It’s not just being the quickest, but also being the quickest to adapt.
We arrived at Batangas Racing Circuit (BRC) in Rosario, Batangas at 9 AM.
Stefan Ramirez, driver, teacher, and founder of the Stefan Ramirez Racing (SRR) Driving Academy, was already there, setting up a table, visual aids and a laptop for the driver’s briefing. He greeted us and we all took a seat. He began the briefing with the basics, safety, seating and steering position. He then requested that we each sit in our cars so he could check that we were all positioned correctly. We didn’t realize it at that point, but these minor changes made a significant difference to how we moved and handled the cars as the day went forward. Sitting correctly and steering correctly meant you could maneuver the car efficiently.
There are two types of drivers. One type starts slow and takes a while to build up speed. The other type is almost instantly fast.
Once the briefing was over, we were off. We were guided through the track for the first few laps, to familiarize us with the racing lines and braking points. Then Stefan took turns riding with each participant, and he began instructing us and adjusting our maneuvers. Once he was satisfied that we were ready, we were allowed on the track on our own. Stefan monitored our progress from the pits with both video and telemetry.
After five to six laps, we would come in to debrief, and were given further instructions on how to improve. As we gained confidence and learned the limits of our vehicles, we got faster and we got smoother. Each well-timed application of the brake, smooth down-shift, or corner taken just right, added to a fulfilling sense of achievement. I was hopelessly hooked!
There’s so much to learn from a session with Stefan. These tips are just the beginning.
Try to identify what kind of driver you are.
There are two types of drivers. One type starts slow and takes a while to build up speed. The other type is almost instantly fast. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.
My Tito George is a driver who is instantly quick. He is at that edge fast. But then he also wrecks a lot. That is part of it. Dad was slower to build speed, but he could build, build, build to the point where he was as fast as Tito George, if not faster. But if you gave them one lap each, Tito George would beat him.
Even from teaching my students, I frequently pick up something new.
If you are the type that is instantly quick, great, but you also need to be careful because you can mess up. And when you mess up it’s not a small touch to the barrier. You could wreck so badly you need to tow your car home.
Smooth is fast.
The smoother you are, the less you fight with your car, the faster you will be. It’s all about smooth inputs. In fact, when you are smoother, you look and feel slower, but actually you are carrying more speed.
Braking smoothly is important. Jackie Stewart said that when you brake, you need to imagine an egg between your pedal and the floor. You just need to squeeze gently without braking the egg. You also need to be smooth on the brake and smooth off, so you do not unsettle the car.
When on track, use all of the road available to you.
The sooner you open your steering, the better you can accelerate out of a corner. This sometimes means you need to be on the edge of the track. Study the layout and learn where you have more space to maximize the road and improve your position. Sometimes a meter or two to one side will give you two extra kph, and if you do that on every turn, that makes a difference.
The smoother you are, the less you fight with your car, the faster you will be.
The racing line can vary.
Everyone is different and every line is different. In formula V1, for example, the lines look similar, but there are actually differences of a few meters on how each driver takes the lines.
Some competitors rotate the car very early, which means they are able to power out earlier. You may think your line gives you a good exit, but there might be a better way. There is always somewhere you can improve. That’s why it’s nice to talk with other drivers and see what you can learn from each other. Even from teaching my students, I frequently pick up something new.
Know your car.
A skilled driver can quickly and effectively adapt to his car. It’s not just being the quickest, but also being the quickest to adapt to the conditions of the car.
Jaime, Mantle's motoring correspondent, is a lawyer, professional beer brewer and one of the founders of Pedro Brewcrafters. When he isn't brewing beer, he is dreaming of cars, or trying to improve his laptimes at Clark International Speedway.