I get this question quite often: How do I find the limit or when do I know that I am at the limit?
First of all, we should define where the limit is: When we talk about the limit, we mean the range in which the vehicle moves fastest around the track, i.e. in which the combination of vehicle and tyres is used optimally. So it can be said that the limit is the area in which the tyre is about to lose its grip.
The area where the tyre is about to lose its grip can be influenced to a certain degree by the driving style: A calm driver produces less weight transfer changes, so that the tyre can build up the existing grip better. You can also put it this way: If the tyre has more time to mesh with the asphalt ( = a calm driver who produces few load change reactions), then it can build up more grip. So if you are one of those guys that are zig-zagging the steering to find the limit: That is a bad habit ;-)
So much for this boring part of the theory of the actually quite exciting subject of "driving a racing car".
In order to find this out, there is one easy way: Look for a driver of whom you know that he is very fast and let him drive a reference lap.
"Sure, of course he'll suggest that now", some might say. But there is a reason for that:
If a driver is not sure and tries to solve this problem without help, the following things can happen:
1. You overdo it, because you don't know where the limit is. If you spin, then the next question is: Why did it happen exactly?
2. Nothing. Why nothing? You may are already at the limit of your vehicle but do you know for sure? Maybe the way you drive a race car is in your way of becoming a faster driver.
I know drivers from the NLS / VLN who would rather drive ten tests a year with the aim of improving, but due to the fact that they are not prepared to spend money on a professional driving coach, they don't get any faster even though they are 15-20 seconds of the fastest guys in the same car. Don't get me wrong: everyone should drive as much as he wants and can. But if you have the goal to improve, then you should consider how this path can be taken quickly and with a sensible investment of money. And ten tests are way more expensive than e.g. five tests with a proper driving coach.
But back to the topic:
Should the known fast driver be faster than you, then you know: I was not at the limit, you can drive faster with my vehicle. Now you can work out the driving differences together with the driver using videos and data and thus get closer and closer to the limit.
If the known fast driver is not faster than you, then you know: "Hey, I'm already doing really well" and this knowledge can also be very valuable, keyword self-confidence, which is also very important in racing.
But there are also some self-coaching things you can watch out for, when you are driving:
- The Apex of your Speed (a.k.a. the lowest speed) should usually be where the Apex of the corner is, so if you can pick up the throttle before the Apex you usually are not fast enough
- If you can place the car anywhere you want after the Apex, than your exit is not fast enough. The car should pull all the way to the outside by itself. If you are actively driving your car to the outside after a corner, basically steering there, than you are most likely not getting the most out of your tires at this point. This is also the reason why you see fast guys sometimes run wide at the exit of a corner: It is not that they need glasses as they do not see the gras or gravel. They are carrying so much speed, that the car just pushes them wide.
There is also another way to get an idea if you are at the limit: G-G Graph.
The G-G graph can be seen as a further development of the traction circle.
If the G-G Graph resembles the shape of a tilted D or similar to a heart. If this is the case, then the driver is already getting a lot of performance out of his car. The limit of the G-forces is reached when the car starts to slide in the corners, a tyre locks under braking or the driver is in ABS. When accelerating, the limit is indicated by spinning tyres.
The G-G graph plots the G-forces on a lap for left turns, right turns, acceleration and deceleration. For this reason, the upper side is relatively flat, as a car naturally does not accelerate as much as it decelerates. The shape of the G-G graph is the same for each car, only the G-forces change.
This G-G graph is an approximation of how well a driver is basically doing.
So long, see you soon!