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In-Car Video

In the hobbyist ranks of drivers, it is common to see a video camera strapped into the car. The tapes make for great fun with friends later, however, they can also serve as an excellent self-education tool.

Using the camera can enhance your learning in two major areas: first it will show you what you're really doing (which can be different than what you think you're doing), and it can be used to collect data after the session when there's no one who can collect it for you during the session. To make sure it is most useful to you, be sure the camera is mounted far enough back that you are in the frame. Your steering and shifting should be visible. If needed, you might consider a wide angle adaptor to your camera's lens. Most popular camcorders do have this option.

Seeing yourself on tape after the fact often reveals differences in what you are perceiving during your session, and what is really happening related to your driving line and steering smoothness. (Unfortuenatly it can't show your braking smoothness).

By watching the video of your sessions, you'll be able to see how smooth you are, or are not, with your turn-ins. A common complaint with learning drivers is that the car pushes through the first half of the turns. This almost always caused by drivers carrying heavy braking too deep into the turn, then quickly steering into the corner. This breaks the grip of the front tires. If you're experiencing push during the first half of a turn, the video will let you see if its because you're "stabbing" too fast with the steering wheel into the turn.

You can also see if you're using the full width of the track at the corner entry and exit. You can see if you're using consistent corner entry, apex, and exit points. You can even use the video to time your laps if you don't have a partner at the track, and correlate events (such as traffic or inconsistent cornering lines) back to the lap times.

One of the toughest things to collect is segment times (times of specific segments of the race track). This is useful for experimenting with different lines, then knowing which is fastest based on the times between specific points on the track. The camera can be used to determine this when you don't have a spotter that can see that part of the track. Drive one line for 3 or more laps, then drive the other line for 3 or more laps. The clock won't lie. Whichever line has the faster average is the one that's best. You might even be able to immediately recognize the difference by looking at where the upshift point is on the track. If one line has you shifting into the next gear a car length or two sooner than another line, that's the faster line.

Another thing to look at is how you are shifting. Are you relaxed and smooth, or are you tense and trying to force the shifter? Are you using an open hand to shift, or are you grabbing the shifter like a jet fighter stick?

So, while the camera can provide great entertainment, it can also be a tremendously useful tool to coach yourself into making improvements in your driving.

Of course, the camera must be extremely secure in the car. If you have a roll bar or cage, you might have a mounting plate welded to the frame. Have it large enough to rest the body of the camera on and allow you tie-wrap or strap it in two places. You should also use the camera's tripod mounting bolt hole. If your car is a hatchback with a rear shock tower strut, you should be able to secure a tri-pod to it. Regardless of how it is mounted and secured, remember that there will be extreme forces in acceleration, braking and cornering. The camera cannot be free to move in any direction whatsoever.

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