BY WILLIAM ZANE
Sports cars are geared towards an overall balance of performance that maximizes handling, acceleration and braking. As opposed to a muscle car, which is focused primarily on power and acceleration, a sports car delivers a lot of fun when it comes time to cornering, whether it’s a race track or a deserted back road.
Accelerate smoothly but aggressively. When you accelerate in a sports car, apply the throttle progressively and not in a jerky manner, particularly when exiting corners. This will ensure the vehicle does not become unsettled. In high-powered sports cars like Corvettes and Porsches, this is particularly important, since the sudden power increase can cause instability.
Keep both hands on the wheel unless you are shifting gears. Hold the wheel at the 3 and 9 o’clock. When turning into a corner, avoid “shuffle steering,” which is where you slide you hands around the wheel as you turn it. Rather, keep your hands in the same position, even if your arms cross. This can be difficult to get used to at first, but it ensures that you always know where the straight-ahead position of the wheel is.
Shift near redline if the engine is a high-revving motor. Most normally aspirated sports car engines redline relatively high, anywhere from 6,500 to 9,000 rpm. Often, peak horsepower is made just before or at redline. Of course, some cars like the Porsche 911 Turbo produce a lot of power and torque down low and do not need to be revved as high before the next gear is selected.
Shift quickly but smoothly. Do not just ram the gear lever from gear to gear during up- and downshifting. Instead, shift as smoothly as possible, pausing for a second in between gears before sliding the lever into the next gear. This will reduce mechanical wear as well as make driving more enjoyable.
Match the engine rpms to the gear you are downshifting into. When slowing down for a corner and downshifting to the next lower gear, blip the throttle to bring the revs up to where the lower gear is going to place the engine rpms.
Use the “heel and toe” method when simultaneously braking and downshifting. Heel and toe downshifting is where you rotate the foot on the brake over to the gas pedal to blip the throttle and bring the rpms up while still braking. This is an advanced driving technique, but will make your driving smoother and quicker and reduce wear on the car’s mechanical components.
Finish slowing the car before you enter the turn. When you are approaching an upcoming bend, get your braking done before you enter the turn. If you have to apply braking during a turn to reduce your speed, you may upset the composure of the vehicle’s chassis because of the sudden weigh transfer towards the outside of the turn. Use the brakes as you enter the turn to transfer weight towards the outside of the turn.
Look where you are going during cornering, not where you are at. If you are traveling quickly through a corner, keep your eyes up the road to where the car is headed.
Do not start accelerating full throttle until you are past the apex of the corner, which is the portion of the corner where the arc is starting to curve towards the exit. Apply the throttle smoothly so as not to upset the composure of the vehicle. Applying too much throttle before the exit of the turn can result in oversteer, where the rear end loses grip and goes towards the outside of the turn, or understeer, where the front end goes towards the outside of the turn instead of staying on the line you are driving on. At times, oversteer is a desirable effect, especially in a sports car, and can make driving more fun if it is controllable. It can however, also be dangerous.