Instructing Timid Drivers
Published: September 16, 2014
When working with timid drivers (they are often very new to track driving, although sometimes timidness is more of a personality trait than lack of experience) I have had good results with the following progression:
- Give the driver reference points.
- Get the driver to consistently drive reference points with my input.
- Have the driver drive the same way without my input.
- Adjust reference points for increased speed.
The first three steps give the driver confidence in their existing pace, along with a tool to develop this confidence: reference points. The fourth step then increases the pace in small steps, utilizing reference points to maintain driver confidence.
There are three general ways of giving driver input (that's braking, turning or throttle application) instructions to a driver: reference points, immediate commands and what I will call "remote visuals". For example, in case of a turn-in point, this is what I would use for each approach:
- Reference point: "Turn at the end of the curb."
- Immediate command: "Turn now."
- Remote visual: "Look at the apex."
As instructors, we initially develop instructions as immediate commands - when the car gets to the appropriate turn-in point, we know and can say "turn now". From the driver's standpoint, however, immediate commands offer no time to process them - the driver can execute the given command but often cannot tie the command into the lap, that is, the following lap they cannot turn in at the same point.
Reference points are a step above immediate commands. Once the instructor identifies, say, a turn-in point, they are immediately looking at the track around it to find a reference point that they can give to their driver. On the first lap the instructor would not say anything; on the second lap the instructor would say - way before the turn-in point is reached - "turn at the end of the curb".
This lead time is what permits the driver to process what they are supposed to be doing, and eventually execute the maneuver at the right time completely on their own.
Intermediate and advanced drivers are often able to identify the reference points on their own; hence, "turn now" often works fine with these drivers.
I use remote visuals to complement the line that the driver should already understand, as the apex does not really identify the turn in point.
With the reference points in place, the next step is repetition. The length of this step varies with drivers but eventually the driver should be able to brake or turn very consistently at the same point. Until the driver is consistent, say within a foot of reference point, I continue reminding them of the reference point every lap. Once the driver consistently hits the reference point with my input I ask them to drive the corner on their own.
The easiest example is speed on straights and braking - if the driver lifts in the middle of the straight and brakes at the 3 marker, I might tell the driver to stay on throttle until the 5 marker and brake at the 5 marker.
In corners it is important that the driver does not turn in too early. Supposing we were turning at the end of the curb, at a faster speed we might turn in one foot before the end of the curb, and I would then say "turn one foot before the end of the curb" and expect the driver to wait until the one foot rather than turning in two feet before the end of the curb.