Q: Is going “four off” necessary to learn the limits of my car?
A: Going four off is not necessary to do to find the limits of the car. All going four off is going to teach you is how to change that part you keep breaking faster. Going four off will develop bad habits, and a team owner will not like you for it when you get to the higher ranks.
The way to find the limit is to try rolling a lot of speed. If you notice you are pushing off, slow the car down, regroup, and try going a little slower the next lap. You can also think you are finding the limit, but you really could be running the wrong line. The best way to notice that is to turn in really late, get down to the bottom of the corner late and if you notice you have a lot of track out room, turn in earlier and earlier until you get the biggest arch with the most speed. The reason I say start with a late turn-in is because if you turn in early you will get big understeer at the exit that can possibly put you into a wall or off track.
When I show up to a brand-new track during an IMSA weekend, during the first practice I out-brake myself and the car without going four off. I will drive to the edge of the track, get the car slowed and make a mental note of where I began braking, the speed at which I went in, and how I approached the corner. I could have braked at the right spot and just turned in too early, so the next lap I brake at the same spot and turn in later.
You should never go four off to find the limit of a car. It’s dangerous and isn’t effective. Finding the limit can be done in many different ways, but going over the limit should only make you go to the edge of the track. Under the limit and over the limit is easy. Finding the limit is one of the hardest parts in racing.
Tyler Cooke is a driving instructor with the Ford Performance Racing School and a professional racer in the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.