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05/11/2022

To be faster
Heel-and-toe shifting

A series of detailed illustrations, showing the various phases of the heel-and-toeing technique.

To increase performance while protecting the precious mechanics with a car equipped with a manual gearbox and a clutch, the serious driver needs to master heel-and-toe shifting when braking. The goal of this technique is to engage a lower gear at the right engine rpm.

To avoid harmful “crunching” and unwanted jolts to the drivetrain that could cause the vehicle to spin out of control, heel-and-toeing is the only real solution. We’ll explain it through a series of detailed illustrations, showing the various phases of this technique when changing down a gear. 

Once you’re familiar with the movements, which isn’t difficult, the manoeuvre can also be repeated two or three times in a row in those moments when you have to enter a particularly tight curve that requires a low gear and therefore a double or triple downshift.

An important thing to remember: this manoeuvre should only be done on downshifts, not when changing up. 

Imagine being in fifth gear at 7,000 rpm and having to tackle a fast corner that needs to be taken in fourth gear at 6,000 rpm which leaves room for a smooth and powerful acceleration on the exit.

  • Step 1 – When you start braking, your right foot releases the accelerator and starts braking using the front of the foot
  • Step 2 – As the car starts slowing, it’s time for the downshift. This should be done in two phases: the first by lowering the clutch and moving the gear lever to the neutral position, while the heel of the right foot moves to the accelerator
  • Step 3 – At this point you are in neutral with the clutch pedal raised. To bring the engine speed to the right level to enter the curve (in our example 6,000/6,200 rpm) lightly dab the accelerator with the heel of your right foot
  • Step 4 – At this point, the gearchange must be completed: lower the clutch once again, engage the lower gear and return the right foot to the normal position on the brake pedal while continuing to brake
  • Step 5 – The operation is now completed, and with the right foot you will tackle the curve without skidding or dangerous over-revving

If the curve is very narrow and requires two or even three downshifts, the operation will be repeated in its entirety two or three times. 

Keep in mind: as soon as you learn the heel-and-toe technique, it will be spontaneous and very fast and you’ll be able to do it without hesitation and without losing any time.

 

Drawings by Massimo Grandi

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