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Drills to Improve Shift Speed and Accuracy

Conduct these drills with the car parked and engine off. But before beginning, drive the car to warm up the driveline, particularly the transmission fluid, for which an oil temperature of 100 degrees is a good surrogate benchmark.

Wear your shifter glove and racing shoes. Restore the driver’s seat and steering wheel to your pre-set race positions. With those preparatory actions completed, you are ready to start the drills.

Step-1 Check and adjust your hand position on the shifter.

My advice is to keep your thumb off the shifter. Missed shifts often result from a driver’s five-finger death-grip on the shifter, which introduces unintended lateral movement that misses shift-gates widely.

Pull the shifter with cupped fingers, no thumb.

Push the shifter with the heel of the hand, no fingers.

1st-to-2d Shift
Pull the shifter straight back; remember cupped fingers and no thumb.

2d-to-3d Shift
Push the shifter toward the radio; remember heel of the hand and no thumb. This will allow the shifter’s strong centering device to find the 3d-gear shift gate.

3d-to-4th Shift
Pull the shifter straight back; remember cupped fingers and no thumb, same as the 1st-to-2d.

Step-2 Conduct shifting drills, using the Step-1 hand positions.

The key to strong shifts under heavy acceleration without missing them is practice.

For each shift, there are five movements: clutch-in and throttle-lift; gear-change; clutch-out and throttle-down. It takes practice to get the moving parts of each shift synchronized, integrated and executed in minimal time.

Now do the full shifts with complete movements…
...pause. That constitutes one repetition. I suggest five repetitions per set and two sets per session.

4th-to-5th...If you are practicing for a dash to max speed at an airfield event, then add this shift too. The hand position is the same as for 2d-to-3d.

I do at least 20 sets of this drill per week, usually two sets at each end of my daily commute, and two sets in the staging lanes at the drag strip before each pass. This routine embeds muscle memory and makes each shift a preparatory cue for the next. Consistent practice will put an end to missed shifts for most drivers and make each shift much faster and nearly automatic. That in turn will free the mind to focus on shift points.