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How to Drive RC Car

 

Driving

A fast car isn't all it takes to win races, you need good driving skills too. 

1. The basics

There are two ways to be fast: you can either travel a smaller distance, or do it at higher speed. Or you can combine both. This means that the path your car travels should be short as well as without any sharp turns. Let's look at an example: 

This drawing shows the ideal line through a simple, 180 degree corner. The ideal line is drawn in red, and the track edges in black. This type of driving line is called Out In Out: approaching the corner, you take the outside, as far as possible, you take the inside line in the middle of the corner, and you take the outside again on the exit. The middle part of the corner, drawn in blue, is called the apex of the turn, or the clipping point. The wider you can make the radius of the line, the faster you can take the corner. Or in other words, the less speed you'll lose. 
Note that all the braking should be done in the straight line, before the circular part begins. The acceleration too begins after the circular part, when the car is tracking straight. During the circular part, the car's velocity is constant. It has to be, assuming that the radius of the path is constant and the tires are delivering maximum grip. 


The same goes for any type of corner: the line with the largest radius is the fastest one. A 90° turn is pictured: brake, turn in, keep the radius of the turn constant, so don't accelerate or brake, and then straighten up and accelerate. You begin and end the corner on the very outside, and almost clip the apex in the middle part. 
The most important thing isn't to know where the ideal line is and try to stay on it, it's being able to stay on it the whole time, without any wild moments, going sideways or braking too soon or too late,... Consistency is the key: never lose the momentum. You lose more time if you mess up once than you can gain rounding 10 other corners perfectly.

2. Advanced technique

In the previous examples we only considered one single corner, preceded and followed by a short straight. But this isn't always the case, like in chicanes, or turns preceding a long straight. If there is another sharp turn or a long straight following the corner, the Out In Out line might not be the fastest line. For example: exiting one corner very wide might mess up the entrance to the next one because you're still on the wrong side of the road. in that case, the Slow In Fast Out type of cornering is probably faster.

The Slow In Fast Out type of cornering is based on the fact that usually, a car can brake harder than it can accelerate. As shown in the drawing, you brake a little later and harder, and turn in more sharply. But from that point on you can take the corner at a higher speed than you would using the Out In Out line. Note that the clipping point has shifted towards the exit of the turn. As a result, you enter the straight at a much higher speed. For corners that are followed by a long straight, the Slow In Fast Out line is always the fastest one, because the you can enjoy the increase in speed the whole length of the straight, gaining precious time. 
Exactly how asymmetric the ideal line is depends a little on the length of the straight, and the difference between braking and accelerating, the line is more asymmetric if the straight is longer and if the difference is bigger.
There are at least two downfalls to this type of cornering. First, it's very important that nothing goes wrong exiting the corner: if for example you exit a little too wide and you have to make a little steering correction to avoid hitting the outside, you'll lose all of the extra speed you're carrying, or possibly more. Secondly, because you brake later and more towards the outside, you leave the door wide open for anyone waiting for a chance to pass you. So it's not wise to be using this type of cornering when there's somebody right behind you, waiting to make a pass.

Finding the ideal line through a series of turns and straights is just a matter of putting it all together: try to find the largest possible radius so you lose as little speed as possible, try to find a path that's as short as possible, and try to enter the straights at as high a speed as possible. Easier said than done, I know, but that's why practice is so important.
Regardless of which technique you use, by far the most important phase is the phase where you brake, and turn in. You'll find that if you've go the braking and turning in bit down, there isn't much left that can go wrong, all you do next is steer and accelerate. Conversely, if you mess up the braking part, you'll have your work cut out for you trying to round the corner without losing too much time.

Finding the fastest way around a series of corners has another interesting quirk: at the very limit, the car's trajectory becomes predefined. Suppose a car is rounding a corner at or very near the limit. Traction is at its maximum (somewhere on the edge of the traction circle), and so is its speed. This means there's no more room for adjustment. No corrections can be made, simply because that would require a little extra traction, and that just isn't there. Maybe if the car's speed was reduced, some extra traction would become availble, but this decrease in speed would also necessitate some extra traction. So there's really no way out. So, once a car has been 'thrown', or 'put' into a corner, and it's taking it at the limit, the car is like a thrown dart: its trajectory is predestined. This has two consequences. First, it means that braking into a turn and turning in are by far the most important factors in choosing a good driving line. Like I mentioned before, but if you brake right, and you turn in at the right time, you're 98% there; the rest of the corner isn't important, or hard to take. The second consequence is the fact that going around a track the fastest possible way means making no corrections at all. If you're able to make corrections, it means you're not already on the limit. This is why smooth drivers are always faster: they are on the edge 100% of the time. 

2.1. Jumping

(This section only applies to Off-road driving.)
Jumping a car isn't that hard, you just need to hit the face of the jump squarely, and land shiny side up. 
You need to line up your car before it hits the face of the jump; it needs to hit the jump absolutely straight, with none of the wheels slipping. Keep this in mind.
You can alter your car's attitude when it's in the air by pushing or releasing the throttle. Because of the inertia of the tires, more throttle makes its nose go up, less throttle makes the nose go down. If it needs be, you can even jab the brakes, which will bring the nose down rapidly. Note that in this phase, the effect of the size and position of the rear wing can be felt, a large, angled rear wing can prevent a car from landing nose-first. Also, there's a subtle difference between 4WD and RWD cars, they just react differently to throttle movements. A RWD car will rotate around its rear tires, a 4WD car will sort of 'float'.
Try to land on the down slope of the jump, if there is one, you'll be able to hit the throttle much sooner. A well set-up car will settle directly after landing, while a poorly set-up car will bounce around a few times before becoming stable enough to hit the throttle. 

2.2. Passing

When it comes to making a pass, you need 3 things: you need to be faster, or carry more momentum, at least, and you need a gap, large anough to be able to squeeze through. You also need balls ;-) There's one principal rule about passing: never, ever go around the outside, unless there's no other way. The outside line is a dangerous place: it's usually full of dust and crud, it's longer, and there's always the possibility your opponent sends you off the track. Then, you need to be faster, somehow. There are two ways to do this. The first is to gain momentum coming out of a corner, and pass your opponent down the straight. This is the easiest and least dangerous technique. The other possibilty is to dive down the inside when entering a corner. You brake as late and as hard as you can, put the car on the inside, and hope your opponent gives way. The tricky part is rounding and exiting the corner properly; since you probably didn't enter the corner ideally, you need to concentrate on the middle and exit part, and make sure your opponent doesn't pass you again. But since you're in the lead now, you can always 'keep the door firmly shut'. 

That is about all there is to it, technically. The rest is nothing but a mind game.

About that mind game: there's a series of books that goes well beyond the scope of this chapter. It's Ross Bentley's "Speed Secrets" series. The books cover everything; driving, being a 'complete' athlete, programming your subconscious, exercises,... They're well worth the money.