What Rasmussen said about late apexes, yes! If you late apex every corner
on the course, you will be right 90% of the time and comfortably in control
100% of the time. Then you eventually learn when the exception to the rule is
that you choose an early apex instead. Late is the baseline.
With a late apex, you can accelerate out of the corner instead of having to
wait until you get mostly around it to begin to feed in the gas. You want to
be able to be feeding in the gas before you actually reach the corner apex
(the point at which you are nearest the inside edge ... which is not always
the cone; some of Roger "the real" Johnson's Nationals courses are notorious
for locating cones so that the true apex is someplace between them ... so you
may have to visualize in your mind's eye the "edge" of the curve, then draw
the "line" through that curve that gives you that late apex.
Oh, no one has really defined late apex, have they? As you go around a corner
there is some point at which you are nearest the inside edge. A perfectly
even line around a corner will locate that apex in the exact center of the
curve (I think, mathematically, that IS the apex). A Late apex means you
are nearest to the inside edge at a point somewhat beyond that midpoint.
Early apex (what most novices do) has you nearest the inside edge at a point
before the midpoint of the curve. Late apex also means you actually begin
to turn later. Wait for it. the usual novice error is to turn too early, then
the outside wall (real or imaginary) of the turn is in your face and you have
to slow down or wait a while before you get that beside you instead of in
front of you so you can accelerate again.
Generally to do a late apex, you come in a little deeper, brake a little harder
bend the car into the turn (don't jerk the wheel), get on the gas a little
sooner, and boogie out! There is an acronym that covers it nicely: SIFO ...
slow in fast out. Give up a little speed going in to enable you to stand on it
To some degree, I disagree with Richard Nichols, although what he says may be
more applicable to high-powered cars.
"Straighten out the course." Here, he is dead on. Go edge to edge. Use all
the track. open up the curve radius and actually shorten the distance you
drive. Lengthen straightaways, which late apexing often accomplishes. How long
is a straightAway? It begins where you can get on the gas and ends where you
have to get off it again to brake, so if you can get on the gas 15 feet earlier
you are going a few mph faster at that braking point (beware, that may also
mean your braking point is now earlier). Ergo. less time to cover the distance.
"Smooth doesnt count for anything." Bull. Yes, there are a few good drivers
that are choppy, but they also can replicate that seemingly awkward movement
every time. Most of us, when we are choppy we are out of control and cannot
repeat the maneuver even if it worked last time (which only means you got away
with it, not that you planned it or could do it again). If you don't think
smooth counts, watch John Ames drive sometime. He looks downright slow. Boring
even. No excitement in the man at all. And then he wins seven national
championships in highly competitive and populated classes. The man is the
definition of smooth. when you develop smoothness, you develop a technique you
can repeat again and again.
"Looking ahead" -- for me one of the toughest go-fast "secrets." I know it, I
have known it for more than 20 years, and it is SO hard for me to do. But when
I get it right, migawd I didn;t realize I could get through that bit that
quick! I took a school once where, as I was driving a 10-cone slalom, my
instructor asked me how many lightning rods were on the barn across the
highway. WHAT? He was trying to get me to get my eyes off the next cone in the
slalom. Look how often a really good driver seems to be looking at something
completely away from where his car is pointed at the moment. He's already
mentally into the next section. You aim your car into a turn, commit to it,
that turn is DONE (even though you are not even at the apex yet). Mentally,
that's when you want to be up to the next turn, and visually that is where
you want to be looking.
"Point and squirt." Good technique IF your car has gobs of power or really
killer torque. If you have neither, then you need to carry speed and that
generally means wider lines that cover more distance but you do not have
to recover as much lost speed. You can scrub off speed faster than you can
gain it back. Point and squirt scrubs off a lot of speed, takes a tighter
line (covering less distance), then depends on brute power/torque to get
that speed back. Smoother "racing lines" take a wider line, let you drive
faster through the turn, and reward you with a higher speed as you exit the
turn to begin the next acceleration run. It is car-dependent. A Corvette may
do P&S very well, a VW Rabbit may not. Nichols has an SVO he is prepping for
CP -- a class in which P&S works well. Of course, even the CP car that can
carry more speed thru the corner (perhaps even with a tighter line) oughta
beat the one who parks in the turn.
Finally some advice of my own ... find out who the really good driver is and
walk the course with him, get him to ride with you. My daughter was in a
position last weekend of having to get into a car she had never autocrossed
before after mine broke, completely different class, so she took Don Knop along
for a couple of practice runs (allowed at this special event), and learned
stuff she used to place 2nd in a 5-car GS class (GS, not GSL).
And do not shy from asking the "dumb" question you think you'd heard the
answer to already. when I teach, I tell students "I may tell you 10-12 things
now; if you can remember and use two of them, you are doing fine. The others
will come along in time. Maybe it will be 'Oh, THAT's what he meant!' Or maybe
it will be someone else saying the same thing in a different way so that it
comes clear to you."
One more thing. when you learn this or that technique, practice it. Use it
every time you drive. Make them habit. They will make you not only a faster
autocrosser but also a more skillfull street/highway driver. There is only
one thing you use racing/autocrossing you cannot use on the public road, and
that is mashing the right pedal until you get to the next corner. But that's
the easiest part. The rest of it -- hand positions, looking ahead, cornering
lines and late apexes, seating position, etc. etc. -- all can and should be
used every time you drive to work or to get groceries. when they become habit,
you concentrate on the pecularities of this or that particular course, not on
where your hands are on the steering wheel. You will be surprised at how fast
you make the turn at streetcorner intersections, and you will marvel at how
effortless it felt. Don't do those street corner turns at 10/10ths, of course.
The speed is not the important thing there, the line is. The new speed you
find comes from efficiency, not from bravery.
There is so much to be learned. It does not all happen at once. Good luck.