November 04, 2019 By Paolo de Borja Photos by the author and Tuason Racing School

Applying lessons from the race track to real-world driving

Exciting and Constructive

Clear, sunny, and windy Sunday afternoons are best spent unwinding before another grinding week. Some might enjoy time on their own with a book and a cup of coffee by their side, while others find solace in quality time with family. But recently, I spent mine somewhat differently at the Clark International Speedway with Tuason Racing School and Toyota Motor Philippines.

I took part in a Level 1 race clinic that taught the basics of driving around the track. The beginner’s course included lessons and actual activities on proper braking in racing, understanding racing lines, the differences between and how to avoid understeer and oversteer, and the many flags that could appear during a race. We also had the chance to take part in a slalom activity before doing a few rounds on the actual circuit with the Vios Racing Festival cup cars.

Although I’m fairly familiar with the basic concepts involved in racing, it’s always a rewarding experience to actually take on the track with a race-ready car. But after this particular activity and the talk by JP Tuason of Tuason Racing School, I learned that concepts and lessons taken from the circuit are applicable to real-world driving.

  1. Driving in the streets of Manila is like a slalom

In a slalom, there’s a tendency for you to focus on the cones instead of the gap between cones. Thinking about doing so probably sounds simple but it actually does happen quite often, especially if you’re a beginner on the track – but that’s okay. Everyone starts somewhere. The inclination to look at the cone is called Target Fixation. If you look too closely at the cones, your hands would turn the steering wheel towards the cones without you even thinking about it. This results to running them over and corresponding time penalties.

Being mindful of road obstacles is like a slalom. When encountering a hurdle on the road, there is a tendency to stare at it instead of an alternate space to use. This makes it more complicated for the driver to carefully avoid or appropriately slow down the vehicle to avoid the obstacle. Instead, the driver should be focusing on the gap between the car and obstacle, and gauging when he should slow down or how to maneuver the car around it. So when you see an obstacle on the road, don’t just look at it directly. Look for the gap.

  1. Braking and Weight Distribution

At the race track, it is imperative to brake hard before entering a turn. You know where the corners are so you should know when to step on the brakes – and step on it hard. The first time you apply pressure on the pedal should always be the hardest. Although not entirely correlated with real-world driving, something can still be picked up from this technique. In real life driving, particularly in Metro Manila, this is applicable when dealing with potholes. When brakes are applied, weight is distributed to the front of the car. Failing to release the brakes as you run through a road fracture can have negative implications on the front suspension. So when encountering a pothole, release pressure on the brake pedal before running over it.

  1. Second Place Advantage

If you’re a competitive driver, you wouldn’t want to be in second place. But it does have advantages that can propel you to a first-place finish. The advantage of being second is that you can mimic the moves of the lead car. When driving at night in areas with limited light, it’s best to follow a car ahead if the opportunity presents itself. Similar to circuit racing, you’ll be able to gauge the obstacles in front by observing the movements the car ahead of you. But if you’re experienced in night driving, you can omit this technique.

  1. Handling an apex is similar to driving in winding provincial roads

Understeer and oversteer are things you want to avoid whether on the track or on the road. Understeer occurs when you’re trying to turn the car in the corner but it doesn’t want to turn. This takes place when you’re going too fast or when you apply too much gas into the corner, especially with front-wheel drive cars.  You might think you’re doing your lap time a favor, but you end up actually just adding more seconds by deviating from the racing line. Now, when you intend to turn into the corner, but the rear of the car begins to slide, you’ve fallen victim to Oversteer. This transpires when you either apply too much brakes as you turn the car or when you quickly release the accelerator while turning – again, especially with front-wheel drive cars.

When driving to places like Baler, Aurora, you will encounter winding mountainous roads that are often times clear of other traffic. Having an open road in front of you might sound exciting but it’s important to understand the limitations of your car and how to control it. Similar to circuit racing, you should always apply the brakes before steep turns. You will have better control of your vehicle by doing so.

  1. The apex and making a U-turn

The racing line is an essential concept in circuit racing. It achieves an ideal balance between speed and distance needed to be covered. But sometimes, you have deviate from it, like in overtaking situations. Making a U-turn on the roads of Metro Manila is like taking on a hairpin. You must not treat it like a racing line since this would entail cutting someone off. Instead, take either the inside or outside lane only. And in line with proper braking, you can make a tighter U-turn by slowing down the car further before turning the wheel.

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