Isn’t it Ironic?

Ironic, i·ron·ic; adjective; 1) using or characterized by irony; 2) happening in the opposite way to what is expected, and typically causing wry amusement because of this; 3) synonyms: paradoxical, incongruous; “It’s ironic that a former illiterate is now a successful writer.”

That’s how Webster’s defines the word ironic. I must say I’ve always enjoyed irony in its many forms, and there is certainly a lot of irony in racing, especially at the beginning of the learning curve. However, that usually doesn’t occur to a driver until after he or she has had enough seat time and experience to recognize it. How’s that for irony?

Alanis Morissette said it best in her hit, “Ironic”: “It’s like rain on your wedding day. It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid. It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take. Who would’ve thought, It figures.”

I especially like the part about the good advice that you just didn’t take. As if it were only yesterday, shortly after doing a perfect slide off into the grass in my Dodge Viper in Turn 4 at Sears Point — Sonoma Raceway to you rookies — I can hear my first instructor saying, “First you need to learn to go slow before you can go fast.” Those words have resonated in my ears to this day.

Most rookie drivers want to learn to be fast on the track, or behind any wheel for that matter, so when someone, including a qualified driving instructor, begins using words, terms, and phrases like braking, slowing down, be smooth, not too soon and so on, many times it may not be what an eager student is expecting. Granted, hopefully it won’t be long until a qualified instructor will see you graduate to the next level of phrases like, “Go ahead and pitch it in there,” or “Tell you what, let’s switch seats for a lap.”

A good student not only will concern himself with how fast he can go through a corner, but also how well he can brake. Good coaching will teach a driver to see how deep into a corner he can go as well as how to recognize how late he can comfortably enter the apex. In doing so, he will eventually find that fine line of balance required to enter the apex slow and controlled then out fast. A good student will be quick to learn, too fast in will always equal slow out.
A very important part of the equation of turn-in entry speed is how to late apex. Like so many before me, when I first began getting qualified instruction … strike that. Correction, long before I began getting any instruction, I would turn in much too soon, thinking the closer I could hold to the inside of a turn, the faster I would be. Wrong! This is an all-too-often occurrence with rookie drivers, one that a good NASA driving instructor will observe and correct. Once again, there’s that nagging equation regarding finding the balance of a nice marriage between a late apex and entry speed. But when you get it right, look out because it will feel perfect and you will know you’re getting it right. So, in the end, NASA will teach you to be fast, but first you must go slow. Isn’t it ironic?

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