“It’s better to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow” is a phrase every performance car owner has been told multiple times by their friends with slower cars.
While it’s often used to justify slow car ownership, there is actually some truth to it. With the right skills and knowledge, driving a slow car can be a blast, both on the road and the track.
Arguably, flooring the pedal in a fast car is the best option, but it’s not accessible to everyone. Not to mention that there are limits to how fast you can drive on public roads anyway.
If you’re stuck with a slow car, or you just prefer driving something that is cheap to insure and returns excellent mpg, momentum driving will take your lap times and driving skills to the next level.
In this article, we’ll explain why momentum driving is the right way to drive a slow car fast. In fact, owners of fast cars should get behind the wheel of a slow car to learn these techniques as well.
Difference Between Driving Fast and Slow Cars
For some reason, there’s a persistent myth that those who can afford fast and powerful cars don’t really know how to drive.
Sure, this might be the case in some instances, but it’s foolish to think most fast car owners are lacking in the driving skill department.
One thing that’s certainly true is that you’ll have a much harder time learning the necessary skills if you’re starting out with a fast car rather than an underpowered one — gradually upgrading to more powerful vehicles is ideal.
This is why slow car drivers often experience vast improvements in both driving skills and lap times in a shorter time compared to those who start with high-performance cars.
It has nothing to do with them being more talented drivers; it’s just that they started with the right car and made it easier for themselves to learn to drive fast.
So what’s the difference between fast and slow cars when it comes to driving on a racetrack?
In a slow car, being fast is about maintaining speed and momentum, while in a fast car, it’s often more about regaining speed when exiting a corner.
This is obviously an oversimplification because driving skills and preferences; track, tire, and weather conditions, all play a part.
What Is Momentum Driving?
Corner entry speed is one of the most important aspects of driving fast around a circuit, and to master it, you’ll need a mix of talent and experience.
So, how do you keep the momentum going while driving around a racetrack? Or on your favorite road for that matter?
In a faster car, the driver can slam on the brakes, go deeper into the corner, and then use a tighter turning radius before taking advantage of the power and torque as they accelerate out of the corner and down the next straight.
This is known as point-and-shoot driving.
Slow cars are low on torque and they don’t have a lot of hp or whp either, so it’s essential to slow down as little as possible in order to maintain speed at the corner exit.
This means your cornering line uses the largest radius possible to get the most out of the momentum. The smaller the radius, the slower you’ll drive, so you really want to open up the corners to avoid losing momentum.
There’s more to momentum driving than maximizing the available power, though. It’s just as much about utilizing the available grip — meaning you need to learn heel-and-toe shifting as well as trail braking.
You also need to play around with suspension geometry and tire pressures to optimize your car for the track.
Momentum driving requires you to be smooth at all times, so it might not look all that exciting from the outside — no squealing tires bellowing smoke through the corners, no turbo flutter or screaming V8s.
That said, it does wring out every ounce of performance the car has to offer.
It will take a while to figure it all out. You’re better off learning in a slow car than a ripsnorting speed demon, but it’s a rewarding experience.
Once you learn how to carry momentum through corners in a slow car, you’ll be a faster driver behind the wheel of any car.
Let’s say you’re going all out down the straight of a racetrack. In something like a modified Miata or GT86, you might see 100 mph, but in a Mustang Shelby GT500, you’ll be doing 180 mph.
If you need to enter the corner at 50 mph, you’ll have a lot more time to slow down and position your car before turning in when you’re behind the wheel of a slower car.
In addition, an inexperienced Shelby GT500 driver would probably be driving more conservatively to avoid wrecking their car.
Going a bit slower down the straight, braking earlier, and turning in at 40 mph, only to floor the throttle at the corner exit.
Against an experienced Miata driver, our hypothetical Shelby guy would be left in the dust at every corner, and then play catch-up on the straights.
Midcorner control is just as important as corner entry, and what happens if the drivers make a mistake and don’t scrub off enough speed before they enter the corner? Again, it would be easier to correct it in the slower car with less power.
The one thing to note here is that it will take longer to make up for the mistake in the slower car, as you won’t hit the same top speed on the next straight.
In some cases, if you mess up one corner, it may take an entire lap until you’re back to your normal pace.
A slow car is fairly limited, as momentum driving is pretty much the only way to get it around a track as fast as possible.
On the other hand, a fast car can rely on its power to accelerate out of a corner, or the driver can choose to use momentum driving, making it a more versatile option — provided that the driver has those skills in the first place.
Slow and Steady
If you want to know how to drive faster in your slow car, momentum driving is the answer.
Momentum driving allows a slow car to keep up with much faster machinery, and it’s just more fun to drive this way.
In all honesty, using modern supercars for daily driving can be somewhat boring because of how capable they are. With 90% of their potential locked away, their limits are so high that it dulls the driving experience.
In order to feel exciting, modern performance cars often need to be driven at ludicrous speeds, so if the driver makes a mistake, the consequences can be severe.
If you push a slow car to its limits, or beyond, it’s not necessarily all that dangerous, but it can certainly feel exhilarating. Add the focus needed for proper momentum driving, and you have a recipe for pure automotive fun.
We’d still argue that putting a fast car through its paces is the best option, but driving a slow car fast is certainly fun in its own right.
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