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Pobst Position: To go faster, get on the power LATER
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Pobst Position: To go faster
That's right, that's what I said, get on the power later. You know the conventional wisdom. "Get on the power as early as possible. The earlier the driver begins to accelerate, the more speed is carried down the straight." Well, hear me now. Most of us get on the gas too soon, not too late.

Why? Cause we're in a hurry, that's why. Testosterone, often. Go, go, go! Right? Speed! Well, some patience will make you faster, and as an added bonus, your car will magically seem to handle better, as well. The tighter the corner, the more this applies. I'm just back from official testing at Daytona in our new APR Tuning Motorsports VW Gti's, and a very trick front-engine rear-transaxle GT car that looks like a Pontiac GXP. Four of the six real corners there are slow one-eighties, with big direction changes. I've been riding around watching my competitors gas it, lift, gas it, lift, ad infinitum, all the while sliding around five feet off the apex. It is easier than you think. Just look for the apex, and wait a little longer before you roll on the power.

Virtually every corner has just one proper place to begin to apply that precious natural resource, refined oil. One time. If you ever back off and reapply, what went wrong? Too soon on the gas, yes. Look and think ahead, be patient. Control that right foot. It is a looong way from the brain y'know, much further than your you-know-what, and how much control do you have over that?

Corners involve turning, by definition. If you have to slow at all to hold a line in a corner, then you must be at the cornering limit, right? If you are using all your tires grip for lateral grip, how much is available for longitudinal grip ( that's acceleration, Sleepyhead in the back row). This is why your first application of power must be exceedingly gentle. Like a butterfly landing on a leaf. And it must be late enough that you can begin to straighten out, because that is what is going to happen as soon as you speed up even the slightest bit. The front will lighten up, and the car will begin to straighten its line. When one does a curve as fast as possible, there will be just one moment of throttle application, then smoothly more and more. This keeps the tires right on their maximum grip the whole way through, known as filling the friction circle.

It is also great fun to kick the tail out by mashing the gas in the turn, but it is slower because tires have less grip when sliding, and that gets worse as this event rapidly overheats the rubber. In the Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac, a six-liter V8 makes this a common occurance. Too darn common. I'm calling saferacer.com for some skinnier shoes. Here is a top secret trick: Gear the throttle to open more slowly, but only at tip-in. Have you ever noticed the throttle assembly on your street car? It is often a cam shape. However, street cars, especially American ones, usually do the opposite, they open more quickly at first. Why? Feels more powerful, especially on that all-important test drive. Many cars now come with e-throttles, fly-by-wire. The latest Porsche 911 actually quickens the response in sport mode. If it were me, I'd actually slow it down in track mode, for the reasons expounded upon above. The harder we drive, the slower and lighter we must get on the gas, because we are ever closer to the cornering limit of our tires.

Want more speed? Has a certain turn been giving you lots of trouble? Be slower, lighter, and LATER on acceleration. The slower the corner, the more important this is. Late enough that you only apply that throttle once, then roll it on as you see you are going to make your apex, where you begin to straighten out and widen your line.
Originally printed on Sportscar March 2008
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