JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
10/14/14 9:38 a.m.

My buddy Cliff recently discovered autocross. He decided it was time to spend a few bucks on a performance car, went out, and bought a brand-new Challenger R/T (with a six-speed, so he got that part right). Shortly thereafter, he found himself at the Central Florida Region SCCA’s season-opening Sol…

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te72 Reader
11/23/18 11:55 a.m.

I find it funny that in my car, my fastest laps almost always seem to be the most dramatic and fun to watch. Big (ish) turbo, small engine, really gotta drive like your hair is on fire in order to keep the thing moving forward. I keep hearing smooth, smooth, smooth, yet every time I've ever done it, I'm usually a full second off my own FTD.


I find that kinda strange, would love to see someone best my times in my own car, and I know a couple folks who are talented enough they might be able to do so. Full disclosure, I built the car for road racing, which it would excel at by design, but I happened to find autocross along the way, so I realize it's not an ideal tool for the job, but it sure is fun anyway! =)

bobzilla MegaDork
11/23/18 1:09 p.m.

We In reply to te72 :

Some cars don’t operate well smoothly And require some (or a lot) of forceful inputs. The first car I had that required smoothness was the C4. It did NOT like abrupt changes. At. All. The forte could go either way. But the more angry you drove it the more you had to catch it. 

Also 4 year old zombie thread. 

Duke MegaDork
11/23/18 1:20 p.m.

In reply to te72 :

My SSM Miata is underbuilt for class, and undertired as well.  I try for smoothness, don't always succeed, and have reached a real plateau in my driving ability.

I rode along with a well-built, well-driven SSM Miata competitor, and there was nothing smooth about that at all.  Violent, radical input was totally the answer in a Miata making 250 hp on 275 Hohos, with everything not mission critical cut off the car and a big wing sticking it down.

AnthonyGS Reader
11/23/18 2:17 p.m.

My dad was a regional SCCA president, autocrosser, hillclimber and crew chief at some dump called LeMans a few times.... He always preached "smooth is fast." 



Patrohn New Reader
11/23/18 4:11 p.m.

I actually think the 4 tips are applicable beyond sports.  As a college professor I wish my students understood the concept of "calm hands" and efficiency. Also, if you make a mistake-learn to recover and win. Thanks for repeating this article.

Also--drive a true momentum car in a race and you will appreciate this article.


NOHOME UltimaDork
11/23/18 4:26 p.m.

I think the term "Muscle Memory" is what ties most physical activity together. This is the point where you do not need to consciously think about every move, your body just does it.  This is why to a pro athlete, ordinary people seem and events to move in slow motion.



Matt New Reader
11/24/18 7:12 a.m.

"I’d love to hear other parallels you’ve found between your motorsport activities and other sports–or even more mundane activities. Anyone who’s ever found the most efficient lines around their yard on a riding mower knows what I’m talking about."

interesting, for many years i have been quietly working with the idea that the mental preparation for competition is blind to the game, and i have my son to thank for this revelation. I have a son on a D1 football scholarship as a RB. I have never  watched 1 second of a football game, never played a single down of football in my life, but when it was apparent he loved football (and i have no idea how or why this came to be because he's only ever gone the race track with me as a kid) i started to research the game, 12 years later, here i am... As a racing driver, the parallels between the key mental attributes of the Running Back position and high performance driving are strikingly similar. i found i was able to coach my son quite effectively just focusing on the 'non-football' keys of his training, and those were based on my experience as a driver.

1) Patience - racing: don't force the car, set up the pass  RB: wait for the hole, trust your team mates

2) Vision - racing: locate your braking/turn in/track out points before before you get there, trust your peripheral vision. RB: key off the formation/safety - keep your eyes down field and trust your peripheral vision

3) Decision making/recognition - racing: if the car doesn't feel right, its not right. trust yourself. RB: if the play is broken and you cant see the way out, don't kill yourself trying to make something out of nothing - get up to play another down

4) Mental toughness - racing/RB: things go wrong, then they go wrong and go wrong again. How you react determines where you finish in the long term, and this is a long season. being mentally tough is big. A football player or a racing drivers best friend is a short memory.

5) Attitude - racing/RB: you either have a good one or you don't, see #4. You must, first and foremost respect your opponent.

6) Game plan - racing: after qualifying you had better be checking your data and making race strategy. RB: you had better be watching film and studying your opponent and planning for them.

anyway, that's the big hitters from my perspective.  Good Post JG - even if it is a "4 year old zombie thread" laughlaugh


Oh, and I am proud to say my son is a great mechanic and i wouldn't know what to do without him at the track!

randyracer New Reader
11/24/18 12:52 p.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS :

Back when we signed autographs, I used to write that.  The car must move smoothly, sometimes this means strong inputs, especially in transitions, slaloms and offsets.  Road racing?  Not so much.  In a good handling car, smooth rules.  Slow hands.

randyracer New Reader
11/24/18 12:58 p.m.

In reply to Duke :

True, especially in autocross.  In a slalom or offset, the transition from left to right or back must be as quick as possible, but in the curves, slow and smooth works.  If the car oversteers, then quick hand movements are required to catch it and hold at the cornering limit.  Aero accepts more aggressive inputs, too.  Smooth still wins.  Aggressive smoothness.  In my return to Solo Nationals, that was a great remembrance:  slow and smooth hands through the corners, fast and aggressive in the offsets and slaloms.  The sooner one trnasfers the weight, the sooner the car can begin generating the lateral g's in the other direction, and the faster that maneuver will be.  Some cars are twitchy, with snap oversteer at turn in or in middle if they bottom out, etc.  These cars will reward super aggressive inputs.  Require them, no less.  And huge Hoosiers allow it w stick.

300zxfreak Reader
2/28/21 9:59 a.m.

Pause, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around J.G. in a fencing outfit.............still working on it....................does not compute.

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
2/28/21 10:21 a.m.

I took my VW GTI ITB race car to a club open track day, just for the track time. My sons wanted rides so I took each of them out for a few laps. The older one did a handful and asked to stop because he was getting car sick. The younger one asked when I was going to start going fast. I was driving smoothly, trying not to toss an eight year old all over the inside of the car. My older son observed and timed the laps . I turned my fastest lap ever up to that point with the kid in the car.surprise

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/28/21 10:33 a.m.
300zxfreak said:

Pause, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around J.G. in a fencing outfit.............still working on it....................does not compute.

The cool thing about being a bear-shaped gentleman and fencing is that your target square footage tends to not be more than a tall-athletic type. Mine is short and wide, theirs is tall and long, but the area is fairly similar. What's different is reach. a 6'3" fencer has a monstrous reach advantage over someone with T-rex arms, so they can just stand back and poke you from a distance. So to take away that advantage you have to rush them and get inside their tip, and fence practical with your sword behind you so you can hit hem up close. It's not a position you tend to recover from without taking a hit, so once you go inside, you're staying there until someone scored or the ref separates you. The problem with the REALLY skilled competitors, though, is they absolutely have the wrist strength and speed to flick a foil hard enough to curve it around your shoulder and hit you in the back. 

mtn (Forum Supporter)
mtn (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/28/21 11:22 a.m.
JG Pasterjak said:

3. Your sports equipment is almost invariably better than you.


Ain't that the truth. At various times of my life, I've been at least somewhat competitive at Autocross, Hockey, Baseball, and Golf. Think about all of the equipment in all of those sports. Assuming a base level of quality (meaning, we're not using All Season tires, or my golf clubs were free from factor defects and made in the last 30 years), there has been exactly one piece of equipment that has ever held me back: My hockey skates. I need to be very near the top end of skates. Everything else, as long as it is what we might call "playable", may give me a very slight improvement, but it will not move me into the next tier.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
2/28/21 12:07 p.m.

Driving a trotter or pacer in a sulky has remarkable similarities to driving my Miata in an autocross. 

One aspect is processing feedback through all of your senses and instantly reacting. 

The driving lines (or steering wheel) are obviously one source of sensory information, but driving at the limit is a whole body experience, motorized or not.

As for "smooth is fast," if you're not smooth when driving a harness horse at the limit, it might break stride (break into a gallop), or it might even fall. If that happens, you could die. We race about as close as spec Miata, so there's often a horse's nose bumping the back of your helmet. If you go down near the front of the field....

GCrites80s HalfDork
2/28/21 8:01 p.m.

I've run my fastest times of the day after fuel starve started since it forced me to be mega smooth to avoid it and work around it if it did start.

300zxfreak Reader
3/1/21 6:40 p.m.

I will have to say that when I was racing karts, my best lap time ever was when the throttle stuck WFO, and I had to play smooth and strong with just the brakes.

Tom1200 SuperDork
3/1/21 9:49 p.m.

In reply to te72 :

A friend once called my driving style in the Datsun as slippery smooth; meaning while there is lots of oversteer and I'm sawing at the wheel like a fiend the transitions (even the most rapid of them) are always predictable...........this is on a road course.  

For autocross I too make extremely aggressive inputs in transitions.

By contrast my Formula 500 will not tolerate that level of aggressive inputs.

Rally drivers & Sprint car drivers prove that you can be both spectacular and smooth. 


Shaun GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/22/21 1:13 p.m.

This all could be written about fly fishing.  It has been in fact, and in a thousand different ways. One might translate 'slow hands'  into smooth acceleration curves in the specifics of fly casting, but it is the same idea and 'slow down' is the go to mantra when you are screwing up.  even cheap fly poles are extremely low mass and store and release allot of energy;  when you get it right it is an effortless feeling as the pole does the work and the energy is literally expressed in a gorgeous energy storage wave (loop in fly fishing vernacular) that propels the little bit of fluff just so.  You get it wrong with too much speed a wonky path or abrupt deceleration in you hand at the wrong moments and all sorts of amplified energetic mayhem ensures loudly unintended results.

Appleseed MegaDork
12/22/21 1:27 p.m.

Smooth is fast.

Violent is fun.


matthewmcl HalfDork
12/22/21 2:28 p.m.

Speed is jealous; precision is timid.

Chase speed and precision will hide.

Chase precision and speed will follow.


Yes, there is still the issue of determining "precise enough," but it still works for lots of things.

Edit: zombie threads can still be fun.

Streetwiseguy MegaDork
12/22/21 6:07 p.m.

I've seen a lot of guys that are very, very smooth, and dead slow.  I've also seen very fast smooth guys.  The trick is to understand just exactly how close you can get to hacking, but still keeping everything the tires connected to the track the correct amount.

A stock car teaches you a lot about that.  Running a late model on a 1/4 mile oval, every seven seconds, you get to transition from full acceleration to full brake while turning in to the apex.  In a 150 lap race, it's very easy to kinda back up and smooth things out a bit too much, but to be fast, you have to get that car down on the bump stops as late as possible, then back to full throttle, as close as possible to the apex, 300 times.  It's a real mental challenge.

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