The Cone Zone - January 2005


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"The Cone Zone" - January 2005
a.k.a. The Slalom Column
by

, JCNA Slalom Chair
posted 2/15/05


Probably the most frequently asked question I get at our slalom events is "What can I do to go faster and get a better time?" In prior articles, I've talked about some of the things you can do mechanically with your car, either basic maintenance or modifications, that can help you go faster. But what about driving technique? Here are some of the basics you need to keep in mind to get around the course as fast as possible.
First, know the course. That sounds obvious, but if you're thinking about where to go next, you can't concentrate on driving fast. While I'm waiting "on deck" for my run, I like to visualize the course and run through it as I'd like my run to be. But knowing the course is more that just understanding the configuration. You need to be conscious of where you make your turns, when to accelerate, when to brake and where to look.

Get in line early for your turn, make sure your seatbelt is on and tight, helmet on and comfortable, gloves on if you use them. Be sure your engine is well warmed up, especially if it is cold outside. Getting in line early allows you to slow down, think about what you are going to be doing and settle your mind to be able to really concentrate on the run. If you're rushed, you won't be able to settle down at the start line and give the course and your driving your full attention.

As you approach the start line, think about the first three turns and what you want to accomplish. The first lap of the slalom course is the slowest and the hardest to steer, so it allows for the greatest potential improvement in your time (advise I got from Gary Hagopian). Pull up to the start line, be sure that your car is angled properly and that you are to the left of the start box to get the best approach to the first turn. Take a few deep breaths and relax.

Remember, you don't have to start when you are given the okay by the starter. The timing does not start until you start to move, or in the case of electronic timing equipment, when you cross the line. Settle yourself and start as soon as you are comfortable. If you have a manual transmission, bring your rpm's up to get a good clean start. If you have an automatic, hold the brake with your left foot and bring rpm's up a bit, then release the brake as you press down on the gas. Avoid "burning rubber" as you pull away. Slipping tires waste acceleration.

DO NOT concentrate on the end cone of the first turn. If you do, you will hit it. One of the most important principles in driving, any driving, is that you will go where you look. If you look at the cones you are passing, you will hit them. You will also slow yourself down, because you now have to find the next spot you need to go to. As you drive, keep your eyes up, look to the next place you need to be, not where you are now. So as you approach the first turn, you should be looking at the next turn (the center cone for the "dog bone"). Use your peripheral vision and sense the edge of your car to get around the turn you are at. If you set it up right by looking ahead, the turn will take care of itself.

Start your turns before you reach the turning mark. Don't turn AT the corner, start turning BEFORE the corner. And don't pull tight to the corner cones. Stay out a bit so that your turn is smooth and rounded, not sharp and angular.

Most importantly, drive smoothly. Over-acceleration, skidding, squealing brakes, smoking tires may look really fast. But it's not. The fastest runs you'll see look smooth and effortless.

So get out on the course and give it a try. Slaloming is a great opportunity not only to test your driving skills, but also to improve them and learn more about how your car handles and gain important driving experience that can make your appreciation of these wonderful cars so much better. See you on the race course!
 

 

 

 

 

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