Time spent with a perceptive coach can yield dividends. Not only does their influence helps sharpen a driver and improve their lap times, they can instill good habits that the driver can use further down the road when assessing their own performance.
Prior to filming the featured videos, Leo Dilem had only been driving for six months. Dilem’s foray to Laguna Seca (below), was mostly successful, but he hesitated in spots, overslowed some entries, and didn’t always use the full width of the road. Though accurate, respectable, and smooth, this lap needed some fine-tuning.
Going forward, we’ll be analyzing the video at the very top of the article.
Dilem met Ken Fukuda, a racer and coach we’ve featured before, during a rainy trackday at Sonoma Raceway earlier this year. The two joined again at Laguna several weeks ago, where Fukuda helped make a few minor adjustments and turn a good lap into a great one.
“First off, I ask my student what their goals are. Then, I make a student-specific plan based on those goals. We’ll go over line adjustment, lap time reduction methods, and mental management. With Dilem, the main things we covered were: lines, vision, and getting on the gas too soon,” Fukuda said. “I also try to recognize my student’s strengths and instruct them in a way they respond to best.”
“He realized I was very detail oriented,” Dilem began, “so he started giving me specific reference points. In Turn 1, he told me to aim for the three telephone poles you see just before the top.” By tweaking the line and turning in a little earlier, Dilem could commit to a steering angle and go full throttle over Turn 1’s blind crest, and by having some reference points, he could relax in a very quick and (at first) intimidating corner.
For the tightening Turns 2 and 3, Fukuda’s suggestions were to turn in later, brake harder, and release them a little earlier. Dilem did as told, and enjoyed a little more yaw from the rear of his car, which pointed him in the right direction sooner. Rolling more entry speed also addressed Dilem’s tendency to overslow the entry and apply the throttle too soon.
In the faster corners, Dilem was making the mistake of looking too near the nose of his NSX. “Fukuda taught me to look further down the road and keep my eye on the corner exit,” Dilem began, “which helped me feel more confident.” By keeping one’s eyes up, they’re given more time to anticipate objects approaching them, as well as get a better sense of when the car begins to yaw.
Fukuda elaborated on the technique: “Like a pitcher throwing a baseball, once the ball has been released, you don’t have to look at where the ball is going to go. Similarly, once the car is pointed at the apex, you no longer have to be focusing on the apex. Instead, you should be looking where you want to place the car next.”
Staying one step ahead of the car helped Dilem through Turn 4, where smooth inputs and and a tighter line helped reap significant gains. By focusing on the exit curbing, he could commit to full throttle a hair earlier. “These fast corners require you to not upset the balance of the car; not transferring too much weight to the front, and getting back on the throttle as early as possible,” Fukuda elaborated.
That same approach helped with Turn 6. By looking further ahead and doing some planning, Dilem found the confidence to make the front tires howl as he turned into the semi-blind bend, where an early commitment is necessary for a good run up the hill. Truly, minor changes in vision and line make significant improvements.
There were one or two other subtle changes. In some of the threshold braking zones, Dilem was still adding tiny amounts of steering. This was evident in the slower lap while up to the Corkscrew, where the tiny—almost unnoticeable—amount of steering was upsetting the car. Fukuda recommended Dilem set up for the corner by positioning the car further to left; (1:28 in the title video) which allowed him to straighten the car for more stability and confidence under braking.
All in all, these subtle changes allowed Dilem to chop four seconds off his lap time. Some people spend years searching for that time—but one afternoon with a receptive, insightful coach is all that’s needed. Sounds like a steal.