MSR – Cresson : Coaching

A last minute opportunity to drive at MSRC came up for January 2nd, 2012.  I was able to go, and it was an “educational” day.  Another friend had given me some of his old tires.  The story of the day is really a separate post that should include video footage of the “incidents”.  But, suffice it to say that I “fought” the new tires until I finally flat-spotted a tire. 

Anyway, an experienced racer, Craig Janssen, offered to review my video and data with me and offer some pointers on how to improve.  We met at his office the other day.  We spent 2 hours talking things over, splitting the time 50/50 between big-picture stuff, and track specific discussions.  It was a tremendously educational experience.  Lots of things to think about as I further review the video and data.

Below are my notes from the discussion.  After transcribing these, I sent it back to Craig.  He further expanded on my notes in red.

It was an exceptionally generous thing for him to do, on a Monday night with a very busy schedule.  All I can do is hope to be able to return the favor to someone else someday in the future.   Maybe reading my own learning experiences will help someone coming up the ladder behind me.  If you are reading this a year or two from “now” and have questions or want some help, please fee free to comment here.  My email (or door) will always be open, and I’ll share anything I think I know.

Recommended Reading:

Speed Secrets (Ross Bently)

Going Faster (skip barber school)

It turns out I have all of these books.  I got the Speed Secrets and Inner Speed Secrets books for my birthday this year, and I got the Going Faster book for Christmas.  I’m still reading these. 

General Comments

  • Smooth out multi-apex and connected turns by looking father down track.
    • Sight the last apex/exit cone as soon as it is visible on track.
    • Look so far that it is “uncomfortable” until it becomes comfortable
  • Keep minimum speeds up by braking earlier, and lighter will require… 
    • Focus on increasing minim speed more than focusing on maximizing corner exit speeds.  Do this by braking a little earlier, braking lighter and letting off the brake more rapidly and smoothly.
  • As speeds come up turn in earlier, work on trailing deeper 
    • DE driving will tend to teach you to late apex.  Not a bad thin inherently, however as you learn to trail brake and increase speed, you will be able to turn in earlier and rotate the car to the apex more effectively while carrying more speed
  • Downshift later to slow down driver actions during busy part of turn (entry) 
    • Most drivers down shift too early which both over slows the car and unsettles it as you let the clutch out.  Push yourself to downshift later into the turn.
  • Make actions crisper to/from gear shifts (rapid shifts will wear out gear box faster)  
  • Don’t lift when car is at limit of adhesion 
    • Basically get on the gas once (smoothly) and then stay on it.  If you lift you screwed up the entry. 
    • Destabilizes car, exacerbating situation. 
    • By smoothly accelerating and staying on the accelerator combined with gradual unwinding of the steering, the loading on suspension is stable and consistent, hence allowing max cornering traction. 
  • Wheel should “always” be unwinding from apex off 
    • This is assuming you are increasing your speed on the exit of the corner – hence increasing lateral loads thus requiring you to reduce turning radius.
  • Figure out how to adjust primary and secondary y-axis scales in data software…especially for MPH 
    • This allows you to look at detail of the change in speed as a result of any of your decisions – which is ultimately your “tell”.
    • Done.  Figured it out after I got home last night.  Its buried in the settings dialogs (go figure!).
    • It makes me want to volunteer to write software for them.   I wish they’d all just license MOTEC. 
      • Yup, we have a couple of code writers in our team and we have been developing a web program for the last year and our mantra is about simplicity of interface and intuitive use.  Hard to do but critical.
  • Get a brake pressure sensor input into data-logger. 
    • This will allow you to see exactly how you come onto the brakes (are you double braking whcihis common), how you come off the brakes which is the most important skill to learn in braking, and when in fact you really are trail braking (as compared to when you think you are trail braking).
  • Pick one of the above to work on during a day.  Talk to instructor about goal, and request his/her assistance in analyzing habits and improving (in the context of working towards a racing license…not HPDE line).
  • When signing up for PCA, Apex, ECR, TDE events clearly communicate desire for a current race driver as an instructor.
  • Visit multiple tracks as often as practicable to be exposed to varying corners, and situations. 
    • Look at track in Google Earth or Bing and analyze each corner to determine what kind of corner it is (constant radius, opening radius, single or dual apex, collapsing radius, etc.) and thnk through how you will need to prepare for those corners.  Watch video and watch the hands to see how drivers handled those corners.  Memorize the tracks until you can do laps in your head before getting to the track.
  • Use simulations (iRacing).
  • I have iracing.
  • I also have rFactor with track maps for all SWDiv track map


Turn-by-turn specifics:

The following video was posted in a discussion thread on  It is of Brett Gabriel driving the same track, one of the best drivers at this track in the state.

I have a lot to learn from this video, and the following commentary.  We reviewed my best laps from my day at the track. I compiled them into this video:


  • Brake later and trail all the way to first apex.
  • 3/4 downshift past start of entry curbing
  • Need to determine target turn 1 mid-corner speeds
  • 3/2 downshift on approach to first apex (too busy between 1st and 2nd apex)
  • Be LESS direct through apex 1 an 2…flow through with very late apexes.
  • Sets up more direct entry into wagon wheel
  • 2/3 shift *before* entry into wagon wheel

Yes to all of the above.


  • Should be flat through ricochet (lifting/feathering is dangerous, here).  
  • If necessary decrease speed on approach to avoid lifting mid-turn.
  • Then work up to flat from wagon-wheel through ricochet, to little-bend

 Yes.  Simply brake or feather a little earlier up the hill if you are uncomfortable and then get on the gas well before the apex and ride it all the way out to the exit curbs.


Little bend:
  • Decreasing radius turn
  • Stand 6-8 feet in from left of track 
    • Basically drive straight at the final cone and don’t try to follow the outside of the track (its obvious when do do it) and then turn a little inside of this cone.  When you go faster you will begin to turn in earlier and trial brake this corner a lot.
  • Brake earlier, and lighter to carry more speed 
    • This in part contradicts the trial braking suggestion, but it will get you comfortable and then you can begin to trail into the corner.  Do this first.
  • Stay tight to curbing b/c there is a hook at the apex that will help the car rotate for exit
  • Trail deeper to also help car rotate through entry
  • Mid corner speed can be closer to 70 mph (according to Brett G’s video) 
    • He’s a weenie, I’m sure it can be faster 🙂


Buzzard neck
  • Brake earlier at very edge of track
  • Turn in earlier, back on full throttle earlier
  • Use full width of apex and track out (don’t worry about upcoming horseshoe entry..there’s plenty of time)
  • Mid corner speed 63 mph (according to Brett G’s video)

 Yes to all


  • Brake later and deeper on entry, trail through to apex 
    • Brake reasonably gently, don’t upset the car, in particular as you come off the brakes.
  • Delay 3/2 downshift until beyond apex 
    • No actually you will change before the apex, but very late into your braking.  You’ll feel it.
  • Apex is a small “nose” on curbing right where the road tips upwards 
    • Make sure you get the car to this and have it turned before you get to the apex.  Start unwinding the wheel because shortly after the apex there is a “nose” on the hill and the car goes light and you do not want to be turning hard – but want to be driving almost straight to the exit under full power.
  • Holding tighter apex and gradual unwind of wheel will set car up better for boothill/tombstone radius
  • Sight tombstone apex cone at trackout of horseshoe
  • Need to determine target mid-corner speeds 
    • I never worry about this too much, I simply work on getting the rhythm right and then the speed comes.  If the rhythm or groove is not good then even if I get the sped I can only get there if the car is sliding and jumping around and I can’t keep it at that speed all race.  Smooth and graceful is the goal above all else.


  • Boothill apex will tighten to curbing as speed increases (drifting more from apex to entry for tombstone) 
    • Do not miss this apex or you will definitely end up in the grass or you will have to lift and then you will lose tons of speed down the next straight.
  • Hold throttle flat and steady wheel sighting through tombstone apex and exit cones throughout turn
  • 3/4 upshift at (or before…as speed increases) tombstone apex 
    • Watch out for the G load on gear change so that you don’t change into 2nd from 3rd. 
  • Increasing radius turn
  • Brake early
    • Determine if corner is faster/slower in 3rd or 4th gear.  I tried both during the day: 
      • 3rd is ~1mph faster through the turn (can push through the tires better)
      • 1/10th lost in 4th gear lugging through corner vs. 3rd gear (in corner only)
      • But the 3rd gear approach is slower down straight due to speed lost (2-3mph) in 3/4 upshift on exit.
      • 1/2 – 3/4 second lost by end of straight caused by shifting
      • All told, 4th gear looses 1/10th mid-corner, but gains back 3/4+ down main straight.
    • Learn to do it in 4th.  You simply need to get your entry speed up 5-10 MPH and then the rest is a non debate.
  • Apex at “flat” in curbing
    • Turn has a hook at the curbing near apex…will help car rotate through center
  • “aggressively” unwind wheel following apex allowing car to “run” due to increasing radius on track 
    • Note that you are actually running slightly uphill on the exit and so its really hard to run out of track at big bend exit unless you actively drive off.
  • Will get exciting if you miss the hook…be prepared.
    • Long way to fence if you run wide…safe runoff
  • Need to determine target mid-corner speeds

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