The entry dot for lifting...
The entry dot for lifting going into Turn 3 at New Smyrna Speedway is far from the deepest point that would still allow you to avoid crashing, but offers a much more stable entry and more retained speed for an overall faster lap. This is the hardest thing for a driver to understand and perform.
An Explanation of the Process
BJ McLeod has a lot of poles to his credit in and around Florida. There are a lot of good drivers who can also put down a decent couple of laps, and he manages to best them on a regular basis. Here is how he explained his process: "I run my qualifying laps many times over in my head before I even get into the car. I know when I am going to lift and when I am going to begin to accelerate. When I leave pit road, the thought process is all over-I know exactly what I am going to do and I do it."
He doesn't let emotion or the heat of the moment drive his car. He does exactly what should be done by lifting at the correct point, letting the car roll into the turn and settle down, and then beginning to accelerate as soon as the car is ready, which is earlier than most. The lap times tell the story, and it works.
Lifting early feels like it will be slow. It takes a lot of discipline to work against the tendency to over-run the entry. Doing what works out right on the stopwatch and against what feels right is a process that has to be learned and memorized. It has to become second nature. Once you see the results, you will know what has to be done.
Mike goes over the theory...
Mike goes over the theory and how it works in the different phases. The students can get a good idea of how and why this makes sense. Having an instructor to define the process and then observe and correct the inevitable mistakes was invaluable.
The Results When we arrived, we shook down the test car, which was Dalton's regular series race car, by turning a few laps. Then, BJ took Dalton for a ride in the school's two-seater car to show him the various points on the track and how to drive the perfect qualifying lap.
Next, we ran two-lap qualifying runs in Dalton's car on cold tires. We used the same used tires as before, but waited a sufficient amount of time between runs in order to cool the tires. Remember that this was in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. There was no rubber on the track, and it was hot and greasy. The track remained consistent during the entire test.
The first run was done just the way he had always qualified and was a 19.8. On the next run, again on the same but cooled tires, and with a little instruction from Mike and BJ, the time fell to 19.50. We waited some more for the tires to cool, and then, with a few more corrections, the time dropped again to 19.30. By further fine-tuning the process, we were seeing 19.0's.
When the entry is executed...
When the entry is executed correctly, the car stays on the bottom, is under control at all times, is faster in the middle, and feels comfortable during early acceleration. The distance at which the car is under power and gaining speed is greatly increased with this method.
After the school was over and everyone had left, Dalton practiced some more (with the same tires and setup) and got the times down into the 18.80's. The first runs from 19.8 to 19.5 could have just been getting the tires scuffed and the track blown off, but the real gain was around 0.7 second. At the races, when Dalton should have been three to four tenths quicker on new tires in qualifying, he was sometimes that much slower. With the method taught by Mike and BJ, he might now be able to start up front or even get a pole or two this season.
Mike often refers to the process as "slowing down to go fast" because that is what it feels like to a new student. The reality of the process is that you allow the car to maintain a higher speed instead of slowing it down, and the entry is then faster, the middle is faster, and the acceleration zone is longer. All of this adds up to a gain of 3-4 mph per lap (average), or six to eight tenths of a second. That will put you very near the front every time.