Whether it’s your first track day or you’re a seasoned HPDE pro - mistakes happen; we’ve all done it. You're suddenly off the course, doing some landscaping work in a gravel trap and you have no idea how you got there. By the grace of the racing Gods (or more likely, intelligent traction control systems) you manage to collect the car without hitting anything. Now your brain is full of questions like, “was there fluid on the track?” or “what did I do wrong?”.
Like many teachers say, mistakes are opportunities to learn. Driving on track is no different. However, unlike learning arithmetic, making mistakes on track can have very expensive consequences so it's important to learn from close calls before they turn into actual collisions.
Over the years I’ve come up with my own system that I implement when someone I’m coaching has one of these close calls:
1. Return to the Pits
As a driver, you can become totally consumed with your mistake, lose focus, and drive right by your braking marker for the next turn! It's also important to get a good look at the car. After all, a flat tire may be the culprit for the spin but if you keep driving this will only get worse. Get back to the pit lane safely, get out of the car, and take a breather.
2. Review your Track Footage
If you have an on-board camera, this would be a good time to review the footage while you're taking a quick break. Ask a coach or a friend to watch it with you for a different perspective. If you had a spin, don’t focus on the spin itself; instead, concentrate on the choices you made prior to the spin. Did you miss your brake marker? Did you turn in too early? Were you distracted by something? Sometimes, several mistakes in the prior corner(s) start a domino effect. It's important to find the real cause so you know what behavior to modify.
3. Get Back on the Track!
Once you identify the reason for the spin or close call, get back on track and focus on the technique and/or corner in question. Take that particular corner at a reduced pace so you have time to think about your changes. Slowly, bring your speed up in that corner each consecutive lap. If the reason for the close call is a deeply ingrained habit, you may want to spend several sessions at a reduced pace with extra concentration on breaking the habit!
If you follow these steps, you’ll be back to enjoying your HPDE track day in no time!
How do you get back on track after making a mistake? We’d love to hear the tips and techniques that have helped you in the comments below!