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Adjusting The Driver To Address Handling Issues

First, Identify If The Handling Issue Is Driver Induced or Chassis Induced

Before we look to correct the driver, we first need to identify if the handling issue is driver induced or chassis induced. In previous content we reviewed this information and discussed simple rules to help us identify this. Below is a repeat of that information We addressed handling issues that are induced by the chassis in this previous content. This content will address adjustments we can make to the driver to help resolve handling issues.


  • Is the handling issue inconsistent and varies from corner to corner? – Adjust the driver.
  • Does the handling issue only occur at one specific corner? – Adjust the driver.
  • Does the handling issue at a specific type of corner, like a carousel, high-speed corner, low-speed 90 degree corner? – Adjust the chassis.
  • Does the handling issue occur on left or right turns only? – Adjust the chassis.


The Driver Has the Biggest Impact on Handling

The driver has perhaps the greatest influence on handing. A good driver can take a poor handling car, learn what it needs, then adapt his/her driving style to provide the chassis what it needs. Think Ayrton Senna at the Monaco GP in 1984 in the rain, in the back marker Toleman.


We can do all the chassis mods we desire, but if the driver is not placing the car where it needs to be in the corner, and being consistent corner by corner, lap after lap then we are chasing our tail. We’ve heard the term be “smooth and balanced”, but what does this mean.


Being Smooth

Being smooth means when the driver is providing inputs:  braking, steering and throttle – they are smooth with these inputs. In season 8, episode 5 of the original “Top Gear” with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, Jackie Stewart takes “Capitan Slow” (aka James May) under his wing and promises to take 20 seconds off his lap time at Oulton Park.


jackie stewart james may top gear

Season 8, Episode 5 of “Top Gear”. Jackie Stewart teaches “Captain Slow”


In this episode Jackie explains this by walking up to James and smacks him on the shoulders and James falls back as one would expect. Then Jackie walks up to James again, this time he places his hand on his shoulder and slowly presses into him. James is able to anticipate the movement and is able to brace himself. Its the same with providing brake, throttle and steering input to the car. Be firm yet gentle with your inputs. Not jerky.


Being Balanced

Being balanced means we keep the car balanced with our inputs and are getting all four tires to work to their maximum. This is the same as if you are playing defense in basketball. The defender is lower than the offensive player and balanced equally on both legs squared to the offensive player. In this position you can shift directions quickly and maintain being squared to the player you are defending. Instead of two legs, the car has four tires.


The driver affects the timing of weight transfer. The driver affects how much weight is transferred and when and how quickly the weight is transferred.


The Transitions

Below are the three major sections of the corner sequence (transitions) and where the driver especially needs to be conscious.


  • From Straight-Line Braking to Beginning of Turn-In
  • From Turn-In to Mid-Corner (Neutral/Maintenance Throttle)
  • From Mid-Corner to Exit (Application of Full Throttle)



Tire, Tire, Tires

Everything we do on track, from car setup to driver inputs, is geared to make the most of the tires available grip. Handling issues occur when the traction limits of the tires has been exceeded.


Understeer – occurs because the traction limits of the front tires has been exceeded or there is not enough load on the front tires.

Oversteer – occurs because the traction limits of the rear tires has been exceeded or there is not enough load on the rear tires.


Our job as drivers is to sense what the car is doing and make corrections, if necessary. Without going into the physics, but the lower treadwear tires we tend to see on track (220-ish treadwear) and R-Comp tires get “grippy” when we put heat in them and develop slip angle. Typically we want to stay in the 6-10% of slip. Our job as drivers is to maintain a consistent level of slip and do so smoothly without a lot of transition. (i.e. avoiding herky-jerky movements). We want to be smooth with our brake, throttle and steering inputs.


The goal with this content is to provide us some tips we can use to help the driver make more of the tires available grip, gain more exit speed and lower his/her lap times.


We can further break down the above listed transitions and provide the driver with some areas to sense and concentrate on.


From Straight-Line Braking to Beginning of Turn-In

Chosen Brake Point – Foot off Throttle and Initial Brake Application

This is the point where the driver decides to come off the throttle and apply the brakes. When a driver is new to a track, or its a morning session (both track and driver are cool from the previous day), the driver will tend to lift off the throttle and apply brakes sooner in the corner. As this session goes on and as the day goes on, pending weather conditions, and the driver develops confidence in both his/her skills and the car, the driver will tend to maintain throttle longer in the straight and brake later in this sequence. (In this content I describe selecting our chosen brake point).


Straight-Line Brake Modulation

This is the phase of the corner where the driver is 100% on the brakes. Not all brakes zones are the same. In this phase the driver is conscious of how much pressure he/she is providing to the brakes. A faster corner will tend to require less brake pressure. Just a bit of pressure to bleed some speed and settle the car for the corner. A slower 90 degree corner will require more brake pressure so the car can be slowed sufficiently so there is lateral grip available from the tires to help us turn.


Release of Brakes and Begin Turn-In

This is the most critical part of the corner and the drivers first real opportunity to learn what the car is telling him/her. The driver has an opportunity here to sense what the car is telling him and provides feedback as to maybe making some corrections on this corner on the next lap. This content is geared to help the driver, to investigate any possible chassis mods to make the reader is referred to this content. I go into more detail on releasing the brakes in this video.


Understeer – the car is carrying too much speed and the traction limits of the front tires have been exceeded. The driver needs to be at this point of the corner going at a lower rate of speed. Here are some corrections the driver can make:

  • The driver can try perhaps coming off the throttle sooner entering this corner and making the initial brake application sooner on the straight.
  • The driver can perhaps keep the initial brake point the same but apply more brake pressure to ensure that threshold braking is achieved.
  • The driver can try to trial-brake a bit more keeping a dab of brake input a heartbeat or two later in this corner.


Oversteer – the traction limits of the rear tires have been exceeded at a time when the driver is expecting there to be some lateral grip available in the rear tires to help the car turn. Here are some corrections the driver can make:

  • The driver can try trial-braking a bit less which will help shift load to the rear tires so we have some lateral grip available in the rear tires to help the car turn.
  • The driver can begin to come off the brakes sooner also to help shift load to the rear tires. This may involve tweaking Straight-Line Brake Modulation and/or coming off the throttle sooner and applying brakes sooner in the straight.


Other things to consider. Does this section of corner involve a slight uphill or downhill transition? If slight uphill, the front suspension will be compressed and may need to be very conscious of the rate of and timing of releasing the brakes. Coming off the brakes too quickly will cause the front of the car to “jump” releasing load from the front tires.


From Turn-In to Mid-Corner (Neutral/Maintenance Throttle)

Minimal Steering Input

Once the driver has set his/her steering angle on turn-in we want to either eliminate, or greatly reduce any steering input after turn-in. Changing, or sawing at, steering angle will tend to bleed speed as the angle of the front tires change. If there are any corrections the driver needs to make with the steering wheel in this phase of the corner then the driver needs to think back to corner entry and develop a plan for the next lap to make some corrections in this phase of the corner so that steering input is either eliminated or minimal.


Maintenance Throttle

At mid-corner, if there are any direction/angle changes we wish to make with the car we will do this with throttle input. If have slight understeer and may miss the apex, then a slight lift of the throttle will help shift load to the front tires helping the front tires to bite and help us to clip our apex. An example is at the long carousel at Road America (turns 9/10) the driver can give a little dab of throttle, then lift, to help the front end bite to clip the apex, helping us get to wide open throttle sooner. In this phase of the corner the driver is sensing the car and either adding a dash of throttle or a slight lift.

Eggs Shells

In this phase of the corner it helps to think of egg shells on the throttle, and you don’t want to break them. It is a very delicate touch on the throttle.


Mid-Corner (Apex)

The apex is the most crucial part of the corner. What we do with corner entry is designed to help us clip the apex so we can begin to unwind the steering wheel and get back to throttle.


From Mid-Corner to Exit (Application of Full Throttle)

Unwinding the Wheel, Squeeze The Throttle

After we’ve clipped the apex we then begin unwind the steering wheel and begin to squeeze throttle. Actually, unwinding the steering wheel and applying throttle before the apex is the real goal. This takes seat time and practice. The driver who applies throttle first will tend to be the quicker driver. Think about it, in a drag race would you rather give up a second of throttle time at the start of the race when both cars are not moving? Or at the end of the 1/4 mile when both cars are moving?  Years ago when Casey Stoner was running in MotoGP someone asked the corner workers why Casey was so quick. They replied that they could hear that Casey was applying the throttle in the corner before the other riders, gaining just that bit more time of throttle time.

Clip Exit Point/Full Throttle (WOT)

Once the driver has clipped his/her choose apex then the eyes shift to the exit point (using all of the track) and the driver continues to squeeze more throttle until reaching full throttle.


Assess the Success/Failure of that Corner

After completing that corner the driver needs to assess how that corner went. How did the chassis feel? Was the car balanced or unbalanced? Did I have to lift after initially applying throttle? Was I upshifting sooner or later after the exit from my prior lap?  Did I need to apply steering input after passing my apex?


The driver then needs to develop a plan for that corner on the next lap. Sometimes, often, one or two corners will give a driver issues. Try to solve this on your own before seeking guidance from other drivers who may have more experience at a given track. After the session, find a quiet spot. Think about the corner. What were your inputs? How did the chassis feel? Back up and think about where you could better place the car to have a better exit. Sometimes it may be a sequence of corners and you need to look at where you could place the car differently to help your exit at the corner in question.


Above all, have fun!




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