From seating position to steering, freestyle racing means having the right move at the right time. Thanks to MINI USA, drivers can learn the techniques real competitive drivers use on the track. Available online, the instructional pamphlet “Mastering the Asphalt Arts” spills all the insider secrets.
Seating position is the first lesson. And although the cockpits of the MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S have been specifically designed to help occupants maintain the most ideal positioning, it’s still up to you to get situated correctly. Sit upright with your back flat against the back of the seat – the more surface contact the better, so you can feel what the car is doing. Your wrists should reach the top of the steering wheel when your arms are fully extended, and the shifter should be easily within reach. Legs should be slightly bent at the knee when any of your pedals are fully pressed.
Next is vision. Always look exactly where you want to go, and keep walls, cones and other cars in your periphery. Try to look through the top half of your windshield and be aware of what other drivers around you are doing. When turning, remember that there are multiple stages – the braking zone, the turn-in point, the apex and the exit line. By focusing on each phase, you’ll complete your turn smoothly and efficiently.
Jerky braking, steering or accelerating are often signs of an inexperienced driver. Think about how weight is transferred in your car when you accelerate and brake, and change your technique to maximize smoothness, as well as your grip on the road (friction management).
The steering wheels in the MINI Cooper and Cooper S were designed to provide your hands with the most support when in the ideal 9 and 3 o’clock position. Don’t grip the steering wheel too hard or you’ll get tired and lose sensitivity when assessing your car’s feedback. When turning, it’s better to push the wheel rather than pull it because when pushing, your wrist stays locked and provides better control.
If you’re in the habit of always leaving your hand on the shiftknob, you’re losing control and tactile feedback that comes from the wheel; only touch the knob when shifting. Grip the shifter with an open palm and try not to “slam” it when changing gears – it won’t make you go any faster and can only cause excess wear and tear to your precious MINI.
For the most part, braking and accelerating are all about being smooth. Think about weight transfer and “listening” with your hands and feet for optimal control. Need to avoid an accident? Remember that at high speeds, your car can turn better than it can stop. If you see an accident coming, try switching lanes and accelerating past it before you slam on the brakes.
MINI also provides useful step by step cornering and heel-toe downshifting instructions. Another key to racing like a pro involves knowing the flags, since ignoring them could lead to penalties or even disqualification. If a black flag with orange circle is pointed at your car, it means you have a serious mechanical problem and need to report to the pit area immediately. The yellow and red striped flag indicates a messy track and that you should proceed with caution.
Of course, MINI reminds drivers to be safe and responsible on the road. These tips, however, can help drivers improve their every day techniques, making commutes to work or family road trips more enjoyable and safe. If you do have a checkered flag in your future, or you just want to learn more, consult “Mastering the Asphalt Arts”at www.miniusa.com/downloads/asphalt_arts.pdf and get ready for that victory lap.