Improve Your Performance Driving
You can continue to improve your performance driving off the track. Here's how:
Everyday is a track day. When you are commuting to work, use the skills learned at the track and Car Control Clinics: keep your eyes up, look down the road, both hands at 9 and 3, use smooth steering and throttle-brake modulation, be undistracted and situationally aware, and always engage in defensive driving. And let’s not forget that every turn has an entry, apex, and exit—just stick to your lane.
Learn to heel-and-toe brake and downshift. This is an important skill to master to smooth your driving and move to the next level. Practice in a parking lot or while you are commuting. There are many web resources available if you are a visual learner. Maybe you could contact one of your instructors via email and ask for some advice.
What if you do not have a manual transmission? That is perfectly okay; your car will still go fast, handle wonderfully, and you will have a great time! Remember, the new M2, M3, M4, and M5s and other BMW are all “automatics” and can be driven on the track at speed without ever touching the paddles. The computers are way smarter and faster than any of us!
Improve your car. Learn to work on your car (or not—Editor), change the oil, change the air filter, clean the engine compartment, clean the inside, crawl under the car safely, and give the car a good wax job. Your BMW might need some maintenance for the coming year and if so, get it inspected early. Remember, you do not need fancy suspensions, super sticky tires, or aggressive track brake pads to drive your car on the track.
Warning: Improving your car for the track is a slippery slope and there are tradeoffs for a daily driver. The typical path is improved tires/wheels, brake pads/big brakes, suspension, and power. And don’t forget safety—good helmet, gloves, shoes and, as you advance, harnesses, head and neck restraints, roll bars/cages, seats. Can you feel the slope steepening...?
Improve yourself. Keep up your education. Read performance authors like Ross Bentley. Watch track videos and track walks, review your past track days and instructor feedback, look into data acquisition (e.g. AIM, Garmin) or in-car video. Look into track simulators and driving games (e.g. iRacing).
Some of our favorite books are The Lost Art of High-Performance Driving by Ross Bentley along with the other Speed Secrets titles and Going Faster by the Skip Barber Racing School.
Go karting. There are three really nice indoor go-kart facilities in the Seattle area. When it is cold and rainy outside, a fast gasoline-powered go-kart is just what you need to satisfy that driving addiction. Get a bunch of friends together and go karting! The PRO3 drivers tell me that karting is a good way to keep skills sharp.