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Smooth is Fast...but there's more

Austin Cabot

I've known Drew Turner at Deft Motion since 2010 (Has it really been that long?). Drew runs a great shop in the Nashville, TN area called Deft Motion and was a big help when I first started tracking my s2000.  Drew has written an article that gives a brief explanation of things you should be aware of in addition to just driving your car on track.  Many of us may do these things subconsciously already - even so, seeing them written out helps to reinforce them in you mind. - Austin


Smooth is fast, but is that all it takes to win?

No. As true as the above statement might be, being a smooth driver does not necessarily hand you the trophy in a race. ‘Smooth’ in my opinion is the result of experience, knowledge, and confidence. In theory, I could drive a formula car smoothly. However, without the confidence and experience of a professional driver and without the knowledge behind every component that is under me, I can’t truly maximize my driving capabilities. You need the entire package.

Each driver has a different style that comes into play while racing, but the basics are always relevant. You and your car need to be completely synchronized, and working together. But you can’t do this without knowing every little detail about your car, and how it works.

I built and named my business, Deft Motion, around this idea. ‘Deft’, meaning skillful, is the type of motion(s) needed to enter and exit a corner precisely. Braking beforehand as late as possible, without scrubbing too much speed. Turning into the corner as quickly as possible without upsetting your car (too much), and then masterfully controlling the throttle as you exit.

These are the obvious basics of driving/racing, but what do you need to give you the edge? I’ll give you a list of whys and hows.(This is not an all-encompassing article.)


Know your car and its components:

Alignment and Suspension - (Knowing the basics of your suspension geometry gives you extra insight into how your car will handle during a race. Such as, how the car will react in an off camber sweeping corner, or what input will be needed after clipping a tall rumble strip at low speed.)

Steering - (This one is simple and correlates with the above bullet directly. You want to know how much steering input your car requires to hit your apex perfectly without losing grip.)

Tires -(Where they slip, grip, and give you a greasy finger.)

Brakes - (Know the compound, amount of bite, fade, modulation, and wear. This allows you to learn and optimize how late/little you can brake. In endurance, this also lets you plan your race a little more efficiently.)

Engine - (Know where your powerband or boost is. This helps you determine what gear you need to be in.)

Gearing -(As above you want to know what gear to be in. Do you stay in it and bounce off the limiter or shift? Which loses the least amount of time?)

Aerodynamics - (You want enough aero to get you around turn 12 of Road Atlanta at full throttle, but not enough to reduce your top speed on the straights.)


• Knowing the above will naturally give you more confidence in what you are doing. Knowing exactly what is going on with your car at every second is crucial to providing yourself the balls (or lady balls) to get the job done. This may sound like a no brainer, but I know many drivers who don’t know a damn thing about their car, and it takes them forever to learn from their mistakes (aka. Get faster.)

• You want to do things once. For example:Brake into a corner once, Input steering in a corner once, Ease into throttle once. You lose time second guessing initial decisions, resulting in lost time. Learn to decipher a situation and react to it with one decisive movement.


• Having Confidence in yourself and your car provides you with the tools necessary to start finally pushing the limits and becoming exponentially faster.

• You need to reduce your transition times between maximum speed and maximum cornering. Test yourself. Push the boundaries of yourself and your car. Figure out the exact speed and steering angle you need to go through turn 1 and then move to the next one.

• You also need to reduce the amount of time you are on your brakes. And be consistent once you find what works.  I see a lot of guys coming into the same corner over and over, and doing it differently every time. Also, a major mistake I see ALL the time, is coasting on a straight before braking. You want to eliminate any lost time between Wide open throttle and braking. Hit your brakes hard, but only as long as needed.


Getting Started:

• Please, those who are not advanced drivers, take your time to learn. Ease into it, learn your car and yourself.

• Being overeager can be your downfall, or at least expensive.

• Learn to finesse your car into and out of a corner.

• Don’t be ashamed to have an instructor. Everyone can learn.

• Learn the track, then push it.

• Messing up is the fastest way to learn, but do it carefully. Train your eyes, ears, hands, and feet with each twitch. You want them to work together, then work with your car.

• Don’t throw every modification you see at your car before hitting the track. A great way to learn your car is with one mod at a time. Throw a sway bar on, feel the difference, adjust to it, and then continue modifying accordingly. (My next post will go into more depth, and what routes I suggest.)

Written by Drew Turner.

Owner of Deft Motion. Race / Performance enthusiast.

S2000 and Subaru Specialist. Your Mom’s on and off again boyfriend.

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