Most of us are more familiar with oversteer as it is the “scarier” situation for most drivers. Oversteer is when a driver asks more of the rear tires than the level of grip they can provide. This causes the rear tires to slide on top of the racetrack surface which means the rear of the car is sliding.
Understeer is the same, except it is the front tires slipping over the track surface and so the front of the racecar is sliding across the racetrack. Blayze professional racecar driver and coach, Dion von Moltke will walk you through how to correct understeer.
Looking for more detail on the difference between oversteer vs. understeer? Check out this great article
How Do We Correct Understeer?
Understeer tends to frustrate drivers more than oversteer because they have fewer tools in their arsenal to fix the issue.
The first step is to understand how weight transfer affects the racecar’s level of grip. As a rule, where the weight is, is where the grip is. When we accelerate, the weight of the car shifts to the rear. When we brake, the weight of the car shifts to the front.
When we accelerate this tends to make the back of the car “more comfortable” for many drivers. The main reason for this is the weight shift. This concept should be the cornerstone of any good high-performance driver program for new drivers.
If we have a car that understeers a lot, we want to try and shift weight to the front of the vehicle for a longer period of time into the corner. Understeer on corner entry is easier for a driver to control thanks to the ability to trail brake. But it is nearly impossible to shift the weight to the front on corner exits. If you are experiencing understeer on corner exit, we first need to work on being disciplined to delay initial throttle application until the point we can start unwinding the steering wheel.
To try and delay our initial throttle application without losing speed, we want to focus on rolling entry speed. We can work on understeer on entry by having more brake pressure after turn in to keep more weight on the front nose. The general rule is trail braking will save you from having entry understeer, so if you are experiencing understeer before you get to apex then make sure you are trail braking down until the apex.
There is an exception to this rule where a driver can overwork a tire from too much trail braking, but this depends a lot on the actual set of tires and the car setup. But that is very rare and something most track day drivers, autocross drivers, and amateur racing drivers will not experience.
The idea of shifting our initial throttle application later and focusing on rolling more entry speed will be critical for any of you in front-wheel-drive cars. The FWD cars suffer much more from exit understeer and overheating front tires than any other. AWD cars will also tend to understeer a lot on exit.
Rear-wheel-drive cars will struggle more for traction on exit, so oversteer is more likely the issue on corner exit. Many drivers like to pick up throttle early to help their oversteer, but this can lead to big issues on corner exits. When a driver gets to throttle too early and induces understeer, they will have more steering angle at the exit of the corner.
It is so important for drivers to be straightening their hands as they are squeezing back to full throttle. But when you get to initial throttle too early you can’t do that. Too much steering input combined with too much throttle can end up causing the rear tires to overtake the front tires… which is not what we like to happen on the racetrack!
How do you know if you are getting to the throttle too early in general though? If you can’t start to unwind the steering wheel as you apply the throttle it is too early. If you have to turn even more after your initial throttle application, then you are too early to throttle.
Takeaways With Understeer
The main takeaways we want you to have from this article on fixing understeer are the following:
- If you have understeer on exit: Focus on trail braking further around the corner and delaying that initial throttle application until the point you can really start to straighten the steering wheel.
- If you have understeer on the entry: It is likely you are not trail braking enough or possibly not at all. Check yourself to make sure you have some brakes on after turn in as you carve down to the exit. This should not be a large amount of brake pressure. It should feel as if your big toe is just lightly pressing down the brake pedal. Our goal here is not to be “slowing the car down” but consciously trying to keep weight on the front nose to help it grip.
Learn More With Blaze!
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