The MX-5 is a delicate little car that doesn’t take well to being driven aggressively.
Delicacy and balance are the main principles of fast driving: progressive inputs to the brakes, steering and accelerator are all required to keep the car balanced at the limits of its grip. Stomping on the pedals or jerking at the wheel is sure to push you over that limit, the result of which is usually a slide or a spin.
When braking, squeeze the pedal gently at first, then harder as the weight transfers to the front wheels. Do all your braking in a straight line before you start turning. Maximum braking power occurs when the tyres are gripping, not skidding. If the tyres lock up, gently lift off the brakes, then squeeze them again. You don’t need to lift completely, just enough to get the wheels rotating again. Shift down a gear if it is necessary for the next corner. Heel-and-toe downshifting (blipping the throttle with the heel whilst braking with the ball of the foot) is a good technique to learn so that the car is not thrown off balance when you let the clutch out in the lower gear. The throttle-blipping action matches the engine speed to the gearbox speed so that they engage smoothly.
Turn in gently at the start of a corner, let the car settle on to the outside tyres so it can achieve maximum cornering grip. A popular racers’ motto is “Slow In, Fast Out”. What this really means is that if you turn in to a corner going too fast, you will quickly run out of room to finish the turn, either running off the track or delaying when you can accelerate again. If you sacrifice a little entry speed, you can begin accelerating earlier. The earlier you can get back on to the power coming out of a turn, the more speed you will carry down the following straight.
Squeeze on the accelerator gently, transferring the weight progressively to the rear of the car. Acceleration should begin somewhere around the apex of the corner, not at the end of it. Smooth, tidy driving is the key to quick lap times.
If you have any more questions feel free to contact your Chapter Captain – Motorsport.