Driving Tips 1

Getting the most out of driving your car

The Mk1 MR2 is well known for it’s great handling and precision on the limit. But how do you get the most out of it? Well modifying the suspension and tuning the engine is all very well and there is no doubt the car really benefits from this but the degree to which you will be able to enjoy it is limited by one factor that has nothing to do with the car. That factor is driver ability. 

We are all good drivers, right? Well of course, but what is true of anything is that the better you are at it, the more you enjoy it. This article is really about how to get the most enjoyment out of your MR2.

As most of you know I love driving on track. The main reason I enjoy this so much is that it gives me an opportunity to hone my car control skills to a much finer degree than is possible on the road. Let me explain why. It’s all very well ‘going’ for it on the road, but there are just too many extraneous variables to consider to allow me to drive at mine and the car’s limits. The proliferation of speed cameras certainly doesn’t help, nor does pedestrians and cars coming the other way. Not to mention street furniture! All this is taken out of the equation on-track and you can simply get on with the task in hand. Don’t forget that track driving is all about having fun. It’s not about who laps fastest and the intention of the day is to simply enjoy yourself. We all have to start somewhere so for a novice driver venturing out on track for the first time it can seem a daunting prospect, but in reality it really isn’t. 

A good place to start is with tuition. This needn’t be horrendously expensive. Companies like BookaTrack offer tuition for as little as £20 for twenty minutes. Tuition of this type though is really aimed at giving you an idea of how to negotiate the track, pointing out turn-in points rather than concentrating on how you drive the car. A short tuition session is undoubtedly useful but if you are doing something wrong with how you control the car then you will probably be doing it all day. Multiple tuition sessions are really the way forward.

Another option is to bag a ride with an experienced track driver. This can be a double edged sword though. Firstly if the car is well driven you will be able to see the lines that the driver is taking. This is useful and you can see how the car is balanced and just how quick you could be lapping. The downside to this though, is that it can feel deflating to watch someone else drive round with more control and finesse. But don’t be disheartened. Learn from it rather than trying to emulate it! Not long ago I remember driving a friends totally standard MK1 round Donington in the wet. There wasn’t much grip so I just went for the ‘let’s go sideways and have some fun’ option. This wasn’t the fastest way round the track but under the circumstances it was a lot of fun. After the session I went out with the owner, this time as a passenger. We spun three times on the outlap! It was entertaining certainly, but my friend was trying a bit too hard to emulate my earlier shenanigans. Some good things though did come out of this as after a few laps he settled down and lost his fear about the car ‘getting out of shape’. As a consequence of this his driving did improve and nowadays he’s a consistently quick driver.

Probably the best option though as far as tuition goes is to have a whole day with an instructor as and when you need them. This can be expensive, but there are a few options that needn’t break the bank. I went to a Castle Combe tuition day for the cost of £135. the day was pretty quiet and there were three instructors who you could grab when you needed them to come and ride with you. After my first (ever) spin I was shaken up a little and came straight in and grabbed an instructor. Lucky for me the instructors weren’t terribly busy that day and I ended up having the chief instructor all to myself for most of the afternoon. Not only did he teach me where to turn-in, when to get off the power he also taught me how to ‘heel and toe’ and when to change gear. In a word, brilliant and I have built on it ever since. A tip if you are thinking of going on one of these days is to look for a day in July/August when numbers will be lower. 1st Lotus also offer a good option. For example for around £100 each you and a friend can share a day with an instructor. 

Be warned though, once you have had your first ‘fix’ you will want to come back for more! Seriously though learning to drive at speed on track is an exhilarating experience and about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on! What’s more it will make you a better driver on the road too. Something I really learnt on track was to lose the fear of when the rear end of the car steps out (oversteer). Before I would have been in a panic and lifted off the power. Now I know to keep the car balanced and feed on the power.

This is really a taster and in further articles I would like to elaborate more on driver skills and techniques. See ‘Heel and Toeing’.‘Under/Oversteer coming soon!

Trackday Queen 

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