Drive to Win

Drive to Win by Carroll Smith is considered by many people to be the book on being a race car driver.  His other books: Tune to Win, Prepare to Win, Engineer to Win and Carroll Smith’s Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners and Plumbing Handbook (Screw to Win) are also considered sacred.  After reading through Drive to Win, I understand why.  The book is broken down into seven sections: the driver, vehicle dynamics, learn to win, environments, on track, at the office, and advanced drive to win.  Each section contains his thoughts on exactly what it takes to handle each situation and he doesn’t sugar coat anything.  The delivery is *BAM* here is the way it is, the way it has been and will be (he does say when things change though or gives his opinion on when things could change).

The first section deals with what it takes to become a top driver from the single minded focus and preparedness that is needed to the way one should eat.  Granted, the section on eating might be a little out of date as compared to the Speed Secret books, they both stress the same thing: stay in shape and don’t mess up your body.  Although in my opinion they should discuss the idea of moderation: alcohol isn’t necessarily bad.. just don’t get wasted the night before a race, a testing session or when you’re expecting someone important.  He also discusses the path he feels should be taken to reach the ranks of Formula One (which involves going across the pond).

Section two is on vehicle dynamics where tires, braking, the cornering sequence, shifting gears, transmission gearing, and using the gearbox are reviewed.  His cornering sequence is different than the one described in the Speed Secrets series when you initially glance over it, but as you read further it is exactly the same (at first he leaves out trail braking).  The section on the gearbox is very interesting but it comes down to: drive a manual transmission car as your daily driver and get used to shifting gears and understanding the feel of the gearbox.

Learn to win, the third section, is short and discusses training aids: visualization, data logging, track maps, driver notes and other methods of gathering data.  He highly recommends visualization, track maps, driver notes and data logging (if you can get it) as the best ways (besides seat time) to become a better driver.  The fourth section, Environments, flow naturally from the third section as it discusses the main types of tracks one could race on: permanent circuits, ovals, road courses, and in the rain.  Each environment has their advantages and disadvantages which become pretty obvious when he starts listing out the reasons for each — of course, it takes experience to see them and understand why.  The fifth section, On the Track, gives hints and tips on testing, practice time and the actual race.  He describes what should be the goals for each stage before the race.  For example on testing, determining the correct gearing or tires that should be run; in the practice time, iron out issues with the car and drive like you want to win and finally, the race — where he discusses the types of starts that can occur and how the starts should be approached and how to handle some of the more common situations in races (of course, personal experience trumps all, but it is worth learning from his mistakes and wisdom).

Section six focuses on safety and maintaining a great relationship between your crew and sponsors (if you have any).  Safety, as you can expect, he specifies buying Simpson racing suits and helmets and describes how to make a form fitting seat for the driver for any given vehicle.  And maintaining a great relationship with crews and sponsors comes down to being a courteous and respectful person and knowing when to get out of the way and when to push your agenda.

The final section reads like an errata and corrections section for his previous books where he describes things that have changed since the publishing of his previous books as well as giving insight into racing shock absorbers and the various differentials used for race cars.  The shock absorber and differential sections are both still very relevant today since much of the technology is still the same.

Drive to Win is worth having on your bookshelf if you’re a wannabe racer or want to know how to go faster around the track and can help out in fixing handling problems in your own vehicle.  Is it better to get this book as opposed to the Speed Secrets books?  Right now, I’d say Speed Secrets and Inner Speed Secrets give a good overview of what it takes to drive fast on the track and how to get faster whereas Drive to Win is full of additional knowledge that might not help right away but at a later stage would make much more sense once you’ve gotten some seat time.

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