You don’t have to be in a fast car for you to be in trouble. For what it’s worth, the Toyota Vios isn’t the fastest car in the world, but it does take corners respectably and accelerate with some haste. In the right hands, a Vios Racing Festival race car is a potent weapon thanks to several of its modifications.
But no matter how well-engineered the Vios is, things can take a turn for the worse if a few mistakes are made. Some people think that racing is dangerous, and driving fast won’t benefit you on the road, but sometimes you have to learn how to run in order to walk. In other words, knowing how to push a car to the limit can help you remain safe when things go awry.
The first thing that the event handlers asked me when getting into the bucket seat was “Are you seated correctly?” This question is important because it will determine how well you can interact with the peripherals of the car you drive. If you can’t reach the pedals properly, or if the steering wheel is too far away, you may find it exceedingly difficult to do precise maneuvers. You may also find it hard to react quickly to emergency situations if the need arises.
The Toyota Racing School advises that your left leg should be bent even while the clutch pedal is depressed. That parameter will determine how far the seat rail should be. Your back should also be pushed into the backrest of the seat, and you should be seated upright enough in order to rest your wrists on the top of the steering wheel. It’s alright if you deviate slightly from these benchmarks because not all cars will be able to adjust with regard to the steering wheel and seats.
Oh, and buckle up, please.
Brake in a straight line
The tight turns of an autocross course require you to brake, but to get the best time, you have to brake as late as possible. There is, however, a limit to how late you can brake. While you can brake during a turn to get the car to rotate more, it is inadvisable to brake while turning if you don’t know what you are doing.
The problem is that the car’s front brakes are doing most of the work, and if the wheels are turned to a certain direction, the opposing force will be directed to either the left or right. Because the car is turning at speed and the tires are loaded while cornering, the additional force will overload the grip of the front wheels, causing slippage and understeer. There will be too many things happening at once, which will spell trouble, especially on public roads.
Round things, rubbing things, and more round things
Slowing down is harder than speeding up, but without the right equipment, both activities will be almost impossible. We had the privilege of using some of the best equipment in the industry. The Bridgestone Potenza RE003, Brembo brake pads, as well as a set of lightweight alloy wheels from Rota.
There was a stark contrast between the performance of a stock Vios versus that of the modified race cars that Toyota fields. The tires used on the Vios are not as grippy as the set on the race cars, the pads are more for longevity, and the wheels are designed with durability in mind.
While better is always good, the best way to ensure your car performs predictably is to check your wheels and tires for any untoward wear. Also, consider the sound that your brake pads make and have them checked if the squeaking gets too intrusive.
You have to treat the controls of the car with respect. Be smooth and precise with your inputs. Don’t jerk things around if you want to make sure your wheels aren’t overcome and pointing the wrong way. It is also important to know that the car’s weight is also a factor in handling. Throwing the vehicle around will allow you to rotate more, but a little too much weight transfer will result in too much rotation, and that’s not good if you want to stay in control.
Tone it down when wet
Just like wet tiles make your bathroom a dangerous place to be in, wet tarmac can also be bad especially if a puddle builds upon the surface. Water is the enemy of grip, and it creates an environment where you can’t brake as hard, and your inputs must be smoother and more gradual.
When driving on a wet road, it is important to note that your tires are displacing liquid and hanging to whatever sliver of asphalt they can get. Drive slowly and smoothly to ensure that your tires don’t skid especially at high speeds.
Master the little things first
There is a reason why Toyota Motor Philippines doesn't let just anyone drive the Toyota Supra. It takes more skill and more tact to be behind the wheel of a car that starts at around the P5,000,000 mark. The logic goes, if we can't drive a light, low-powered, economy car though an obstacle course, how can we even hope to drive the Supra?
As with anything, patience is key and practicing with less power is a safer bet than going all-in and trying to pull a lap time with an unfamiliar model. So unless you're a world-renown driver, take it easy.
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