Manual Transmission Skills Are a Critical Tool in a Racer’s Toolbox

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Manual transmission skills racer's toolbox

Although almost all road cars in North America are built with automatic transmissions, being able to competently use a manual transmission is very valuable in your goal to be a complete race car driver. 

Rent a road car In Europe, and you have a 50/50 chance of getting a manual transmission, but that is not the case in North America. And, many new models on the dealer lots of European car companies are still available with a manual transmission.

Although finding a clutch pedal in a road car in North America is a rare occurrence, the use of manual transmissions is still very common at the grassroots level of many motorsports series.

And of course, NASCAR’s top three levels of professional stock car racing still use manual transmissions and the long-running “H-pattern” shifter.

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At Allen Berg Racing Schools, our Tatuus-built carbon fibre open-wheel race cars are all equipped with a five-speed sequential transmission. The ability to use a clutch pedal and the sequential shift lever are required, or you won’t be leaving the pits! Many of our students over the years arrive at one of our programs with no experience or ability to use a manual transmission. We are prepared for this and have developed a quick and easy method of taking someone with zero experience and teaching them how to use a manual transmission. In about 15 minutes, we teach you to do it, and it will quickly become intuitive, eliminating any anxiety you may have had. We’ve never failed at teaching this skill to those with no experience. And, this is a skill that will come in handy once you’ve mastered it, and when you need it.

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The best place to learn these new skills is at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, in one of our race cars. You’ll get the proper instruction, develop the skills so that they become second nature for you, and then when you are in a competitive race environment, you can concentrate on braking points and lap times, instead of how to use the clutch and shift. 

Without proper training, and we’ve seen it firsthand, drivers are put into high-pressure performance situations and have been unable to use the manual gearbox properly resulting in a damaged transmission and/or an off-track adventure. 

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In all race cars, you will use the brakes to slow the vehicle. For optimum lap times, the driver needs to be in the appropriate gear for the speed of each corner so that they can pick up the power and accelerate through and out of the corner. Downshifting will occur under braking and requires the implementation of the heel-and-toe rev-matching technique.

This is a fundamental skill for all racing drivers, at every level from Formula V to Formula 1, and is something that we’ve successfully taught for years at Allen Berg Racing Schools. For more information, check out the FAQ section of our website.

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Allen Berg

Allen Berg ranks among Canada's top racing personalities. He won the Formula Pacific Tasman Championship, won at Silverstone against Ayrton Senna and Martin Brundle in perhaps the greatest year ever in British Formula 3, and qualified for nine starts in F1, a record bettered among his countrymen only by Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve.

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