Because there was a holiday this week and because it's there, I ended up at the local road course for a few laps. Only, this time, the arrow for the track direction was flipped the other way. I learned more in forty-five minutes of driving the track in the opposite direction than I've done in whole days of driving the usual one.
The track in question is Harris Hill Road, and I have approximately one kajillion laps going in the clockwise direction. Shoot, I've been accused of living on Harris Hill's couch. I don't actually live on the couch, but in my defense, that is a really comfortable couch.
When I saw on the schedule that it was a counterclockwise day, I felt a curious mixture of excitement and trepidation. That isn't the usual direction. I'm slow and need help going clockwise out there, but I really need help going counterclockwise. And by "need help," I mean "I suck," but I'm trying to be nicer to myself about it. I really, really suck at going counterclockwise on this track.
My few experiences trying to figure out Harris Hill going counterclockwise haven't exactly been trouble-free. I have a bad tendency to plow right off the bottom of the long uphill straight, which becomes a faster downhill straight going counterclockwise. My car wants to understeer right off the track surface at turn 11, right before braking down to the slowest hairpin on the track. And of course, I'm just slow—much, much slower than I am going the usual direction, even though some people claim that counterclockwise is faster for them.
You know what the cure for sucking at something is? More practice. Switch that arrow more often, I say.
I just haven't gotten to drive it counterclockwise very often, so I'm completely out of my comfort zone whenever that arrow gets switched. To be honest, I need to be pushed out of there more often. I get too comfortable when I'm doing something familiar and it's harder for me to see what I'm doing wrong since it all feels good.
The last time I got to drive it this way, it was for a time trial where we got three hot laps at a time. By the time things almost started to click on the third lap, I was done and had to wait for my next set of laps to try it again.
The other time I can remember driving the track backwards was during a special event for F1 weekend. I had some friends in for out of town, so I filled up my backseat for hilarity's sake and awkwardly fumbled through some tourbus-speed laps because...well, I have a backseat, and it's there.
I honestly don't remember any other times I've driven it this way recently. Since last November isn't really too recent, driving the track backwards to me is like getting a whole new track to play on, and I don't even have to drive any further to get there. That is AWESOME.
Sure, the track surface stays exactly the same as it does in its usual direction, but the braking zones become your track-out acceleration points, and vice versa. Some corners that you could see through going the other direction become blind turns. Turns you'd usually late apex would throw you right off the surface if you turned in early at the same spots.
So, if there's a chance to drive the track backwards, do it.
I, of course, went straight off the bottom of the hill on my warm-up lap like I usually do. Oops. Only this time, I'd gotten some more advice from people who have more time driving it counterclockwise. I didn't go off the bottom of that hill again the rest of the day. Success!
I also had a data logger stuck to the window. When I came back in after a few derpy slow laps, I at least had some reference points on my fastest derpy slow laps that I could try to replicate or improve on when I went back out again.
Even though there's always something to learn whenever you go out on track, this time, I felt like I was learning more about how to drive the car as opposed to how to drive the track in its usual configuration. Switching things up taught me more about where the car's limits were and made the stupid habits that I tend to gloss over when I'm comfortable really noticeable.
Comfort zones may be a happy place where you can just sit back and enjoy the ride, but they're really bad for you. If your usual track ever switches directions, you should try it out—for your own good.
Photo credit: Harris Hill Road's Facebook page (Lancer Tourbus), Google Earth