By Andy Hollis
(Andy is a multiple National Solo Champion and an instructor for the Evolution Solo School)
1] Position first, then speed.
Positioning the car perfectly is more important than trying to
attain the highest potential speed. For example, you will drop more
time by correctly positioning the car nearer to slalom cones than
you will by adding 1 or 2 MPH in speed. Same with sweepers (tight
line). Same with 90-degree turns (use all of the track). Also,
position is a prerequisite for speed. If you are not in the correct
place, you will not be able go faster. Or at least not for very
Turn earlier...and less. To go faster, the arc you are running
must be bigger. A bigger arc requires less steering. To make a
bigger arc that is centered in the same place, the arc must start
sooner (turn earlier).
Brake earlier...and less. Waiting until the last possible
second approaching a turn and then dropping anchor at precisely the
correct place so that the desired entry speed is reached exactly as
you come to the turn-in point is quite difficult to execute
consistently. Especially when you consider that you get no practice
runs on the course, and the surface changes on every run, and you
aren't likely to be in exactly the same position with the same
approach speed on every run, etc. Better to start braking a little
earlier to give some margin of error. And by braking less you can
either add or subtract braking effort as you close in on the turn-in
point. This will make you consistent and smooth.
Lift early instead of braking later. Continuing with the
philosophy of #3, when you need to reduce speed only a moderate
amount, try an early lift of the throttle instead of a later push of
the brake. This is less upsetting to the car, is easier to do and
thus more consistent, and allows for more precise placement entering
the maneuver (remember #1 above).
Easier to add speed in a turn than to get rid of it. If you
are under the limit, a slight push of the right foot will get you
more speed with no additional side effects. On the other hand, if
you are too fast and the tires have begun slipping, you can only
reduce throttle and wait until the tires turn enough of that excess
energy into smoke and heat. Don't use your tires as brakes!
Use your right foot to modulate car position in constant
radius turns, not the steering wheel. In a steady state turn, once
you have established the correct steering input to maintain that
arc, lifting the throttle slightly will let the car tuck in closer
to the inside cones. Conversely, slightly increasing the throttle
will push the car out a bit farther to avoid inside cones. It is
much easier to make small corrections in position with slight
variations in the tires' slip angle (that's what you are doing with
the throttle) than with the steering wheel.
Unwind the wheel, then add power. If the car is using all of
the tire's tractive capacity to corner, there is none left for
additional acceleration. At corner exit, as you unwind the wheel,
you make some available. If you do not unwind the wheel, the tire
will start to slide and the car will push out (see #6 above).
Attack the back. For slaloms (also applicable to most
offsets), getting close to the cones is critical for quick times
(see #1). To get close, we must move the car less, which means
bigger arcs. Bigger arcs come from less steering and require earlier
turning (see #2). Now for the fun part... When you go by a slalom
cone and start turning the steering wheel back the other way, when
does the car start to actually change direction? Answer: When the
wheel crosses the center point (Not when you first start turning
back!) How long does that take? If you are smooth, it takes .25 - .5
seconds. Now, how long is a typical person's reaction time? Answer:
about .5 seconds. Finally, how long does it take to go between
slalom cones? Answer: Typically on the order of 1 second. Given all
of that, your brain must make the decision to begin turning the
steering wheel back the other way just *before* you go by the
Since this is a
mental issue, a good visualization technique to get used to this is
to think about trying to run over the back side of each slalom cone
with the inside rear tire of the car. To hit it with the rear tire
(and not the front), the car must be arcing well before the cone and
the arc must be shallow. Attack the back!
Hands follow the eyes, car follows the hands. 'Nuf
10] Scan ahead, don't stare.
Keep the eyes moving. Looking ahead does not mean staring ahead.
Your eyes must be constantly moving forward and back, and sometimes
left and right. Glance forward, glance back. Your brain can only
operate on the information you give it.
Tip: Don't forget the stuff in between the marked
maneuvers! Too often we think of a course as series of discrete
maneuvers. There is typically more to be gained or lost in the areas
that are in between. Pay special attention to the places where there
are no cones.