Bring on the rain

PF at the weekend – nobody knew what track conditions would be for any session.
This is the new norm for summer karting – dry track with blue sky, and a huge rain storm closing in fast!
In conditions like this you are never on the right tyres, and you never have the right set up.  If you are on wets the track is drying too fast, if you are on slicks have you got the pressures right etc.  A nightmare for the mechanic, and a dream scenario for drivers who are confident they excel in difficult track conditions.
This is exactly the type of situation that highlights what your state of mind is.  Do your pre-race nerves create a feeling of anxiety and doubt, or do you feel psyched up?
If you want to feel psyched up with a ‘bring it on’ attitude, here’s some help.
Get off the rubber
Heavy braking areas are coated with rubber, when you approach a braking zone put your kart on a different part of the track when braking.  Usually down the inside is good enough.
Minimise time that lateral grip is needed
Drive lines that minimise the time spent actually driving the kart in an arc.  For any given corner you need to maximise the time spent driving a straight line, especially when braking or accelerating.
Maximise straight line braking
For hairpins you can brake in a straight line, turning and braking will be treacherous.  For medium speed approach corners, (eg the esses at PF or oblivion at Whilton Mill) you can brake gently in a straight line and make the apex by aiming the kart straight at the apex very early.  

Maximise time in traction
Plot your corner exits in order to maximise the time spent getting maximum exit traction.  Extreme cut back lines apply, where you straight line the exit as much as possible.
Use herbs
Some kerbs that you wouldn’t dream of using in the dry are essential in the wet.  When you are trying to drive in straight lines you will need to cut a lot of corners.  Be prepared to scrape the bottom of your kart and upset the mechanic!
Be prepared to use maximum steering lock
Karts are awful when the track doesn’t supply the required grip to make the chassis lift the inside rear wheel. You may need to force the kart to work by using the maximum steering lock. Some guys will never have turned the wheel so far, so in the wet dont be afraid to turn the steering as far as it will go when needed.
Eliminate wheelspin
Wheelspin is the ultimate enemy of the karter facing slippery conditions.  Each wheelspin incident costs you about half a second.  So, your meaning of life is to exit corners without letting the rear wheels break traction.
Minimise rear sliding
When you allow the rear wheels to slide mid corner, you then have a much harder time exiting the corner without wheelspin.  Plan all your cornering in a way that allows you to exit without wheelspin.
Example approach wet  PF ‘esses’. Beware, track conditions are organic – nothing is set in stone!

Track walks that get results

Your bog standard track walk to me is a waste of time, its something a team or coach does probably because its what they are expected to do. If I walk the track before the day starts I use it as a chance to chat with the driver, and they do most of the talking while I find out a bit more about what makes them tick. Instructions you deliver to a driver at 9am are generally forgotten anyway!

Studying the track for real benefits

There is however a very productive way to study the track, that actually helps drivers understand how to master corners.

Here’s how I do it.

Warning this method takes up to 10 minutes per corner. Also you might get some funny looks because you’ll be crouching down and walking backwards a lot!

Start at the end.
Start with the result you want to achieve as you exit the corner. Examples: you need maximum speed onto a straight, or positioning ready for the following corner.

Get very familiar with your exit point
With the desired result from the corner in mind identify your exit point. Stand at that exit point and look for an identifying mark.  It might be an exact point on the exit kerb, or maybe a mark on the asphalt.

Get very familiar with that mark, and walk BACKWARDS along the track toward the apex of the corner.

Crouch down so that your view of the track is as it would be when driving, and spot your chosen exit point. Burn this image into your mind because this will be what you’ll be locking on to while you suffer 2 G loads, with scenery  flashing past and other lunatics attempting to fire you off.

Get even more familiar with your apex
Now that you understand the desired exit you will know what kind of apex you need.  It could be a late apex or a regular apex. Whichever it is, you need to locate it precisely and pick something you can easily spot. Again get very familiar with it and walk away from that apex backwards along the track.

Get to where you might turn in and crouch down. Study your chosen apex point so that you know exactly where it is. You now know how it will look from the kart, and you need to be very comfortable that you can pick it out with great confidence.

Now walk backwards away from the corner and keep looking to your apex point. Get as far away as you can before you reach another corner. You could be walking backwards along a straight until the corner apex is a long way off. Crouch down again and spot that apex, you need to be able to locate that apex from a distance confidently. If it is obscured you need to know now, and you need to be able to locate that point either directly or by using extra markers.

Now you know the critical points of that corner in real world terms better than anyone else who doesn’t bother going through this procedure.  This will give your subconscious critical information and free up processing power to make you drive faster!

Little extras that make a big difference
But don’t stop there, walk forwards toward your corner keeping an eye on your apex.  Now we are looking for peripheral markers. These would be braking indicators, and cornering marks that keep you clued up that you are positioned correctly as you drive the corner perfectly.

Pick a braking indicator. I say indicator because  braking points change according to grip, and you’ll only use it with peripheral vision. Typically there will be marks left by locked tyres, or marshal post in braking areas.

Look for an indicators for turn in point, when to get off the brake, get on the throttle and where you expect to reach full throttle. These indicators are luxury items that you will notice with peripheral vision. When you hit them with the correct inputs you’ll get a feeling of confidence that things are going to plan. This is the detailed feedback that can put you in the zone.

I recommend you walk the whole corner over again, crouching down occasionally and take notes as you go.  Map out the corner with all your details, and use this diagram as your first plan for taking the corner.

This is the serious driver’s approach to mastering a corner. It takes time and effort and will set you apart from every other driver on the grid.

Create detailed cornering plans and stick to them

If you want absolute confidence that you will ace each corner every time, you need a detailed plan of how you will take the corner…..otherwise how will you know you got it right?
By a detailed plan I mean you can use all of the following.
  • Braking point
  • Turn in point
  • Brake release point
  • Throttle on point
  • Apex point
  • Maximum throttle reached point
  • Exit point
  • Revs at exit


You should be able to mark all these points on a corner diagram, and if you want to be precise you need as many physical on track marks included, like patches on the track or particular parts of kerbs.
That corner diagram represents your plan of how you take that corner, and if you want to alter that plan the place to do it is NOT on the track whilst you are driving.
If you feel that you can go faster round a corner, then you can make changes on your corner diagram in the pits before you go out and carefully consider how you will make it work.  Then spend the next track session doing your best to drive the corner as close to the plan as possible.
After the session you can then sit down and consider the results of your experiment and create another plan if needed.
This is a methodical approach that is far superior to what everyone else does, which is to drive round all day randomly changing their driving hoping to find the sweet spot – if they are lucky they will hit a sweet spot but likely forget it!  You however will have it all written down and burnt into your mind.
My drivers use diagrams with colours and a few clever tricks that they can recall in a flash before they approach each corner, they then feel absolutely confident of how they need to take the corner.  Once they have driven the corner a few times they start hitting all their points on autopilot. That’s when they start to experience flow and a feeling of being in the zone, because they are able to continually measure how close to perfect they take each bend (being in flow depends on getting high quality feedback continuously).