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Car Driving Tips (Video): Achieve smooth downshifts with Heel and Toe

Snapshot: Improve your driving and achieve smooth downshifts with Heel and Toe, a driving technique explained with the help of simple videos.

Driving fast is easy, tackling corners is simple, too, but one of the things that set apart seasoned drivers (racers and enthusiasts alike) is the way they brake and downshift, or Heel and Toe, as it’s called. It is essentially is a way to blip the throttle so as to enable a smooth downshift. With that done, not only does it help reduce unwanted engine braking, it also means power is available on tap, as soon as one selects a lower gear.

The technique requires the driver to diagonally place his right foot on the brake pedal (toe on the brake and heel on the accelerator), in such a way that when the clutch is depressed, the right heel blips the throttle. By doing so, the driver revs the engine, hence increasing the engine speed (rpm) so as to match the tire speed.

To make it simpler, here are a few videos that, albeit by professionals, paint the correct picture of the technique. It’s best to confine the use of the technique on the racetrack until first. Just a small caveat: it requires a good amount of practice.

Let’s start with everyone’s favourite, Ayrton Senna in a Honda NSX:

The next video is by PistonHeadsTV. It has a very simple yet effective explanation of Heel and Toe, and is certainly a must watch. Like the website’s editor, Dan Trent, seen in the video, it makes sense to wear your ‘go faster’ shoes while driving – rounded heels help position the feel while the thin sole gives better feedback.

And the third video is of the rally legend Walter Rohrl. He’s seen driving the equally legendary Audi Sport Quattro, tossing his feet between the three pedals quicker than most of us will ever be able to. Don’t get confused with him placing his left foot on the brakes. That’s called Left Foot Braking, and is another topic of discussion.

Jumping from the world of rallying to drifting, and we have Keiichi Tsuchiya or the Dori Kin as he’s called in Japanese (‘Drift King’). Following him isn’t just a difficult task for his competitors alone – try keeping up with the guy as he moves his foot between the accelerator and brake pedals!

Give heel and toe a try the next time you head to a race track the next time. It makes a difference, and will eventually improve your on-road driving, too.

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