To effectively rev-match your downshifts, there are two key areas: Where in the braking zone does your downshift come, and when are you blipping the throttle? The perfectly timed downshift does not come during threshold braking, but actually in that middle part of the brake zone, in between peak brake pressure and turn-in. We also want to make sure that blip comes only as we put the shifter into the gear we are downshifting into. Most drivers are actually blipping the throttle too early in the heel-toe technique.
Before drivers are ready to work on rolling entry speed and trail-braking into a corner, there are a few foundations that must be perfected first. One of these foundations is timing the downshifts within the braking zone and perfecting rev-matching. It does not matter if you are performing a heel-toe downshift, or if you are driving a paddle-shift car, forming this foundation is important for drivers of all levels.
Timing The Downshifts
The first step of perfecting downshifts on the racetrack is identifying where in the brake zone they should come. Braking zones can be split into three zones.
1. Initial brake application, the shortest part of the braking zone
2. The slow release of brake pressure in a straight line, the longest part of the braking zone.
3. Releasing the last bit of brake pressure after turn-in.
We want to avoid our downshifts coming into zone 1 or 3. Contrary to common belief, we typically don’t want to heel-toe downshift when we are at our absolute highest threshold braking. At that point, our speed is typically higher, which will make the rev-matching more difficult for drivers. We will get into perfecting the rev-matching a little bit later in this article.
Here are some graphs using data to help visualize the three zones in a braking zone:
We also want to try to avoid downshifting after the turn-in point at corner entry. There are a few reason for this. The main issue is if we don’t get that perfect rev-match and we lock the rears a bit, the negative effect of all that will be made exponentially worse when we are turning in.
During straight-line braking, if we don’t time the blip correctly and we don’t get our rev-matching perfect, the rears will lock a little bit as we release the clutch. Typically this will just cause the rear to move around on us a little bit in straight-line braking, but won’t cause a spin unless it is egregious. If we make that same mistake after turn-in, it will almost always cause a spin or a very big moment.
After the turn-in, we are also on very light brake pressure, and our focus needs to be fully on feeling the car at the limit and manipulating the brake pressure to work with any understeer or oversteer that we may have. That extra mental capacity needed to heel-toe downshift in that region will distract most drivers too much and they will tend to make more small mistakes as they get closer to driving the car on the limit.
It does not matter if you are left-foot braking or right-foot braking, where we want our downshifts to come in the braking zone remains the same.
Now that we know where in the braking zone our downshifts should come, let’s discuss rev-matching. We want our downshifts to come later in a brake zone primarily to make the rev-matching much easier to do.
When we time our downshift correctly, and we time our blip correctly, rev-matching should be very easy. I should never require more than about 10 percent to 20 percent throttle on the blip. If you feel like you need more than that, then you have mistime that downshift or blip.
Let’s take a look at a driver’s data and compare his braking zones when they have to downshift and when he does not have to downshift.
In this first braking zone, there is no downshift, and this graph looks picture perfect. Look at that immediate ramp-up on brake pressure and a nice release. This is what all brake zones should look like regardless of whether there is one downshift, multiple downshifts or none at all.
Now let’s see what the same driver’s braking zone looks like when he is downshifting:
What makes this even more fascinating is that our driver here is a left-foot braker. So, this is not the typical incorrect heel-toe technique that leads a driver to release the brakes during those blips. The difference in these braking zones is purely mental.
Let’s go through the key areas we need to fix:
1. First and foremost, we want to see them get back to that hard initial hit of the brakes. The relative “heavy” brake pressure in brake zones will be different from corner to corner, but where the heaviest brake pressure comes in a specific brake zone should never change. The heaviest brake pressure should happen right away.
2. Actuate crisp blips and time them correctly. If you look at where our driver blips the throttle, you will see that they are not crisp at all. This is usually a big sign of lack of confidence in one’s own technique, and it actually makes the car feel worse during the downshift, making a driver’s confidence even worse.
Our driver actually has perfect timing with his downshifts, but he lets other techniques suffer too much to have a good looking brake zone. Also, an additional note that should serve as a warning for all left-foot brakers: If you look closely, you can see our driver is ever so slightly resting his right foot on the throttle during the braking zone. That is dangerous, so if you are a left-foot braker, make sure you take the time to check your data to ensure you are not doing this yourself. Checking that should be part of your post session downloads every time.
To make rev-matching easier, we also need to speak about where in the heel-toe downshift the blip needs to come. Far too often, we see drivers engage the clutch, blip the throttle as they are taking it out of the gear they were in and then going to the gear than want to downshift to and then release the clutch.
One small change that makes a world of difference in making heel-toe downshifting much easier is timing the blip better. We want to see a driver engage the clutch, take the shifter out of the gear they are in, then as you are pushing the shifter into the gate for the gear you are downshifting into, blip then and then release the clutch.
The first way drivers need to blip much more aggressively as the rpm don’t stay high for very long and that makes the whole technique much less consistent. When we delay our blip by that tiny amount, we need much less throttle percent on the blip and the entire downshift becomes much more consistent.
Why Rev-Matching is Better Than Slowly Releasing the Clutch
It is impossible for a driver in a manual car to be at the limit of the car if he does not have a solid heel-toe technique and is blipping the throttle to match the revs. The reason for this comes down to entry speed.
When a driver just slowly releases the clutch, the rear tires will start to lock and they will need to kill off more speed to get into gear. A well-timed blip allows the driver to get the car into the gear they want at a higher speed. Since we want our downshifts to come before the turn-in, that blip allows us to get the downshift done with more speed, turn in at more speed and trail-brake all the way down to the apex.
When drivers do not blip, they have to slow down more in a straight line and will have to turn in with less entry speed. The corner entry over-slowing, then often causes other very bad habits. One of those is causing a driver to pick up the throttle too early. Picking up the throttle too early is actually by far the most common error our coaches at Racers360 see, and we have a great in-depth story on why it is such a problem here.
So, to make rev-matching easier, we want you to focus on a few key points:
1. Downshift in the middle of the braking zone.
2. Time your blip as you are engaging the shifter into the gear you are downshifting into.
3. Actuate crisp blips, but we don’t need too much throttle.
By concentrating on these three core areas, it can give you something to focus on. There is a lot going on in a heel-toe downshift braking zone, so if we can limit all the noise and focus in on key areas, we can make the entire technique feel a lot more simple.
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