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Performance Driving Basics: How to Prepare Your Car and Yourself

Let’s be honest, we all want to be race car drivers! The speed, the excitement, the tight turns—it’s an adrenaline rush like no other. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been in your fair share of fast cars, and maybe even driven a few of them yourself. But imagine having your own track car and knowing how to use it!

We’re here to give you a few tips on how to find and prepare a track car, and what to do when you’re out there cutting laps.

 

Buying a suitable track car

The first thing to note here is that there are ways of getting a relatively cheap track car for yourself. We recommend you get a car that is track-ready, rather than trying to make your own modifications. This can certainly be a fun process, but it’s very time-consuming and deceptively expensive.

We think a great website for this is my105, as they tend to have a lot of second hand track cars available at any given time. Another good place to look is Motorsport Sales.

It’s up to you just how much money you want to put into it. But no matter how high your budget, the same old advice always remains when buying a track car: don’t rush it, make sure it’s in good condition, and scour the market.

 

 

performance driving basics getting a car

 

Getting your car ready for the track

There are a few basics you need to get right with your car before it is ready for the track:

Know the regulations: pretty much any event you’ll be taking your car to will have strict regulations. So depending on the type of track event you’re interested in competing in, you may need a road registered car or otherwise a Motorsport Australia log book car. You need to know those all very clearly and ensure you are shopping for the right car to meet the criteria.

It has to be in good working order: this doesn’t simply mean you can drive it. You are going to be pushing it to the limit, so you want it in the best condition you can possibly have it. If you’re not a mechanical expert, find someone with experience and have them assist you in assessing any car and view all the documents regarding service and modifications.

Take it for a test drive: this is especially important if you have bought it recently and you are not yet that familiar with the car. Ideally, if the car is used for track days, see if you can have the owner invite you to one (if you’re seriously interested in buying it).

preparing a car for performance driving

 

Race car panel enhancements

To make a road car more suitable for high speed cornering, many are modified to improve handling performance and here are some of the terms you might see and hear on track cars that could be relevant for your car:

Splitter: this is a leading edge on the front of the car that is designed to keep high pressure air at the top of the car, instead of under it.

Hood vents: these help air to easily pass through the radiator and the engine bay, which helps to increase cooling.

Side skirt: these serve a similar purpose to splitters, as they have been placed as low as possible to keep high pressure air from moving below the car.

Underbelly: the underbody of the vehicle, often modified to have more flat surfaces in race cars to help assist with downforce.

Rear wing: these are designed to deflect air flow upwards and away from the vehicle, which forces more downforce in the vehicle.

performance car on a race track

 

How to get on the track

Now you want to get your new beast onto a track! The best way to do this is through a track day.

These are organised events that people can bring their own cars to. There are many of them all over the country, and are easy to find. They give a great chance to see how your car goes on an actual track.

There are a range of types of track days, so you can find one best suited to you. Some will require you in a specific time slot, others will be an allotted length of time, but at your choosing. There are even some that allow you to drive basically for as long as you like. But given there are so many of these events, do your research to find one that will suit your situation.

It is also a good idea to get yourself a Motorsport Australia Competition Licence, as these are required to enter in many events.

 

Learn with the basic techniques

There are a number of techniques you need to master that we will take you through. You want to get your ‘racing line’ right, to ensure to take the shortest route through a corner while maximising speed and safety, and you have to plan for this as best as possible. There is also a specific technique on where to look at any given time while you’re racing, which we will expand upon.

the basics of performance driving

The Racing Line

In its simplest terms, the racing line is the optimal line or path that minimizes sharp turns and maximizes the speed, so you can drive the fastest lap on that track. The racing line is where most experienced drivers will place their vehicle and you can usually see that visually represented on a track map or ask a ‘regular’ competitor to draw it for you or potentially show you by driving around at low speed. It can be a little complicated, and there’s a learning curve to it, but it’s an essential element for any circuit.

First, let’s start with some definitions:

Approach: before you reach a corner you want to approach it from the best position. So the ‘approach’ is usually the point where you line up the entry point in a straight line so when braking, you can do it usually in a straight line before turning into the corner.

Braking point: this is the point you begin to brake before you reach a corner. You almost exclusively want your braking to be done in a straight line.

Entry: this is the point you begin to ‘turn in’ to the corner. You want to be already looking at the apex here, to give yourself as much knowledge as possible about how to turn.

Apex: the apex point is the inside of the corner, colloquially known as the ‘clipping point’. There is usually a curb or ripple strip here, to reinforce the edge of the bitumen and to discourage drivers ‘cutting’ the corner. Certain layouts, like Esses, require you to drive from Apex to Apex to maintain the racing line.

Exit point: This is when you’re back to the outside of the track, having already begun accelerating beyond the apex point.

how to drive a race car fast around a corner

So there are a number of different steps required. It is always best to get as much information as you possibly can about any track you’re going to race on. Professional racers arrive at the track with many years of experience, including practice taking those same corners multitudes of times.

For those less experienced, it’s worth researching the track you’re about to race on to so that you know what to expect and can plan your corners. This info is on the internet, you can watch YouTube videos of in-car recordings or just talk to the other drivers who are happy to share their knowledge as everyone wants the other drivers to be driving on the best lines to minimize incidents and car damage.

When to Brake and Where to Look

When actually tackling the corner, you need to start by braking to your maximum capacity at your braking point. This gives you the chance to set up for the turn-in point, which is usually not long after you brake. There’s techniques around light initial touches on the brake to transfer weight or more advanced heel and toe braking, so there’s always new things to learn.

When braking you then need to focus your vision on the apex point of the bend. You tend to drive where you look, so always look at the right things! You then turn at the turn-in point until you reach the apex, where you steadily begin to accelerate. You then steer to the exit point, which is not far beyond the corner, and fully accelerate when the car is straight again.

These are all the ideal outcomes you’re aiming for, but they take a lot of practice, so there are a number of other things you need to know about. For example, the tighter the corner, the more steering you’ll have to do, and the less speed you’ll be able to use through it. A mistake many drivers make is failing to utilise the entire width of the track.

You also have to be aware of what impacts the speed you can take these corners with. Generally speaking, the straighter the corner, the faster you can go through it. This is before considering things like bumps and camber, which we’ll leave aside for simplicity here. ‘Hairpin’ corners require much more deceleration than standard bends, and acceleration comes much later as well, which limits the overall speed significantly.

driving a performance car on a race track

Practice, Practice, Practice

Even before you take your race car out on the track, make sure you have plenty of practice behind the wheel. This will help you get comfortable with the way your car handles and how it responds to your input. When you have done this enough, you will eventually notice things you found challenging at first will happen naturally, and from memory.

Once you hit the track for the first time, you should focus on technique and having a smooth ride, rather than going fast right from the beginning. Speed will come with experience. As your skills improve, you will naturally be able to take on greater challenges.

Come practice with Fastrack Experiences!

Ready to get behind the wheel, but don’t have a track car yet? Well you can try out our driving experiences, as a great way to practise. We have many event dates still remaining this year as we near the end of the motorsport season. We can’t wait to see you there!

drive a race car
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