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Learn How To Heel Toe

Extreme Imports

What Is “Heel Toe Downshifting?”

Learn How To Heel Toe
To learn how to heel toe is not very hard, but it takes consistent practice, mistakes and a little bit of patience.

It is the most basic driving technique in racing and if you don’t learn this technique, you will never be ready to go racing or drifting.

“Learn How To Heel Toe
If You Don't Want To Be Slow”

If you learn how to heel toe you can become very smooth at shifting gears. The heel toe technique is meant to make shift transitions smoother, so as not to upset the car’s balance when cornering.

Picture yourself driving...Normally if you’d like to shift down, you depress (disengage) the clutch, put it in the desired gear, and then release the clutch again.

If you depress the clutch, the engine slows down right away.
Try it for yourself: When you drive, hit the clutch... The RPMs drop instantly! Slowly bring the clutch up again, and it takes a while for the engine to get back up to speed. Notice the clutch slipping? When you’re releasing the clutch it is trying to engage with the gearbox, which is connected to the drive shaft and wheels.

Usually you’ll also feel some jolting of the vehicle, and it’s exactly this jolting that upsets the car’s balance. If you’re not sure what I mean here, try shifting down from second gear to first gear. You can’t miss the jolting here, there’s plenty of it!

Not only can it upset the balance, when you are going through a corner, and shift down to the higher RPM range, it can even momentarily lock up the wheels! If you learn how to heel toe you can overcome this drivetrain problem.

Racing Spec Ferrari Braking On Wet Tarmac

Now how come the car is jolting?

If you depress the clutch, the engine speed slows down (as if it were in neutral). This is because the clutch disconnects the engine from the gearbox and driveshaft.

You probably knew that already, but I'm trying to make a point. The moving parts before the clutch (flywheel, crankshaft, engine, etc), and the moving parts behind the clutch (drive shaft, differential, etc) can operate at different speeds.

The moving parts behind the clutch are dependant on the speed of the vehicle (wheels). So if you release the clutch, by slipping the clutch the engine automatically adapts itself to speed of the wheels.

When you shift down you can help the synchronization of those parts. Using your throttle you can help the engine get back up to speed again and increase RPMs. If you learn how to heel toe you can brake, and give it some throttle at same time.

When you're racing you constantly want to be in the high RPM range for maximum power. However if you brake hard and shift down without heel and toe (thus without helping synchronization) it would take too much time for the clutch to complete synchronizing. By the time the gears have a chance to properly engage you already need to be in a lower gear.

And I guess you don’t want to wear down your clutch like mad...

Knowing Car Mechanics Helps Understanding Heel Toe

There are several advantages to using the heel toe technique:

  • Shifting goes faster and more precise

  • It prevents the car’s balance to get upset by the downshifting. No sudden weight transfer occurs, which you really don’t want to happen when the car is exposed to forces working the car sideways. (Like in a corner)

  • After you enter the corner you’re in the correct gear to pick up speed again. You constantly want to be in the torque band as much as possible.

  • Engine braking is stronger in the higher range of RPMs.

  • It reduces wear on the clutch, parts of the gearbox, etc.

When you learn how to heel toe your driving and shifting will be a lot smoother.

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