8 tips on how to win dirt-track racing with almost any car
The 2015 Bangladesh Rallycross organized by CEMS last week was the second of its kind. People took all kinds of cars to the sand packed track. The dirt track was loose and had short straight stretches. Which meant it was more suited to romantic walks after dinner if there was an ocean nearby. Some cars aced it. Others were beached like a whale. Others were sliding off trying to regain control. Here are the whys and why nots.
Too much power?
Too much is always the desired output when it comes to power. But if you want to win on dirt tracks, only too much of power isn't enough to win. We loved the spectacle of the Autosmith tuned Evo VI running across the track. It has unbelievable grunt on dry tarmac. On dirt it was scrabbling for grip. There are other factors involved for wining.
You need manual transmission
You can't eke out enough response from an engine relying on an automatic transmission. Because an auto is like our government. When you press the throttle, the auto transmission forms a committee, passes a paper asking that justice be done in delivering enough power to the wheels, holds a press conference or two and then shifts a gear. The autos we are used to are inefficient for such purposes. And they are weak. Exception: Last year Bappy Rahman's Allion posted an impressive time compared to the winning Evo X and Impreza.
Stay in low gears
With a manual, you need to stay in lower gears that offer you maximum grunt from the engine. It also helps during braking when the lower gear further helps to cut down the speed as well using engine braking.
Which gets us to turning smart
These races are single timed laps so you don't have to worry about your competitor's bumper or head flying off in front and hitting your windshield. Optimum process is to turn from the inside and continue exiting on the outside. But...
Watch out for the infield
On the inside of the turn there may be a bump or a ridge. If your front inside wheel hits it at speed, you just might lose a little control and in the process lose speed. So...
Watch the circuit. Read the circuit. Walk on foot. Plan your turns. And also plan what kind of a dance you will perform once you've reached the end without losing body panels and limbs. Avoid booty shaking or twerking because that's very 2013.
The biggest, most important feature for all kinds of driving is having the right kind of tyres. Doesn't matter whether you are speeding down a highway, driving in the rain or flying around a beach. Without the right kind of tyres you will go more off track than pay per view Sasha Grey. For a dirt track you need traction more than you need power or the blessing of the Pope. For traction on dirt your worst enemy are street tyres. Case in point: The MR2 from BDRC and the white Mark II. The wheels spun pointlessly all the time. You need knobby tyres. You need narrower tyres that can easily cut through the sand like the way that 1NZFE powered Corolla did. And you need lower pressure to keep the tyre walls soft and more pliable. A friend got stuck on a beach a couple years ago with a 2WD SUV. I released the pressure, wet the sand down around the tyres and we just drove out.
And last but not least, if you can lower the weight of your car you have a better handling vehicle regardless of power. The 1NZFE Corolla stripped off door pads and seats to reduce at least 30 kgs of weight. If you can, have uber-thin Kate Moss to drive your car. How that woman always remains so thin is a mystery other women worry about.
Taping the handbrake button - it's a trick used by experienced dirt autocross drivers. The handbrake comes in handy when making tight turns. Rear wheels lock up, the rear slides around. They tape the button so that when they let it go, the lever falls down and there is not risk of the lever sticking and causing you to lose valuable time.