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Bruce Welcker - Owner
How The Pros Drive To Win
Car Model Magazine - June 1969
By Pete Von Ahrens
THE BIGGEST question asked of me when I walk into a shop is "How can a Pro drive fast on every race track, even if it's the first time he got on it?"
The answer to this is "you drive every race track the same way."
All these race tracks are basically shaped the same. They all have corners in them. The corners change in dimension and radius; the corner is flat or, if it's banked, it has camber. These are the only differences to be taken into consideration; other than that, nothing.
Now, once you've got the car to the point where you think it's working very well, the question is, can you drive it or can't you drive it...can you keep the car running the same every lap FAST! This is the biggest problem of most drivers, including the Pros...getting the car to run consistently fast.
Being first in this situation is a very delicate procedure. If you don't do a lot of driving, don't even bother trying because, if you're going to make the car go as fast as it possibly can, you have to be running it on a regular basis. By doing it a lot, I mean that, ideally, you should have eight guys, in every race you run in, who go super fast. Then you've got to run the car as fast as possible all the time. But if you usually run in a situation where nobody can beat you, you're going to have problems when you go to race against eight guys who do go fast, because you are out of practice. You don't have the car running as fast as it possibly will all the time.
Now, driving the car in this fashion means one thing -driving the car on the ragged edge...This takes ultimate concentration. You concentrate on making the car do the same thing every lap; going into the corners as deep as possible; exiting the corners as fast as possible; and making sure that you know what everybody else is doing at the same time. It's not a very easy situation to handle. There're maybe three drivers in the country who can do it, and I give these people a lot of credit.
At a race, most of the Pros I drive with (myself included) don't even know the people are there. When you're ready to run, you're so busy concentrating on driving the car that, once you hook your controller up, you're all alone. Nobody's there to help you. Somebody can help you work on the car, but he can't drive the car. It's all up to you.
So, when it's time for you to run, just concentrate on what you're up there to do. Walk up to the track; hook your controller up; and position yourself in a comfortable stance. If you're standing in a position where you're got yourself off balance, you don't feel right and you're not going to be able to drive the car correctly. Position yourself in such a way that you feel comfortable. Don't give a damn what people say about how you look. If they think you look funny fine...you may look funny, but if you beat 'em, they'll look funny when they finish behind you. So take a driving stance that you feel comfortable with. You've got to drive the car; they don't.
BE READY TO DRIVE
The guy who's running the race is not able to force you to do anything you don't want to do. So, when he says you're ready to go, don't jump at it. If you're ready to go - go. .. but if you're not ready to go - don't go! It's your money and it's your race. He's working for you -you're not working for him. So when you get yourself ready, mentally and physically, and the car is ready, you go; and not until.
DRIVING THE CORNERS
Driving a corner is not very hard. You go up to the corner - you stop - you go around the corner. Now, the way most guys drive, the biggest problem they have is that they undershoot corners. In undershooting a corner, you brake too soon. The cars we're running today have gotten to the point where they go so fast that, if you undershoot the corner and accelerate too soon, the car will come out. You have to go into the corner deep - just keep going into the corner as far as you possibly can - then brake and accelerate as you come out of the turn.
Entering the corner is relatively simple. You come up to the corner as fast as possible. When you're coming off the straightaway, you're going very, very fast; so you go in about a foot before the corner, brake, and punch the car. Always remember to keep the rear wheels of the car turning. If you don't accelerate soon enough, the car is going to come out. You go up to the corner - you stop as much as you have to - and you crunch it around the corner. You go as fast as you possibly can.
The biggest thing you've got to take into consideration is that all these corners are basically shaped the same. Whether the thing is off camber or of smaller dimensions is what regulates how fast you go around the corner.
To know how fast you can take a corner, you must learn one other thing - the car has a limitation. Every car's got a limit. The car can only go so fast around the corner. After that, the car is going to come out. That's just fact, so find out how fast the car can go and don't go any faster. If somebody else goes faster than you, you just keep going the same speed; and if he blows up, you win. If he doesn't, you finish behind him. Lord knows, I've chased Brady enough times.
Let's talk about something a lot of people have trouble with. That's qualifying. Qualifying is not as easy - not as hard, and not as hard - as it looks. Qualifying means one thing...you've got to go fast for a period of two minutes. If you don't go fast, all your preparation is for nothing. All the work, time and effort you put into the race is for nothing, if you can't run fast for two minutes.
The one thing to keep in mind is to make the car run as fast as possible. To accomplish this, the biggest thing to remember, when qualifying, is to keep the wheels of the car straight at all times. If the car is sitting sideways with the rear wheels spinning, it's going nowhere. You're losing time. Concentrate on making the car run smooth and you'll run faster. You don't have to go super fast to set fast time.
Qualifying is a very nervous situation, with a tremendous amount of pressure, especially on the Pro drivers. Pressure is one thing that many people can't cope with. It takes a long time to learn to cope with it - to be able to stand there, in front of 300 or 400 people, and run your car. If you crash, you may feel you've made a fool out of yourself
but you haven't. Remember, the easiest way to get by this is to do it enough times that you don't even consider the people there.
Now, when you take your practice laps, run your car and find the groove. By finding the groove, I mean get the car running to where you feel it's running well. If everybody else says it's not, don't worry about it. They're not driving the car; you are. That's the biggest thing to remember... you're driving the car.
When the flag drops and you're ready to run, concentrate on exactly what you're doing. You're not there to make a clown out of yourself. You're not there to entertain the people. You're there to drive the car - so drive. Make sure the car does the same thing every lap, every corner, every inch of the track. When you can do this, you can out-drive anybody in the world.
Okay, now the car is running. If you come off, recover very quickly. DON'T get frustrated. If you get frustrated, the car will come off in the next corner. Drive the next corner slow, so that you can get back into your pace. As long as you're in your pace, you're never going to come off.
Not by yourself, that is...This is the biggest problem with qualifying two people at once. There's always a chance that somebody's going to get you - that you're going to eat it on something you had nothing to do with.
If you've qualified well, you're now in the race. The next thing you've got to worry about is what your lane choice is going to be. Choosing lanes is very important. If you make the wrong lane choice, you're going to finish on the wrong lane; and you're going to eat it.
Always start on the worst lane of your set. There are 2 sets of 4 lanes. Take the worst lane, start on it, and end on the best lane. It's the only way to do it. If somebody's qualified ahead of you, you take the lane which allows you to end up on the best lane possible.
Picking a lane is easy. Just take the worst lane to start on and finish on the best lane.
Okay, you've picked your lane and the race is ready to start. You make sure - yourself, personally that you've got somebody working for you to keep that lane in the best shape it can possibly be in. ...glued, braids clean, etc. When it's in this condition, you're ready to race.
Now, when the race is ready to run, you have to be ready. Be sure you know what you're doing all the time -every minute, every second - that you're driving the car. If you make sure you know what you're doing, you won't have any problems at all.
Be consistent. . . make sure that you run every lap the same. If you're passing someone, wait to pass on the inside only. Never pass anybody on the outside, because they'll give you a fender. . . you're going to get hit.
Nerfing - this is fine. If somebody hits you, you hit them. But don't go out to hit somebody intentionally, because you'll only make problems for yourself.
There're three different types of driving strategy: punched; nursing; and pacing.
PUNCHED means driving the car completely outright, as fast as it will run.
NURSING the car is super easy to explain. If the car is coughing...if you've bent something; if a gear is going; the guide's loose; the body's falling off; or the motor's coughing...you've got to go slow with the car to make sure it keeps running.
If you stop at any time during a race, you're losing laps that the car could be making. If the car runs, you keep it moving. If it won't run, you stop and fix it. But while that thing is able to run, you make damn well sure the car is moving!
As an example, we'll take coughing a gear, 'cause this happens most often. If the gear is starting to cough, just do one thing - go into the corners deeper and accelerate slower and slower. You then have less chance of coughing because you're putting less torque on the gear. These motors produce a tremendous amount of torque and the gears are just not up to snuff - they're not up to such torque loads.
Remember, now, nursing the car is super easy...just go slower. If anything starts to cough, just make sure you keep running.
PACING: If the car is running extremely well and you're leading the race, you should be running pace laps. In this case, you don't have to go as fast as the car will run all the time. All you've got to do is win the race. It makes no difference whether you win by a lap or you win by 18 laps. You don't get any more money for winning by 18 laps, and, 9 out of 10 times, you cough something on the car by pushing too hard.
Back off and just keep the car running ahead of the field. They do this in full size racing. They do it in slot car racing. And that's because it's the only way to do it.