It takes a pro driver to send a car into a drift or tackle a highly technical racetrack like Infineon. Or does it?
I spent a Friday attending the Jim Russell Lancer Evolution Experience with a diverse group of amateurs. There was the father and son team from Arizona taking their annual outing. There was the businessman from Peru ditching a day of meetings. One man had already taken the course once, but had to go back for more, and one couple seemed to look at it as the perfect romantic outing.
The car--the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X--plays a big part in this day of high-speed instruction. Possibly no other car would let a group of people with mostly no previous track experience accomplish the Jim Russell program. Of course, the instructors, all being active race car drivers, contribute more than a little, too.
The first part of the day, a classroom session, was downright boring compared with what would come later. But the instructor imparted some very important information to better understand how to handle a car in a corner. I had previously been trained to plan a line through a corner, hitting the brakes before the turn, then powering on at the apex for the exit.
But now we were all being told about maintaining the car's balance in the turn, essential for truly high-speed driving. Load transfer became my phrase for the day as I thought about how the brakes or accelerator were affecting the amount of grip fore and aft.
Then we got out to the cars, a collection of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Xs in both GSR and MR trim. For most of the day, I drove the MR version, because I like the SST dual-clutch transmission so much. The GSRs come with a manual six speed. The MR also benefits from a slightly stiffer suspension. Both cars employ an advanced all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring and yaw control, making them excellent cars for beginners to throw around corners.
Our first exercise was a corner, a single turn defined by cones in the racetrack paddock. We took turns going around this corner, an instructor on the inside of the turn watching and offering help over a radio. Keep your eyes up, looking through the apex of the turn, he advised. Slowly roll off of the brakes while entering the turn. Power on at the apex. Our favorite bit of instruction: "I want to hear the tires screaming all the way through the turn." … Read more