If you are heading to a new track, there are a lot of resources to help prepare you. While memorizing the track layout and reference points in advance can set you up for success, real success comes from keen observation and skillful application.
Before you head to the track, review any information you can get your hands on—track maps, in-car videos, simulation games and even track descriptions by experts. Look at the track’s website, YouTube and other online resources.
During the preparation stage, try to become as familiar as possible with the direction the track goes.
In-car videos are a great start for understanding the reference points. However, don’t take in-car videos to heart. Unless you’re driving the exact same car, don’t memorize every little detail in the video. Take note of their reference points and move on. Just because a driver uses a certain point as a turn-in, it doesn’t mean it will be right for you and your car. Use the same reference point but be ready to adjust exactly how you use it.
Soak it up
During the first few sessions, take in as much information about the track as possible. Consider using a session to focus solely on taking in the visual information. Then use a session for absorbing the feel, balance and g-forces. Then a session for noticing auditory information.
Document and replay
After each session, make notes on a track map of every minute detail–shift points, braking points, etc. Also note cracks in the pavement, shapes and placements of the curbs, corner worker stations, signs, bridges, changes in the track surface, etc.
After you’ve written down all the information, replay it in your mind. The more you replay the track, the faster you will learn the track.
Drive your car, not the track
At some point you will need to trust your research and track replays to do their job. Stop thinking about the track and focus on driving your car to its limit. If you drive your car at its limit, even off line, you will be faster than if you drive the perfect line with your car at 85%.
Learning a new track is a great way to challenge your skill and keep your instincts fresh. Plus, if you are like us, you likely have a bucket list of tracks you want to visit.
However you prepare for a new track, have fun and stay safe!