hard you can hit the brake.

At Etown they have several very quick drivers and many are willing to give you advice. I learned alot just by following and asking questions. Most of quick drivers can critique you quickly and give you simple things to work on.

In my humble opinion it all about braking and loading the kart for the corner.

(TJ Koyen) #11

When I was about 12, and just starting out, I got driving lessons from a very accomplished kart racer and all we did all day was work on braking. He kept moving the cone designating the braking point further and further into the corner each lap until I was locking the brakes up to get the kart slowed down. I learned more about kart control, traction limits, and braking in that one afternoon than I did in a full year of racing before that. Best $50 I ever spent on racing.

It’s just a matter of getting fully comfortable at the limits of the kart. You have to learn where that knife edge is so you can be in total control of the kart and drive it, rather than it driving you. I see lots of young kids who are fast but totally out of control in the kart. They don’t know where the limit is, they are just holding on out there. So when it comes to overtaking or defending or altering their line or anything that deviates from the muscle memory they have programed in their head for that particular track, they’re totally lost. An experienced driver knows exactly how their kart will react in every conceivable situation, and how to get the kart to do what they want to whenever they want it to. So they rarely crash, they rarely make mistakes, they are effective at defending and attacking, and they’re super consistent and quick at every track they go to.

I’m sort of veering off-topic but I think these are important points to make for anyone who is learning to go faster, and hopefully the OP get’s some helpful pointers from it!

(Aaron Hachmeister) #12

Funny, I just worked with a guy on braking a couple weeks ago, and it helped a ton. I’m starting to really get confident in my braking now, which has been a huge problem of mine for a good while. I started to realize that was a good part of my pace issues, is that I never push the braking hard enough.

I definitely agree that a big thing is to get comfortable with the kart. I want to get to the track soon and do nothing but push a braking zone until I’m backwards on the track. A good part of learning a track is figuring out where the limits are from the start. Alexander Kardashian came out to Badger last week to prep for Man Cup, and set the second fastest time in our first heat. This was his first time on the extension, second ever at the track. It’s just how well he knows his kart and can figure out everything like that.

As a side note: OP has the best profile picture I have seen on this site, if not anywhere

(Dom Callan) #13

Good stuff all, thanks. I think I might try to really push it on the braking next time and rethink my turn in points. I appreciate the pointers.
If you see an older guy in a big red suit with a GoPro on his head, say hi!

(Aaron Hachmeister) #14

I’ll have to keep that in mind. Where is your home track?

(Dom Callan) #15

Don’t really have one as if yet but it’s looking like englishtown, nj will most likely be the one I go to most. First time out there last Saturday and going again on the 26th. Prior to that did all my karting at jim halls facility in Oxnard, ca.

(Paul Fox) #16

You should come and visit ovrp in ny. It’s about 2 hours from etown. Really a nice track now.

(Dom Callan) #17

It’s on my list for sure. Maybe this fall.

(Paul Fox) #18

Lmk when you head up. There usually every Monday or weekends if there is no club events.

(Dom Callan) #19

Their karting club championship series are the “fun” races?
Is that distinct from the northeast super series?

Their club series classes are IAME masters or TAG masters. Is there a difference other than one is Rok/Rotax and the other X30/leopard? Is one less hardcore than the other?

(Paul Fox) #20

Hey Dom,

I believe that is seperate series from their normal club events. But I could be wrong. I haven’t ran any events yet but will be shortly.

As far as class structure,and I assume your over the age of 15, lol, you could either run senior Tag, IAME masters, or Tag masters depending on engine your running. Here’s the link that goes over everything.

Hope this helps a little.