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      05-01-2012, 01:35 AM   #1
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First track day - car rotation

Hiya,

yesterday was my first track day... it was at a local track meant for go-karts, but still big enough for cars...

It was a blast... I'm rather scientific about the things I do, so instead of trying to go fast, I decided it would be best to drive smoothly and just concentrate on one or two corners and get the line right there...

I was with a friend of mine in his MX-5. He's among the fastest drivers there (he has a 1.6 no mods and is faster than most guys with 2.0 engines). He was my instructor, and tried to teach me car rotation.

Basically, what he does is drive into a corner, stays on the brakes hard, and gets the car to rotate this way (by bringing weight onto the front tires and transferring weight off the rear). Is this the correct technique of getting the car to turn?

I was more under the impression that the car will turn under gas? Or does this only apply with a LSD? Or does it not apply at all? He doesn't have an LSD. From what I've read, to tighten the radius, you should step on the gas - with a LSD, power will be transferred to the outward (rear) wheel, creating a rotation.

Second, am I doing the right thing concentrating on the line of one or two corners at a time? Or where should I begin? Should I first try to get the line of the whole track, and then keep on going faster and faster?

Any help welcome.

Thanks.
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      05-01-2012, 08:29 AM   #2
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You have it all wrong. instead of attending a free-for-all on a go-kart track, you should look into a properly set up school like BMW CCA events with PROPER instruction rather than relying on a friend to teach you, IMO.

In a constant cornering state, adding throttle widens the radius, and easing off throttle or even braking reduces radius. Your concept of vehicle dynamics is backwards. LSD only sends power to the outside wheel when the inside wheel is slipping, and even then to get the car to rotate the LAST thing you want to do is to force the rear wheels to do the turning.

Without any of the basic skills to build speed upon you will eventually get to a point where you're going fast enough to wad up your car.

Lastly, the "line" for each corner is irrelevant. It's what your eyes tell you where you need to go. Yes there are ideal lines to go through each corner with, but if you don't already know the ideal line, whatever line you chose is probably going to be WRONG. Without training your eyes and brain to understand why you should pick a particular line through every corner, you will not achieve speed you crave. And this is where proper instruction is vital, if you don't know what the ideal line looks like, you won't know it until someone who actually knows shows it to you.

You know my famous proverb about driving and sex.
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      05-01-2012, 08:59 AM   #3
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Like the HACK said you should attend a proper school. What your friend was doing is called trail braking. You shouldnt be focusing on trail braking but focusing on looking ahead to the next corner. Train your eyes and your hands will follow. Ive had too many students that tend to look down towards the edge of their hood. Try to keep your head up and look to the next corner (entry apex, corner, exit apex, next corner). Dont be afraid to turn your head to where you want to steer your car. Keep yours eyes moving to what is next. A good driver will already have his next corner layed out in his head before he completes the corner he is making.
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      05-08-2012, 01:22 PM   #4
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I agree with Hack and 335idGuy. Your friend may be fast and skilled but teaching is a whole different ball game as I'm sure the others here would agree.

To further their point, I always though it was a little "cart before the horse" to get a really fast car and drive it on the track. Like any building or structure, you need a foundation. I went to 2 major driving schools and they taught everyone the basics in a really slow car before they let you anything resembling a race track. We learned breaking, cornering, steering, shifting, ect all in separate drills and classroom sessions. After that some of the skills were combined in other drills and eventually we got to drive a fast car around the autocross.

With your friend, you probably learned quite a bit, and probably correctly. But again, it's all a little "cart before the horse." As a novice, you should be breaking in a straight line. Trail breaking is a bit more advanced. And even before all this you need to have a classroom session to explain to you what's actually happening.
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      05-08-2012, 02:22 PM   #5
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Congratulations on your first track day! You'll soon realize that motorsport is a very fun, rewarding and humbling experience at all skill levels (and $$$ too).

I think what you’re trying to describe is threshold braking and trail braking.

I just took an advanced car control session at the Skip Barber Racing School (Mazda RX8 and Formula) last month and they had us practice a ½ day of rotating a car using trail braking, trailing throttle oversteer and power on oversteer.

We also did a steering exercise (at near the car’s traction limit) with the throttle while keeping the car’s steering wheel in the same position. Ease off the throttle in a turn and the car tends to oversteer toward the inside of the corner. Apply more throttle in the same situation and the car tends to understeer toward the outside of the track.

We also practiced skid recovery using CPR (Correct, Pause, Recover).

The session was a lot of fun and you get to beat on someone else's car and tires.

For what it's worth, I highly recommend taking a few professionally taught racing courses like this before spending money on vehicle mods. It may save you some money in the long run if it helps prevent you from totaling your car during an HPDE someday.

Good luck!
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      05-08-2012, 02:42 PM   #6
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I don't have much to compare it to but Skip Barber racing school is pretty awesome. They've been doing this for quite a while and pretty much have it down to a science. +1 on the reccomendation.
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      05-08-2012, 04:16 PM   #7
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agreeing with everyone about attending a proper driving school. While what your friend taught you isn't necessarily wrong, you should always learn the very basics first and work your way up.

Also, the techniques used to drive on a small/tight course like a go cart track are going to be different than when you get on a bigger track and approach higher speeds. So just keep that in mind - What you "learned" the other day may not apply at another venue.
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      05-08-2012, 05:34 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by TJDiCandido View Post
We also did a steering exercise (at near the car’s traction limit) with the throttle while keeping the car’s steering wheel in the same position. Ease off the throttle in a turn and the car tends to oversteer toward the inside of the corner. Apply more throttle in the same situation and the car tends to understeer toward the outside of the track.
Ugh. You couldn't have used two more inappropriate terms in my book.

What you described is NOT understeer or oversteer. What you described, is merely basic vehicle dynamics in that, in a constant state of cornering, applying throttle increases the velocity of the vehicle, thus widening the arc and increasing the turning radius, and removing throttle, will decrease the speed of the vehicle thus resulting in the radius decreasing in a turn.

UNDERSTEERING means, as you exit said constant state cornering, you apply throttle and instead of the radius widening, the car goes straight. As in the front end tires has lost grip with the ground and there's no steering input available. If you have not experienced understeer, try said exercise in a front wheel drive car. Since a FWD needs the front wheels for power and steering, on the exit of a turn if you get TOO aggressive with a throttle, the front end tires will break traction and you will loose all capacity to steer, and the car goes into a state where the direction of travel (straight) is far less than the amount of steering input (under-steer, get it?).

OVERSTEERING means, as you exit said constant state cornering, you apply throttle and instead of the radius widening, your car pivots on the front axle and the car points to the inside of the turn rather than naturally and progressively widening the arc. Your rear tires have now lost traction and grip and due to the fact that the rear end is free to move about the track while the front end still has grip, the car goes into a state of spin where the direction of change is greater than the amount of steering input (over-steer, get it?).

In the example given above, where you had mentioned "understeer" away from the radius and "oversteer" into the radius, that will only happen if you over-exert throttle too quickly, or all of a sudden jump off of the throttle in the same steady state cornering. Reason being, as you apply throttle, too much of it will result in weight being shifted off of the front axle and into the rear axle due to the sprung nature of a car, and grip is removed from the front axel when weight is removed, thus front end will all of a sudden lose grip and go into an understeer state. This is not the same as the radius widening as you speed up. Likewise, only when you jump off the throttle unexpectedly in the middle of the steady state turn, when the weight of the car all of a sudden moves to the front due to deceleration, will the rear end lose grip and go into a spin (oversteer) rather than gently tighten the radius.

What you describe is simply "throttle steering" which would have been the proper terminology applied. There's no understeer or oversteer because the direction of your travel is still exactly the same as your steering input (based on the current velocity, of course).
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      05-08-2012, 05:56 PM   #9
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Hack, you really should get a group of e90post members and do a day of performance driving lessons. You could probably do it all on a skid pad and a shack for a classroom. You just pretty much explained oversteer understeer and throttle steering on a page that fits on me cell phone. No white board, no props, no demonstration. lol.
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      05-08-2012, 07:24 PM   #10
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Quote:
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Ugh. You couldn't have used two more inappropriate terms in my book.

What you described is NOT understeer or oversteer. What you described, is merely basic vehicle dynamics in that, in a constant state of cornering, applying throttle increases the velocity of the vehicle, thus widening the arc and increasing the turning radius, and removing throttle, will decrease the speed of the vehicle thus resulting in the radius decreasing in a turn.

UNDERSTEERING means, as you exit said constant state cornering, you apply throttle and instead of the radius widening, the car goes straight. As in the front end tires has lost grip with the ground and there's no steering input available. If you have not experienced understeer, try said exercise in a front wheel drive car. Since a FWD needs the front wheels for power and steering, on the exit of a turn if you get TOO aggressive with a throttle, the front end tires will break traction and you will loose all capacity to steer, and the car goes into a state where the direction of travel (straight) is far less than the amount of steering input (under-steer, get it?).

OVERSTEERING means, as you exit said constant state cornering, you apply throttle and instead of the radius widening, your car pivots on the front axle and the car points to the inside of the turn rather than naturally and progressively widening the arc. Your rear tires have now lost traction and grip and due to the fact that the rear end is free to move about the track while the front end still has grip, the car goes into a state of spin where the direction of change is greater than the amount of steering input (over-steer, get it?).

In the example given above, where you had mentioned "understeer" away from the radius and "oversteer" into the radius, that will only happen if you over-exert throttle too quickly, or all of a sudden jump off of the throttle in the same steady state cornering. Reason being, as you apply throttle, too much of it will result in weight being shifted off of the front axle and into the rear axle due to the sprung nature of a car, and grip is removed from the front axel when weight is removed, thus front end will all of a sudden lose grip and go into an understeer state. This is not the same as the radius widening as you speed up. Likewise, only when you jump off the throttle unexpectedly in the middle of the steady state turn, when the weight of the car all of a sudden moves to the front due to deceleration, will the rear end lose grip and go into a spin (oversteer) rather than gently tighten the radius.

What you describe is simply "throttle steering" which would have been the proper terminology applied. There's no understeer or oversteer because the direction of your travel is still exactly the same as your steering input (based on the current velocity, of course).
Let's agree to disagree then. What I really described is an induced oversteer or understeer condition based on the effect of weight transfer on the car at its cornering limit (changing the balance of the car). The Skippy instructors also drove home the importance (advantage) of smooth throttle, brake and steering inputs when transferring weight and controlling the balance of the car.
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      05-08-2012, 07:31 PM   #11
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Hack, you really should get a group of e90post members and do a day of performance driving lessons. You could probably do it all on a skid pad and a shack for a classroom. You just pretty much explained oversteer understeer and throttle steering on a page that fits on me cell phone. No white board, no props, no demonstration. lol.
I do this about 6-7 times a year. Just did one at Auto Club Speedway on Friday last week.
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      05-09-2012, 01:14 PM   #12
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I do this about 6-7 times a year. Just did one at Auto Club Speedway on Friday last week.
Did not know that. Nice. Don't visit the tracking forums too often since they're pretty slow.
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      05-09-2012, 06:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TJDiCandido View Post
We also did a steering exercise (at near the car’s traction limit) with the throttle while keeping the car’s steering wheel in the same position. Ease off the throttle in a turn and the car tends to oversteer toward the inside of the corner. Apply more throttle in the same situation and the car tends to understeer toward the outside of the track.

Depends on the car and the setup. My M3 would oversteer when the MX-5 was understeering. If I were to let off the throttle it rear would tend settle in, in direct relation to how much throttle I was letting off. My 335 would be more biased to understeer like the MX-5.

Each car and each corner is different.

Optimally, vehicle dynamics should be taught as the foundation so you can apply them to any car and any situation. With that said, they take a while to learn so be patient.
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      05-10-2012, 05:36 AM   #14
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OP. The trouble with getting advice from the Internet is that it can often be conflicting or just plain wrong.

I suggest purchasing two excellent books about the techniques and science of race car driving (written by professional race car drivers):

1. “Going Faster – Mastering the Art of Race Driving” by Carl Lopez. This is the manual of the Skip Barber Racing School and it’s what they teach you in their 3-Day Racing School and 2-Day Advanced Racing School. This is by far my favorite book on race car driving techniques. It’s very well written and loaded with charts, diagrams, advice and vignettes from champion race car drivers. This is my go to book whenever I want to review the fundamentals, basics, strategies and concepts of high performance driving. I even take it to the track with me to read in the paddock.

2. “Speed Secrets – Professional Race Driving Techniques” by Ross Bentley. This book is an oldie but goodie and it's almost as good as “Going Faster” in my opinion. The book is full of tips to help you drive smoothly, be more precise with the controls, and make you a better and safer driver on the road and track. It’s a pretty quick read and it's also my favorite “bathroom book”.

These two books are invaluable reference tools for drivers in my opinion. By reading them you'll be much more knowledgeable about driving than many of your peers and even some instructors too.
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      05-10-2012, 07:53 AM   #15
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Quote:
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OP. The trouble with getting advice from the Internet is that it can often be conflicting or just plain wrong.

I suggest purchasing two excellent books about the techniques and science of race car driving (written by professional race car drivers):

1. “Going Faster – Mastering the Art of Race Driving” by Carl Lopez. This is the manual of the Skip Barber Racing School and it’s what they teach you in their 3-Day Racing School and 2-Day Advanced Racing School. This is by far my favorite book on race car driving techniques. It’s very well written and loaded with charts, diagrams, advice and vignettes from champion race car drivers. This is my go to book whenever I want to review the fundamentals, basics, strategies and concepts of high performance driving. I even take it to the track with me to read in the paddock.

2. “Speed Secrets – Professional Race Driving Techniques” by Ross Bentley. This book is an oldie but goodie and it's almost as good as “Going Faster” in my opinion. The book is full of tips to help you drive smoothly, be more precise with the controls, and make you a better and safer driver on the road and track. It’s a pretty quick read and it's also my favorite “bathroom book”.

These two books are invaluable reference tools for drivers in my opinion. By reading them you'll be much more knowledgeable about driving than many of your peers and even some instructors too.
Thanks for the recommendation - just ordered one of each!
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      05-10-2012, 12:27 PM   #16
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Great recommendations about the books, BUT...

I've found that the concepts behind driving are best EXPERIENCED and taught in person. I read up all I can before my very first track event, and while on track I couldn't execute ANY of the things I read in the books. Everything that made so much sense in my head, made NO SENSE while trying to drive it.

Those books are more beneficial to those who's gotten good personal in-car coaching first, and they can be a hinderance to beginners who are trying to learn like the OP. I can't tell you how many times I've had to "reset" a student who comes to our event with a brain full of terminology and knowledge gained from books.

Just my internet opinion.
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      05-10-2012, 01:15 PM   #17
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Great recommendations about the books, BUT...

I've found that the concepts behind driving are best EXPERIENCED and taught in person. I read up all I can before my very first track event, and while on track I couldn't execute ANY of the things I read in the books. Everything that made so much sense in my head, made NO SENSE while trying to drive it.

Those books are more beneficial to those who's gotten good personal in-car coaching first, and they can be a hinderance to beginners who are trying to learn like the OP. I can't tell you how many times I've had to "reset" a student who comes to our event with a brain full of terminology and knowledge gained from books.

Just my internet opinion.
Agreed and appreciated.

I've only had a basic level of training so far but totally agree that there is no substitution for real world experience.

It'd be like expecting to learn how to golf by reading a book or playing a video game.

Great write-up/explanation of under/oversteer BTW. Thx.
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      05-10-2012, 04:52 PM   #18
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I'm no driving instructor, but I was a full time flight instructor for 4 years and I train new pilots at the current company I work for. As far as a completely new pilot reading up on concepts or playing lots of Flight Sim, it can go either way. It was more dependent on attitude rather knowledge. If someone was more open minded it was easy. No unlearning required. If you get some cocky smartass (aviation usually attracts this kind of personality) its tough because they think they know more than you. Usually that's when I reach in my grab back of dirty tricks and scare the shit out of them (before they scare the shit out of me lol). I'm guessing sure driving isn't too different. Keep an open mind, and don't be too certain you understand a concept until you really do. OP you seem like an open minded guy, so your instructor will like you.
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      05-10-2012, 11:20 PM   #19
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If you were in Ontario. I would have said come to our bmwcca school. I would have taken you out.

e90pilot. Hey thats cool. I used to be a flight instructor before I got right seat at my first real flying job. I was a Class 2 here in ontario. Sometimes I miss it but other times.... not so much lol.
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      05-11-2012, 08:18 AM   #20
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I'm no driving instructor, but I was a full time flight instructor for 4 years and I train new pilots at the current company I work for. As far as a completely new pilot reading up on concepts or playing lots of Flight Sim, it can go either way. It was more dependent on attitude rather knowledge. If someone was more open minded it was easy. No unlearning required. If you get some cocky smartass (aviation usually attracts this kind of personality) its tough because they think they know more than you. Usually that's when I reach in my grab back of dirty tricks and scare the shit out of them (before they scare the shit out of me lol). I'm guessing sure driving isn't too different. Keep an open mind, and don't be too certain you understand a concept until you really do. OP you seem like an open minded guy, so your instructor will like you.
I completely agree that driving, like flying, can’t be self-taught from books alone. You also need competent instruction and hands-on experience to bring it all together. That’s why I recommended the Skip Barber Racing School in my initial post. That said, book knowledge and memorization are essential for all technically competent aviators (operating limits, emergency procedures, VFR/IFR minimums and procedures, systems, aerodynamics, aeromedical factors, flight planning, weather, etc.). In fact, the flight maneuvers are the easiest part of flying! The personalities of aviators and race car drivers are very similar too, which is probably why I enjoy flying, driving, and the camaraderie found at airfields and race tracks so much. I’ve been hooked on both since I first took the controls of my first aircraft (UH-1) and race car (SCCA Spec Racer) in the early 90’s.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been all that impressed with the club-sponsored HPDE instruction (classroom and in-car) that I’ve received in that I had to unlearn or ignore what some of my BMWCCA instructors taught me because it contradicted what I was taught at the Skip Barber Racing School. For example, the club almost always set up the braking, turn in, apex and track out reference points (cones) so that students would late apex. Of course this is safer than apexing early, but I actually had a BMWCCA instructor get really upset with me because I methodically braked later and turned in earlier until I was using the whole track while exiting the turn (on the Uphill at Lime Rock). This was after I already had some racing school and track experience, but I was new to driving with BMWCCA so they made an instructor ride with me. I announced what I was doing and intentionally tracked out so that my left tires were at the outside edge of the track. I was in control and safe so I was really shocked at what a p***y my instructor was. Also, the BMWCCA taught “new” students to brake in a straight line on all corners (no trail braking). It seems that some clubs only teach trail braking to their advanced students, so the conventional wisdom is that they’re the only ones capable of trail braking at club-sponsored HPDEs. Go figure... These are just two examples of improper driving techniques I heard from BMWCCA instructors. My appraisal is that some of these club instructors are primarily there to get free track time and they possess little more than basic driving knowledge and ability.

That’s just my experience with a handful of BMWCCA instructors though, and I'm sure there are some very good ones out there.
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      05-11-2012, 09:29 AM   #21
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There's a good reason why BMW CCA curriculum is set up as such. Sorry you didn't have a great experience with your local chapter but we are not the most successful club driving program in the last 30 years for no reason.

I ran a private event a few years ago. One of the participant wrote on his application that he had XX years of racing with YY series and has gone through multiple race schools. I drew the short straw and was his instructor for the day. If he indeed has gone through all those events and raced all those years, he's forgotten every thing about racing since because his driving was worse than the typical beginner, yet he has little fear about taking the wrong lines and flooring it while turning in a 400+ hp car. Maybe he does have the car control skills to keep us safe for the day, but I wasn't going to risk my life to find out.

So as someone that sits right seat, my FIRST priority is to stay alive, since I don't get paid to do this. Self preservation tells me that no matter the so-called experience level of the student, unless I know implicitly how well the driver drives, he's going to have to demonstrate he can execute my line and command before I loosen the reigns. No offense, but I feel my life is far more valuable to be left completely in the hands of someone I don't know. So if I hop in the car, and the driver proceeds to blow through a turn while ignoring my commands, we're pitting regardless of how fast or how close he or she is to the edge of the track on the exit.

As for teaching students to brake in a straight line and turn in late, the program itself has gone through 3 decades of evolution and it's been proven to work. Give the students the most basic and safe skills to work with, once they understand the fundamentals of driving a safe line, adding speed will be far easier than if we were to teach a beginner how to trail brake to each apex or see-saw at the wheels to add grip or take a defensive line. Most people can't even begin to comprehend how to properly brake at threshold until their 5th or 6th event, therefor we don't bother teaching trail braking at least until they've progressed to a point where they can show they can brake at the same spot with the right intensity consistently, otherwise teaching them how to trail brake would be like trying to teach a 5'2" guy how to dunk.

There's a very good reason why there are quite a few professional drivers in the top ranks of racing in the United States that have gone through BMW CCA training. Because for an amateur ran, not-for-profit organization, WE ARE THE BEST.
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      05-11-2012, 04:59 PM   #22
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