The Dummies’ Guide to Mastering Heel-and-Toe Downshifting
November 14, 2014
Hold your horses. It’s not a dance step! Heel-and-toe downshifting is a real thing, and it’s a driving technique popular among racers.
You’re probably wondering whether or not you need to be familiar with this. Well you know what, Mr. Driver, maybe you do! See, heel-and-toe downshifting, no matter how weird it sounds, will do good both you and your car. It eases on the wearing of your baby’s metal parts and trains you in being a racecar driver, or even just a better everyday driver.
The goal is to smoothly match the speed of the engine to that of the wheel. And it is done by quick movements of the feet and hands in shifting from gears and stepping on the pedals, of course while maneuvering the wheel. Oh, and did we say this technique is performed while passing a curve and with a manual transmission vehicle? Yup.
For those who can’t imagine the technique of heel-and-toe downshifting, follow the illustration we’re going to paint. And for you, dear Mr. Racing Driver Dreamer, read the following instructions:
Step 2: Brake!
Run your car to the curve in high gear, and with the speed to match. Then as you enter the curve, hit the brakes to your desired maximum—crazy, but that’s how it really goes. Remember: “your desired maximum”, as stomping the brake may lock it, which further means an unresponsive car and time lost for you. It is also important to keep your free hand on the steering wheel… Does it need to be explained?
Braking done and you still haven’t made a sweat? That’s because the fun hasn’t started yet! Now get your hand ready on the shifter and your foot on the clutch. The next step counts on it.
Step 2: Clutch and Neutral
Don’t release the brake just yet. While your foot stays, your other one goes for the clutch, ready for a press. Pressing done? Good. Now shift from your current gear to neutral—again, crazy, but trust us on this—before releasing the clutch once more. Be quick about it of course, and remember keep your foot on the break.
Step 3: Tap the Throttle
Although it’s something that may, again, sound weirdly like a dance step, to tap here is the simpler form of the word racers usually use for “blip”. That’s right! Your foot still pressing the clutch, you quickly tap, or blip, the gas. The only challenge here is that you perform this while still pressing the brake… Now how is that possible?
Through prayer—and practice. See, while your right foot is on the brake, you roll its outside edge outward and downward to touch the throttle pedal. Can you see what that’s like? It’s your toe touching the brake and your heel touching the gas. This is where you match the engine speed to the wheel speed.
Step 4: Shift Gear and Release Clutch
You tap the gas while you’re at the apex of the curve. This allows you to speed up while you’re there. Once you’ve conquered this step, you roll your heel back to the brake, with your other foot still on the clutch—you haven’t forgotten about that foot, have you? Then you shift from neutral to the gear lower the one you started with. So if you came from fourth gear, simply switch to gear number three. Now since you don’t need the clutch any longer, stay on the brake and release it all the way.
And voila! You’ve just done the heel-and-toe downshifting! Now repeat the process and drive away, Mr. Racer!
This maneuver sure looks complex, doesn’t it? Well, of course it is! So you’d better practice hard—but please, try the footing first before you go on a rampage. You can do it while you’re in your garage, with your car off. Consider yourself on your way to the tracks.