Test Day

This post is about a test day at Thunderhill with the Yaris. I’ll update it a few times as data comes in.

The day before

Tiernan came over today to help get the car ready. There were lots of minor things to do like make sure the radios, cold box, and telemetry were all working. Also the usual packing of jacks, tools, tires, etc. The Lemons Race is about 2 weeks away, and making sure everything works now will save us time and worry in the future.

So what exactly are we testing? Mostly tires and wings.

Tires

In the past, I’ve set the car up the way I like it and it turned out that nobody else liked it. So this time, I want to get several different drivers in the car to determine what setup everyone else likes. What we’re talking about here is the tendency to oversteer or understeer. I like a car that oversteers. That can be tuned with tire pressures, but even more drastically with tire compounds. There are 3 configurations I want to test.

  • Hankook RS-4 front and back (225/45/15). This is the “baseline fast setup”. To be sure, there are faster 200TW tires. But the RS-4 strikes a great balance between speed and longevity. It’s also the spec tire for Lucky Dog Racing League. I don’t plan on using tires stickier than the RS-4 because I don’t want the cost of switching out stickier rubber. I have rims in 15×9 and 15×8. I may test out both configurations to see if there’s a difference.
  • Hankook RS-4 front (225/45/15), Federal RS-Pro (215/40/17) rear. When I tracked my Elantra, I used Federal RS-Pro tires, which melted horribly. I still have 3 that are hardly used, and I want to try using them on the rear, where they might survive. I’m not sure what the grip balance is between these and the RS-4. Let’s see what my teammates think.
  • IRIS SEFAR front (215/40/17), Federal RS-Pro (215/40/17) rear. This is the Lemons Class C setup. It will probably understeer a lot as the IRIS tires are 300TW and the Federals are 200TW. I don’t want to go the other way around because too much oversteer in a race might not be very safe.

Wings

I wanted to test 2 different wings: eBay vs. 9 Lives Racing. I wasn’t able to get the 9LR wing mounted in time, so it looks like the test will be wing vs. no wing. In my previous testing, I thought the wing improved handling in fast corners. I’m curious what the other drivers think.

Data

I’ll be running an AiM Solo DL and video camera all day. Check back for to see that data.

Drivers

I may have as many as 4 drivers, but I’m not 100% sure who is showing up. I’m not planning on taking many laps myself, as I know the car pretty well. But I am curious to see how the RS-Pros feel on the rear and experience how bad the Lemons setup will be.

Test day

As they say, no plan survives contact with the enemy. In this case, the plan to test rear tires somewhat failed. The rear wheels were rubbing on the wheel wells, so we weren’t able to try the larger rear tires. I’ll have to cut the metal to make enough clearance. However, we were able to test a variety of tire pressures with the RS-4s and also test the IRIS SEFAR tires up front.

Weather or power?

There was a head wind on the main straight all day. This caused our top speed to be about 88 mph. I’ve seen 95 before. I don’t know if this was entirely due to the head wind or it was also a loss of power. I’ve experienced a loss of power before and found that changing the IAT solved it. I’ll have to get in there and clean it just to be sure.

Ideal tire pressures

Running RS-4s on all corners produced too much grip in the rear. Everyone complained that the car was pushing. We ended up overinflating the rears and that made a car that was pretty neutral. The final hot pressures were 34-35 front, 40-42 rear.

IRIS SEFAR

The $53 Lemons tires were nicely loud and produced okay grip. I took a few laps and posted a 2:26.01. This was about 5 seconds off my fast lap on the RS-4s (2:20.90). I don’t know if they will survive a whole race. Or even a whole day. But we’re going to try running these as a way of getting into C Class.

Here’s a picture of the abuse the SEFAR took after about 1 hour of hard driving.

Battery

My very expensive Li-ion battery died. It had been acting weird lately and it stopped working entirely right before the last stint. This is why we have test days. I’ll be replacing that pronto.

Analysis

Hasn’t happened yet

1.9 Z3 vs NA/NB Miata

Everyone knows that Miata Is Always The Answer. But have you considered a 1.9 Z3?

M44B19

Even though the iconic BMW E30 M3 was a 4 banger, when people think of BMWs, they usually think of inline 6s. Aside from the E30 M3, there isn’t much love for the 4 cylinder models. I had the opportunity to race an E36 318is at one point and team orders were to keep it under 5.5k rpm. As the power didn’t really come on until high revs, this made for a pretty tame ride. However, I did have a lot of fun in it, and I was amazed at how little fuel it used. I think it was in the same neighborhood as the Yaris at 4 gallons per hour. Since that time, I’ve been looking at various BMWs with the M42/M44 engine. In the US, these include the E30 318is, E36 318is, 318ti, and Z3. I briefly owned a 318ti, and I thought it ticked off a lot of boxes for me (RWD, hatchback, light, good MPG). The one box it didn’t tick was roadster. I’ve always loved the experience of driving a convertible, especially on track. I find the Z3 to be nearly perfect for me.

But what about the 6 cylinder Z3s (and Z4s) you ask? I don’t see the need for more power. I only want to drive so fast on track unless I have a complete roll cage around me. And I see absolutely no reason to sacrifice fuel economy for power on the street. I never drive fast on public roads. The small thrill isn’t worth the huge risk. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to hit someone. Another reason to favor the M44B19 is that the inline-sixes tend to tear out their differential mounts. The 2.3 might be okay, but I would worry about the 2.5, 2.8, and 3.0 engines.

Z3 vs. Miata

Pretty much every review of the 1.9 Z3 talks about how underpowered the car is. And it’s largely true. The power to weight is very similar to a 1.6 Miata. But does everyone complain about how underpowered Miatas are? Only a little. Instead they are praised for their great handling. I’ve owned a couple Miatas and I’ve driven 4 different Miatas on track. All were excellent. But I’m here to tell you that the Z3 is just as excellent. In fact, I like it even better. The Z3 interior is much more refined and the whole car feels more solid. Well, it ought to, it’s a lot heavier. Let’s compare them.

  • NA6 2092 lbs, 115 hp, 110 tq
  • NB 2348 lbs, 140 hp, 119 tq
  • NC 2535 lbs, 158 bp, 139 tq
  • Z3 2600 lbs, 138 hp, 133 tq

On my first track day, I was able to put down a 1:34.0 on $85 Federal Evoluzion ST1 tires at Thunderhill West. That’s definitely in NA Miata territory. But honestly, I’d rather have the performance of an NB. The Z3 makes about the same power as an NB, but it’s ~10% heavier. So how about a 10% more powerful Z3? There are engine builders that sell 200 hp M42B19 engines, but I’m in California and have to stay street legal. What are my options? Bolts-ons? ECU tuning?

Flash Tune

Midnight Tuning Solutions is a Canadian shop that specializes in tuning BMW engines. The BMW M44B19 isn’t just a simple chip swap. You have to ship your DME to them and have it flashed. However, for about $300, they promise +18 hp and +12 tq. Imagine a Z3 with 156 hp,145 tq, and a 7k redline…

Fuck imagination, take my money. I haven’t been to a dyno, so I don’t know the specifics, but it feels like a different car, especially at 4k and above. And about that rev range, I’m not sure it has a rev limiter anymore. I had it well above 7k and it didn’t cut. That’s something to be careful about. Overall, I’m really pleased with the improvement. 13% more power is really noticeable when you don’t start out with much, and $300 isn’t that much for something that is invisible and still passes smog.

Power:Weight

I weighed the Z3 today and it was 2640 lbs with a full tank. How do I weigh cars? I have a bathroom scale that reads up to 700 lbs. I shim all the wheels up to the same height as the scale and then move the scale from wheel to wheel.

  • Z3
    • 2640 (car) + 170 (driver) + 10 (gear) = 2820 lbs
    • 156 hp * 0.83 = 129.5 wheel hp
    • 21.78 lbs/hp
  • NB
    • 2350 (car) + 170 (driver) + 10 (gear) = 2530 lbs
    • 140 * 0.83 = 116.2 wheel hp
    • 21.77 lbs/hp

At least on paper, my lightly modified Z3 is nearly identical to a stock NB Miata. And the torque numbers are 145 to 119 in favor.

Conclusion

Miata is always, always, a great answer. But they are getting harder to find and the prices are going up and up. For the same money, you can now pick up a 1.9 Z3 that was probably owned by someone who didn’t abuse it.

Skid Pad Day!

Last post, I talked about my plans for a skid pad event with UCD students. No plan survives contact with the enemy. In this case, the enemies were an ignition switch in the Yaris and my inner ear. The Yaris ignition switch broke for unknown reasons. We tried fixing it and then hot-wiring the car. But there’s only so much time you can spend mucking around with cars when there’s an event to host. So we decided to abandon the Yaris. Sadly, that meant we weren’t going to be able to do the cafeteria tray shenanigans. Damn it, I was really looking forward to that. It’s a good thing I also brought the Z3. There were also a couple student cars there including a new Supra, an is350, and an Audi S4. The Z3 is an absolutely fantastic training car. It handles predictably and has enough power to be interesting but not enough to be worrying. I used the Federal Evoluzion ST-1 tires I had previously because they are highly durable and give good audible feedback. I also brought a pair of 500 TW all-season tires for the rear to make oversteer easier. It turns out that the 300TW/500TW imbalance was enough to make the car oversteer quite a bit, and the loss of the cafeteria trays wasn’t really missed.

How successful was the event overall? Let me sum it up this way. I needed to teach 3 of the students how to drive a manual transmission. By the end of the day, they were oversteering through corners. No, I didn’t teach the racing line or in-slow-out-fast. We focused on the only thing that really matters: driving the limit. You hear it in your ears. You feel it in your hands. You let your brain record those inputs and teach your muscles how to drive the limit. You can talk all day long about how it feels when the steering goes light, how the tires change in pitch, or how to make steering corrections. But ultimately, you have to drive the limit before you really understand how to drive the limit. If you want to correct oversteer, you have to experience oversteer. Doing that will probably see you spinning. A lot. And did the students spin? Of course they did. But they also recovered sometimes. Mission accomplished.

As for me? Being a passenger while novices learn car control ended up making me car sick. I spent part of the afternoon sleeping in my truck while I recovered. I hate getting nauseous, but it was worth it.

P.S. The next day I went to Pick-n-Pull and yanked some ignition switches from a couple of Toyota Camrys. Turns out that the same switch is used in a bunch of different Toyotas of the period, but oddly enough, not the very similar Scion xB. I figured this out only after pulling it. Doh. It’s a good idea to do the research first rather than second. Here’s a picture of the new unbreakable key.

Skid Pad Day

This Saturday I have the small skid pad rented at Thunderhill. I’m taking some UC Davis students from my “High Performance Driving” class there to get some first-hand experience with stuff we talk about in class. I’m bringing both my Z3 and Yaris to share with students. Here’s the list of drills we’re doing and what we hope to accomplish in each one. The track will be split in half most of the time, so sometimes there will be 2 different drills going on.

  • Listening to grip
    • Track: Circular
    • Activity: Going around in circles focusing on tire noise
    • Goal: Be able to recognize when tires have good/bad grip by what they sound like
  • Feeling balance
    • Track: Circular track
    • Activity: Get to tire-squealing speed then accelerate and decelerate to change balance of grip
    • Goal: Be able to feel oversteer and understeer through the steering wheel at the limit of traction
  • Hand positions
    • Track: Figure 8
    • Activity: Use different steering techniques (9-n-3, push-pull, hand-over-hand, one-handed) turning left and right
    • Goal: Be able to steer effectively using all techniques
  • Drifting
    • Track: Figure 8
    • Activity: Have fun trying to initiate and maintain drift
    • Goal: Learn various techniques to initiate drift: trail-brake, lift-throttle, flick, hand-brake. Learn how to maintain drift as long as possible.
  • Cafeteria Tray Rodeo
    • Track: Figure 8
    • Activity: Drive around the course with cafeteria trays on the rear wheels (FWD only)
    • Goal: Learn how to manage ridiculous amounts of oversteer
  • Heel-toe
    • Track: Square
    • Activity: Practice heel-toe
    • Goal: Gain appreciation and expertise in matching revs
  • Open Practice
    • Track: Figure 8
    • Activity: Work on whichever technique you want (hand position, drifting, rodeo, etc)
    • Goal: Gain muscle memory through repetitive training
  • Free Play
    • Track: Autocross
    • Activity: Work on cornering technique or drifting
    • Goal: Gain muscle memory while having fun

This is my first time renting the skid pad or running an event. Check back to see how it went.

Ranger #4

I just bought a new (used) vehicle! It’s a 2007 Ford Ranger FX4. Here are the specs.

  • 4.0L engine 207HP, 238TQ
  • Off-road package
  • Tow package: capacity 3100 lbs
  • SuperCab with clamshell doors
  • 2WD, 4WD high, 4WD low
  • Automatic transmission

This is my 4th Ford Ranger. My first was a 1996 I4 extra cab. I sold it when I moved to the UK. When I returned stateside, I bought a regular cab 1995. It was so basic that it had a bench seat and non-powered steering. Then I got a 2007 with a 3.0L V6. While I have a lot of fond memories of all the adventures in that, it was really underpowered for what I was doing. I’ve been looking for a replacement for a while that was 4×4 and auto (so the wife can drive). I was considering Nissan Frontiers, Honda Ridgelines, Toyota Tacomas, etc., but I ended up with another Ranger.

When bad stuff happens on a race track

My brother Mario is racing this weekend at PittRace in a 24 Hours of LeMons event. Mario hasn’t had a black flag since 2013 or something. Here’s a look at his 2021 black flag.

If you saw the blog post from last week, I talked about how the Vortex of Danger is your fault. You can’t control the idiots on track. You can only try to protect yourself from them. Even when you’re not looking for trouble, sometimes trouble comes looking for you.

What you see here is Mario getting hit after the Vortex. Hell, it’s well beyond the apex.

So what do you do when you’re knocked out of control and slipping through grass at over 80 mph? It’s way too late to plan. It’s even too late to think. This is when your muscle memory takes over. If you’ve deliberately driven on slippery surfaces, you have a better chance of surviving this. Driving in the rain or on snow, dirt, or gravel trains you for these situations. One of the biggest reasons to do sim racing is to train your muscle memory for situations you never want to get into in real life. If you’re a fair-weather driver, you have to trust to luck, and the racing gods aren’t very kind.

What about the other driver? Was it a mechanical problem? Was it a physical problem? Did the driver exhibit horrendous judgement? Whatever the issue was, if you hit someone and nearly end their race, you take ownership of the problem, you seek out the other driver, and you make it right between you. That’s the adult thing to do. Thankfully, that did happen the next day.

The Vortex of Danger is your fault

Randy Pobst is a professional racer and a really nice guy in person. Not only does he drive really fast cars in important races and do car tests for magazines, he also shows up at amateur endurance races and hangs out with casual racers, like me. I was fortunate to find him at a Lucky Dog Racing League race at Thunderhill and cajole him into taking a stint in my Yaris.

One of the things Randy is known for is his description of the “Vortex of Danger”. You can find him talking about this on YouTube videos and before endurance races he attends. The Vortex has even been added to the SCCA rule book. Here’s what it says.

“The Entry Vortex of Danger is a triangle inscribed by the turn-in point of the lead car, the apex, and the inside edge of the road. When overtaking, keep out of the Vortex of Danger. It’s too late to pass. The hole you see is closing rapidly, you are in a blind spot, there will likely be contact, and it will be your fault.”

“The Exit Vortex of Danger is a triangle inscribed by the apex, the track-out point of the lead car, and the outside edge of the road. When attempting a pass on the outside, be aware of the Exit Vortex of Danger, and back out of it if not in the lead car’s vision. It’s too late to safely pass. The hole you see on the outside is closing rapidly, you are in a blind spot, there will likely be contact, and it will be your fault.”

Got hit anyway? It was your fault

In the description of the Vortex of Danger, all of the emphasis is on the red car attempting to overtake the yellow car. But here’s the thing, the yellow car gets hit by the red car in every race. No, the red car isn’t supposed to hit the yellow car, but there are idiot drivers out there who go into the Vortex of Danger all the time. If you get hit by a car entering your Vortex of Danger, you have to realize one critical fact: you create your own Vortex of Danger.

If you take the typical racing line, you set up on the outside of the corner, clip the apex, and then track out to the exit. By starting on the outside, you end up creating a really large Vortex of Danger. You’re effectively inviting idiots to hit you.

However, if you start closer to the inside edge of the track, you create a smaller Vortex of Danger. Not only is it harder for idiots to hit you, but if they do, it will be on the rear of your vehicle, which is a lot sturdier than your wheel.

Every time you enter a corner, you choose how large your Vortex is. If you got hit because you let someone into your Vortex, that was your fault for trusting the idiot behind you. It’s really about trust. If you trust the driver behind you, then take the racing line. If not, don’t give them a chance to ruin your race.  What about the exit Vortex? You also create your exit Vortex. The more you track out, the greater its size.

Personally, I don’t trust anyone on a race track. If I’m faster than the drivers behind me and they are far enough back that they can’t hit me, I’ll take a racing line. If not, I’ll close down the entry and ruin the corner for the sake of safety. The entry and exit vortices are really different. On the entry, we’re braking, and people often misjudge braking. On the exit, it’s throttle, and that happens a lot slower, so there’s more time to react to situations. In other words, I concern myself with the entry much more than the exit.

Computer Upgrade and Sim Purge

I recently upgraded my racing/gaming computer. For some stupid reason, I still had a spindle on the main drive. With all of the programs/services running in the background these days, it’s pretty terrible if you don’t have an SSD. I decided to do a clean install of Windows and all the rest of my software. I’ve had a lot of racing games in my library over the last year including Assetto Corsa, Assetto Corsa Competizione, Automobilista, Automobilista 2, DiRT Rally, DiRT Rally 2.0, GTR 2, iRacing, Project CARS, Project CARS 2, RaceRoom Racing Experience,  rFactor, and rFactor 2.

Out of all that software, I only installed Assetto Corsa and DiRT Rally. Let me explain why I didn’t bother installing anything else.

  • Assetto Corsa Competizione is focused on a single racing series that I don’t give a shit about. I like older, analog cars without nannies. I also like racing on tracks I visit in real life.
  • Automobilista does not have nearly as many cars or tracks as Assetto Corsa. That said, if AC didn’t exist, I think AMS would be my main sim.
  • Automobilista 2 doesn’t have any modding and the control configuration is wonky.
  • DiRT Rally 2.0 isn’t as good as the original.
  • GTR 2 is too damn old and the handling is weird.
  • iRacing requires a monthly subscription, and I’m not willing to pay that right now.
  • Project CARS is nice to look at and the driving is mostly ok. But it doesn’t do anything better than AC.
  • Project CARS 2 is even nicer to look at but the driving is mostly not ok. Why are sequels so often worse than the original?
  • RaceRoom Racing Experience doesn’t have any modding and the microtransactions are annoying.
  • rFactor is good for nostalgic reasons, but it looks a bit too old for my tastes.
  • rFactor 2 recently upgraded their interface and completely broke the game for many users (like me). Also, the GUI sucks, so congrats on making unprovements. The studio announced that it was being acquired by another company. I don’t know if that’s good news or not.

One upside to having only 2 platforms is that I only had to configure my controls twice. Both AC and DR have really intuitive config tools, so I was able to get everything set up in a matter of minutes.

Assetto Corsa and DiRT Rally were released in 2014 and 2015. These are so old that you can pick them up on sale for a few dollars, and sometimes even for free. It’s sort of shocking that nobody has really improved on these despite several attempts. In some ways, that’s good news. People who are new to sim racing can pick up a cheap used computer and still have a serviceable system. A decent wheel (Thrustmaster, not Logitech) and load cell pedal set will set you back $600-1000 though. Considering how much everything else costs in the racing world (e.g. I just spent $700 on tires), sim racing is dirt cheap in comparison.

The advanced stuff

I was just listening to a Garage Heroes in Training podcast featuring Mike Skeen and was reminded that  Ross Bentley loves to say that “the advanced stuff is just doing the basics better”. I don’t disagree with much Ross says, but I disagree with this.

Natural Progression

In lots of sports, there is a natural progression of skills where it’s not really possible to do the advanced skills until the basics are mastered. There’s no way to skip to the end. To me, that creates a division between skills that can be learned early and those that cannot.

My favorite example of an advanced technique is the tennis serve. Take a look at the picture of Pete Sampras below. You’ll notice several strange things.

  • His right elbow is higher than his head
  • His right elbow is higher than his wrist
  • His racquet if facing straight down
  • His right palm faces away from his body

If you’re not a competitive tennis player, his position might look a little strange. How did he get his body into such a weird position? Most casual tennis players have a follow-through that looks like the image below.

  • The racquet head is down
  • The racquet has moved across the body
  • The palm is facing  inward

Casual tennis players learn to serve with a circular motion. The racquet face is pointed in the direction they want the ball to travel through most of the stroke. After the serve is done, their follow-through causes their racquet to be close to their knee on the opposite side. Contrast this to Pete Sampras. His racquet is nowhere near his knee. Why? Because the advanced, topspin serve, is absolutely nothing like the no-spin casual serve. Advanced driving also looks nothing like casual driving.

Advanced Driving

The key to advanced driving is corner entry oversteer. This has absolutely nothing to do with the vehicle being FWD, RWD, or AWD. If you think that oversteer is induced by spinning the rear wheels, you have a lot to learn about high performance driving. Oversteer is induced by decelerating and turning at the same time.

We can break down the driver actions millisecond by millisecond or discuss the physics for hours. None of this matters. You cannot learn to drive with corner entry understeer without experiencing it firsthand. You can buy a lot of performance in the car world, but you cannot buy the muscle memory to manage oversteer. This you must earn the hard way.

Training yourself to automatically recover and optimize oversteer takes many hours of deliberate practice that will undoubtedly result in spinning. It is impossible to learn how to become an advanced driver without finding the limits of you and your vehicle. If you are scared to spin your car, you will never learn how to recover from oversteer. It really is that simple. Spin not, win not.

Most HPDE organizations will kick you off the track if you spin 3 times. Some will even end your day on the second offense. That’s because HPDE organizations are (rightly) more concerned with safety than you becoming an advanced driver. Don’t be a selfish idiot on track who takes other peoples’ track time away. And don’t be a criminal and imagine the streets are your playground.

Reconciling

So why do I think Ross says “the advanced stuff is just doing the basics better?” I think his primary message is how important it is to do the basics. Every great athlete has sound fundamentals. Now you may look at a specific athlete like Stephen Curry and note that his jump shot is a little unusual. Yes, he broke with tradition and shoots on the way up. But his footwork is impeccable. I think Ross would also say that if you’re serving with a circular motion, you aren’t actually doing the basics correctly. Well, if the basics are as hard to perform as a topspin serve, I don’t think they should be called basic. 

What next?

Driving is fun at every level. You don’t need to become an advanced driver. You don’t need to spin your car off track risking expense and injury. Take the responsible road and drive well below the limit. Everyone will thank you for it. Maybe it’s better to be an enthusiastic amateur than a jaded professional. No, that was not a sex joke. YSAR is too classy for sex jokes.

What’s wrong with heel-toe?

YSAR reader Tyler asked me to talk a little more about why heel-toe shifting is a waste and why most people do it wrong. This answer will take a bit longer than a simple reply in the comment section.

If you look up heel-and-toe shifting in Wikipedia, you’ll find a very good description of the technique and why it’s used. Key points of this article are the following:

  • The history of the term comes from way back when the accelerator was the middle pedal in the car. Back then, the heel was on the brake and the toe was on the accelerator.
  • In order to do the technique, the pedals have to be positioned properly.
  • The brake is actuated with the ball of the foot and the throttle is actuated by the side of the foot using a rocking motion at the ankle. The wikipedia article doesn’t say what the heel is doing, but it’s firmly planted on the floor. I like putting a bar of aluminum in the floor to anchor my heel on.
  • Downshifting abruptly in a corner can cause loss of control. The purpose of heel-toe shifting is to prevent any jolts by spinning up the transmission to same speed as the road speed.

What’s wrong with heel-toe

The number one problem with heel-toe is that people practice it on the street. In order to get better at a skill, of course you have to practice it. But if you practice it incorrectly, you ingrain doing it the wrong way in your muscle memory. Imagine you want to get better at serving in tennis, so you practice every day in your bedroom. The ceiling isn’t very high, so you can’t toss the ball very high or hit it with full extension. While you may initially get more balls in the court with your abbreviated stroke, your serve will eventually become your greatest weakness and will be very difficult to fix.

People who heel-toe shift on the street aren’t learning in a proper environment. Heel-toe shifting happens during threshold braking. Who does threshold braking from 100 mph to 50 mph on the street? Nobody. Well, I hope nobody.

When driving on track, your engine RPM is usually above 4k the whole time. People on the street are generally under 4k the whole time. Lots of street drivers blip as soon as they apply the brake. There’s no problem doing that at 4k because your revs just jump to 6k. But try yanking the car out of gear at 6k and blipping at the same time. Now your engine is at 8k if your rev limiter doesn’t cut in. But it gets worse. The engine and transmission revolutions are dropping precipitously without load. And you’re still slowing for the upcoming corner. By the time you’re done braking and want to start accelerating, you’re having to feed out the clutch gradually from the bottom of the tach. If you have to feed the clutch out gradually, you didn’t match revs.

I like making up new terms, so let me indulge myself.

Heel-faux shifting: feeding the clutch out gradually due to an early application of clutch and throttle

Note that I’m not claiming that everyone who does heel-toe on the street is doing it wrong. I’m saying there’s a danger in learning to do it the wrong way, and that it can become a bad habit that’s hard to break.

But wait, there’s more

Heel-toe shifting is a complex technique that takes a lot of attention if it’s not an automatic reflex. Using your attention for heel-toe means you have less attention for sensing speed, sensing grip, listening, observing, etc. With the exception of very slow corners, it’s almost always faster to stay in 3rd gear rather than shift to 2nd. Blip-shifting and trail-braking at the same time are really difficult to coordinate. Trail-braking is a lot more important than blip-shifting, so give it all the attention it deserves.

Another reason not to blip shift is because it puts your focus on the engine when your focus should be on grip. People who focus on the engine tend to enter corners 5-10 mph too slow. Having entered the corner so far below the limit, and with the car in the optimal power band, they can’t help but to mash the throttle. Which leads to understeer and running out of room at the exit. If your car is understeering, it might be your fault. Because you are braking too much. Because you are focused on the engine rather than entry speed.

Highlights at 11

Simultaneously blip-shifting and trail-braking through a corner and having the car seamlessly transition from deceleration to cornering to acceleration is a glorious thing. It’s like ripping a topspin backhand and cleaning the line for set point. However, there’s another way to make the highlight show… bloopers. Watching people heel-toe on YouTube is usually more sports blooper than sports highlight.

Instead of heel-toe

So let’s say you don’t want to heel-faux your way to infamy. What do you do instead? Drive the entire track in high gear? Well, that does happen to be an excellent training exercise, but no. Just keep the car in gear until that last moment and then downshift smartly. By smartly I mean both quickly and intelligently. Don’t shift so quickly that you upset the car or risk damaging the transmission.