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Top Newbie Mistakes
Yearly, we get an influx of new drivers. Some came to 100dod and did a skid pad run, some just find us via google. Regardless, this time of year seems to be newbie central. The following article is my personal take on the most common goofs I see first timers make.
1. Crappy alignments
This is a simple one that no one seems to do. More than anything, toe alignment is of the utmost importance. Camber/Caster don't play a large role as long as they are even from side to side. At least for beginners. Having a proper toe alignment will make the car counter steer quickly and efficiently. Without it, turn in will be sacrificed and mid corner steering will be slow/unmanageable. If you start a drift and immediately spin out, this is a large possibility. 0 toe or factory is good to start. Toe out or in based on your preferences AFTER you learn to slide reliably.
2. Oversized tires or undersized tires
Tire tech is far too much to get into in this article. The simplest form is to simply have tires sized properly for your power level and weight. You want the smallest possible sidewall and the thinnest tread without being on donuts. Look at what people of similar power/weight run and copy. 215s on a stock KA24E might sound doable but you'd be much better off with 185s or 195s. Even if you can break them loose, you might not necessarily be able to keep it out. Bottom line, copy someone else that has a proven setup.
3. Too much power
With power generally comes bigger tires. These tires make you drift significantly faster. Some cars will start a drift at 10mph and finish the corner doing over 50mph simply due to tire size and power. Not to mention, fine throttle control is necessary in order to control snap back. If you already have the power, down size the tires to something manageable until you can reliably slide.
4. Front tires
This one is simple. Get the stickiest front tires you can get. With the lack of experience, grippier front tires will give you much more "goof room" on turn in. Hard stock/old tires will understeer easily. They will also "fold' under harsh cornering. At the very least, make sure your front tires are grippier than your rears.
At the very very least, make sure your tire pressures are even. 35-40psi is my general starting point. Less pressure will help grip to an extent and more pressure will help break tires loose. I've seen rear tires as high as 60psi and front tires as low as 25psi. This will take experimentation. But again, make sure you at least have your tire pressures even. This is paramount!
1. Overzealous corner entry
I find most drivers are either timid or reckless. There rarely is an in between. Reckless drivers tend to enter corners too hot. Either out of ignorance that they are going too fast or their courage and assumption that you NEED to go fast. For beginners (I mean day 1 beginners) I suggest to go slow in and fast out. For a complete beginner, simply getting a slide going is the goal. It is very possible to do this going the minimum speed for a corner. Bring the car back under control and move on to the next corner.
2. Slow corner entry with underpowered car
This is the flip side of the last bullet. With a car down on power, getting the rear to come out will be very difficult. In this instance, the driver will have to go much closer to the tire adhesion limit. Airing up the rear tires and getting narrower tires will help but ultimately, the driver will have to go faster aroudn teh corner.
3. Timid driving all around
With no risk there is no reward. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Etc etc. Some drivers are so scared of hitting something that they don't take chances. It's ok to go slow but without experimentation, there will be no progress. If you aren't sliding at all, maybe some more courage is apt for the situation. Make sure to ask others before doing this. If you are already a "push the envelope" driver, being more courageous probably won't help you much.
4. Weak clutch kicks
Many drivers are scared or concerned they might hurt their car. Unfortunately, you have to rev the car. To get over this, try doing donuts or standing burnouts from a stop. This will show how hard you have to clutch kick in order to break the rear tires loose. Clutch kicks are not all equal. Rpms and clutch technique will vastly change how a clutch kick affects a slide.
5. Improper clutch kick
Clutch in, rev, pop clutch. Do not hold down the gas then literally kick the clutch pedal. The difference in rpms is what causes the rear to slide out.
5. Lack of understanding of weight dynamics
This simply requires seat time. If you swear your tires are setup correctly but you have understeer problems, try gripping the track near the limit of tire adhesion. If you grip drive correctly, you should be able to shift weight to make your car naturally want to oversteer. If you understeer no matter what, you need to adjust your driving. Feint movements and pedal work will shift weight appropriately to upset rear traction. Unfortunately, this is another one of those things that simply can't be explained via text.
6. Let go of the steering wheel
The exact moment the rear traction is upset, let go of the steering wheel. In some cases you'll have to "push" the steering wheel in the direction it will need to go to start the counter steer process. Do NOT put your hands in the air like you just don't care. You do care. Simply let the steering wheel slide through your fingers and catch it when necessary. You will know when it's necessary. Remember, the car will counter steer faster than you can (unless you ignored all the points above).
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