Racing 101: How to Shift

How do you properly shift in motorsports?

  1. When to shift
  2. Downshifting techniques
    • Rev matching
    • Heel-toe downshift


If you plan of taking up any form of motorsports, you need to know how to shift gears properly. It’s not all about replacing your shocks, engine components, and u-bolts. In the Philippines, there is a sudden rise in motorsports. Before you take on the track or off-road trails, here are proper shifting techniques that you can execute for an optimized driving experience.


When to Shift?

When to Shift?

Driving around a track involves shifting through gears multiple times. You’re most likely to cycle through your gearbox more than 40 to 50 times in a lap. Knowing when to shift is simple. Always shift in a straight line. Shifting can upset the balance of your car, so it’s ideal that you finish shifting through your gears before you turn into a corner and start upshifting when you corner out. It’s simple, but there’s more to shifting on race track compared to your usual habits in Philippine traffic.


Down Shifting Techniques

Down Shifting Techniques

In racing, upshifting is the easiest part. All you have to do is ease off the throttle, put the clutch in, move the gear lever, release the clutch pedal, and throttle away. This pattern must be done in a snap and with smooth transitions. Imagine driving in Philippine traffic but shifting 10 times faster. Downshifting, on the other hand, is a different story.

You can’t downshift as you would upshift. The engine speed would not match the wheel speed. When you let out the clutch, the car will engine brake horrendously and upset the balance of the car and put loads of stress on your transmission. So how do you downshift smoothly? Here are some downshifting techniques for a smooth transition and proper control of your car’s weight and balance.


Rev Match Down Shift

Rev matching is blipping the throttle while downshifting to bring up the engine speeds for the lower gears. How do you do this? First, depress the clutch, then shift down and blip the throttle simultaneously. Then release the clutch and get back on the throttle. It takes quite a lot of practice to get this right. When you master the technique of rev matching, you’ll be ready to move on to heel-toe downshifting.

Heel-Toe Down Shift

Heel-toe downshifting involves using the technique of rev matching while braking. Stepping on the clutch, gas, and brake at the same time makes it sounds like you’ll need a third foot to pull this off. But to execute a heel-toe downshift, your right foot will be used for double duty — braking and blipping the throttle. This is done by braking with the ball of your foot and tapping the throttle with your heel. Hence, the name: heel-toe.

Here are the steps to execute a proper heel-toe: upon entering the braking zone of a corner, press on the brake pedal firmly with the ball of your foot. Then depress the clutch pedal and downshift at the same time, simultaneously, stab the throttle with your heel and bring the revs up, and lastly, pop the clutch quickly so your engine doesn’t lose and revs. This technique is not done slowly. The whole movement usually happens in only fractions of a second.


Key Takeaway

These shifting techniques will prevent you from causing any unnecessary shocks to your drivetrain and weight transfer will not be abrupt. Using these techniques will help you achieve maximum performance in any form of motorsport. Whether you’re an avid time attacker, grid racer, or off-road driver. A smooth downshift is important for not only protecting your transmission but your tires and suspension components as well. Upsetting the balance of your car could stress out your shocks, brackets, and u-bolts. Philippine race tracks and off-road trails can be used for you to practice your techniques.