MAMA Track School
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend a performance driving school hosted by the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) and led by CGI Motorsports at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, MI. What an experience!
I’ve been a passenger in a vehicle with a professional driver before at a couple of famous racetracks throughout the country – and even “raced” at the Autobahn Country Club of Joliet at a low(er) speed – but this was a first to learn how to properly drive a vehicle on the track and acquire all of the racing lingo.
I had the pleasure of learning from CGI Motorsport’s Hollie Heiser who has been racing for more than a decade. Here’s a video of Hollie taking some hot laps in a ZO6. She’s a great teacher and talked me through all the turns and straights. As this was new to me, I tried to soak in everything. Here’s an overview of what I learned:
Driving position: Before you even put the petal to the medal, you need to adjust your seat so that your wrists rest comfortably on top of the wheel with your seat belt fastened. Hands should be in the 3 and 9 o’clock positions on the steering wheel. Sit deep in the seat so that you can get feedback from the chassis and up through the seat – you need to “feel” the car.
Don’t apex too early: The apex (clipping point) is the innermost point of the line taken through a curve. Typically, the apex is the geometric center of the turn. What’s the quickest distance between two points? Yep, a straight line. If you hit the apex at the right time, this allows the vehicle to take the straightest line, therefore maintaining the highest speed through the turn.
Use the whole track: I’ve learned that racing is a game of inches. Inches then become tenths of a second, and that tenth of a second on each corner can turn into a full second per lap. Puts it into perspective.
Weight & tire management: Tires perform three very important functions – stop, accelerate and turn the car. If the car does two of the aforementioned at once, the tires’ grip is reduced.
Smooth braking, smooth throttle, smooth weight transition while at speed = Balance, Touch, Feel.
Braking technique: Look ahead. This was interesting to me, as my eyes always followed the cones on the track. However, I found when I looked ahead at the next turn, navigating the apex was easier and I didn’t brake too early. We raced in three different 20-minute sessions. By the second session, Hollie said I had “mastered” braking and by the third session, I put the brakes and turns together!
Formula One, here I come.
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